[UX-CONF 2023] Acting responsibly in digital technology: the roles and responsibilities of the designer today and tomorrow

This article retraces the conference of Éric Hetroy, Head of Design at AXA,during the first edition of UX-Conf – Human First which was held in Paris in 2023. He addressed a crucial topic in the modern digital world: the responsibility of designers in creating responsible digital products and services. 

Under the title “Acting responsibly in digital: the roles and responsibilities of the designer today and tomorrow”, Eric Hetroy explored the challenges faced by designers and the opportunities they have to shape a more responsible future.

Design by Freepik

Back to basics: the role of the Designer

It is essential to recall the essence of design, etymologically derived from the Latin word “designare”, meaning “to mark with a sign”. This notion of marking with a sign encompasses the responsibility of the designer, because every creation has an impact on the world.

By referring to Victor papanek, famous designer and author, Éric Hetroy quotes this sentence: “You are responsible for what you put into the world”. It thus highlights the fact that designers are not insignificant actors but agents of change with significant influence. Additionally, designers are responsible for what they bring into the world.


Design as a political act

To better understand this responsibility, a close link exists between design and politics, thus defining the latter as “the life of the city and of people”. Designers create products and services that serve society and individuals while implying the defense of certain values.

All human-related issues should be at the heart of design, thus encouraging designers to promote positive values (reference to William Blum).


The challenges of responsible digital

Some challenges will be more specific and linked to digital, in particular problems of misinformation and manipulation. The Head of Design does in particular reference to “Dark patterns” as used by Amazon to encourage subscription Premium. The book Deceptive Patterns de Harry Brignull also describes these deceptive practices.

It is then necessary that such patterns be fought to maintain integrity and ethics in design. 


The Designer's Superpowers

The designer’s “superpowers” ​​make it possible to contribute responsibly to digital technology. They include:

  • A systemic vision : Understand the overall impact of a product or service, for example, by considering the environmental implications.


  • The art of constraint : Get back to basics by using constraints to stimulate creativity.


  • Multi-disciplinarity & transversality : Apply techniques from one field to another for innovative solutions.


  • Empathy and emotion : Reconnect with emotion in design to create meaningful experiences.


  • Boldness & experimentation : Dare to innovate and explore new paths.


  • L'observation : Get out of your comfort zone to explore new perspectives and inspirations.


  • uncertainty : Accept uncertainty as a challenge to overcome.


  • Communication : Convince and mobilize stakeholders.


  • Creativity : Find original solutions for complex problems.


The kryptonites of Design

However, some “kryptonites” persist. We find in particular:


  • A discipline with blurred contours : The confusion around design roles, for example, between UX and UI.


  • The apprehension : The need to unify the profession to better communicate its issues.


  • The absence in the debates : The importance for designers to be actively involved in discussions and projects.


Design as a trigger for debate

In conclusion, Éric Hetroy underlines the fact that it is important to highlight the crucial role of the designer and design in stimulating debates and innovation. Designers are encouraged to ask difficult questions, take a stand and actively engage with contemporary issues.

It is essential that designers return to the fundamentals of design, embrace related disciplines, and adopt a holistic, systems perspective. Design should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a means to contribute to improving the world and serving humanity.

Thus, the designer plays a crucial role in the creation of responsible and ethical digital technology. It is up to every designer to accept this responsibility and use it to shape a better future for all.



Florianne Nollet, UX-UI designer consultant at UX-Republic