Yeah, similar for me: I graduated in 2010 with a design degree in an specialisation that in retrospect wasn’t right for me. I’d gone school → foundation diploma in A&D at college, so it was just kinda natural progression rather than as planned as it could have been. I definitely wish I’d waited to go to uni until I was more ready for it, but it’s worked out long-term
I just worked for a few years in non-design jobs, eventually started picking up a bit of freelance work (illustration, mainly), eventually amassed enough of a portfolio to apply for design jobs. I’d been doing a bit of web-related work when freelancing, and pushed to learning web-related stuff, and the first good job I got was web design and development (2014ish), and I just gradually went more all-in on development after that – it’s difficult to maintain multiple specialisations.
All I can really advise with the design side is that you likely have enough of a grounding in it and a short enough gap between graduating & now to pick it back up. But it’s so heavily based on portfolio; to get back into it you need to be able to build that back up again. This forum is possibly not your best resource for this. Once we’re out of lockdown, look at meetups in your area for design – your best bet overall is possibly meeting people face-to-face and asking the questions. And use places like Reddit which have large design communities to ask the question there: how can you get back into a career in design after a 6-year-ish gap between graduation and now. And reach out to people you knew at university who are now employed on FB and LinkedIn for advice there (I realise illustration is somewhat different to other design/applied arts subjects re. employment, but I’d assume a fair % are in design-related jobs). And it may well be worth your while figuring out which companies and which public bodies are dealing with the issues you’re interested in and reaching out to people in charge of design/development there – it won’t hurt to ask for advice from them, and most people are more than happy to help.
If more of a development-related path interests you, then that can definitely be self-taught. Be prepared for it taking a serious investment in terms of time (and very young family makes that difficult – I’ve got a four-year-old, and even with my wife there keeping focus has been difficult whilst stuck at home for a year). Though as I said in my first post, knowing what you want to focus on will help greatly in terms of learning. It’s slightly difficult to reconcile the design + dev sides, to keep up with both at the same time, but having a design background makes some things drastically easier to understand when learning. CSS, for example, is at core basically just “how to style text and lay stuff out in boxes”, and if you’ve got experience with print-based page layout programs, grid systems, etc., it’s a textual language for getting a web browser to do the same thing, the difficulty then is just (“just” heh) translating your existing knowledge to it.
Retraining (uni/college) I guess is likely out of the question – it’s not like this is made at all easy, once you have a degree that’s it, generally that equals no more funding. But it may be worth your while looking at MOOCs - for example https://www.futurelearn.com/ has a set of short courses on various aspects of ethics in tech.
Design + development is attractive to employers. Further to that, design + development + strong domain knowledge re ethics is likely to be really attractive to a large set of employers. What you’re describing is already very important and becoming more so. Just design + strong domain knowledge re ethics, possibly less attractive in terms of “we need to look seriously at this candidate”, but I’m not 100% sure on that, and it obviously depends on employer.
I’ll leave it this for the minute
Edit: so the original question was “should I start learning coding”. Very, very tentatively I would say yes but not to jump in until you’re slightly more sure of where you can go because: what I think you’re talking about re. ethical design is likely to be highly technical and relate to UX/UI more than anything else. So knowing the technical constraints/freedoms available, having that grounding , is likely to be very important. As I say though, thats very tentative, and probably needs more thought.