or, why ethics and design must go hand-in-hand if we aren’t all to score a massive own goal

Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure that everyone who knows me knows that I am not a watcher of most sport, especially football. This is mostly because of its ubiquity; the behaviour of some Cardiff City fans on match days in my locale also comes into consideration. That is not to say that I have not enjoyed a match on occasion, and the edited highlights of football games that my ex would watch on Match of the Day were tolerable and sometimes funny. However if he dragged me out to experience a whole Ireland international I would spend most of the time split between watching the condensation on my pint glass gather into droplets and stumble down to the coaster, and wishing everyone bibbling around on that stupid grassy rectangle would suffer from sudden acute narcolepsy, thus ending my suffering.

TL;DR: I find it for the most part very dull.

Nevertheless I am aware that a lot of people are very excited about the World Cup, and some of these people are my friends. And this upsets me – whether it should or not, who knows. But here is a little piece about *why* this upsets me and what design has to do with this.

Brazilians aren’t in favour of it.

It’s a thing that many Brazilians asked that we did not attend the World Cup – citing corruption by the Brazilian government and FiFA and summary executions and revenge killings OF CHILDREN in the favelas by state police as some of their reasons.

Fifa is awful awful AWFUL

It is also a thing that FIFA is a horrible monstrous beast exploiting people’s love of the “beautiful” game, and that conservative estimates state that 4,000 SLAVE LABOURERS WILL DIE in the building of the stadiums of 2022’s World Cup host, Qatar.

Now, I am a person who is for the most part pretty careful about the things they buy. I like to give money to nice fluffy organisations who look after their workers and the planet (Fairphone) and begrudge giving it to organisations who, shall we say, do not appear to prioritise these things (Apple). I boycott a lot of corporations – Nestlé, Asda, Tesco, Esso, BP, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, the meat and dairy industries, etc etc., because putting my hard-earned cashmoney into the bulging moneysacks of companies who do things that are contrary to my values seems silly.

Watching events sponsored by said companies – especially when all of the sponsors AND the organising body AND the local government have joined together in an unholy trinity of überbastardness to see who can be the most Dr Evil seems positively jawdroppingly discombobulatingly WTF.

Which is why I did not watch the London 2012 Olympics.

But of course, we’re conditioned to only care about entertainment and the immediate gratification of our desires. Who cares where those little plastic microbeads end up after we exfoliate our skin, or what happens to our watercourses after we flush bleach down the loo?

We are also told that we are just tiny little insignificant protozoa in the great Ocean of Capitalism and that nothing we do could possibly make a blind bit of difference to what the great white sharks are doing.

Well, no. Firstly because boycotts and protests work. They worked against Barclays Bank during Apartheid South Africa, they worked against Marks and Spencer who were selling intensively-reared duck meat and they have worked against Lego responded to complaints about their stupid gendered toys by bringing out a range about female scientists.

And even Apple seem to be improving their workers’ conditions.

And secondly, why would you want to partake in something where people, ACTUAL HUMANS, have been enslaved or murdered as part of the process of bringing that something to you? I just don’t get it. But then I don’t really get the point of football either, so perhaps I’m not the one to talk about this.

Moving swiftly on to something which I am a bit more qualified to talk about: so what has this little rant have to do with design, being that that word was in the subheading at the top of this?

Design is a process.

It is a process of working out what is required and then considering the most effective way of manifesting that thing. The thing at the end of said process could be anything from a brochure to an international football tournament. And every part of that process can affect the lives of all sorts of people whom you will most likely never meet and yet who live, just as you do, working to pay the rent, put food in the mouths of their families, pay for an education and to ensure that they have access to healthcare.

That process (take a brochure, for example) can also involve the cutting down of virgin forest in developing countries, or not, the use of ozone-depleting Volatile Organic Compounds, or not, and the mining and disposal of heavy metals, or not.

Design decisions matter.

This is why the decisions made at every part of this design process should be evaluated not just on what they will do for you and your organisation, but what effect they will have on the everyone – and everything – else. It’s not enough any more to not actively be an Evil Bastard – we need to check that everyone involved also has no predilection for Evil Bastardness either. Preferably, the people who are helping us Manifest our Thing are pretty much against Evil Bastardness and go out of their way, in words AND actions, to replace it with Utter Loveliness.

A wonderful example of where I think we could aim is this mission statement by clothing company Continental. I actually had a little cry when I read it. Imagine if every corporation had designed these values into everything that they did? Seriously, just take a minute and imagine that. Imagine the impact that would have on every aspect of our lives.

Imagine what THEIR World Cup would look like.

FIFA, on the other hand, seem to have designed corruption and avarice into the process of setting up their tournament. Impressively diverse ways of getting money out of the taxpayer, away from schools and hospitals and in to FIFA’s $1billion of reserves have been utilised. You’ve really got to hand it to them.

Let’s shout OFFSIDE* at them, take them as an example of how not to do things, and design a more egalitarian, co-operative world for everyone.

*I actually do understand the offside rule in football. No, I don’t know how or why either.

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