As designers we spend vast amounts of our time, imagining and building experiences that when combined take up a big portion of peoples day, and also affects the relationships they have with the people around them. But many like me chose this profession because we thought that this may be our opportunity to positively impact on some of these lives around us. In the following post we are going to explore how we as individual designers can have a direct impact on the way diversity is implemented in design.
A survey of the design industry demographics has found that almost three quarters of designers are white. The Design Census revealed that 73 percent of those surveyed identified as white, nine percent were Hispanic, eight percent were Asian, and three percent were black. Ebay US is 61 percent white, 24 percent asian and 15 percent other. Diversity goes beyond ethnicity, and the design industry is dominated by men.
Only 45 percent of designers are female and even fewer in are in a position of leadership. Design and technology has led the way through innovation and not only advanced our own industry but transformed everyday life for billions of people. Design and technology has the power to permeate every product, moment and solution in our lives and has immense opportunity for change. However there are two areas in which the design and technology industry are lagging, and each rely on the other; diversity and inclusivity.
For this industry to remain successful it is crucial for both businesses and individuals to stop talking around these subjects and really start to make some definite inclusive actions. Stop referring or hiring your friends. Your friends are your friends because often you have something in common with them; it maybe your history, an interest you share or most likely you have similar views and opinions to them. By putting your friends forward for a job you are encouraging leadership to hire someone who is likely to have a similar vision, a similar way of thinking and who may even have a similar design process.
By hiring our friends we prevent the opportunity being shared with a wider demographic and exclude those that potentially have alternative views and processes to step into the role.
By hiring outside our social circles we are increasing the likelihood of finding candidates with different opinions. Be open to alternative ideas. Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. But the feeling of security is a big price for innovation.
For teams, diversity helps to avoid group thinking, discussions instead become contested and as a result the team needs to work harder to create more innovative results that satisfy the entire team. Creativity is concentrated by diversity. Diversity challenges process in a positive, more interesting and highly engaging way. Ask yourself, is this good? Does this answer the brief?
Making the digital world more inclusive
Rather than, is this what I would do? Become a mentor Being a mentor requires a commitment, a dedication towards another individual and time. The outcome is an invaluable opportunity to professionally develop yourself and that of another. Being present around that person will teach you a lot beyond just design, it will open doors to alternative views and opinions. Mentoring can also be great networking opportunity, giving you access to a diverse range of potential candidates.
Knowing where to start on becoming a mentor can be quite complex, Anne Higgins, founder of Career foundry has written some great tips on how to be a great mentor but also runs career foundry with aim of connecting fresh designers with experienced individuals.
These 5 innovations show how good design can make the world more inclusive
Local colleges and universities are often in need of local mentors for either their current students or alumni. Raise your hand, offer up an alternative point of view and ask for others to share their viewpoint. People may get defensive if you are combative, instead promote a healthy conversation around the subject, increased understanding of the subject helps peers confront the topic and be open to new opinions.
If you witness discrimination you may feel the need to report it. Seek advice on who best to talk about the subject and explain the situation rationally and without bias. Implement flexible working life policies Many companies have introduced flexible work policies either through necessity or choice, but often employees are stigmatised if they choose to utilise these policies. Often it is a diverse range of people using these schemes, single parents, carers or even those going through further education.
Therefore it is common to find those who have to work within these flexible policies will stagnate or quickly move on, however often it those people that challenge the processes, bring refreshed ideas to the table. Ultimately then we need to make sure these flexible policies are not penalising employees who rely on them to achieve better work-life balance. When we design we are designing not only for a global audience but a diverse one. To succeed in design requires having diversity in and at the forefront of our conscience, thinking about it every day until it becomes so ingrained within us it becomes the norm.
As designers our designs cannot be effective without empathy for our users, a sprinkle of our biases and a large amount of curiosity. We design with the knowledge that our design can be indefinitely improved and perfected and by asking questions about our world and the type of people that live within it, we will gain a better understanding of diversity and how we can design for them.
Exacerbated by TV, magazines and advertising, homogeneity is everywhere. The material world in which individuals engage every day is shaped and reshaped through design — for better or worse. When entering a space, people have long been expected not only to compensate for but also to overcome their disabilities. But sometimes, no amount of ingenuity can overcome the mismatch between a given individual and a given space — and then, exclusion is the result. During the Super Bowl this year, a commercial about inclusive, or human-centred, design was broadcast, showing how Microsoft redesigned the Xbox by working with children who have disabilities.
The end result was accessible packaging, giant buttons instead of switches, and a controller that allows the gamer to use sipping and puffing breaths to play. For years, as a result of design decisions, kids with disabilities had been excluded from interacting with this game and, by extension, with other kids. When Claudine Jaenichen, an information designer at Chapman University in California, looked at the materials provided to the public for use in managing an emergency, she found that most of these maps and visualisations were designed for climate experts and urban planners, and then distributed without any alterations.
The designers of Microsoft and TsunamiClear allowed themselves to face biases that had influenced earlier design decisions, and to rethink the design possibilities with input from those who had been excluded — many of them not disabled. To alter the form of a building or the layout of a room, the shape or size of a tool, the way a text is read, or the structure of an organisation or a standardised process, is to alter how people will interact with these surroundings and each other.
T his idea that the world should be accessible by design represents a rethinking of modern society and culture. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution gave way to national and international standardisation, from electrical power systems to time zones. In the wake of the transition from fabrication of goods by hand to manufacture of goods by machines, uniformity benefitted production, trade and the bottom line.
Take shoes and socks: prior to industrialised standards, they were handcrafted by an individual for another individual. Then in the 19th century, shoe production shifted to large-scale manufacturing. Shoes are tailored not to individuals but to activity. Socks are even less tailored to the individual than shoes. But mass production tends to make goods more affordable for the producer and for the consumer and, therefore, more accessible across socio-economic classes.
The visible mismatches of disabled veterans offered an opportunity to design the world with accessibility in mind. Traditionally, what people get through mass production is something designed for an abstraction of an ideal male body. For example, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began using a female crash-test dummy for safety compliance testing only in , even though women are at greater risk of injury or death than men in automobile collisions.
Customarily, those whose bodies did not fit the standard, who were not spry or male, had to make do. Yet in order to design a more accessible human world, the mismatches must be recognised.
Five ways to make society more inclusive | Rick Hansen Foundation
Second World War veterans and survivors of the s polio epidemic made such physical mismatches newly visible in the United States. With this recognition, accessibility became a shared concern at national and local levels. Over the next few decades, the expectation that everyone would adapt themselves to the designed world was challenged. The visible physical mismatches of disabled veterans and polio survivors made exclusion more visible, and offered an opportunity to design the world differently, with accessibility in mind.
At that time, the work of the American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss included altering the weight distribution of prosthetic limbs based on observation of those who actually used the devices.
He took a scientific approach to ergonomics, using statistics to show how standard, adjustable designs could work for the majority of human bodies. In his book Designing for People , Dreyfuss constructed charts that accounted for 95 per cent of male and female bodies — he called them Joe and Josephine — so that a single design could accommodate a small, medium-sized or large adult.
As he expanded his efforts, he argued that tools — an iron or a vacuum — should be understood by the designer as an appendage of the body itself. As designers were reconsidering how to plan for actual human bodies, laws were changing too. The US Rehabilitation Act of extended civil rights to people with disabilities and required that federal information technology be accessible. By , the US adopted the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA , and designers of public spaces became accountable for accessibility in ways they never had before.
M y mother — a civil rights advocate and practising attorney most of her adult life — did not consider her major life activities substantially limited, though her access was sometimes inhibited, and others sometimes perceived her legs and feet as an impairment. Yet over the years, laws such as the ADA have shifted the responsibility of access from individuals to institutions and environments, paving the way for more inclusive design. Increasingly, our laws acknowledge that the material world can and should change to allow access by the variety of people in it.
Even in the wake of the ADA, accessibility of public spaces seemed an afterthought and an added cost, instead of part of basic design criteria that fostered aesthetics, functional innovation and inclusion all at once. When discussing design and inclusion, I suggest this definition be expanded to encompass unwelcoming as well as unknown spaces. Before the ADA, moving through public spaces demanded significant wayfinding skills of the individual, and burdened some far more than others. The ADA moved some of the responsibility away from the individual, thereby shifting the balance from wayfinding toward wayshowing.
I suggest this concept be extended to digital spaces and organisational structures too. It takes into account the wayfinding behaviours of people using the space, and it supports their interactions there. Colour, brightness, reflectance, contrast and resistance to fading become crucial elements in signage as designers consider people with visual impairments who will navigate a space.
The ADA, then, asks designers to implement a version of wayshowing that creates fairness, regardless of physical or mental disability.
The initial responses to the new law attempted to address shortcomings and solve problems that people with disabilities encountered in existing spaces. That meant, for instance, adding ramps to building entrances, widening doorways and stalls in public restrooms, and constructing curb cuts at street intersections to comply with the law. The ADA continues to ask designers — and those who oversee designed spaces — to remake the human world in ways that directly address the exclusion of those with disabilities to achieve greater accessibility and fuller interactions by more individuals, despite our assumptions and biases.
In a sense, the ADA asks that bias not be built into the design of physical and digital spaces because the result is exclusion. As marvellous as universal design can be in practice, it addresses disability by hiding it.
A classic example of early universal design is OXO Good Grips: 14 of these innovative kitchen implements hit the shelves just as the ADA was coming into being. This type of universal design makes inclusion look easy and profitable. Commercially, universal design was promoted as aesthetically appealing and functional, and marketing it that way fuelled sales.
The fact that such successful products addressed disability appeared as a nice side effect, rather than inherent in the process or goals. As marvellous as universal design ultimately pledges to be, and can be in practice, it addresses disability by hiding it. This is a version of universal design that fosters inclusion based on acknowledgment of all five human senses as our means of access to the material world. O f course, the human-designed world is complicated, involving physical, digital and social spaces, and our assumptions and biases can be difficult to uncover.
Disability might not be physical, and even physical disabilities might seem invisible. Immune system disorders, chronic pain, vestibular system damage, mental illness and learning disabilities, for instance, might not be easily discerned by others in public spaces or the workplace. Someone with a vestibular disorder might need to avoid rotating ceiling fans or use transportation assistance. Four in a hundred of us have a mental, behavioural or emotional disorder that limits major life activities: someone with an anxiety disorder might need a quiet office space.
A definition that encompasses a hidden disability such as mental illness is relatively new, and expands the concept of inclusive design of physical or digital spaces and of societal structures. Inclusive design might be extended also to mismatches beyond disability. Numerous studies have shown gender and race bias in student evaluations. He worried that she would fall down the stairs, perhaps a reference to her clubbed feet as well as the pregnancy.