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What is dark design?

In Essentials of Marketing, we try to highlight some of the positive things business does to make the world a better place. That said, marketing is a set of tools that can be used for good and bad. An example of bad is dark design (sometimes called dark patterns) – a sub-set of tools that a web designer might use to manipulate users into behaviors they might not otherwise do. Of course, this might also be called nudges or behavioral economics – which are usually thought of as nudging users to positive behaviors. Examples include the use of colors or patterns that make it much easier to “accept” cookies or click on an advertisement than to simply get around it.

This article, “How to spot the psychological manipulation behind ‘dark design’ online” (Fast Company, October 4, 2021) notes that “Dark design has proven to be an incredibly effective way of encouraging web users to part with their time, money, and privacy” – all scarce resources for many of us these days. If you want a deeper drive, the four-minute video shown below.

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