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Duration: 10 Weeks 
Collaboration:
SCADPro Aniekanabasi Asanga, Arundhati Bagrodia, Brie Nestler, Cameron Fazio, Chandra Pandian, Gwen Krage,  Hannah Harris, Juliana Castro, Kate Bender, Lydia Gutridge, Ricardo Martins, Sam Manelis, Sam Pritchard, Shijie Luo, Stephanie Cardoze, Tamara Castilla, Yue Guo, Zhuorong Yuan

Context

The design process was never created with equity in mind. Designers and companies need to take a step towards a more equitable design process to see equitable outcomes. The goal is not to reach diversity quotas, equity is not found in HR. It is found at the center of the design process. It is found at every step of the way towards a product, a platform, a service, every day.

 

This team of students collaborated with Google, Amazon, and Facebook through SCADPro to discover a way to make design outcomes more equitable for all designers. 

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Equity Beats 

The Equity Beat Sound System makes equity the center stage at key moments during the design process by intentionally reframing design as a collaborative concert with "jam sessions", rather than a competitive marathon we "sprint" to complete.

Grounded in Critical Race Theory, The Equity Beats Sound System is still deadline conscious but creates brave spaces over harsh finish lines. It allows teams time to explore and discover with equity center stage.

Research

Interviews with 67 professionals and students were collected across various multicultural identities, centering voices within the Black and African Diaspora. Various roles and titles were represented in the data spanning across the technology and design industries.

 

The questions, secondary research, and prototyping were all aimed at understanding equity in the practical context of professional experiences. 

6 Common Topics 

The team broke off into three groups to interview, research and discover, one focusing on Facebook, one focusing on Google, and one focusing on Amazon. When we joined forces again and affinatized the data we uncovered 6 common topics that each company seemed to share.  

Education is the key to achieving equity and inclusivity, How can we make equity present in each part of our development?

Company Culture is the soul of a company, inclusivity, diversity and equity should be at the very center. 

Increased representation within the companies and accurate representation externally.

Tokenism disempowers the very people it is trying to help. How can we avoid tokenism and create equitable representation? 

Inequity is a theme in the design process. Equity should be at the forefront, not an afterthought. 

Big tech companies carry a lot of power. How can companies like Amazon Facebook, and Google push equity forward?

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Ideation 

The six common topics led the team to four "how might we" statements that could take the project further. These four statements were presented to the clients with potential directions that could be solutions within each of the topics. You'll see that every solution the team came up with is based in education. Educating designers, students, companies, creating conversation and sharing experiences. 

Where can we go?

School of Equity to capture the understanding that equity belongs in schools, it belongs in universities, and it should not only be a topic of conversation but a entire program. 

Equitable Design Studio inspired by the B-Corperation, that score companies off of the equity the channel through their employees and projects. Challenging these companies to become more aware and keep them accountable. 

Equity Summit where professor, professionals, and students alike could come together for pannels, workshops, and classes to learn and educate themselves on the world of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Equity Design Scholarship Fund to push the younger generation to understand more about inclusion and challenge companies to recognize the importance of these topics from an early stage. 

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Final Direction

The team and the clients agreed, education was the route, but how do we implement education to increase exposure, create an equitable mindset, break internal barriers, allow connectivity, and support long term accountablility? In other words education would support the statement, how might we embed equity into the design process to create inclusive research and empathetic design? We landed on the idea of slowing down the design process and creating space for education through conversation and reflection. This would manifest as a tool kit for designers to use as they made their way through the design process, each activity acting as a pause in the process.

Critical Race Theory

After researching other resources surrounding equity in design, we landed on creating the framework based off of the six key tenets of the Critical Race Thoery (CRT). CRT was the base of many resources already being used like The National Equity Project and Equity Meets Design. CRT provides a foundation in the current context of dismantling racist and oppressive systems.

Identity is Intersectional

Uniqueness to Voice of color

Racism is Ordinary

Intersecting identities create unique contexts. Each person has a equally important perspective as the person next to them.

Storytelling is a means for voices of color to be heard - counter stories challenge and displace dominant narratives.

to discuss racism its hidden ubiquity must be exposed and acknowledged.

Limits of Liberalism

Interest Convergence

Those with power rarely concede it without interest convergence - unless it benefits those in power racist actions are rarely dismantled.

Liberalism itself can hinder anti-racist progress - colorblindness impedes goals.

Racism is socially constructed

Racial categories are fluid and used to differentiate and divide groups artificially..

Meet the Beats

Design is inequitable in nature, framed as a marathon, a race, where there is a clear winner and a clear loser. Results were based on design sprints where it was clear that quantity took priority of quality. This competitive nature fed white supremacy and inequity. 

We re-framed the design process as a collaborative concert, where everyone plays an important role in the success. This direction also supports natural finishes and the idea that everyone is there to listen, create, and perform, together. 

Our framework is a collection of worksheets, storytelling activities, and solo reflections that are there to educate and challenge the designer to slow down and take a beat to ensure that equity is placed at the center of the design process. 

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Create your own wheel of intersectionality and consider audiences you may be overlooking in the design process.

Come together to celebrate stories of culture and wins when it comes to equity in design.

Gather your group to read stories of microaggressions aloud.

Design teams should gather to find harmony in their taste in genres, as well as the interests of diverse identities.

Created for POC and DEI professionals, take an intermission, to recover from traumatic events and emotional work.

Explore gaps where you may be racially color-blind, and learn how to see in color.

Prototyping the ENCORE Beat

I worked with a few other students on the team to discover a new tool based on interest convergence that we could prototype and co-create with professionals. I led co-creation sessions with designers from IBM, Amazon, and Google to test each iteration of the beat. Taking each comment and action as an insight to create a successful activity.  

 

Designers do not consider interests and identities outside of their own, only considering the largest target user group resulting in the unintended harm and exclusion of underrepresented communities. 

This Equity Beat which we called Encore prompts designers to incorporate and value diverse perspectives in their design process. This fosters an understanding that the interests of underrepresented communities are only likely to be realized when they align with the interests of those in power.

#1

The Encore beat originated from the concept of interest convergence, the idea that those in power only support the interests of underrepresented communities when they share those interests. The first iteration used a Venn diagram to help designers visualize the overlap and disparity between their design and their users’ interests.

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#2

The second iteration was designed to allow for easier comparison between multiple user identities. This revealed the need to guide designers in discovering diverse identities.

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#3

The third iteration provided a guiding structure with prompts to help designers imagine diverse identities using their products.

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#4

The fourth iteration aimed to combine the chart organization of the second iteration with the guiding prompts of the third. This created a checklist feeling and revealed the need to prioritize deeper engagement with the identities designers generated through the beat.

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#5 The Final Beat 

Emerging from co-creation sessions with design professionals, iteration five divided the beat into two parts.

 

Part A, which comes before the interviewing process, focuses on inspiring designers to think critically about the diverse users that could interact with their designs. This begins with challenging the designer to reflect on their own identity, then asks them to find other identities they may not have considered and include those while interviewing.  

 

Part B, which comes after interviewing, encourages designers to involve those diverse identities' needs, wants, passions, challenges, talents, and joy in the rest of their design process and think beyond just their user's needs.

No matter where you are in your career, Equity Beats helps to embed justice and empathy into your design process.