I came across this concept recently: the defaults a system is rolled out with often become the unseen and unquestioned status quo.

A system can be an enterprise content management system, a cultural behavioural norm, or the boundaries and expectations we define in a given relationship.

If we start a relationship by unhealthily always agreeing with the other, that default preference then colours the rest of the relationship. So that when one day we should decide to speak up for our need, we disrupt the established base line.

When we set the default page size wrong in an organisation's master printer profile, we end up wasting large quantities of paper.

Facebook is a system. And the ongoing saga over its default privacy settings is well know to users. The defaults got changed only recently! See this TechCrunch article: Facebook Stops Irresponsibly Defaulting Privacy Of New Users’ Posts To “Public”, Changes To “Friends”.

This tyranny of defaults nicely describes one of the challenges of making change - that of first identifying and then challenging often assumptions and beliefs. Someones we don’t even see what needs to be changed.

Where we as designers have control over setting the launch-time defaults of the systems we create, we perhaps should be more cognizant of their effects.

Imag: Image courtesy Shutterstock.