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Design is an act of power, or a abeyant act of power; that is, how design stages people’s agency, the structures that impact people’s agency, and how advised altar themselves seek to accomplish agential power… designing (re)configures agency through the relations amid the designer, the advised object, people and the context… Whether aware of it or not, designers bring values and belief systems into the design convenance based on their position in the world, and this influences the design in a accurate way. Arguing that designers access their design is not a arguable altercation to make, but when design advisedly engages with power, social change, and the political condition, it seems more important that designers alarmingly reflect on their agency and position.

this massive gap?

Especially for a demographic whose fate depended on it?

#ffffff privilege

As designers, we find ourselves challenged by the need to accept most of our users. But what about those who rarely make it in the most bucket? The ones our flush lifestyles tend to shield us from?

What about the single mom of three in Indiana, alive two jobs to make ends meet, who just needs a to-do list app that she can access on the go? Or the young Black boy in Sanford, afraid to don the hoodie your site is affairs after he saw what happened to Trayvon Martin? Or maybe the dyslexic girl in El Paso, TX, who spends her evenings after school trying to learn English on the website you designed? These users often (and unfairly) carry the burden of using a artefact that was never advised for them in the first place.

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Lucky for them, you, the designer, swoops in, ready to solve these problems and affinity the hell out of them. You, like most designers, are often white, often administering remote testing, and often too afar from the ambiance that led the user to need your artefact in the first place to accept it. Your clipboard is in hand, your sterile, templated account test is ready, and you begin blockage task-success rates, speed of completion, and accepted comprehension.

If marginalized users I mentioned above even make it to the account test— which they often don’t?—?well, then, you tell yourself it’s okay that they hesitated, didn’t understand, swiped instead of scrolled, and missed the CTA you and your team anxiously architected for their eyes.

Every test has its outliers. And outliers don’t matter. Right?

Why does any of this matter?

It affairs because a recent study showed that Americans spend an average of 10 hours a day attractive at their screen. It affairs because as designers, we are the architects of an acquaintance that affairs just as much as (if not more than!) the one we live and breathe.

We see it in the kids who learn how to swipe, pinch, and scroll before they learn how to turn the pages in an actual book, in the hands that forget the awareness of acrimonious up a pen to write and can never seem to find paper nearby to jot an idea down on (who needs paper anymore?), and in the 13-second elevator ride that is too acute to acquaintance after blockage our five-inch agenda anchors for a dose of excitement, validation, and distraction.

Our new realities fit into tiny screens and laptops, our affections bargain to 30 variations of the heart emoji in iMessage, our ball bargain to Netflix, our chat bargain to Twitter, our human affiliation bargain to Facebook, and so on. Even our brainwork to get a break from it all happens on Headspace. Designers quite actually get to decide how we action aggregate from grief to hunger, and what people decide to do about it.The way we access advice is rapidly changing, yes, but the way we action is alteration alongside it.

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There is, then, inherent and actual power and advantage in being able to shape these adventures for the rest of the world.

An article by Aarhus University says it best:

Design is an act of power, or a abeyant act of power; that is, how design stages people’s agency, the structures that impact people’s agency, and how advised altar themselves seek to accomplish agential power… designing (re)configures agency through the relations amid the designer, the advised object, people and the context… Whether aware of it or not, designers bring values and belief systems into the design convenance based on their position in the world, and this influences the design in a accurate way. Arguing that designers access their design is not a arguable altercation to make, but when design advisedly engages with power, social change, and the political condition, it seems more important that designers alarmingly reflect on their agency and position.

Rethinking human-centered design

The woman in my story used human-centered design as a crutch to abutment her acumen for why any person should be able to easily design for another’s (vastly different) experiences. She was able to do so because HCD is based in a word designers seem to throw around more and more these days: empathy. Taken to the extreme, if you accept you have enough empathy, no two people are too different?—?meaning you can design for anyone.

You could even design for addition you know annihilation about because our baseline acceptance is that human beings are fundamentally the same. And as I was reminded by a mentor today, cognitively, we are. We’re all more or less subjected to the same ergonomic and cerebral constraints.

But human beings are fundamentally different, too. Designing for shared adventures pre-supposes that most or even all adventures are shared, when they are often intrinsically different. While botheration statements can be ubiquitous—“How do we fix our cities? How do we access productivity? How do we make healthcare accessible?”—we acquaintance the solutions to these problems quite differently.

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Is your grief-processing app acknowledging how altered cultures, religions, and age groups handle anguish and loss? Is your travel app advised to accommodate safety tips for women traveling alone? Does your note-taking app have settings for people who are visually impaired, or who may need to record voice notes instead?

Or, less hypothetically?—?if facial acceptance is making it easier for us to use our phones, does it recognize faces with darker skin tones? When Nikon’s S630 cameras were released, did they assume all East Asians who were animated were blinking instead? When Apple appear the oximeter affection on its Apple Watches, why didn’t they work on people with dark or tattooed skin? (Could it have annihilation to do with the fact that Apple tests its articles with its controlling team, the top 10 of whom are all white?)

True accomplishing of human-centered design practices ensures designers are focused on how we are altered just as much as on how we may be the same. These differences allow us to design for anybody by designing for accessibility, internationalization, capricious levels of tech literacy, socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, and more.

Where does that leave you?

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The albatross of all designers

Can you design for addition you don’t know? You can, you have, you do, and you will. That part of designing will never go away. We have the real advantage of being able to help facilitate people’s lives the way we do.

But in the abiding words of Uncle Ben, God rest his soul: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Knowing what we know about how little we know, it is our albatross to consistently force ourselves to be attentive about the lens with which we beam the world, abnormally our users. It is our albatross to access the problems we have been appointed to solve with the abasement they deserve, by acknowledging first and foremost that our angle is as bound as the adventures we were afforded.

It is also our albatross to absorb advice that challenges what we believe, to consistently check both the assumptions and the privileges that shape the articles we build every day, and to meet our users where they are.

It is our albatross to actively seek the “outliers” that seem to be shrinking data points in the metrics that define our work?—?data points that are often assembly of entire populations who never seem to make it to the whiteboard as a acute enough reason to alter a design.

Most importantly, it is our albatross to create assorted teams that are able to truly relate to, empathize with, and accept marginalized users. It is here that change will truly take root, and design will truly begin to not just be human-centered, but all-humans-centered.

I’ll leave you where Brian LaRossa left me in his blithely crafted essay on advantage in design:

It affairs whom we observe. It affairs how we imagine. It plots a course through the design process, a path that is wrought with consequence. If we only beam and brainstorm those who resemble ourselves, then what we call affinity is merely introspection. The majority of designers are white. There is a advantaged ouroboros of chump affinity that leaves so many others out of the loop. Awakening to advantage is often framed as an irreversible process?—?like biting an apple. But “woke” is not a abiding state for those of us in the majority. Advantage is a poppy field. It’s absurd to attestant the way your own comatose prevents others from sleeping. Still, we have an obligation to wrench our eyes open again and again, an obligation to look inclusively (not just internally), an obligation to empathize with the whole admirers and brainstorm them with care, and an obligation to be acute to the margins around us. If we don’t accomplish in captivation ourselves amenable for affair these baseline obligations, then the things we design will only serve to keep others like us asleep.

“The Dreamers will have to learn to attempt themselves, to accept that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have corrective themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”

— Ta-Nehisi Coates

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