Summary: Understand the historical context of design to decolonise it, embrace diversity, challenge norms, and implement equitable, inclusive design practices.

I admit I am a white, middle-aged, British web designer – I may not have the right to stick my oar in the conversation about decolonisation in design. But, the conversation around decolonisation is both necessary and overdue. As a white, middle-aged British web designer, I’ve come to understand that the principles and practices I’ve long considered standard are not neutral. Instead, they are deeply rooted in a colonial mindset that privileges certain cultures, aesthetics, and narratives over others. In this article, I aim to explore ways we, as web designers, can actively work towards decolonising our design practices to create more inclusive, diverse, and equitable digital spaces.

image of a random person as a profile on a website

Understand the foundation

Before we can change the narrative, we first must understand the historical context of our practices. Much of modern design theory comes from a Eurocentric viewpoint, which has often sidelined non-Western perspectives. Recognising this bias is the first step towards decolonisation.

  • Educate yourself and others: Dive into the history of design from a global perspective. Learn about non-Western design principles, aesthetics, and philosophies. Share these learnings with your colleagues and incorporate them into your projects.
  • Acknowledge bias: Reflect on your own biases and how they might influence your design choices. By being mindful of these biases, you can start to challenge and change them.

Embrace diversity in design

Diversity in design goes beyond the aesthetic; it encompasses cultures, languages, and perspectives. To decolonise web design, we must ensure that our digital spaces are welcoming and accessible to all.

  • Cultural sensitivity: Use images, colour schemes, and symbols that are respectful and representative of the diversity of your audience. Avoid stereotypes and seek to portray people and cultures accurately and authentically.
  • Inclusive language and content: Use language that is inclusive and accessible. This includes considering how colloquialisms, jargon, and cultural references might be interpreted by a global audience. 

Challenge the status quo

Decolonising design means challenging the norms and standards we’ve been taught to accept as “good design.”

  • Rethink user personas: Traditional user personas often fail to capture the rich diversity of the global audience. Expand your personas to include a broader range of cultural backgrounds, languages, and life experiences.
  • Promote diverse voices: Collaborate with designers, writers, and artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds. This not only enriches your design but also helps dismantle the colonial hierarchy in the design industry.

Implement equitable design practices

Equity in design means creating spaces that are accessible and empowering for everyone, regardless of their background.

  • Accessibility: Follow best practices for web accessibility to ensure that your designs are usable by people with disabilities. This includes considering colour contrast, text size, and navigation ease.
  • Empower through design: Use your skills to support projects and causes that aim to uplift marginalised communities. This can be through pro bono work, mentorship programs, or simply amplifying their voices through your platforms.

Conclusion

Decolonising web design is an ongoing process that requires us to continually learn, reflect, and adapt. As a white, middle-aged British web designer, I recognise that I have much to learn and unlearn. However, by embracing diversity, challenging the status quo, and implementing equitable design practices, we can take significant steps towards creating a more inclusive digital world. Let’s work together to dismantle the colonial legacies in web design and build a future where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.

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