We’re all human. We carry with us contexts — from our childhood, from the people we interact with, and from the scenarios that exist in our day-to-day lives. We rightly celebrate the diversity of these contexts, marveling at our collective differences and our fundamental similarities.
But, our differences can also bias us, causing us to make assumptions, fail to take into account other perspectives, and systemically favor certain choices over others. These biases are particularly felt in a field as subjective, as personal, and as bound to the human condition as design.
We’ve seen the way cumulative racial bias influences who the technology industry perceives as the “normal human”:
How Facebook limiting the internet speeds of their employees has caused them to become more conscious of the constraints many of their users face:
How Medium is fixing its accessibility issues (but still has a long way to go), and Microsoft is redefining accessible design itself:
These oversights prevent designers as individuals from serving the people who depend on our designs to live their lives. Our industry’s collective blindness keeps us from fulfilling design’s promise to create a better world.
With Blind by Design, we hope to illuminate some of these biases, using a combination of personal experience, interviews, and a review of existing research. Our intent is to form a diverse collection of voices covering a representative range of biases, including those of race, gender, socioeconomics, geography, and many more.
By nature humans struggle to see past their own biases, even when they intentionally seek them out. Designers are the arbiters of such subjectivity — we guide the message, influence our users in ways both conscious and unconscious. As such, our work is particularly vulnerable to being influenced by our own assumptions and biases, and we need to take extra steps to guard against that.
As people whose job is to architect systems, designers are also uniquely well positioned to address bias at a systemic level. By getting the viewpoints of a multitude of people from many diverse backgrounds, and by consolidating the results of this information, we hope to not only make people aware of issues, but highlight clear paths to fixing them, both in individual work, and systemically in our field.
Deconstructing prejudices takes diverse perspectives, which is why we need this to be a collection by many voices. Likewise, we seek bold ideas and collaborations from the greater technology community — help us write the stories designers should be hearing. This is a safe space to be thoughtful, vulnerable, and audacious.
Whether you’re a designer, a consumer, someone equally as passionate about these issues, or anyone else, please reach out with your thoughts and stories. (We’re also on Medium as Stephanie and Chen, and Twitter as @soengle and @siranachronist!)