Thoughts on Inclusive & Diverse Design from an I&D Lead [Industry Voices]

Esther talks about the importance of inclusion, diversity and belonging in design—as well as what powers innovation, good design, and design culture in organiz…

Team Designlab
Team Designlab
Jun 3, 2021
Min Read

Esther Duran has been helping organizations to innovate and transform digitally and culturally for almost two decades. She solves problems that affect usability and sustainability, creating products, services, and experiences that matter to our community, society, and planet. Esther works full-time with Fjord Paris as a Group Design Director and the Global Inclusion & Diversity Lead. Esther also leads service and business design for Accenture Interactive France.

We sat down with Esther following her recent webinar with the Designlab community about what powers innovation, good design, and design culture in organizations. Read on to learn helpful insights about diversity and inclusion...

Hey Esther! Thanks so much for allowing our readers to get to know you better. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into the UX design industry?

I moved from a long and successful but meaningless career in advertising to product and service design. It was a true eye-opener to work on projects that help people, contrary to my previous advertising life.

During the early 2000s, I worked as a web designer. It was the "www" boom as the term "UX" wasn't out there at that time...I know, I’m old. I flirted a bit with front-end design and with visual and UI design. Little did I know, I was becoming a unicorn!

It’s great to be a unicorn 🦄 As it’s Pride Month and you’re a proud member of the LGBTQ community, what is your advice for LGBTQ people aspiring to become UX designers?

Always be yourself. It’s exhausting to pretend to be someone you’re not. Use your uniqueness as your stamp to create different designs and solve problems from a different perspective. Your unique view of the world will help you solve problems in a way that others won't.

That’s great advice! We know inclusivity in design is part of your life mission. What are some examples of designs that don’t prioritize inclusivity?

Sadly, we have so many of those examples in the industry. Gladly, however, the design industry as a whole is slowly starting to take inclusivity seriously. What comes to mind is the "crash test dummies" used to monitor the impact a human body has during a car accident. Those dummies were built with sizes and characteristics of a male body, meaning women were put at high risk for many years. Still to this day, they have just created a smaller size dummy that represents women but, ironically, it's only tested on the passenger seat!

The list could go on and on. Even though women are more likely to own an iPhone than men, the design is done for men's hands. No wonder most women using iPhones buy an attachment for their phone so that they can hold it correctly.

Another recent topic is voice recognition. The software is often male-biased. It's 70% more likely to recognize male speech accurately rather than female voices. The same could be applicable to face recognition —  if you are a woman or non-white person, you are out! Again, some improvements are being made, but more work and thought needs to go into it to enhance a very biased system.

Wow those examples are mindblowing 🤯 Do you have any processes that make sure your designs are accessible for people who are neurodiverse?

For many years, society has looked at neurodiversity with stigma and negativity. Design has a great responsibility to change the narrative and shift people's perception.

During the design process, I always encourage my team to bring many voices to the table. Throughout the research phase, we have developed a set of cards to look at various customer/persona profiles and how our designs will affect them.

While conducting workshops, for example, you should always ensure you understand who your attendees are, ask them if they need some support, take into consideration their requirements, and design your session accordingly.

For the design phase, make sure you understand all the possible end-users. Apply accessibility practices and test your designs with real users who are neurodiverse.

Those are great ideas to keep in mind for accessibility. What are top tips you can share for building equitable products?

  • Be empathetic
  • Do research, talk to people, and understand what the challenges and problems are
  • Put yourself into someone's shoes
  • Include your users in ideation sessions, and they will tell you the truth
  • Never assume
  • Always test, iterate and test again
  • Work with other people, multi-skilled and diverse teams are essential for innovation.

Empathy is so key 🔑 What do you think we need to prioritize when designing the user experience to ensure digital wellness?

Nowadays, everyone is suffering from digital-screen fatigue. To help with this, you should think about applying different options like voice activation, touchless interactions, and even monitoring the amount of time your user spends in front of your product. Ask them to take "mindful breaks", and build mindfulness into your journey.

Also, don't use bright colors. They are intensive for your eyes and minds, and also consume more energy. Remember, digital pollution is real!

I’m sure our readers are going to be more mindful of that from now on 🧠 Is there a particular industry that you’d like to see more inclusion and diversity in?

In general, life has to be more inclusive and diverse. We see it every day in the news. As individuals and as a society, we need to be more aware of our bias, old ways of thinking, and improve the way we work and behave accordingly.

As designers, we have an incredible power in our hands that we need to utilize to change the status quo. Let's use it wisely.

To hear more from Esther on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion in design watch her Industry Voices webinar where you’ll:
👉 Uncover the importance of inclusion and diversity in design
👉 Discover how to build an organizational design culture, not just a design team
👉 Identify things we can all do to become outspoken collaborators and call out biased practices


Connect with Esther on LinkedIn.

Learn more about topics such as inclusivity from other industry professionals like Esther when you enroll in our UX Academy program. You’ll be matched with one of our 500+ mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries across the UI/UX/product design space. 

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.