On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Donald Trump descended on a golden escalator to the lobby of Trump Tower and announced that Mexicans were rapists. America laughed, because the whole thing was ridiculous. Well, some of America laughed. Some of America didn’t. Some of America decided this was excellent. Some of America decided this was just the kind of message they needed to hear.

Trump was the “immigrants took our jobs” meme made pustulant flesh. Some of America, mostly white, mostly male, decided this was exactly what America needed. To grow up white and male, within a system that is designed…


This is an excerpt from Ruined by Design, a book about design ethics and activism. You can find out more about it here.

In 1944, the CIA (or technically, the OSS, its precursor) published one of the greatest design manuals of all time, and by far my personal favorite. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual was clandestinely, and I hope very carefully, distributed to people living in Axis or Axis-controlled countries who sided with the Allied cause, including our good friends and role models in the French Resistance. It was declassified in 2008. The manual is filled with dozens of little…


Dear Designer

If your work helps spread lies and reelect racists, your kids might want some answers

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

On March 14, 2018, millions of students across the United States, across all grades, walked out of their classrooms for the March For Our Lives. This was specifically in response to the Parkland High School massacre, where 17 kids were murdered, but also generally about the country’s inability to address gun control. (In 2019, 776 teens and 209 children were murdered by guns in the U.S.) Kids were marching to solve a problem adults had failed to address.

On September 20, 2019, three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, roughly six million people, in over 4,500 locations in 150…


Dear Designer

How to use centuries of unfair advantage to make the world a more equal place

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Welcome back, gentlemen. Last year’s guide to white men in tech was one of the most popular articles on this platform, so I’m excited about this year’s. We assume the popularity was for several reasons: The title had a number in it, it was addressed to white men, it was written by a white man, and it was about tech. That’s a Medium grand slam!

(I’m kidding. There was no guide last year. Roll with it.)

Look, I’m walking a tightrope here, kids. First of all, let’s acknowledge, as white men, the privilege we have in society in general and…


Dear Designer

You have the right to make a living—but not on the backs of others

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

“That’s not a good look,” came the reply.

“What’s not a good look?” I asked.

“Shaming workers.”

This was in response to a tweet I sent out a few weeks ago, pointing out some new horrible Facebook behavior. (There are many of these tweets to choose from in my feed. Pick one.) The tweet was addressed to Facebook workers and went something like “Facebook employees, this is where you work” with a link to an article about Facebook’s newest horrible behavior. I’ve posted the same type of tweet to Twitter workers as well.

But still, I was taken aback by…


Dear Designer

What we need to do to get this industry back on track

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Hey Mike,

Will you please just write something positive before this year is out?

— My editor

The promise of the internet was that it was going to give voice to the voiceless, visibility to the invisible, and power to the powerless. That’s what originally excited me about it. And I’m guessing that’s what originally excited a ton of people about it. It was supposed to be an engine of equality and democracy. Suddenly, everyone could tell their story. Suddenly, everyone could sing their song. Suddenly, that one weird kid in Trondheim, Norway, could find another weird kid just like…


Dear Designer

We have to combine hope with a plan to make progress on solving our problems

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Hey Mike,

We’ve been behaving so badly that I hope the government comes in and regulates us.

— Anonymous Facebook Employee

Dear Designer,

The first car I remember my father driving was a 1973 Plymouth Gran Fury. It was midnight blue. Big as a boat. You could easily fit four people across the back seat. It smelled like cigarettes. He bought it used. But he looked good in it, which is probably why he bought it. My father was a vain man. Is a vain man.

The car got terrible gas mileage, which hadn’t yet become a concern for most…


Dear Designer

How to know when it’s time to move on to another opportunity

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Dear Mike,

How do you know when it’s time to leave a job?

Dear Designer,

You’ll have a number of jobs during your career. Some will be good. Some will be bad. Most will oscillate wildly between those two poles. But the one thing all those jobs will have in common is that, at some point, you will leave. Sometimes it’ll be your call; sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it’ll be a happy occasion; sometimes it won’t. But rest assured, every job has an endpoint.

The fact that a job ends shouldn’t be a surprise, although the manner in which it…


Dear Designer

To support the coming wave of organized labor in tech, unions need to modernize and learn to communicate with this vast workforce

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Dear Mike,

I’m a union organizer. In the last few months we’ve started getting a lot of calls from workers in the tech industry looking to unionize. We don’t have a lot of experience talking to tech people. A few of them said they were contacting us because of an article you wrote about how to form a union, so we were wondering if maybe you could help us get the lay of the land.

Dear Union Organizer,

Thanks for reaching out. Happy to help as much as I can. As long as we agree that I’ll be painting with…


Dear Designer

If you’re being ignored or mistreated at work, it might be time to organize

Illustration: Eugenia Mello

Dear Mike,

I work at a big social network. Our bosses are doing some shady shit the employees aren’t happy with. Not only do they go against our values, but I think they may actually be detrimental to society. We’ve tried talking to them about it, but we feel powerless, and we’re afraid of retribution. We also don’t feel like we have any representation. When shit goes wrong, we go to HR, and HR covers for the company. So me and some folks at work have been talking about unionizing. They’re ignoring us as individuals, so we think we’ll be…

Mike Monteiro

English is my second language. You were my first.

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