Defense Against the Dark Arts: Design for Civil Liberties and Agency

Defensive design is the application of design to anticipate and minimize room for a product's misuse. Consider 3-pronged plugs or SIM cards — their shape alone enforces that they will be used correctly.

What would it look like to apply this kind of defensiveness to products (and design, broadly) to protect them from misuse on a social dimension? How can we use design to protect civil liberties, safety, equity, and agency? How can we perform Critical Design Thinking?

So often, especially in the realm of digital product design, we are taught to optimize for certain heuristics: minimize the number of clicks to get from one point to another, make information discoverable, reduce friction… the list goes on.

Designers have an incredible amount of agency to both challenge and develop people’s visions of the future. In this talk, we’ll learn about what it means to prioritize ethics in design, especially as these visions introduce unintended (and at times, exploitative) consequences.

Virtual Platform

This event will be streamed via Zoom:

  • In order to participate fully, plan to join on the Zoom app via a computer, tablet, or mobile device with enough bandwidth to support viewing video.
  • Only those whose display name fully matches the name on our registration list will be admitted from the waiting room, in order to ensure only those who have registered for the event are able to attend — and to create space for intimate conversations.
  • This event will be recorded unless technical issues occur. The recordings will be shared in the AIGA DC recordings archive for AIGA members to rewatch or catch up on at a later date. (You can register for a membership on our website for just $50 for a year.)
  • Questions for the speaker can be asked live during the event through the chat.

You can find more about joining our virtual events, including how to connect, directions to troubleshoot, and information about our refund policy, in our FAQs.


  • This event will have real time CART (live captioning) services and transcriptions provided by Verbit.
  • A sign language interpreter will not be present unless requested. If requested, we will do our best to employ a sign language interpreter for the event.

If you need any additional accommodations, please contact us using a method that works best for you:

We honor your privacy. No identifying information like your name is required to request an accommodation, and all details will be deleted once completed.

You can learn more about how we’re making DC Design Week an accessible experience by visiting our accessibility statement.

Code of Conduct

All AIGA DC events adhere to our Code of Conduct.

About DC Design Week

Built and run by 100% volunteer power, DC Design Week is an annual celebration of our community — hosted by AIGA DC. Ten percent of all revenue from DCDW events and all profit this year go toward the Design Continuum Fund (DCF) scholarship fund. We believe in fostering the next generation of designers by helping local, design-minded and underrepresented students as they pursue their education. Interested in becoming a member? To gain early access to our most exclusive events and year-long discounts, sign up to become a member today!

When & Where
Sun, Oct 3, 2021 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EDT