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FBTB 2022: Kat Zhou – Creator of <Design Ethically> and Product designer at Spotify 🎉

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Kat is a product designer at Spotify with a passion for ethical, accessible, and inclusive design. She is the creator of , a project which started out as a framework for applying ethics to the design process and has now evolved into a toolkit that helps teams forecast the consequences of their products.

You are the creator of a whole framework and toolkit for working with design more ethically. Where did the idea come from?
– I started <Design Ethically> at the beginning of 2018 because I was frustrated with the tech industry. We were hearing the same variations of headlines again and again about how certain companies were creating problematic products that perpetuated harm. And then came the slew of statements from those companies about why they needed ethics, but nothing was said about what that would look like in practice. So I created Design Ethically to answer my own questions about the possibilities of designing with ethics at the forefront. 

Have you had any struggles working with it along the way?
– The struggles I’ve encountered while working on Design Ethically are not unique. Many of my peers who are working on tech ethics (in engineering, or data science, or user research) encounter the same barriers, which is our industry’s fierce pursuit of short-term growth at the expense of doing the right thing. And unfortunately, it can be incredibly profitable to do the wrong thing, like wastefully extracting resources from our environment, or creating surveillance tech that harms people of color. When it comes to ethics, it’s so easy for companies to talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, it suddenly becomes a lot trickier.

How did you manage them to move forward?
– More and more, I’m convinced that the ways to move forward are found in a multi-pronged approach that unites tech employees, community organizers, academics, and policymakers. We need to drastically reimagine the tech industry, our governing bodies, our communities, and our future before it’s too late.

How do you get ahead and make yourself heard in large complex organizations like IBM and Spotify?
– Find your allies, people that you can trust. And see what channels your company has to speak up, whether that’s in town halls or all-hands or Employee Resource Group meetings. Start small and see where that takes you. Odds are that there are others who think similarly and want to help amplify your voice. 

What’s your goal when being a speaker at design conferences as From Business to Buttons?
– Meet rad people, learn rad ideas, and have a rad time!

We are happy to welcome Kat Zhou to the From Business to Buttons conference. If you haven't bought your ticket and have any interest in ethical design? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Get your ticket now.