In this video, John Maeda discusses his journey into inclusion and diversity. Discover the link between inclusion and design. Learn how designing for a wider audience leads to better products.
- In the last, I don't know, half a year or so ago, I've been really interested in inclusion. It turns out it's been a passion of mine for a while, but I couldn't find my way to it until most recently. It came because of being in Silicon Valley and seeing the disparity in every team I'd visit and specifically, gender gap, the very few people of color I would meet in Silicon Valley was striking, and you read in the media, but I got to see it first hand.
But this wasn't the first time I've seen that. I was at MIT for 12 years and MIT we saw the same kind of pattern, the same kind of issues, and there was a president there, Charles Vest, who took it upon himself to address the gender inequities, specifically in the sciences. This was the '90s, this was 20 years ago. So I've been awakening different things I've heard in the past and I'm activating them in the present, and I'm asking why haven't things improved? In particular, why haven't they improved in the technology industry? No one's to fault or to blame or anything like that.
The problem with talking about inclusion and diversity is people start getting a little bit uncomfortable. So my goal right now is to be uncomfortable and to make others feel uncomfortable with me when I talk about inclusion. Inclusion and design are linked together. People ask, what's the connection? Inclusion and diversity, that's an HR topic. Design is more of a product topic. How do they link? It's because design as it's practiced for the last, like, half century, it's been about designing amazing things for few people.
For specifically the elite people, people that can afford a better products. That was a great business model, kind of. But there's an even better business model. There's the entire world to address. And so design as a field has to see the entire world as the opportunity, and the entire world is not limited to people who go to MOMA or shop at the MOMA store, or look at the coolest designed trinket.
It's much bigger. More companies that recognize a design can do that in their product line are going to be at an advantage. Why is it hard in companies? It' because diversity and inclusion is owned by HR in general. You know HR? Everybody knows HR. HR stands for highly regarded because it holds the culture together, in matters of compliance, largely. But it holds the culture together. Culture in companies is written by the CEO as important, but it's often so devalued internally.
So I'm wondering, how do you flip this thinking? How do you say that making better products for a broader population requires thinking about diversity and inclusion inside our companies in relationship to the outside population and asking simple questions that I personally never professionally asked for my entire career. For instance, I spoke to an engineering leader recently who said to me, "Every room you walk into, you should ask are there at least half women in there.
Because the world is half women. So wouldn't it make sense that every room you walk into from a statistical perspective, that would occur?" And here this leader said this to me, and I was like, "Huh, that's strange." I will walk in and see maybe 99% men so often at the highest levels in particular. That never bothered me because I never thought about it. And by thinking about it, I believe it's possible to design better organizations and ultimately better products.
- Defining design
- Designing for a wider audience
- Linking inclusion and design
- Discovering your own lacunas
- Attaining the inclusion mindset