Designing for Diversity

As the month of February comes to a close, we’ve seen the best of the best of the Black History Month designs that the creative community has to offer. Our worldview is often influenced by what we see every day, so this shift in branding can be as exciting as it is frenetic, as we attempt to condense thousands of years of culture and experience into twenty-eight days. Where do these designs and designers go on March 1? Living in a culture that consumes images 24/7, 365 days a year, how can we transform the concept of diversity from an accent into a principle?

On a recent trip to Bentonville, Ark., I was able to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (crystalbridges.org), which first and foremost is free to enter. This no-cost entry allows people from all walks of life to come and soak in the incredible history and culture that this museum showcases—very different from the typically pricey tickets that can limit access to most modern cultural museums. Founded by the Walton Family Foundation, it welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds to interact with, create, and be inspired by works ranging from colonial oil paintings to golden age illustrations to modern abstracts.

The true delight of walking through the museum, aside from the incredible art, was hearing the multitude of languages swirling around the room as families and friends from various backgrounds sparked creativity within one another. The environment felt effortlessly inclusive and allowed all participants to have an equal voice. This is the environment all brands should strive to create.

How often these days are we bombarded with polarizing text or images? Messaging that asks us to take sides or alienate others populates our social media, entertainment, and news cycles—pitting people against the image of one another. These stories have become the norm, and they don’t leave much room for people to be reminded how similar we all are. It can even go so far as to make authentic stories and design experiences feel foreign or unwelcome.

The first step in designing for diversity is being willing to see another person’s worldview as valid and worthy enough to take up space. For designers, this can mean bringing in diverse teams and utilizing focus groups or bringing in field experts to navigate the process. Additionally, seeking stories from around the world can help shorten the miles between one place and another. As we begin to produce more diverse content, our clients and consumers are inspired to open up their understanding of others.

Things are not as bleak as they sound. As a producer, every team I work on is encouraging diversity. Especially in America, a growing number of people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional rhetoric and are looking for brands they can actually identify with. There is a desire to shift away from controversial or polarizing brands and head toward companies that make us feel beautiful and relevant, such as Dove soap with their new “No Digital Distortion” mark, specifically devised to bring real, approachable people of all shapes and sizes to the forefront of their brand.

A new generation of writers, designers, and musicians have emerged to answer the call, and this month we have been treated to some of their best work. The goal now is to share the wealth throughout the remaining 337 days of the year. 

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