Uncomfortable Conversations with a Designer

Why am I making this such a big deal? Because it is on the same level of deciding whether we will side with the Nazis or not. If we ever wanted to know what we would do in that situation, well, we are deciding right now.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Designer

In Canada, people are expected to assume the polite civility and deferential propriety of the reserved and obedient subjects of the British Crown.

I was raised to be a quiet and compliant child, a suitable model of respectable behaviour to reinforce the identity and reputation of our evangelical Christian family.

Those days are long past.

Over the past several years, as I have learned the craft and practice of design, I have been testing the questions that I have accumulated over the years with some experiments in social interaction. Some succeed. Some fail. They are always learning experiences. Sometimes, I build bridges. Sometimes, I burn them.

I only offer my experiences as something you can learn from, for whatever they are worth.

So far, according to my statistics on the platform, I have published 239 articles on Medium (although, they also include replies to others’ articles).

Stephen Bau – Medium
Read writing from Stephen Bau on Medium. Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com.

My first article was in response to the election of Donald Trump, which was a strong signal to me that my assumptions of the world had suddenly been overturned. Beneath the thin veneer of civility, racism and hatred are still very much alive in the United States of America and in Canada.

Repentance, Forgiveness and Reconciliation
As an experiment to build friendships and understanding with people who are not like me, I started hanging around with a bunch of guys gathering Monday evenings around a backyard fire in a Canadian…

Recently, I built some websites to support my desire to write about ideas, art, science, culture, design, building community, and social architecture. This is part of my desire to decentralize the web, decentering the giant tech platforms, as a way to diminish the power of corporate control over public discourse.

Three sites represent my simplified design process:

  • Imagine: consider the kind of world we would all want to live in
  • Design: create prototypes and test possible solutions
  • Build: engage in the process of building and maintaining the metaphysical and physical structures that support and enable our social systems and relationships

As designers, we imagine, design, and build the technological infrastructure for our social architecture by learning from the physical, geological systems and the living, biological systems on which our lives depend.



Designers operate in the uncomfortable tension between the corporate decision-makers and the people we serve with our designs. Because designers are the advocates for the needs, desires, and aspirations of human beings, we are in the uncomfortable position of having conversations with powerful people who often do not to have people’s best interests in mind, when their primary concern is the profit motive in a free market economy and a social and political environment dominated by corporations.

The knowledge, tools, processes, and skills that we are learning as designers are methods for communicating the rationale for our decisions so that those who are responsible for the maintenance of complex corporate hierarchies and economies are able to make well-researched and informed decisions that will affect the livelihoods of many people. This also means that they need to keep customers engaged and satisfied with the products that the organization offers, building their brand into a symbol of trust that people can depend on to accomplish their goals. Each interaction with a brand adds to a person’s overall experience with a product or brand.

Designers are hired to build trust in the brand and its products and services by creating long-term relationships with “customers” and “users.”

As a Designer, I Refuse to Call People ‘Users’
The terms “user,” “user experience,” and “UX” have become ubiquitous in design and technology, but they’re simply no longer accurate. As designers, we must do better.

Now, people are taking back their power.

Design Science

Our profession as designers currently faces a reckoning. We are watching it happen in real time as Facebook is losing billions of dollars in market valuation, because the founder and his platform are having difficulties shedding the reputation of supporting white supremacy, as much as his public relations messages might declare his innocence and good intentions.

Delete Facebook
The burning of the American Empire and the Earth is the responsibility of every Facebook executive and employee who might be saying to themselves, “I was only following orders to keep my well-compensated position at Facebook.”

I have been a little slow to respond this week to the students I am mentoring, because I am deciding how best to respond to this fateful moment in time.

Mentoring with Designlab
Since August of 2018, I have been helping people who are actively seeking a shift in their careers as they learn user experience design. Designlab is training the next generation of designers.

Why am I making this such a big deal? Because it is on the same level of deciding whether we will side with the Nazis or not. If we ever wanted to know what we would do in that situation, well, we are deciding right now.

I am on the side of the humans resisting the fascist takeover of our democratic institutions, using whatever knowledge, skills, experience, and resources I have to throw my body on the gears of this machinery that is killing people for profit: greedy televangelists, corporate profiteers, and corrupt politicians. What side are you on?

As designers, we have power to give our time to what is important and necessary and required. We also have power to withhold our labour from the very systems that are built to oppress us.
How to think differently about doing good as a creative person: A guide to avoiding “creative savior complex” when working on social impact projects.
The silence of the corporate and business class maintains the status quo in a social, economic, and political system designed to kill people for profit. However, we have options to redirect human behaviours in a more positive and life-giving direction.
I played your game. I built your wealth. And you burned it to the ground. How can we win? How can we win?
Who am I? A stranger in a strange land, an exile. David Bohm’s story helps me to reframe my own as an exile who turns exile into an advantage.
If you do not listen, we need not speak again. I will know that you don’t love me and you don’t care. I will not throw my pearls before swine. But, if you do, we can share our table and break bread together. I pray only that we be one, I in you and you in me.
Ancient storytelling illuminates recurring patterns in the histories of humans when thinking about the never-ending struggle between the hierarchies they create and the people who serve them.
Human time, energy, and creativity are the new currency. When our time and love are considered precious, as living, breathing human beings, then money, capital, property, corporations, and nations become worthless.

Take these articles with a grain of salt. For context, I live in Abbotsford, a town that is often regarded as the Bible Belt of British Columbia. Having lived in this community for 25 years, I have needed to learn the language and the culture to navigate the local business environment. I have been doing metaphysical design research to be able to speak the same language as those who are my neighbours in this unique cultural context.

The Language of Empire
In my own estimation, I wasn’t talented enough to make it as an artist. I would most likely become the stereotypical starving artist. So, I chose, at the age of 12, to become a commercial artist. My…

I am currently taking courses with the Buckminster Fuller Institute to engage in the Design Science Decade. It is an educational incubator for art inspired by a regenerative future that works for 100% of life.

If you are looking for ideas for projects, the world needs people who are available to do the work that is needed to co-create in service of a world that works “for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”