Updated: Jun 24
Women & Design // WID Insights
"With great power, comes great responsibility" Uncle Ben wasn't joking when he said that.
Initially, like any other young aspiring creative, I got into design because I'd romanticized the idea that one of my imaginations could become reality; naïve, I know. But through and beyond my years at design school, I grew as not only a creative, but an individual too. Design, for me, evolved to understanding needs over wants, being able to differentiate innovations from iterations and most importantly, idealizing intent.
As creatives, we not only design products, experiences and interfaces: rather, I believe we design habits and behaviours that guide the rest of the 7.5 billion human beings into the future we so vividly envision. Everything you design and put out into the world has an impact, big or small. I've come to a realization that design, no matter how tangible or intangible it may be is more about psychology than it is the product. We're more than just the clichéd stereotypes defined by colour palettes, fonts, logos and 3D renders. An all-time favourite example that sums up my statement dates back to the early 1900s, where 'Pepsodent' managed to revolutionize the toothpaste industry with the help of Claude C. Hopkins. Agreeably, there's more to converting thousands of behaviour patterns than just the design of things — but as designers, we're working on the frontier of change; and what we create, if executed, invented and marketed rightly, has revolutionary power.
'Before Pepsodent appeared, only about 7% of Americans had a tube of toothpaste in their cabinets. About a decade after Hopkin's ad campaign went nationwide, the number jumped to 65%. Today, every single household in America has a tube of toothpaste in their house. And they use it every single day, sometimes even twice.' (Extract from 'The power of Habits' by Charles Duhigg).
A single product such as the toothpaste managed to influence behaviours of humans way beyond its era, having easily embodied itself into our daily routine thousands of years later — a ritual we do right after we wake up, and before we head to bed. Take the iPhone instead; the device we once housed in our pockets now spends more time in our hands, causing us to be more distracted than ever. At times I wonder what the world would look like today if there was even a small change in the way such things were designed. In what ways would our behaviours be different to what they are today? From the Stone Age to our current era, products have shaped our behaviours, and in a way, paved the paths towards our future. So do we not hold a responsibility, as designers, to create the right future?
December 2020 has been a rather interesting end to a unique year. Safe to say a lot has happened this year, from wildfires and locusts to world-wide lockdowns, it's been crazy. However, not all of it was bad. 2020 brought with it a united front that cried uproar for equal rights for everyone. In its own way, 2020 forced us all to slow down, create a safe space and tackle decades of issues that kept getting swept under the rug. Conversations around mindful and inclusive designs started flowing; truthfully, it was about time.
We live in a world filled with thousands of different people, each having their own sets of unique experiences, understandings, beliefs, and expectations. How so, can we then determine a set 'standard' that fits the needs of all? Someone or the other is bound to be left out — and as history proves, someone has
Intentionally, or unintentionally, we've chosen to set standards that define societal standards at the cost of someone's mental and physical health; take "Fair and Lovely" for example. There had to be a designer on the Branding team that missed out on his/her chance to speak up when the time was right, and went on to design and contribute to years of injustice and colourism — programming young teens and girls to fall prey to the belief that a 'lighter skin is routinely equated with beauty'. As a designer, you have a choice to say no, or right any wrongs before they hit the market and even have the chance to influence behaviours — use your voice. Ensure that the products you're working for are inclusive: do your UI's work the same for those with visual impairments as they would for those without? Does your product enhance experiences for both genders, or for people of various sizes and shapes?
There are always two choices that can be made in any situation, the right choice and the easy choice. Surviving in the highly saturated market that is today can be tough, but I push you to ask yourself this — does the world need what you're helping birth, does it contribute to a greater cause than just encouraging consumerist behaviours? Are you being mindful and inclusive when you create? Being a passionate industrial designer and a full-time freelancer, trust me when I say I understand how tempting it may be to say yes when someone reaches out to you for work. But I've made it a point to step back and force myself to look at the larger picture. It's can tough at times, but it's our responsibility to create consciously. Keeping a long-term perspective in mind will take you a long way, while researching, work on not only understanding what the world lacks and can be improved upon today, but also the impact of how it can be improved upon 10, 20, 50 years down the line.
It's not that hard to ensure inclusivity, with the right internet searches and people to guide you, we can adapt to be mindful creators that create a world for everyone. After all, we're all on the same side here — we aren't in a competition with each other, we're creating our future together. So instead of being in a constant battle with other designers, trying to create 'better sketches' or 'sicker' visuals, we're missing out on why we started out with design in the first place(if you're doing it to improve your technical skills then that's great! You do you. But if you're only doing it for more 'Instagram followers' and what not, it might be time to self-reflect). Let's help guide and empower each other to create better and become well equipped creatives, the world would be a better place. Most importantly, don't be afraid to stand up for what's right. You'll be surprised at the amount of people who'll have your back. Have courage and design responsibly 🧡