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Why is it important to have diversity in your design team?

If you want to follow an inclusive design process and create inclusive solutions for your clients, you need a diverse team.

An inclusive design team comprises a group of people that represent different genders, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and even locations.

The design industry has traditionally been homogeneous, dominated mainly by white, able-bodied men (and a handful of women) creating designs for…well, everyone else.

But having just one dominant group influence the direction of design means businesses are missing out on opportunities to create meaningful, life-changing designs for diverse groups.

Not only does this mean that designers are under-serving their customers, but they’re also missing out on potential ways to grow their businesses.

In fact, according to McKinsey, businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to outperform their competitors. Those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their peers.

We don’t need to tell you why you should be creating a more diverse workforce and equal opportunities — that should go without saying.

Instead, this article will focus on the benefits of creating a more inclusive and diverse team and the impact on your designs, customers, and business.

1. Create more inclusive designs

According to research by the Center for Inclusive Design, inclusive design can lead to the creation of products that are more accessible and usable for up to four times more people.

This is because users who have difficulty accessing or using products are often not considered in design — and when their needs are ignored, they cannot be addressed.

For example, if a client wants to design an app for women and your design team is made up of only men, the app will likely not respond to the real needs of women.

People experiencing poverty, disability, or the effects of aging may struggle to use products that don’t follow an inclusive design process.

Diverse design teams are better placed to develop innovative solutions to these problems than homogeneous ones since their lived experiences and perspectives help move the design process beyond basic user research and design thinking.

They can also help identify and address conscious biases — helping to reach broader audiences and serve more users.

With a more diverse team, you’ll get broader perspectives that will enable you to pinpoint and address different needs, use cases, and the overall feel of the app itself, leading to a better user experience for the target audience.

Just look at Bump’n — the world’s first accessible sex toy. A design team full of able-bodied people would never have even imagined there are people out there who can’t masturbate due to disability.

But the Bump’n team recognized that sexual pleasure is a human right not everyone has access to — and came up with a design solution to address the problem.

2. Greater empathy

Great design is all about empathy — understanding the user’s emotions, pain points, needs, and desires. But it’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (or wheelchair) if you’ve only ever walked on stilts.

Developing a deep sense of empathy and understanding for your customers is the only way you can come up with designs that meet their needs. Empathy can give you insight into people’s lives, how they interact with the world around them, and how the issue you’re working on could affect them.

Having a diverse team can bring more empathy to your design team — for example, a transgender person can contribute the perspectives of the transgender community, while a Black person can offer insights into the experiences of Black people.

Channeling empathy for diverse groups into your designs will make them valuable and meaningful for a larger number of people.

3. Increased innovation

Design is all about problem-solving — but how can you solve a problem if you don’t know it exists? Design teams come up with solutions by brainstorming and bouncing ideas off one another.

Therefore, if your team doesn’t reflect diverse perspectives, it could have major blind spots to the problems and needs of the people you’re trying to help.

With a diverse team, you can catch issues that might otherwise fall through the cracks and be, at best, unhelpful or, at worst, harmful. Accounting for such issues can lead to better, more inclusive design solutions.

Creative diversity inspires creative outcomes. Conformity discourages innovative thinking, while diverse perspectives encourage new ways of looking at problems. Therefore, more diverse design teams tend to produce a bigger impact when building solutions.

4. Improved decision-making

According to research, diverse teams are better at making decisions 87% of the time than homogeneous teams.

Diversity leads to better business decisions because of the different perspectives, views, ideas, and proposals of the team. It fosters critical thinking, discussion, analysis, and collaboration.

According to Harvard Business Review, this is because, in a homogeneous team, people understand each other and share similar perspectives and worldviews, which makes collaboration run smoothly and work feel easy.

When an outsider’s perspective is added to the mix, it may feel counterproductive because of the friction it causes. However, it ultimately leads to deeper questioning and a better chance of arriving at the right solution.

Another article from Harvard Business Review suggests that diversity can also mitigate groupthink, helping the team to focus on facts and process those facts more carefully.

5. Attract top talent

We’ve already seen that teams with a diverse array of personality types, cultures, genders, and backgrounds are more successful than ever in today’s competitive market, where finding great designers is not so easy.

But it turns out diversity is the gift that keeps on giving for design businesses. Not only are they able to reach more people with inclusive designs — they are also more likely to attract and retain top talent, according to the McKinsey report.

6. Advancing equity

An equitable work environment is one where all employees feel valued, included, and heard — regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, ability, or sexual orientation.

Having a diverse design team helps eliminate obstacles to opportunities for marginalized groups. It can also remove unhealthy power dynamics in the team and the design process.

Creating a diverse team is one way to help promote equity — which can also discourage discrimination, encourage cognitive diversity in decision-making, and increase job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Tips for creating a diverse design team

Are you a leader looking to start building a more diverse team? Here are some of our top tips.

Analyze and improve your hiring process

Creating a diverse team starts with hiring for diversity. This includes identifying and addressing barriers to team diversification within your hiring process.

For example, offering remote work options could open up opportunities for people in rural areas or in other countries, where they might not have access to the same opportunities.

Address all aspects of diversity

Diversity goes way beyond ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, and sometimes diversity isn’t always visible or immediately obvious.

For example, neurodivergent people — such as those with ADHD or autism — may be overlooked in favor of their neurotypical counterparts, despite the fact that their diverse perspectives could enrich the whole team’s work.

Promote a diverse company culture

Create an environment where people from different backgrounds and experiences feel safe, valued, and empowered to contribute. Actively encourage all team members to participate in and contribute to decision-making processes.

Actively manage the team

Being a proactive leader will help minimize challenges that stem from the imbalance of values on a team — for example, communication barriers, competition over collaboration, and discrimination.

Create better designs with a diverse team

Building a diverse design team is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective — it will also help you create better, more impactful designs that serve more people and drive more sales for your business.

A great place to connect with diverse creatives from all over the world is the Playbook community. It’s where designers come together to share ideas, get feedback, and participate in contests.

And you never know — you just might find your next diverse hire there.