Lisa deBettencourt

Good Intentions and Bad Actors: Unleashing Our True Design Superpowers


As experience designers, we have unique superpowers to craft products and services in ways that can be wonderfully beneficial to people and integrate seamlessly into their lives. We are able to leverage our understanding of the human condition to transform technology into offerings that make millions of dollars for companies, while remaining idealistic about our goals of making people’s lives better. But there’s a gap: we don’t verify that we did move the needle. We don’t consider what things might just go sideways. We don’t invest in analyzing what might happen if our work is abused or consider how to prevent it. We just move onto the next problem statement and let the business figure it out.

I think this borders on negligence. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our profession, our customers, our colleagues, and the businesses who employ us to forecast the impact of our work at scale. And we need to develop the tools and the processes to do so properly. It’s time we hold our selves accountable and start to proactively identify the potential outcomes and unintended consequences of our work – both good and bad – as a regular phase in our design process. With this, we must also be prepared to influence the decision making bodies (including ourselves) to consider ways of mitigating those identified risks. This strategy, in my opinion, will allow us to engage our product and business colleagues as equals, thereby raising our own value as true business partners.

About Lisa

Lisa was most recently the VP of Design at Confer Health, a biotech company building the first ever clinical-grade diagnostic testing for use at home, where she led the user experience of IoT hardware, consumables, and software. Prior to that, she built and grew the UX design team at Imprivata, a healthcare IT security company. Ferrari, Bose, Autodesk, Walgreens, Harvard Medical School, and Partners Healthcare are some of the other organizations who have entrusted her with leading the design of solutions for their customers. Lisa contributed to the O’Reilly book, Designing for Emerging Technologies: UX for Genomics, Robotics, and the Internet of Things and currently teaches about designing for emerging technologies in the Digital Media graduate program at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.