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"You’ve just got to get with the lingo"

Design With
"You’ve just got to get with the lingo"
By Design With • Issue #27 • View online
Hi, I’m Sheetal. I work in learning and programme design in the social impact sector, and I’m excited to be guest writing this issue of Design With!

Guest issue by Sheetal Mistry
Guest issue by Sheetal Mistry
It’s exciting to be in design at a time when the diversity of voices and perspectives is ever-expanding.
From the Design Justice Network and Constanza-Chock’s Design Justice to McKercher’s Beyond Sticky Notes. I’m seeing the term ‘inclusive design’ everywhere, too.
A big underpinning of the terms ‘inclusivity’ and ‘justice’ for me is access.
Can people actually reach or connect with what you are trying to do or say? And if not, what are you doing in order to make that journey simple and effortless?
I thought this was obvious. That inclusion is about how people feel in a space, whether it’s connected or engaged or involved. How you talk about what you’re doing, or the language you use, affects the accessibility of the processes and principles we advocate for.
Because you might have put in the work to bring the right people into the room, but if they don’t connect with what you’re talking about, how inclusive is it?
I’ve been in a ‘formal’ design role for just over 9 months. However, I’ve effectively been engaging in design practices for most of my career without even realising it. Until recently, I’d never used ‘formal’ design terminology or applied a strict structure to how I’ve created programmes and services. I have no formal design education either.
But, I think I’m pretty good at my job.
So, it’s been an eye-opener to step into the design space and feel my imposter syndrome rear its ugly head very early on. I’ve read countless articles and attended plenty of workshops and meetings where I genuinely don’t know what people are talking about.
I’ve had to wade through design terminology to eventually realise it’s stuff I already know and do, I’ve just used different words or names to describe it.
Multiple times I’ve been told, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to the lingo,” with good intention. And, of course, there’s an element of working in a particular industry that means you need some level of understanding that people in other fields may not.
But inclusive design should also include designers themselves. We need to feel like we fit into design, no matter our backgrounds.
We need to be able to comfortably bring in new people and know they have exciting ideas to contribute, whether they call themselves designers or not.
What if we applied the same consideration we do when communicating with clients or communities, to ourselves, too?
I wonder sometimes whether we’ve over-designed design. Have we made design too complex and filled with jargon to the point that it might actually be shutting new voices out?
My personal goal, as someone who’s only recently felt comfortable referring to myself as a designer, is to focus on how I can break down those barriers.
How can I frame design processes in a way that is more accessible to those who aren’t in ‘formal’ design spaces or have ‘formal’ design expertise?
How can I acknowledge and celebrate the design practices of others, who perhaps don’t realise they are doing design? And how can I help bring more people into design?
I’ve added some resources and blogs below. And I’d love to hear from anyone who might have been thinking similarly, and if so, what you’ve been trying to do to ensure inclusive design happens from the inside out.
Thank you, Sheetal, for sharing your thoughts on how we might expand design and the people within or around it, by considering the language we use.
You can reach Sheetal at or on Twitter.
If you’re reading this and interested in guest writing for Design With, here’s how it works. See you next time.
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