Values as Hypotheses: Design, Inquiry, and the Service of Values

JafariNaimi, Nassim; Nathan, Lisa; Hargraves, Ian
Design Issues

The question of the relationship of design and values has sparked much scholarship during the past 30 years. These investigations have led to the growing consensus that design is not a neutral activity; rather, it is value-laden: design is laden with, or bears, values. Despite substantial agreement that design is value-laden, significant variation arises in understanding how and why design bears values. Some scholars argue that artifacts act to determine what is possible and impossible in human engagements with the world—that is, products bear consequences that affect what we value in human life and living. Others note that products, broadly conceived, bear the conscious and unconscious intentions, values, and politics of the individuals and corporations that designed them. Some scholars propose that designed products bear the preferences and values of those who use them, while others view values as ideals, and design bears the burden of approximating an ideal. Others speak of products as embodying values, as value-bearing material expression. Others emphasize the capacity of designers and publics to give voice to values, to contest and argue for what should be valued; here, values are born and borne in argument. None of these positions offers a definitive, settled, or uncontested account of the relation of design and values. This scholarship, however, has led to calls for practitioners to explicitly address values in their everyday design practice