Most designers would agree that good design is invisible. What do I imply by this? Invisible design is design that works. When it goes unnoticed, it means “no complaints.” A cellphone that’s designed that will help you higher talk helps you full a activity with out issues, making your life simpler. It leaves you with out questions and confusion. If a shirt designed to maintain you heat, does simply that, you most likely gained’t discover it as a result of we anticipate the product to satisfy its promise. We frequently don’t take into consideration the profit — as a result of it really works.
It’s when one thing isn’t working we begin to concentrate. A Slack outage. A cellphone the place the user-interface makes it laborious to search out the decision button. A shirt that, regardless of its promise, doesn’t shield towards the ice-cold wind. A designer’s purpose and dream are to create frictionless experiences that simply work.
However whereas invisibility is the dream, it is usually a nightmare. You see, good design is invisible. However so is dangerous — dangerous — design. Designers know that design is not only what one thing seems like, it’s the way it works. And when you have a look at design by way of that lens, you’ll quickly uncover that all the things is designed. From the constructing we inhabit to the merchandise we use, and the techniques we take part in as part of a bigger societal construction. Many of those environments, merchandise, and techniques trigger hurt. The issue is that more often than not we don’t discover them as a result of we’re not part of the teams they harm. Dangerous techniques and environments are sometimes invisible to the bulk.
After the demise of George Floyd, The skilled affiliation for design’s (AIGA) Govt Director, Bennie F. Johnson posted a statement saying: “All systems are designed. Harmful systems must be redesigned.” His put up was a direct response to the present buildings that permit for systematic racism to proceed in America. We frequently view points like racism as an issue of “bad” people with skewed beliefs. However the issue is not only the folks, however quite the design of a system established a very long time in the past, and enforced for many years. These techniques that we’re all part of, have been set as much as assist some whereas hurting others.
All techniques ARE designed. And plenty of dangerous techniques are invisible to the folks not experiencing the detrimental results of the techniques immediately. White folks like me residing within the U.S., typically wrestle to see the techniques in place as a result of we’ve by no means been discriminated towards or held again or harmed by them, so to us, they’re invisible.
The observe as much as the assertion “good design is invisible” is “and bad design goes everywhere.” And if we swap the lens to look at the dangerous or dangerous designs which might be invisible, we discover examples in all places.
It’s not simply techniques which might be dangerous to totally different teams. Merchandise and environments additionally play a giant position in invisibly excluding sure teams of individuals. If we’re able-bodied, the dearth of sidewalks and ramps most likely goes unnoticed to us. And solely once we break a leg, will we see the issues with the design of our cities. And it’s only once we’re held again due to our gender or race that we start to note.
Advertising and marketing and design teaches us that understanding the consumer is on the coronary heart of excellent product design and efficient communication. But when we need to do what Johnson mentioned “redesign harmful systems” (and merchandise and environments) we have to dig deeper. We should create WITH folks not for them. As we redesign techniques, the folks beforehand closest to the ache have to be closest to the ability. As designers, we’re accountable for ensuring our creations don’t proceed to trigger hurt.
Any time we’re part of the bulk, we should make a acutely aware effort to see the invisible, dangerous issues for the minority.
The opposite day I attended a webinar about incapacity and design. The speak featured eight panelists with totally different disabilities they usually all defined challenges and alternatives within the subject of design. They highlighted the truth that most individuals will sooner or later expertise a incapacity of their lifetimes, and at any given second, 20 p.c of the world is experiencing a incapacity in some type. This reveals the significance of constructing it a spotlight. However one other factor they highlighted was the truth that it’s good for the minority, and can be good for almost all. Making your product accessible for somebody with low imaginative and prescient incapacity additionally helps folks with 20/20 imaginative and prescient. Inaccessibility solely enhances a poor consumer expertise.
What’s good for the minority, can be good for almost all. A instrument designed for arthritis will even be extra comfy for somebody who’s able-bodied. Ramps are simpler choices for folk who aren’t in want of walkers or wheelchairs. Revising your H1/H2 textual content to make it higher for a speech reader additionally improves your search engine optimisation.
Design performs a giant position within the creation of our present realities and as designers, we now have the ability and privilege to imaging a world that works for everybody.
Once we know higher, we do higher. Taking a step again, analyzing any unintended penalties of how we stay our every day lives can maintain us individually accountable to the higher good. Then take have a look at our work — studying from errors prior to now, course-correcting present initiatives, and making a plan to do higher sooner or later. Whether or not it’s how we vote, how we have interaction with damaged techniques, or how we’re designing a brand new web site with a brand new lens of accessibility and inclusivity in thoughts, it’s our obligation as designers to create a world that helps and doesn’t hurt.