An inclusive society is a society that is committed to the participation of all, a society in which every citizen has a stake and where the notion of mutuality is at the very core. It is also a society in which everyone feels seen and represented. These notions are often taken for granted in the Netherlands, but in practice, they are far from self-evident. For instance, to what extent is the House of Representatives a proportional and equal representation of society if it consists entirely of highly educated white men and women? And to what extent can they make laws and regulations for the country when society is so much more than a single homogeneous group? A discussion that is widely present in the greater society, but only sporadically so in the design sector.
White male dominancy
The Dutch design world has many similarities with Dutch politics. Designers with a non-western cultural background, female designers, designers from the lower economic classes, and designers with a physical disability are underrepresented. The sector continues to be dominated by one specific group: highly educated white men. A specific group that designs for a very diverse society. They design the products that everyone uses but that don't always fit the user's identity, lifestyle, or cultural background.
Products and systems by men, for men
A fitness tracker monitoring sleep, perspiration, and heart rate, but never a menstrual cycle. Driver seats in cars that are on average 4 inches too long for a woman's legs, putting women at greater risk of car accidents. Or speech recognition software trained on recordings of male voices - Google's version is 70% more likely to understand men than women. And the number of beauty products for women of colour make up a mere fraction of the total supply. Which is mainly aimed at white women. But larger systems that have a huge impact on our everyday life, such as those of the tax authorities, governments, or municipalities, are also often designed by a single type of designer with a single type of user in mind.
More diversity amongst designers
But there's a growing realisation that design is much less neutral and objective than is often assumed. Products are not value-free, but bearers of stories and meaning. Views on symbolism and aesthetics such as shape and colour differ from culture to culture. The design process is too complex to assume that it can be transcended with a one-size-fits-all design. It is therefore important to involve different target groups in the design process, and maybe even more important to put more diverse designers at the helm of the design process. Because design is far from being the open discipline it often pretends to be.
For products to really connect with all groups in society, it is essential to strive for a larger number of diverse and inclusive makers. Not just when it comes to gender, but also cultural and sexual diversity, or designers with a disability. Only through a more equitable and truly representative design field can products that are genuinely inclusive be designed.
One size won’t fit all is a plea for a more diverse and inclusive design field. A plea for more designers with a diverse and inclusive background. During DDW21, this plea will not only be made through an extensive presentation of projects that are truly inclusive and diverse but also through an active form of collaboration between DDW and diverse groups from society.
Do you have an individual or collaborative work or project that ties in with this subtheme? And do you want to participate in DDW21? Contact Head of Programme DDW, Jorn Konijn.
The Greater Number: The search for the better number
Is the path we want to take after the Covid crisis the same one we've been taking in recent decades? A lot of people have been asking themselves this question over the past year. More and more people think that this could be the time for a big change and a new perspective. They want to break with this blind focus on economic growth and are ready for a different system that is more focused on well-being and happiness. To investigate the role that designers can play in the search for this new system, Dutch Design Week 2021 (DDW21) has chosen as its overarching theme ‘The Greater Number: The search for the better number’. With this theme, DDW21 is first and foremost calling for less. Where less is not the best solution to more, but better. In 4 subthemes, we explore different perspectives to this quest, and we invite the design field to reflect on this and participate in DDW21.