Design’s exclusion problem

You’ve probably seen one or a few public relations disasters pop up in the tech industry. Usually, a well-meaning, well-funded, and far-reaching tech company lands itself in the hot seat after rolling out a product and then discovering that it has excluded some group of people in a grand, disruptive way.

It’s Apple’s Health Tracker, which forgot to account for the number one health and wellness item that women track, their periods and fertility cycles. It’s Facebook’s past “affinity marketing,” which enabled marketers to select racial and ethnic groups to directly exclude from marketing efforts, harnessing the power of big data in all of the wrong ways. And, if we’re honest, it’s likely a lot more prevalent than we would like to admit. After all, it contrasts so starkly with the meritocracies we claim to work in and the good we profess to do in the world.

These issues are the signs of exclusion in not just tech, but also in design. And they go largely unexamined, with little acknowledgement or consideration for how the problems themselves have been, intentionally or unintentionally, designed into place.

Design and Exclusion, a series of panels produced by Automattic, Mash-Up Americans and MIT Center for Civic Media, breaks down the issue of exclusion in design, bringing in myriad voices and perspectives. Design and technology leaders discuss why some groups are excluded by design, as well as how to think more creatively about how to avoid exclusion while serving our customers and communities better. Our speakers share their perspectives, tips and more.

The first step to any betterment program is usually admitting there’s a problem. First up, listen to Joan Shigekawa, former acting chairwoman for the National Endowment for the Arts, introduced by Amy S. Choi of Mash-Up Americans, sharing insights and stories on who gets missed by excluded voices (full transcript).

Then, join myselfMaria Giudice, vice president of experience design of Autodesk and Andrew Sinkov, editor-in-chief of Etsy, as we discuss who gets excluded by design and how the issue creeps up when it’s against a company’s intentions and best interest (full transcript).