One year on, what have we learned? Join us for Interaction 22

INTERACTION_21_V6Skip to main content
Get merch ↗
← Back to day Day 3 schedule


Designing the Conditions for Equity – a human-centric approach to Ts&Cs

Phil Balagtas, Sebastian Shahfari-Ibler

05 Feb, 6:05 pm

06 Feb, 2:05 am

06 Feb, 10:05 am

15 min

There are myriad Terms & Conditions that govern the products and services we use on a daily basis. While these are all designed for usage, the contracts we sign off to use them don’t necessarily include a rigorous and inclusive human-centered approach. Let’s investigate various guidelines we agree to and apply a new design approach to these Ts&Cs


An invisible web of terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) govern our daily lives, from those imposed by our governments to the verbose contracts we sign off on to use everyday products and services. Despite the importance of these contracts to protect us and the companies that define them, they may not always seem transparent or fair when serving society or the needs of marginalized/vulnerable groups.

For example, when designing AI for the cosmetic industry, how might we avoid marginalizing people of color or diverse skin types? How can it be flexible to meet that demand and protect the business, but still feel accessible and collaborative with its customers to succeed? Could we eventually need to define a role for a designer of these policies?

Through our research, we discovered that defining the rules of our cultures or products can be a complex process and, at times, is relatively chaotic and political. It can be devoid of the stakeholder's and user's perspective – not to mention lacking in incorporating voices at the margins, ethical codes, or accountability for the rapidly changing social movements today.

We hypothesize that design thinking (including futures thinking and strategies) is uniquely equipped to offer a process and methodology which could lead to more transparent, inclusive, and equitable terms and conditions.

We have interviewed several experts, including lawmakers, foreign policy experts, product managers, futurists, and senior product leaders to understand their approaches and identify similarities and opportunities. During the conversations, we examined their process for gathering requirements, investigating issues, aligning multiple levels of regulations, and ultimately crafting the documents that bind our society and products together.

We discovered this process can be a complex and multi-tiered endeavor that requires stakeholder empathy and cross-functional collaboration, which are both core elements of design thinking. However, many organizations don't necessarily have an effective and scalable framework or formula in place to ensure that the most holistically beneficial policies get implemented.

Throughout our talk, our proposed framework and approach offers a methodology for how designers of the future can become involved in creating more equitable products and services by actively engaging in the T&C-making process. We hope to ignite a discussion that will better equip designers of today with the awareness, confidence, and a transparent process to design products and services considering marginalized voices and the evolving needs of society as it evolves over time.

Meet the speakers

Phil Balagtas


Experience Design Director at McKinsey Design

I have been a practicing visual & interaction designer since 2001 and have experience designing across a variety of devices and platforms within non-profit, retail, advertising, and enterprise software organizations. I am currently an Experience Design Director at McKinsey Design working with a variety of industries to transform and enhance their digital businesses and strategies. I'm also the founder of the Design Futures Initiative, a 501c3 nonprofit in San Francisco, CA which exists to advance the education and advocacy of Futures Thinking (Speculative Design & Strategic Foresight). We have a global community of meetups called "Speculative Futures" with over 50 chapters worldwide and we also organize our own conference in the US and Europe. I am an educator and futurist, and bring together designers and futurists from all over the world to teach and share strategies for designing for the future and the ethical challenges around emerging technologies.

Sebastian Shahfari-Ibler


Associate Design Director, McKinsey

I am a Design Strategist based in San Francisco. I use human-centric and future-oriented approach to help develop innovative and creative solutions for complex challenges. With an MBA and a background in UI/UX Design, web programming I’m able to bridge the gap between design, development and business.

Get in touch
Partner with us

Follow the movement

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
Subscribe to our newsletter
Code of conductPrivacy

Copyright 2004 > 2021 Interaction Design Association