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“A professional designer shall respect the dignity of all

from me and I cannot make myself more diverse, even

audiences and shall value individual differences even as

if I help the profession to become more diverse…’ and yet,

they avoid depicting or stereotyping people or groups of

if there were core principles among designers who believe

people in a negative or dehumanizing way. A professional

that their role is to be the intermediary between informa-

designer shall strive to be sensitive to cultural values and

tion and understanding, they should be clarity and truth.

beliefs and engages in fair and balanced communication

How can a designer can be clear and true in communicating

design that fosters and encourages mutual understanding.”

with a diverse public without extraordinary empathy for

This standard is also reflected in a list of six trends that

different cultural viewpoints?” (Grefé e-mail interview)

will define a designer’s role in 2015, one of which includes a shifting of communication from broad-based messages to

AIGA is encouraging diversity within the profession through its international chapters as well as promoting

those targeting specific audiences. “This trend demands

K-12 progams that emphasize design as a profession to

a better understanding of a variety of cultures, the value of

a diverse younger set.

ethnographic research, a sensitivity toward cultural

“Ultimately, the critical issue for a professional designer

perspectives, and empathy,” according to an article posted

is to develop a very inclusive sense of curiosity, which will

on the association’s site (AIGA).

join with a designer's natural tendencies of empathy to

To meet the shifting needs of the industry, the association also posted a Top 13 list of designer competencies, which included two skill sets specifically addressing race: “A designer should possess ‘a broad understanding of

improve the quality, range and sensitivity of design,” he said. Some advertising agencies have started to address the issue by creating specialized cultural departments. After more than 50 years of following the same advertising model,

issues related to the cognitive, social, cultural, technological

Ogilvy & Mather created OgilvyCulture in 2010 in order to

and economic contexts for design.’

reflect current census data. However, agencies that focus on

“A designer should possess the ‘ability to respond to

specific ethnicities, such as Burrell, believe that a one-size-

audience contexts recognizing physical, cognitive, cultural

fits-all approach does not work in today’s environment, and

and social human factors that shape design decisions.’ ”

that a person’s racial identity is more important than educa-

AIGA’s research is a call to action for designers to gain a better sense and understanding of today’s shifting envi-

tion, gender and income (The Economist). Both directions have their drawbacks. A cross-cultural

ronment and will go a long way toward helping designers

approach has the possibility of becoming homogeneous

create authenthic work.

while an ethnic-only approach risks pigeonholing its audi-

Richard Grefé, AIGA executive director, said sensitivity to diverse cultural settings is an imperative for designers. “It represents a special challenge for designers for two reasons: first, many designers might say ‘my creativity comes

ence and alienating others. Rather than generalizing a design approach—indicating that it has to fit into this category or that category­—it makes more sense to take each assignment on its own merits.

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Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm. 2012 Thesis

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm. 2012 Thesis

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