IAC21: Information Architecture Conference

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There is no average person: why designing with intersectionality in mind is critical

IAC 2021

April 30, 2021: 2:30 to 3:00 PM

Presenter: Lee Dale, Say Yeah!


One of the most common ways to solve a design problem is to create personas based on ‘average’ users, and use a human-centred process targeted to these groups of similar users. Designers often learn to ignore anything outside of these personas, avoiding the “edge cases” that are seen as too much work to deliver business value.

In effect, intersectionality negates the average myth. Behaviour, belief, and a confluence of difference means the average is, in fact, a series of unique individuals. Therefore, designing for the average can be unintentionally alienating.

When we design for the “average,” we are designing for a blend of average characteristics that are rarely in one individual. This means that a design we intended “for everyone,” meets the needs of no one.

Making strategy, design, and information architecture decisions with intersectionality at the forefront will guide your team in identifying genuinely user-centric design requirements. Once you establish these requirements, your product or service will be able to meet the goals and expectations of your users across different circumstances, contexts, and environments, and to embrace their unique identity.

This talk will explore the challenges, opportunities, and methods of bringing intersectional thinking to your work, including reaching a broader market, reducing costs and effort by considering other interaction models by default, and reducing risk that comes from alienating parts of your market.