Ethical Disclaimer

Difficulty Level:

Design Phase:

Method Overview

This tool helps you set the ethical terms at the start of your project. Use your imagination to think of unethical situations and discuss what you’ll take responsibility for as designers.

Framework of ethics used



Method Intentions:

Get Started

Participants: Design team, stakeholders if possible

Materials Needed: Ethical Disclaimer template, post-its, pens


  1. Describe the current situation of your design context.
  2. List all the people/companies/institutions that have an interest in, or are affected by your design. Both direct stakeholders such as users and your client and indirect such as maintenance.
  3. Write down your intentions. Be specific in terms of users, context and purpose. The more explicit, the easier you can discuss them with stakeholders throughout the project.
  4. Imagine the context with your design in it. (If you don’t know yet what you’re designing, think of ways to change the current situation.) Think of situations with your design which might be unethical. Think from the perspective of the different stakeholders. How will they use/contribute to/gain from/be harmed by your design? Use post-its to speed things up.
  5. Discuss for which of the unethical situations you will take responsibility by moving them down to the left or right section of the template. Substantiate your choices.

    *Note: the ethical disclaimer is a living document. As the design develops and becomes more concrete, so will the potential unethical situations. Therefore it is important to update the disclaimer at project milestones and discuss changes with all stakeholders.

Further Reading

Jet Gispen. 2017. Ethical Disclaimer.