When I first published the newsletter focusing on Black Lives Matters, I had one unsubscriber write in: “Stop spreading lies about systemic racism. Stick to UX.”
I thought that was interesting coming from someone trying to transition into user experience – a field that prides itself on empathy and understanding others.
We’re in the business of human-centered design, and that includes all humans. It’s obvious that our society is not inclusive nor equal, and it’s in need of radical redesign.
So yes, I will stick to UX. #BlackLivesMatter
There’s no right form of support. Some protest, some donate, some have important, uncomfortable conversations on social media. Any form of support is critical in this moment in history.
Starting at the end of May 2020, America saw the rise of a huge civil movement sparked by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other Black lives.
Now what you came for – specifically for UX designers and students, there’s a bunch of unique ways to we contribute to equality in ways small and large.
✐ Help black owned businesses & startups with UX design
We can support black businesses by buying through them, or reaching out to help them with UX. Here are some useful directories:
- Black Wall Street Business Directory – one of the biggest directories with 5,000+ Black owned businesses
- Mobile Apps – BlackNation to find businesses and EatOkra is like a Yelp for Black-owned restaurants
- Donate your design skills to Black Startups (Angelist) or BlackFounders.
- Here’s a comprehensive list of Black tech founders – you can even filter by funding stage
Consider donating any skills that a small business might need. That might be design, copy, marketing materials, setting up an email list, logos and all things tech.
🌅 Equal representation in the images you use
In American media, white faces are the norm. In ads, TV roles, Barbie dolls, and yes – websites and apps.
As designers, it’s easy to fall into this inherent bias. That’s why photo series that flip the script are so surprising to see. The next time you’re designing with images, consider representing people of color.
Beyond searching on Unsplash or Pexels, here are diverse image resources you can use in your designs:
- Diverse UI – my favorite free resource
- Diversity Avatars – get 30 illustrations free
- Nappy.co – “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free.”
- AfricanStockPhoto – Similar to above, but paid stock photos.
- Personas by Draftbit – neat ability to customize avatar illustrations
👐🏾 Practice inclusion in user research
If you’re conducting user research or testing, make sure your selection criteria for test participants is representative of all users, especially Black and minority communities.
“How white is your UX practice?“, a paper by Imperial College students, who bravely reflected on how they had “failed to get a representative sample of our diverse student population.”
Other corners of academia acknowledge the Under-representation of minority ethnic groups in research (study), such as this one example:
“Minority populations are much less likely than their white counterparts to be included in studies on environmentally related diseases, even those that disproportionately affect minority communities.”
Working in UX design means we work in technology. And technology scales. Addressing inherent biases upfront and establishing an inclusive research practice decreases the chances of scaling our biases.
📊 Use design to explain social concepts and civil rights phenomena
The current civil rights movement and media cycle are rife with misunderstanding.
- Black Lives Matters vs All Lives Matters (and Blue Lives Matters, to a lesser extent)
- Resistance to the idea that systemic racism exists
- Misreading the movement to defund the police
- The focus on violent protests and looting vs peaceful demonstration
And don’t even get me started on conspiracy theories that add noise – not substance – to the conversation.
Few of us are sociology majors and race relation experts. But there’s still an opportunity to leverage design to illustrate and explain broken systems (hello user flows and information design?)
The domains of graphic design and art lie tangential to UX, but it’s a skillset that can be leveraged by the design community to simplify otherwise thorny concepts.
If you are able to showcase systemic racism through UX tools like user flows, journey maps and cognitive biases, please reach out to me at email@example.com. I’d love to highlight and share your work.
💼 Where you work matters the most
When it comes to personal influence, where you work will have the most impact. For a wider lens on how you can use your career to help solve the world’s problems, check out this great resource from 80,000 Hours.
Working somewhere? Research if your company has any corporate gift matching programs for donating to nonprofits. If your company does not currently support civil rights non-profits, you can petition and/or suggest one.
If you’re looking for a job, consider targeting the companies that you’d feel good about working at.
Check out some sources of great jobs:
- Companies that have donated to Black Lives Matter
- African American startups (Angelist directory)
- List of the World’s Most Ethical Companies
- Tech Jobs for Good (directory)
- Nonprofit startups (Angelist directory)
Side note: During this search, I discovered a neat startup called Promise, which focuses on America’s criminal justice system and reducing incarceration rates. So neat.
Join or start the Diversity & Inclusion team at your company
One of the best ways to leverage existing corporate resources is to join or start a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) organization at your company.
Here are some ways D&I organizations can influence company culture:
- Hiring practices to be more inclusive
- Company participation & representation in communities like AfroTech or People of Color in Tech.
- Creating a safe space to talk about race
If your company already has a D&I committee, just showing up and listening in can be a powerful start. Invite your other teammates to join if they haven’t already.
If there’s no existing D&I committee, ask your leadership why. See if they’re open to sponsoring time and funds for the creation of such a committee – it can literally startup with you a few coworkers and a couple events.
In the same sense, good luck going out to make everyone in your city anti-racist or care about a certain movement.
Push for junior level designers and UX internships
Blacks are Latinos are underrepresented in tech. The combination of the increasing barrier of entry in tech with an incumbent workforce that lacks diversity (think who’s already in mid/senior roles), and you get a hiring pipeline that’s not optimized for underrepresented populations.
“In Silicon Valley for blacks and Hispanics, the basic problem is getting in the door. The problem with Asian Americans in Silicon Valley is upper mobility to management. You need different strategies for each race, and you can’t just throw it in as a diversity program, because not all diversity programs are apt for all the races or genders.”From nonprofit Ascend via TechRepublic article.
If you have a hand in the hiring process, suggest internships. Consider blazing the trail by volunteering yourself to be a mentor or internship coordinator. This can be a powerful way to lower the barrier of entry for underrepresented folx in tech.
🪓 Looking for projects? Hack for social change
Those looking to break into UX have a great win-win opportunity if they apply their efforts to designing for social impact. Here are some resources to get started:
- Design Gigs for Good – a curated job board dedicated to social impact
- Design for America – social impact design at the university/campus level. You can start one at your university.
- Find a hackathon for social change.
In LA and other cities, organizations like HackForLA organize tech-focused solutions to civic problems.
If you’re curious about this, search on “hack for [your city name]” or explore the keyword “Govtech” (government tech) for ways to help.
And lest you’re hungry for more resources, check out the extensive list of resources at AIGA’s Design for Good page.
Am I missing anything? Got a valuable resource that supports the civil rights movement and diversity in tech? Please let me know in the comments.