The design of our work, as practitioners and creators is what gives us our career. Design is extremely important as it is not only a representation of yourself but to be successful you mustn’t create for yourself, but for a wide range of people from different ethnicities, religions, cultures and sexes… But,
We can only create what we know.
So how do we know more? Collaboration. Most practitioners will work in some sort of team, this collaboration process will open up diversity of the creative process and can reflect different walks of life and produce a diverse design.
I watched a video with Mike Monteiro speaking on the importance of design. He mentions that design happens whether there is a designer present or not, that when designers don’t make a decision, that is still a decision. So as designers we need to be so careful of what decisions are making and not making because it can heavily effect people’s lives.
When designers are aware of poorly created systems and don’t say anything, it could be because they are scared of losing their job, or maybe -this really stood out to me- they work in an environment where people feel like they can’t speak up.
As collaborators in a field of design, the environment we work in can make or break us and our creations. To work effectively, we need to take responsibility for what is our doing.
An obstacle however, we can all relate to, is called the unconscious bias. As humans, we become comfortable in familiar surroundings and our work can sometimes reflect that. BUT WE NEED TO BREAK OUT OF THAT.
Because some clients will have disabilities that need to be accounted for. For example they might have a hearing impairment and so the provision of closed caption on films can help alleviate this ability so they can enjoy a film like any other person.
Some clients might be extremely religious, so staying away from religious symbols would be a wise idea. Clients will definitely have different skin tones so reinforcing stereotypes is design suicide, who would want their name on something like that anyway?!
Let’s take heed of this sarcastic meme and become responsible designers.
On the other hand, depending on the culture, we can have fun with certain stereotypes, for example:
This type of stereotyping encourages competition between teams and sports here in Australia. It is part of our culture, I grew up with it so I am more sensitive and aware of where the lines is between fun and offensive. We all give some, and we also take some and I’m proud to be in a culture where this competition also encourages community. However there are some designers who aren’t aware of how offensive something can be as they have had limited experience with it.
Stereotype reinforcement still happens today. Some that irk me are the muslim and isis confusion, people ignore that they are separate entities because they aren’t as exposed and familiar with what is actually going on over there. Or the Native Indian dress-ups that expose skin and cheapen a community that is still alive today.
There is one advert that has been trending lately that everyone is finding racist against the African American ethnicity.
But lo and behold! With a diverse team, these decisions that we can sometimes make, either knowingly or unknowingly, will be heavily minimised.
Some social stereotypes that shouldn’t be reinforced is also that women in revealing clothing in many games and movies, as eye candy for any men watching.
An article here goes into further depth of how women are represented today and how damaging that can be to how they are treated by the rest of society including how it impacts their jobs.
An example of misrepresentation of women in Alfred Hitchcocks, Vertigo. Midge tries to impress Scottie with a painting of herself looking feminine and beautiful in hopes of gaining his affections and attentions.
I understand this film was made in the 50’s and this may have been accepted at the time. The problem is that this film is still popular today, and the designers of that time could have had more foresight into the decisions they were making and how that reinforces female stereotypes.
Because of how easy it is to fall into this trap of misrepresentation and neglectful design, I look forward to working in a team more-so than by myself when I get out of university. I want to learn as much as I can from a diverse group of creatives before I venture out by myself! Especially now that I’ve learnt so much about how prevalent this ignorance is in the design field.
So we need to stay educated in the work place by collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds, and cultivating an environment that people feel comfortable speaking up in if something is wrong or offensive.
If we do this, we can market more creations to a wider range of audiences and develop a fruitful business based on respect of all cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexualities.
Marshment, M. (1997). The Picture is Political: Representation of Women in Contemporary Popular Culture. Introducing Women’S Studies, 125-151. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-25726-3_6