Community Spaces + Resources
Incorporating representation without appropriating marginalized communities.Jessica Oddi
This document contains general advice on adding ethics to our design practices. It has questions to ask before getting involved with projects. This is from my experience with inclusion as a freelance graphic designer.
Being disabled, I understand there are intersectional aspects within communities. There are privileges that I have within my own spaces. It is important to note this guide is through the lens of a white woman’s perspective.
Accountability is a necessity in the ethical practice of representation. We must be able to learn and grow beyond our own experiences. If you find harmful or misguided information in this document, please get in touch. I am more than happy to revise the content of this guide.
At the base level we should add diversity to our work, photography or illustrations. It is our job as designers to bring visual identities to businesses. We are responsible for the lens in which companies [large or small] provide the masses.
We need to ask: if clients are not open to include those who are marginalized, should we accept the work? Some marginalized groups include: BIPOC [Black, Indigenous People of Colour], Latin, Asian, Jewish, Trans, Non-Binary. As well as those discriminated based on their religion, class, gender, sexuality, body size, age and disability.
The short answer is no. Even with “target audiences”, there is no reason why our work cannot be inclusive. This isn’t simply to “check the diversity box”, but to represent the society we live in… Which last time I checked, includes members of marginalized groups.
Within our own work we can show support. Art is expression.We need to incorporate those values into our creations. But we must not overshadow the art and culture of a community. This brings questions. How do we know the intent of a diversity project from our clients? Within our work, when does our expression begin to harm the very group we are trying to support?
We all have privilege. Diverse design is good. But working on projects for a community we are not part of is wrong. True support lies in our ability to move aside and give the opportunity to others. But how do we know when to decline work?
We must question the intent of a project. Whether it be one of our own creation or requested by a client. The following are a few internal questions to ask. Please note I've use these throughout the years. It is only a suggested place to begin. Research every project and the community it intends to represent.
Still have questions? Accountability in our involvement with equitable work is crucial. It ensures a project is ethical. If a project promotes equity, diversity or awareness, we need to remember:
Consult: Reach out to communities before starting a project. Research and educate yourself. Collaborate: Work with not for these spaces. Make sure a project is intersectional. Credit: Tag and support the people involved, or those who inspired you. Pay people for their labour, and promote their work!
Document written by Jessica Oddi June 2020. Revised August 2020 for plain text. Republished and revised January 2022. Thanks Jess Avolio, Karli Drew, Shantel Allen and Walter Henry for helping me with this.
A collection of saved resources Jess has found through the years. From accessibility to disabled and community design spaces.resources list
Edited scene of a cappuccino cup and saucer against a teal wall. With a gold handle and base. Labelled as whiskey. Flat table background with a thick shadow. Original photo by Alexandra Del Bello.