Symposium This event is now over

Tricky Design: Design Ethics for a Complex World

This two-day symposium brings together leading designers, academics, journalists and theorists to discuss ethical approaches for design in response to some of today’s most urgent challenges.

What to expect

What role should design play in today’s complex world? What tools and strategies are available for design to engage with the ethical conundrums of the present? And what type of ethics does design need most?

This two-day conference invites citizens, designers, theorists, activists and educators to consider what design ethics, and design as an ethical discipline, should look like in the 21st century. On the first day of the symposium, leading designers and theorists discuss some of the challenges facing ethical design today, including: the ethics of participatory design; design’s role in the public sphere; the relationship between objects and complex networks; and design’s relationship to the non-human.

On the second day, participants are invited to take part in a series of ‘applied ethics’ discussions, focusing on specific case-studies related to migration, assisted suicide, political activism, artificial intelligence and identity. Through the course of the day, participants will be introduced to different tools and ways of framing complex ethical challenges within design practice.

This symposium builds on the publication of Tricky Design: The Ethics of Things (Bloomsbury 2019) and is a collaboration between University of the Arts London, the Design Research Society and the Design Museum.

Please find the full programme and speaker list below.

ALMA from drone © Liam Young

Unravelled © Unknown Fields


Friday 7 June, 10.00 – 17.30

10.00: Registration open
10.30: Welcome and Introduction: What is Tricky Design?

10.45 – 11.45:
Panel 1: How can we design with others in an ethical way?

  • Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad (RCA)

  • Eduardo Staszowski (Parsons New School of Design)

  • Torange Khonsari (public works)

11.45: Break

12.15 – 12.55:
Panel 2: How does ethics shape the things we design?

  • Mahmoud Keshavarz (Uppsala University)

  • Kate Davies and Liam Young (Unknown Fields Division)

  • Stephanie Hankey (Tactical Technology Collective)

13.15–14.15: Lunch

14.15 – 15.15:
Panel 3: How should design intervene in the public sphere?

  • Adam Thorpe (Central St Martins, UAL)

  • Lucy Kimbell (Institute for Social Design, UAL)

  • Shana Agid (Parsons New School of Design)

15.15: Break

15.45 – 16.45:
Panel 4: Can new ecologies provide a more equitable path for design?

  • Jeremy Kidwell (University of Birmingham)

  • Carole Collet (Central St Martins, UAL)

  • Amy Twigger Holroyd (Nottingham Trent University)

16.45: Closing Remarks


Saturday 8 June, 10.30 – 15.30

10.30: Registration Opens
11.00: Introduction from Lucy Kimbell (Institute for Social Design, UAL)
11.15: Morning Discussion: Applied Ethics ‘Speed Dating’
12.30: Lunch
13.30: Afternoon Discussion: PHD Pecha Kucha’s
14.45: Audience Q&A
15.00 – 15.30: Closing Remarks

Booking information

This event is now over.

Day 1: Adult: £20
Student/Concession: £15
Member: £15

Day 2: Adult: £20
Student/Concession: £15
Member: £15

2-Day Pass Adult: £35
Student/Concession: £25
Member: £25


Tricky Design

Tricky Design responds to the burgeoning of scholarly interest in the cultural meanings of objects, by addressing the moral complexity of certain designed objects and systems

Background image | Rockwood lithium pools from the air © Liam Young