In the interests of transparency: about me

Jo Bailey
January 2014

Section summary

  • Declaring personal values can heighten awareness for both author and reader.
  • In this section I declare my background to give context to the project's perspective.
  • Especially pertinent are my BSc, my history with websites and information management, and my experience and interest in business ethics.
  • Both LAWA and Making Good offered a vehicle to draw together my fields of experience.


In a book on design research, I came across a word that resonated with my own research philosophy: axiology.

Hilary Collins (2010, p.37) states “Axiology is concerned with values, including aesthetics and ethics, but it also includes the process of research”. Collins advocates writing a values statement to heighten the awareness of both practitioner and reader.

In the introduction of her book about ethical design practice, Lucienne Roberts says: “Everyone has baggage that informs their thinking. So, just as politicians have to declare an interest, I thought it would be useful to include something of my history”. Denis Wood, cartographer and former Professor of Design at North Carolina State University, describes this as “[letting] the reader decide if he would buy a used car from you, much less believe your science.”(Wood, 1973). Roberts’ précis of her background led me to feel her worldview was broadly similar to my own, hence I instinctively trusted her writing and viewed her as a credible source.

So, in the interests of transparency, something of my own history:

Declaring my interest

I was born in 1976 in England. I am a geographer from a family of geographers. I earned a BSc in geography when environmental issues like climate change were becoming increasingly prominent. Studying geography raised my environmental consciousness and, in retrospect, I see it makes me consider processes and interconnectedness.

Good work

Post-university I went to work for the NGO WWF-UK. One of my roles was Business Ethics Analyst, cutting through the greenwash and reporting on the reputational risk associated with potential donors. I became more conscious about sustainability, and a healthy sceptic regarding the claims organisations make about their environmental performance. Most research was online. I developed strong views on effective web design. I went on to manage WWF’s intranet. Websites and information management became my career for the next five years.

Good things come to those who are late

After moving to New Zealand in 2007, I started studying design, taking a Graduate Diploma at Massey University. I became increasingly interested in design history. Design writing that I find particularly resonant includes Ken Garland’s First Things First manifesto and Milton Glaser’s Ten Things I have Learned. I am surprised that ethics doesn’t feature more in design education; to encourage emergent designers to consider the implications of their decisions, large and small, is empowering.

I am interested in the way design interacts with and helps communicate complex subjects. But, I worry that there is a tendency in design thinking to neglect the micro in favour of the macro. I sweat the small stuff. Sometimes, I shouldn’t.

I believe design is an inherently optimistic pursuit. It feels like we are at the point where as a profession we are claiming a niche. We don’t just make things look nice. We question; we transform; we solve problems; we add tangible value. And we make things – but things you can feel in a haptic sense, or feel and experience emotionally. Now is an exciting time to be a designer. 

Next: How this exegesis works

Jo and Ian  1978  Jo and Max
 With my brother Ian,
in Brighton, UK
 Me, 1978, camping  With my friend Max,
tramping somewhere in NZ