Equity-Centered Community Design in Product and Marketing Design

Introduction

I’ve been reflecting on myself and my work as a designer. I’ve worked on numerous design projects, all with a social aspect to varying degrees. What makes them social projects? After searching for new resources and sitting down with webinars and readings from Creative Recreation Lab (CRL), here are some of my thoughts on why we need equity-centered design, why we need thoughtful community design, and how equity-centered community design shows up in your product and marketing work even when you don’t expect it.

“How can we make sure that you’re designing inclusive and equitable outcomes for all — no matter how big or small the decision?” — CRL

Why should we care about inclusive and equitable outcomes?

Inclusive and equitable outcomes make business sense. As a socially responsible company, if we really want to serve our users, we need to look beyond the surface. To be a successful product that users will love, spend their money/time, will come back to, and share with their friends, we need to understand what their immediate and core needs are, how to fulfill that need, and how to market and appeal to them with our value proposition as fulfilled by our product. What I’ve learned and experienced first-hand is that when companies don’t understand why they’re designing and how they should be marketing a product, features and content miss the mark. When we miss the mark, users leave, and what’s worse, media picks up the miss and the company is put at risk.

What does community design have to do with product and marketing design?

“HUMAN EQUITY is when outcomes are not predictable based on someone’s identities or characteristics (e.g. race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability status, etc.).” — CRL

How do I practice equity-centered community design and know when to use this framework?

With a little practice and the willingness to learn and experiment, anyone can use design-based problem solving and community development to create more equitable outcomes. The main thing to remember is that like design-thinking, equity-centered community design is not a linear step-by-step process, but is meant to be mutable for different user groups and environments. In this mutable process, the key is the integration of history and healing by acknowledging and actively committing to dismantling harmful power constructs every step of the way. How this manifests may look like intensive user research, user workshops, and rapid iteration whenever you’re entering a new community. Whatever you’re ready for, test and iterate on the process. From my experience, over-budget the amount of time you need, and start small — don’t try to solve everything at once.

Questions to ask when planning and considerations to follow

The more that you admit you don’t know and are willing to learn from the community, the more likely it is that you’ll actually be able to serve them which increases your designs success.

Design & Research for Social Innovation

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