Ethics of Product Design: Move Fast and Break Things

Why the "move fast and break things" method is bad for design.

Author photo
Heather Ostertag
December 21, 2021

I’ve heard the term “move fast and break things” more times than I can count. Is that really the best way to design though? This design predicament is happening pretty much anywhere design decisions are being made.

There are many factors that we have to consider when moving at a rapid pace.  

Are we moving fast because:

  • Time?
  • Money?
  • Iterative design?

The first point to talk about is time. Is the client, project, or task asking for a quick turn around? Before you frantically start making a variety of decisions and options and throw them at a wall and see if they stick you need to take a step back. Is this the best for the design process? Or am I just trying to please someone. In some instances if there is a quick turn around time and there hasn’t been much research done this works. A/B testing for advertising is a great way to quote “move fast and break things”. But if someone is telling you to go fast just to go fast, maybe think if this is the best solution. 

Money is sometimes another factor. Most of the time money is the driving factor for a project. With limited money comes limited time. This also comes back to having a quick turn around. And if you don’t have a lot of time, you will have to “move fast and break things”. However if the project or other situation needs more time, then asking for more money with a good reason why with information to back that up is a great idea.

Lastly, is it ethical to “move fast and break things” with an iterative design process?  To get results sometimes we need to try a lot of things to get data and see which direction is the right one. With designers and the design process. Could it even be an agile process? Ask yourself: Is a waterfall better or is a scrum method better? Asking the right questions will lead you to be a better designer and help the project move more smoothly. Decide for yourself if moving fast and breaking things is worth it to you as a designer.