Reflection Blog

Ana Baskinger and Jess Jones

Inclusivity in Design

Something that really stuck to the both of us from lectures was the topic of inclusivity in design. Even last semester, we were thinking about this — we did a project on PRISM, CMU’s LGBTQ+ organization, and Jess did a project attempting to tackle racism in Pittsburgh. As members of oppressed groups of people, we see the importance first hand of inclusivity in design. In class, we discussed how design is usually centered around the straight, cis, white man. As non ‘straight, cis, white, men’ we experience how limiting that view of design really is: from the pink-tax on our products to income inequity.

How People Work has really opened our eyes to not just covering inclusive topics in design, but also making our designs accessible, and making the designs themselves inclusive. We’ve discussed topics like colorblindness, dyslexia, and neurodiversity, and how that can affect people’s experience of a design (specifically within the Communications track, which we’re both studying right now.

Even beyond differing abilities, everyone experiences the world differently. Each person is going to approach our design with different past experiences, worldviews, beliefs, and mental models. So it’s super important that we make our designs as clear and direct as possible — that way, regardless of where one comes from, they can understand our designs. However, we also have to know that it’s not going to be possible to make a design cater to every single individual. We need to accept that and be okay with that, while still striving to be as inclusive as possible.

The default for most designers when thinking about making design inclusive is making it simple. But simple design actually often hinders inclusivity. Simple often means going off of what is already established. For example, the simplest version of a door, based on existing mental models, would be to have a handle that turns to pull open, and on the other side a bar to push. But that’s not actually a very inclusive option. Jess has noticed this issue a lot recently due to her elbow injury. If, say, someone only has one good arm, and they’re holding something, they won’t be able to pull the door open without a lot of difficulty. Adding something like a button to open the doors, or, even better, automatic doors, remove that complication (that only some people experience) and make the experience of the design simpler and more inclusive, even if designing in a feature to automatically open the doors may be a little more complicated.

We’ve both learned a lot from How People Work and are really enjoying the class. We appreciate the discussion of making our work accessible and inclusive, as these are things that hit both of us close to home. We look forward to applying these principles to our future projects!

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Ana Baskinger

Ana Baskinger

Undergrad Design Student at Carnegie Mellon University