Color is an inherent part of design. Designers have been known to agonize over choosing a hue or hexcode in the hopes of conveying a specific mood or message in a design. Maybe you can relate. But when you start to look at color through the lens of accessibility, a potential palette becomes a bit more refined and intentional, making color choices that much easier.

Web accessibility in America is a legislative grey area, but color contrast doesn’t have to be.

Web accessibility has never been a sexy topic, but it’s not supposed to be. At its most foundational level, accessibility is about designing experiences that can be enjoyed by the widest range of people possible, and this includes choosing colors that are visible to the widest range of users. …


For Julia Feld, nothing brings a community together quite like a hot plate of fresh homemade pasta drizzled with a sage butter sauce, or perhaps a bolognese.

Years ago, when Feld still called her native Boston home, she started hosting monthly dinner parties to bring like-minded people together, connect with others, and eat good, homemade food that she cooks herself. The dinners started small, but by the time she packed her bags and headed to Berlin, where she now lives, Feld’s dinner parties had grown to some 50 people. She didn’t hesitate to start the dinner parties up again. …


Grace Phang’s interest in behavioral studies began when she was in high school. Participating in a class on evolutionary science and anthropology, Grace would go to the zoo for hours to study the monkeys and take detailed field notes on animal behavior. “I was a total nerd,” she said shamelessly. It was her first introduction to ethnography and it ignited a passion that would eventually lead to her career as a user experience researcher. To get there, however, she’d first have to overcome many of life’s challenges, including poverty and, quite literally, 18 obstacle courses.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

Professional obstacle overcomer

It was 2015, and Grace had just finished a one-year contract working as a research assistant on an origami and spatial awareness learning project at Tufts University in New England. By this point in her career, Grace was quite the renaissance woman. She had already co-launched a business making unique and unconventional hats with her sister. Fab Hatters is among the top-selling one percent of merchants on Etsy, and the stylish hats have been spotted at events such as the Kentucky Derby, in music videos, celebrity photoshoots, and weddings. Fashion has always been a creative outlet for Grace, and to this day her outfit choices are one of the ways she famously expresses herself. …


Men dominate when it comes to the number of speakers at tech and design conferences, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. Danielle Barnes, CEO of Women Talk Design, provides tips for women and non-binary folks to help you find your voice and taking the stage for the first time.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

Danielle Barnes is the CEO of Women Talk Design, an organization that seeks to elevate the number of diverse speakers on stage, specifically women and non-binary people in design and tech. Part of her job involves maintaining and growing a database of speakers that organizers can turn to when searching for talent and talks to feature at their conferences. Currently, there are more than 400 speakers featured in the directory, and yes, please forward it immediately to everyone you know in the tech and design conference space. This world needs more talks from diverse speakers.

“We want there to be a place for organizers to go and find these speakers and never have an excuse of [not being able to] find someone to call that could speak on this topic,” Danielle said. …


The social sector is an inspiring arena for UX researchers and UX designers who want to make a difference in other people’s lives, but make no mistake, it is not typical UX work. At its core, you’re working with nonprofit and non-governmental organizations to design products and services that help people access their basic human needs, including food, shelter, education, and more. There is nothing simple about it, and a standard set of principles will not suffice.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

“One of the things that you first realize when you’re doing research or designing for the social sector is that empathy is not enough,” said Alba Villamil, a UX researcher and public speaker who calls the social sector home. …


If you’re thinking about switching into a career in user experience design, Christene Fair’s story might inspire you to take those first steps. Learn how she went from planning events to designing user experiences.

Have you ever asked yourself what you want? Like what you truly, madly, deeply want in your career and in your life?

UX designer Christene Fair was in the final year of completing her masters degree in digital media design from Harvard when she sat down to conduct what she calls a self-inventory.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

The exercise involved her being extremely honest with herself about her standards for what she wanted to learn, how she wanted to grow, and what her goals were for the final months of her program. She had a successful career as an event design and management professional at the time, but as she sat down to list the things she did and did not like about that career, and she compared it to her list of goals for the coming months, she had a moment of clarity. …


Those who use Ancestry.com tend to share one thing in common: they’re looking to better understand who they are and where they come from.

If they’re not digging through the extensive genealogy records to piece together the branches of their family tree, they’re discovering the makeup of their own unique DNA, which is obtained by taking a simple at-home saliva test that is then mailed to the company for analysis.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

From a designer’s perspective, what this amounts to is a heck of a lot of data. More than 10 million users have taken the at-home DNA tests. Each test provides insight into a user’s unique ethnicity and genealogy, and a new product takes that one step further. AncestryDNA Traits, which launched this past Thanksgiving, provides users with insight into traits such as their likelihood of having a certain hair color, freckles, eye color, or a taste for cilantro, then compares it to other users who share aspects of their DNA. …


UX strategist Kavitha Krishnan talks about what it takes to “have the balls” to switch from full-time work to freelance, and back again.

Some people keep their work and hobbies separate. Kavitha Krishnan is not one of those people.

The UX strategist and research consultant breathes UX all day and night long. When she’s not working in the traditional sense, she’s attending meetups, co-organizing conferences such as Talk UX and Better By Design, and participating in groups like Ladies that UX, for which she founded the Madison chapter.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

She also likes to keep things interesting by working somewhere steady for a few years, then working independently as a freelancer for a few more.

“I’m both proud and happy that I have the balls to switch careers between being a freelancer and a full-time professional,” Kavitha said. “I’ve met some amazing people in my journey, my colleagues and my friends. The relationships that I’ve made, that’s what I’m really proud of.” …


Don’t feel pressured to specialize! Boston-based hybrid designer Katie Langerman says not only is there a place for UX designers to take on generalist roles that combine design and engineering, but there’s a need for them too.

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

The generalist vs. specialist debate

Katie Langerman will never forget the day someone told her she couldn’t be both a designer and an engineer. She was being interviewed for a product design role and asked if she would have the opportunity to code and build out some of her own designs.

“They were like, absolutely not. You cannot do that. You can’t do both well. You have to choose one and specialize in it,” Katie tells me over the phone from Boston, where she lives and works as a self-described hybrid designer. …


There’s a borough in London, England, where 26 percent of the population is black. Within this borough, 50 percent of residents in high-security facilities and 67 percent of residents in low-to-medium security psychiatric facilities are black.

Think about that for a minute.

These disproportionate numbers are part of a huge mental health disparity that exists in Britain, one where black men specifically are 17 times more likely to face serious mental health diagnoses than white men, according to the Lambeth Black Health and Wellness Commission.

This is a social problem, but is it also a design problem?

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Illustration: Justin Cheong.

London-based UX designer Lola Oyelayo-Pearson argues yes. “We can use design as activism. We can talk to the design community about what we could be doing as designers to make that better,” she said. …

About

Sheena Lyonnais

Sheena Lyonnais is a Toronto-based writer & content specialist with a strong interest in UX. She’s also a body positive yoga teacher & a proud rescue dog mama.

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