In recent events, I have seen some of my friends try to be more racially involved and aware on social media and in their work. Sometimes their efforts fail. Trying to talk about it can arouse really strong emotions, and some people will say that it doesn’t matter, because changing government policy is a much more important task. But the media does not just reflect reality; It affects it, sometimes even transforming it. When we are designing a product user experience, we should be aware of how our designs may be influenced by our bias considering the effects of our choices.
I searched for more information about racism in design and found some definitions that provide a solid basis for understanding and avoiding racist design. There are three aspects to consider: artwork, experience, and systems. An example Artwork Aunty Jemima’s well-known picture in the pancake mix box, now retiring by Quaker Oats. An example Experience The story of my friend Ellen, who attended a house party in a wealthy Dallas neighborhood and mistakenly took her to the kitchen entrance as a member of the catering staff. An example Method A dress code that bans traditional black hair styles, such as a school district in Texas that recently made headlines for denying a diploma to a graduate senior, including Dreadlock.
As UX designers, these three aspects are related to the work we do. We use patterns to create systems that our customers experience. How can we be thoughtful and strict in our work so that racist stereotypes do not persist? When I consider the portrayal of minorities across different media, I find that the 4 stages that Cedric Clark developed in 1969 are still a very useful criterion.
- Non-recognition – People of color are not portrayed
- Humor – People of color are portrayed in a negative, stereotypical way
- Regulations – People of color are portrayed in a way that maintains stability
- Respect – people of color are portrayed in different ways that are both positive and negative and parallel to the characteristics of Caucasians.
So how can we use this information to avoid racism in product design? Consider the following aspects of the design process:
Images – Make sure the picture of the people used in your product fills 4M The level of illustration – respect. Not only are the images varied, they show people of color in different characters. Avoid images that always show a white person in a position of faith or power. Avoid images that publicly portray colorful women as sexy or “spicy”. Stock photography doesn’t always meet the criteria, so be diligent in verifying the images you use.
Language – Avoid names, references and terms that are clearly Euro-centric in your product design. Have you ever read a British novel or mystery written in the 1930s? Have you noticed how writers would subtly toss literary references and French phrases as a way to differentiate themselves, their readers, and their books from the general shock? The use of language in our products should be clear, proverbial and accessible to users from different backgrounds.
User journey – Many of us use personality to map user journey in our product design process. If our personality is not biased, how can we design a product that is biased? I conducted classes through a design session and asked them to build their personalities, and it’s very common for people to get back to stereotypes: busy young professionals, boring housewives, technology-challenged senior citizens, and so on. If you give your personality name and face, it can further cement the bias. Challenge your design team to deal with bias and build anti-stereotypical personalities.
Technical design – We’ve mostly heard stories of automatic soap dispensers that don’t work for dark-skinned people because the sensor was calibrated on pale skin. Or Google facial recognition software when it misidentifies a black man’s image as a gorilla. These may be accidental racist results due to inadequate non-functional requirements or inadequate testing, but they are often enough to make them feel like a pattern to minority customers.
If we pay attention to all of the above, is it enough to avoid the damage of racist design?
No. You can do all of the above and still fail to achieve the anti-apartheid design. Why? Look at your design team! Are they all white? The number one thing you can do to fight racial bias in your product design is to create different design teams. Study after study proves the point – different teams make better decisions, better products and more money. It is not enough to have diversity in software development team or QA team. Everything starts with product design, so diversity should also start.