No. 23 | Inclusivity in Creative Work

art by @ksaison, reference photo by Sergey Filimonov

art by @ksaison, reference photo by Sergey Filimonov

Over the past few years, there’s been a big push for inclusivity amongst the creative community. Buzz words like “accessibility”, “equal representation”, and “diversity” have floated from the capital down to the creative world, as we are faced with the task of re-examining the kinds of subjects we include in our work.

But what does it really mean to create inclusive work? How do we talk to a specific audience while including, well, everyone? When are we excluding a group of people unfairly and when is it necessary to pair down our work to hit the mark for a specific niche of people? And how do we include a certain group of people without stereotyping or accidentally engaging in cultural appropriation?

I think about this a lot. As someone who represents multiple races, racial inclusivity tends to be at the forefront of my mind as I engage in creative work. As a woman, I’m perpetually conscious of the struggle to represent both “feminine” and “masculine” elements in my work. While I don’t claim to be the expert on inclusivity and I definitely make mistakes, there are a few questions I ask myself in order to keep myself from creating unintentionally biased work.

Have I given this work enough thought?

While most of us don’t set out to exclude certain viewpoints, sometimes it just happens. We’re working on the tenth iteration of the same ad banner and get so caught up in moving the title to just the right spot that we completely miss that the main image is a bunch of middle-aged, bald men in suits. Now, if we are designing a banner for the Middle-Aged Bald Men in Suits Convention, then this image might be ok. But if not, taking a step back and putting on our inclusivity glasses will help us climb out of the weeds and see that we need to add more diversity into our banner. Just pausing to think inclusive thoughts can save us from creating unintentionally biased work.

Does this work speak to the audience it was intended for?

Some work requires us to leave certain demographics and viewpoints out. For example, if I got re-hired and now I’m working on the brochure for the same Middle-Aged Bald Men in Suits Convention I’m going to have to create a design tailored to that very specific group of people. That means the brochure is going to have a lot of pictures of middle-aged bald men. Likewise, if I’m painting a piece that speaks to my views on the Canadian justice system, I’m going to have to purposely leave out a whole bunch of other viewpoints in order to not water down my message. If I’m speaking to a specific audience, I have to be very careful that I’m portraying the message accurately and I have to ask myself if what I’m saying affects more people than just my primary target audience.

Have I shown this work to different people?

The best way to make sure our work is inclusive is to include others in the process. Ask for opinions from a diverse group of people and see what they think. Collecting feedback will help our work be as inclusive as possible without bordering on appropriation or coming off as inauthentic. So don’t create in a vacuum. Be open to other opinions — others may see things in our work that we can’t see for ourselves.

Until Next Time,

CreativityK Saison