gender, crash dummies, and a universal need for holistic data

This 99% Invisible episode was captivating to me. As a person who has been deeply interested in feminist issues both within the arts and society as a whole, I was shocked I had never considered the issues that come before their consequences. All these issues regarding data, the lack of representation of women within issues like roadways, heart attacks, and even crash dummies being fitted for a man’s body. These issues create a society that doesn’t speak for women or even acknowledge the existence of 1. non-cis men and 2. non-male attributes/needs. This episode was great for many reasons, one being the specific examples they use to demonstrate how design operates in our world in ways we might not expect. For example, women have totally different symptoms of a heart attack, and since we have founded out society on being male-normative, that is, the default person is always a male, many of these symptoms common in women are considered anomalies.

If we take into consideration the reading based on Empathy Design, we can see how important this kind of design is within our work. It’s not about taking the first chunk of data, or historically the most significant data, and using it as the basis of our work. It’s about going the extra mile to research the groups of people that don’t yet have data or whos data isn’t being used, and factor that in. This may mean a large shift in design for certain areas (aka crash dummies).

Another facet of this idea that isn’t related to gender specific studies is cultural differences. We should design with the knowledge that our product may touch people outside of our immediate culture, for me, American culture. What about immigrants, refugees, international students? We need to design with a mind that everyone should find accessible, understandable, and highly functional not just for their creator, but for them as well.

Using the Scaling + Sustaining method, as well as all the other elements of Empathic Design, we can restructure design to be just as diverse as the world around us is.