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Product Design Insights: Six Educational Reads for June

A selection of articles our team recommends to learn about race and tech.

Published by J.P. Holecka on 06.20.2020

As unrest has taken over North America and parts of the world, POWERSHiFTER has been looking inward at our policies and processes to uncover what we could be doing better or more of to increase equity for all. As we’ve been reading and educating ourselves, we wanted to share helpful articles, not to contribute to the noise, but to help those who may be on the same journey.

Just a brown hand

In 2015, Slack unveiled a new feature that made it easier for developers to connect to the application. It wasn’t the feature itself that garnered attention, but the graphic Slack used to showcase the addition—a brown hand. The outpour of appreciation pointed to a big problem in tech and product design: companies have a “bad habit of portraying white people as the default, and everyone else as deviations from the norm.” The lesson? Representation matters.

How to begin designing for diversity

As designers (and humans), we are only experts of our lived experience. This means, whether conscious or not, bias exists in design. To make the process more inclusive, Boyuan Gao and Jahan Mantin of Project Inkblot, created a framework to help companies circumvent their biases. Design for Diversity or D4D, is a methodology that can be layered onto existing processes and empowers teams to create equitable products, services, and content.

GitHub replaces terminology with alternatives to avoid slavery references

Language matters. GitHub and a number of other companies and open source projects are replacing racist terminology found in source code, software applications, and online solutions in support of the Black community. Words like "master" and "slave" are being changed to "main/default/primary," and common terms like "blacklist" and "whitelist" are being dropped for "allow list" and "deny/exclude list." Cleaning up problematic language is just a start, but it's a big move that we are hopeful will inspire change across all industries.

So you want to talk about race in tech?

“I have never faced more blatant accusations about my race, and whether it helps or hinders my career, than I have in tech. I’ve literally been asked to my face, ‘Do you think you got that promotion because you’re black?’” - Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race.

This poignant article details an interview with Ijeoma and provides an eye-opening account of the state of race and racism in tech spaces. Some might find this conversation challenging to digest, but as the author says, Ijeoma is sharing a vision that is the more optimistic alternative for how things could go in the coming years.

Black Lives Matter brand responses

There has been an overwhelming number of responses by brands who have rushed to support and align with Black Lives Matter. This resource has recorded over 100 examples, highlighting their responses, their actions, and some reactions from the public. We share this presentation to learn more about what we, as a community, can do to make a real impact.

Anti-Racism & Educational Resources

As an agency full of empathetic, curious, and passionate people, many internal questions were raised around what we could be doing to support Black Lives Matter. Eilish Kennedy, POWERSHiFTER’s Managing Director, compiled a list of books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, and accounts to follow on social media to educate ourselves and become allies. If you or your organization are looking for educational resources, this list is a great place to find the information that will help you along your journey.