Here’s the thing: most of us design with good intentions in mind. Whether we’re working to tell stories, develop services or build spaces, creatives in all fields are usually driven by a common desire to make our lives better, easier and more beautiful. But, as the events of 2020 continue to teach us, the world we have designed so far is one that still favours the privileged few. Indeed, the pandemic has only further exposed how design (even when it’s well-meaning) can be exclusive, ableist and frankly, more self-centred than human-centred. What steps can we take to change that? 

To help creatives make inclusive design a priority, UK-based consultancy Idean have launched a simple but powerful tool, called Cards for Humanity. Cards for Humanity is an online card game that is designed to help you build empathy, and test your products, services and concepts from a diverse range of perspectives. To play, you deal two cards from two separate decks. One describes a persona (‘Jenny Wang, 16, shy’) and the other describes a trait (‘is a non-binary person’ or ‘and English is their second language’). The challenge is to consider how your design process currently relates to this user and their needs. Would your product or service be accessible to this person? Are there design choices or values you took for granted? 

AN EXERCISE IN VULNERABILITY

Though each pairing is random, the game is carefully designed to challenge your unconscious biases and centre more marginalized voices. It works because it turns abstract ideas into concrete scenarios, while encouraging teams to have more nuanced conversations about their roles and responsibilities. “We’re trying to bring a new way of thinking into our projects at every opportunity and educate our clients as we go,” explains Jordan Fisher, who is design director at Idean UK. “If someone can’t use a product or access a service because they are temporarily, situationally or permanently disabled, or because the way they identify doesn’t conform to outdated social ‘norms’, it’s the fault of bad business and lazy design.”

Charlotte Fereday, Idean’s business director, adds that inclusivity is becoming especially urgent in the design of digital services. As lockdown forces us all to spend more time working, learning and socialising online, we need to revisit our assumptions around access, vulnerability and privilege. “Without inclusive design, we risk excluding people from an increasingly digital world – which means excluding them from society at large,” says Fereday. “By cultivating a more fluid understanding of what makes us vulnerable, we can design more people into our products and services.”

Cards For Humanity is now available to play online, as well as in physical form. Idean also offers remote workshops using the game to help design teams embed inclusive design practices into their projects. More info at: cardsforhumanity.idean.com

 

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