Expand your social network.
Exposing ourselves to new and different perspectives gives us a richer and more nuanced understanding of the world. That can start with who we follow on social networks — and even which networks we use. Make an effort to follow individuals who represent a range of experiences, backgrounds, and identities. Give special consideration to the topics and experiences being shared by individuals who are different than you and groups you don’t belong to. One way to kickstart this: follow someone you don’t fully agree with, and give some real consideration to their perspective.
Refresh your advisors.
Most of us have advisors, mentors, or coaches, even if the relationships are informal. Be sure that those who you look to for guidance, design review, for career advice come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This should reduce the amount of redundant feedback you receive and increase the number of perspectives you are able to integrate into your work.
Go somewhere new.
You probably have an established home, community, friends, work, and activities — your comfort zone. Being in a new place, with new people who have different values and routines, strips that familiarity away; that’s when we learn the most. This can help you relate to other cultural norms and can increase your ability to empathize with where someone else may be coming from. From visiting a new restaurant, store, or neighborhood to traveling to another country, there are many ways to experience a new place.
Reading is an important tool for understanding the world, and developing imagination, empathy, and critical thinking. It’s also easy to do: pick up a book or browse blog posts written by individuals across the globe from any internet-connected device. Read a variety of opinions and challenge yourself to consider multiple sides of a fruitful conversation or debate.
Consider nuanced experience.
No individual or group is a spokesperson for an entire community. Everyone has nuanced experiences that make up their identity. We’re each layered and are often not as simple as we may appear to others. When we ignore the nuanced experiences of those we’re designing for, we risk designing for someone that doesn’t exist, following stereotypes, and alienating real people.
Commit to personal growth.
A growth mindset requires approaching the world with the idea that you can learn and grow. You can learn a new skill. You can change your opinion. You don’t know as much about something as you want. You can be a better designer tomorrow than you are today. When we don’t take on a growth mindset, we risk remaining in a fixed state, producing stagnant designs that don’t support evolving needs.
Posted by Mel Choyce
Boston-based WordPress core contributor and craft beer fan. I design stuff at @automattic.