Reflecting diversity through illustrations

Things I wish I did right in the first place Photo by Clay Banks on UnsplashJune 2020: The world is suffering from a pandemic which has made everyone confined within the bounds of their homes yet there are thousands and thousands of people on roads in USA. They all are together, united for a single cause — Black Lives Matter. The tragic incident of killing of George Floyd pulled up the drapes from layers of racial discrimination which we refused to acknowledge or accepted as a harsh reality. However, this incident did stir things up. It made people talk, raise their voice and realize that things needed to change. This turned into a movement. A movement for change that wasn’t just limited to people in USA but all over the globe. This wasn’t the first time people stood together for a cause. However, one thing that happened differently this time was that instead of just blaming others, people & corporations together went into self reflection. IBM, Microsoft, Amazon put a hold on selling their face recognition A.I. to law enforcement agencies and Alexis Ohanian vacated his seat from board of Reddit for a Black member. It wasn’t just a USA thing anymore, it was much more than that. While all this was happening, companies also took it to social media to show their support for the movement. Some temporarily changed their logos in black color in support of the movement. Even we at UNI.xyz did it. However, we knew we needed change more than that. As a designer at UNI.xyz, I am responsible for visual branding of the company besides UX. Last year, while I was working on developing the illustration style for our brand, one of the guiding principle was ‘inclusiveness’ . At the time, I thought that not talking about diversity at all would be the best way to represent everyone. If I draw people such that they resemble no one, there’s no talk of diversity. Yes, I chose the escapist path. I drew people without filling in any color in the skin (using just the outlines), used very limited color palette for clothes and limited myself to one type of male character and one female. Somehow, I thought I nailed it and everyone was happy. When I was nearly done with finalizing the style, I started seeking feedback. It was my first attempt at creating an illustration style at that scale. (Although I did create something before as well, but that was too raw to be counted as an attempt) The first external feedback I received pointed out the lack of diversity. I did try to cover up by saying that I did not draw the skin at all so there’s no talk of diversity. Little did I knew, that wasn’t enough. “When a person appears as an outlined white space while their hair and clothing have color, it’s easy to assume they’re Caucasian.” — Designers at Airbnb https://airbnb.design/your-face-here/ This 2020 BLM movement stood as a questionmark in the face of the explanation I gave in defense of the illustration style. I somehow took the same path which designers at Airbnb once took and fell into same pitfall as they did. Drawing perfectly curved outlines and filling in appealing textures everywhere but the skin and calling it a day wasn’t enough. I knew we needed to change. We needed to change things apart from the color of our logo. We needed to represent the diversity we respect and celebrate in our community. We needed to take a stand and accept that we cannot have the escapist mindset anymore. We needed to raise our voice for the rights of people from all backgrounds. We needed to make things right that shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place. Well, here we are actually standing on the idea of inclusiveness which we talked from long before but were late to understand. Finally accepting that diversity is something to embrace and not escape. I know we still have a long way to go, but a step in right direction is what makes all the difference. Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or suggestion, please share that in responses below. Reflecting diversity through illustrations was originally published in Muzli - Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Reflecting diversity through illustrations
Things I wish I did right in the first place Photo by Clay Banks on UnsplashJune 2020: The world is suffering from a pandemic which has made everyone confined within the bounds of their homes yet there are thousands and thousands of people on roads in USA. They all are together, united for a single cause — Black Lives Matter. The tragic incident of killing of George Floyd pulled up the drapes from layers of racial discrimination which we refused to acknowledge or accepted as a harsh reality. However, this incident did stir things up. It made people talk, raise their voice and realize that things needed to change. This turned into a movement. A movement for change that wasn’t just limited to people in USA but all over the globe. This wasn’t the first time people stood together for a cause. However, one thing that happened differently this time was that instead of just blaming others, people & corporations together went into self reflection. IBM, Microsoft, Amazon put a hold on selling their face recognition A.I. to law enforcement agencies and Alexis Ohanian vacated his seat from board of Reddit for a Black member. It wasn’t just a USA thing anymore, it was much more than that. While all this was happening, companies also took it to social media to show their support for the movement. Some temporarily changed their logos in black color in support of the movement. Even we at UNI.xyz did it. However, we knew we needed change more than that. As a designer at UNI.xyz, I am responsible for visual branding of the company besides UX. Last year, while I was working on developing the illustration style for our brand, one of the guiding principle was ‘inclusiveness’ . At the time, I thought that not talking about diversity at all would be the best way to represent everyone. If I draw people such that they resemble no one, there’s no talk of diversity. Yes, I chose the escapist path. I drew people without filling in any color in the skin (using just the outlines), used very limited color palette for clothes and limited myself to one type of male character and one female. Somehow, I thought I nailed it and everyone was happy. When I was nearly done with finalizing the style, I started seeking feedback. It was my first attempt at creating an illustration style at that scale. (Although I did create something before as well, but that was too raw to be counted as an attempt) The first external feedback I received pointed out the lack of diversity. I did try to cover up by saying that I did not draw the skin at all so there’s no talk of diversity. Little did I knew, that wasn’t enough. “When a person appears as an outlined white space while their hair and clothing have color, it’s easy to assume they’re Caucasian.” — Designers at Airbnb https://airbnb.design/your-face-here/ This 2020 BLM movement stood as a questionmark in the face of the explanation I gave in defense of the illustration style. I somehow took the same path which designers at Airbnb once took and fell into same pitfall as they did. Drawing perfectly curved outlines and filling in appealing textures everywhere but the skin and calling it a day wasn’t enough. I knew we needed to change. We needed to change things apart from the color of our logo. We needed to represent the diversity we respect and celebrate in our community. We needed to take a stand and accept that we cannot have the escapist mindset anymore. We needed to raise our voice for the rights of people from all backgrounds. We needed to make things right that shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place. Well, here we are actually standing on the idea of inclusiveness which we talked from long before but were late to understand. Finally accepting that diversity is something to embrace and not escape. I know we still have a long way to go, but a step in right direction is what makes all the difference. Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or suggestion, please share that in responses below. Reflecting diversity through illustrations was originally published in Muzli - Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.