What is Fair Design? And Why Do I Base My Design Process Around It?

  • Jude Park
  • Fair Design is a design methdology developed to eliminate and avoid design biases and discrimination.

    Fair Design was conceptualized during my masters education, when as a young UX designer I noticed a lack of discipline and pedagogies aimed at educating designers on how to create digital experiences that are crafted fairly for users with marginalized identities.

    I found that designers will always suffer from a lack of awareness or interest in the users' accessibility needs, that often led to failures. Design directly affects the access to informational resources granted to the user. To design without the understanding of social privileges ultimately leads to prejudiced or discriminatory design (A.K.A bad design).

    Fair Design is built upon the frameworks of Accessibility Design, Inclusive Design, Universal Design and Participatory Design.

    Fair Design adopts mandates from design activisms groups across the globe, to understand specific needs of social groups and address their needs. What seperates Fair Design from other frameworks is the designer's role in measuring the users' proximity to information by considering the privileges of the target user group in the design process.

    Etymology of "fair"

    "How can design allow access to information without any barriers to the user?"

    Fair Design operates on the principle designers should not build products and services with unintentional bias, barriers or discrimination against social groups. The goal of Fair Design is to proactively prepare for a future that is inclusive to all and leaves no one behind.

    Interact. Involve. Invest. The Design Process of Fair Design must immerse all members of the team, even the decision-makers into the real world to uncover the authenticities, invite users of all levels and accessibility needs to track points of view in order to find common trajectory of value delivery system, and invest in prototypes by prioritizing outcomes that will satisfy all potential users. It operates by Vaule-Driven goals, Representation and Iterative Design.

    My hope is that this body of work can contribute to the awareness of marginalized users and experiences. I want to proactively prepare for a future that is inclusive, accessible and fair to all, by trying to answer what is fair in design.

    My Mantra for this Research: I vow as a fair design researcher...

    1. I will not park my identity at the door. (I will not hide, avert, avoid or disguise marginal experiences, including my own.)
    2. For the purpose of betterment, I will share experiences of bias, discrimination, prejudice, neglect and microaggressions without shame and/or fear of retribution.
    3. To operate on the basis that there is always room for improvement - No one is complete in our path towards progress (social or design), including myself.