Help us extend the first Ethical Design Manifesto

From the day we started with Wopala, in early 2013, we defined ourselves as a ethical design studio.

There are two questions we are asked often since that day. The first is “Where does the name of Wopala come from?” and the second is “What does ethical design mean?”

Today we will focus on the second one, since it is the basis of what has been our work over the last few years and it is what has allowed us to learn and evolve to give an adequate service to initiatives of the social and solidarity economy as well as social entrepreneurs.

In the beginning of our adventure with Wopala, ethical design was for us a way to express our approach. We wanted to work to help transforming projects with values , in which we believe and that, as we had experienced in our previous work, are the ones that move us and motivate us.

This way, we have been able to experience the personal fulfillment of living and working with a purpose and a sense, since from that day on we have seen how our personal values were aligned in our professional environment. There are many projects we have developed since then, and we still are developing this kind of work.

And the best thing is all we have learned, and how we have been able to get to deeply know the peculiarities of the projects that put people at the center, that are mainly driven by the values and personal ethics of their promoters.

An apprenticeship that allows us, today, to develop what is the First Manifesto of Ethical Design and which we would like to extend with the help of your contributions.



Our manifesto says:

Ethical design…

…promotes a better world

Ethical design is one that helps, which seeks to create a transformative impact either at a social, cultural or sustainable level. A design that does not put its focus in increasing the profit account of a company that puts its efforts on obtaining financial profitability at any price.

And which are the ethical initiatives? Well there are many types. They are often distinguished only by the passion and emphasis on the values of their promoters. There are initiatives from the so called “other economies”, the social and solidarity economy. There are social entrepreneurs initiatives. There are companies certified as B Corp, a movement that promotes the use of business as a regenerative force for society and for the planet. And there is also the Economy for the common good, an alternative economic system promoted by Christian Felber which is based on cooperation between companies to promote the common good.

We are probably leaving many other initiatives out of this list. The truth us that every day there are more projects that try to provide a framework for this new way of doing economics that, fortunately, is expanding.


… is honest and sincere

Often within the design world there are hidden margins or there is the need to maintain control over the project. It is usual to charge percentages, for example, to suppliers’ prices such as printing, programming, video editing, etc. And just because it has always worked this way, it does not mean that it can not be improved.

Ethical design is transparent, and indicates the exact price of the supplier, breaking down, if applicable, the cost for the management or coordination of this work.


… is transparent and enables the autonomy of the entity

On the other hand, ethical design facilitates the entity all the access keys, the ownership of the contracted products, the direct relation with the people that (still when being subcontracted), are carrying out part of the project, and in general everything that gives freedom to the entity regarding the future of their projects.

It also facilitates the final files of the designs in an open format, so that the entity can modify them without their help. And finally it offers support, training or video-tutorials on the use of the elaborated designs, like for example learning to edit a new web page.


… promotes ethical values and systems

Ethical design focuses its messages on ethics, promoting human, compassionate, supportive, cooperative values…It does not try to sell by using consumerist, egoistic, frivolous, superficial, messages as many brands of the capitalist market do.

As an example of what is NOT a communication that promotes values, we share with you this controversial advertisement lacking ethical values of Desigual:


Obviously ethical design should, whenever possible, try to work with collaborators with a sensitivity to the social and solidarity economy. For example, working with printers that are established as a cooperative or which are managed with sustainability rules.

Today, it is becoming easier to have suppliers from the other economies. Some great places to find someone to collaborate with are the Pam to Pam webpage powered by the XES (Solidarity Economy Network of Catalonia, or the Federation of Cooperatives of Catalonia .

It is true that you can’t always find alternative services that offer a high level of quality, a reasonable price or an appropriate agility to your projects, but it is also true that we can often adapt to the requirements of these entities without problem, only because of the values and benefits that strengthen the system of the other economies. And in addition, every day we are more, so that the possibilities are being extended. Some day this little effort that we have to do will be the norm and we will be very proud to have been able to reach this point.


… has a friendly, close, empathetic and human tone

Ethical design speaks directly to the interlocutor’s ear with a consistent tone, without shouting or making unnecessary noise. It tries to convey the messages with respect to the people to whom they address, in a didactic, close and friendly way.

It creates a balance between the expectations that its messages generate and the reality of the advertised product, without trying to sell more than what you will get once you access the product.

It also tries to eliminate the roles and stereotypes of gender, sex, culture or religion which are so widespread in the current communication of many brands, using images, icons, symbols and messages that do not limit or degrade anyone. And above all, it avoids manipulating by linking happiness with consumption in its messages.


… focus its efforts on transmitting long-term values vs. temporary promotions

The main objective must be to convey the values that promote the initiatives. Those benefits generated by their activity in the long term, to connect with people who are aligned with these values. For this reason, it avoids attracting attention with breakthrough promotions that only work in a passing way and that can later cause the people who have approached to quickly forget their interest in the background of the proposals.


…transcends the limits of the social and solidarity economy

Finally, and very importantly, ethical design has the complicated and at the same time encouraging task of breaking the limits of the social and solidarity economy opening and approaching these projects to the world that is currently governed by the traditional market.

It is common for ethical initiatives and the cooperation sector to be rather endogenous, so that it tends to relate to and target those who are already sensitized.

But this is limiting for the whole sector, since only its opening and growth will make it possible that one day this form of economy is the predominant form, and that we end up naming as “other economies” those capitalist, competitive and often manipulative initiatives that once ruled the world.

We have all the excitement, energy and motivation to become the driving force behind this change. Do you want to collaborate with us?

This post is also available in: CAT CAST