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Why we need to rethink what “belonging” actually means this Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month

4 min read
Alison Rand
  •  Oct 14, 2020
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Every year, Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month presents time to reflect and celebrate this community, but this year has been especially poignant. It is a hard time in the world right now for all in their own ways, but the pandemic has lifted the veil on many deep-seated inequities in our world. It is a fact that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Latinx people both in cases and deaths, as well as had a large negative economic impact on the community. I believe that design can help alleviate these inequities through the products we create, the ideas we spread, and the people we engage with. The pandemic has impacted the tech world, but opportunities are still flourishing here, unlike many other industries.

This month, I’ve been thinking about what this all means for me as a Latina leading in this industry. What responsibility do I have to help my industry address their most pressing organizational blind spots? Is it my responsibility to help them design their internal cultures to be more reflective of the realities—and idealities—of the outside world?

Design is well-positioned to be an equitable force, but our culture needs to change. In exploring these questions, I’ve decided to be more professionally intentional, striving to learn and pay it forward. I’ve decided that the best way we can actualize change is by changing the way we hire and think about the makeup of our organizations, and that starts with understanding what “belonging”—the word we throw around so much in our organizations—really means.

Growing up in New York City, I always felt I belonged. (In fact, thanks to “Welcome Back Kotter,” I had Juan Epstein as a comforting point of reference. He helped me normalize and feel proud of my difference.) But that all changed once I moved from the city to North Carolina for college, and I faced the new experience of being an “only.” People would ask me, “What are you?” over and over again.

Soon enough I was asking myself that same question, but in existential terms. Then, as the first woman in my family to graduate college, I tried to pave the way for myself in what was at the time a totally nascent industry. Through my daily persistence (and discouragement), I witnessed firsthand that even in an industry brimming with opportunities, people would continually underestimate anyone not considered the “traditional type” and overlook their contributions. Even though my “non-traditional” peers and I had arrived, the industry still barred us from creating real change. We were perpetually the onlies in the room. Through this internal, isolating experience and self-questioning in relation to our environments, we could expose the cracks in the foundation—the gaps in our understanding of difference. This self-awareness leads to valuing and prioritizing learning, compassion, and a propensity towards meaningful engagement to drive the change organizations often desperately need.

In an episode of Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell speaks about “mirror-tocracy,” or the idea that we build networks from a foundation of people who are like us. In my professional experience, this phenomenon is clear at universities, conferences, and inside companies. The problem is not that the ideas are not evident in organizations or in the world—it’s because there aren’t enough people who look like me in those important rooms to mirror. No matter how much we talk about diversity and inclusion as an exercise, every room will still look the same. Only when there are more of us, will the talk of nurturing and mentoring “onlies” actually take root and grow diversity of thought, being, and experience.

With that said: In celebration of Latinx and Hispanic designers, we are rounding up some of the top stories and resources—both from our internal archives and from the external community. We hope reflecting on their incredible contributions to design will create increased opportunities for their ideas to grow. We hope to make this a living document with periodic updates and new additions, so please feel free to send us suggestions by tweeting us @InVisionApp!

Resources

Latinx who design is a living directory of Latinx in the design industry. It provides a space to make connections and new friends.

Diseno Cha Cha Cha is a Spanish-language podcast about design and technology hosted by Lumen Bigott, a product designer at Airbnb, and InVision alum Pablo Stanley.

Techqueria is the largest community of Latinx professionals in tech in the U.S. Join their 8,000+ member Slack community to gain career advice, recruiting, mentorship, and networking aimed to affect change in the industry.

Twitter Design’s Latinx in UX panel. This online webinar sponsored by @TwitterAlas features a conversation moderated by Dantley Davis, Twitter’s head of research and design, and featuring members of Twitter’s design teams.

InVision en Español is a community-generated Twitter account centered around evangelizing InVision tools for the Spanish-speaking public.

Blush by Pablo Stanley allows anyone to easily create and customize stunning, inclusive, and fun illustrations with components made by an array of artists from across the globe.

Latinx Design Directory is an open directory of Latina/Latino/Latinx technologists. They also feature ongoing editorial highlights of community talents.

LADI: The Latinx Association for Graphic Design and Illustration is a source for Latinx creatives to connect with the aim of increasing visibility of the community’s designers and illustrators, as well as provide employment support throughout their career lifecycle.

Stories

Joanna Peña-Bickley: Useful, usable, and magical

This episode of the Design Better Podcast features Joanna Peña-Bickley, current head of design on Amazon’s Internet of Things team, on how to design more magical IoT experiences, getting more young women into design and technology, and learning to “speak design” in the language of business.

How a $35 HTML class unlocked a fulfilling career for InVision’s Alison Rand

This Inside Design article delves into the often unexpected, life-changing moments that altered Alison Rand’s career course and defined their success.

Desiree Garcia, product designer

People of Color In Tech interviews Desiree Garcia, product designer at Automattic.

A deep dive into the world of UX design with Carmen Bocanegra

In this interview, Carmen, Peruvian-American senior UX designer at TrussWorks, talks about her journey and explains why UX is so much more about the people than it is about the technology.

Nicole Dominguez, senior product designer, front end developer

In this interview, Nicole discusses falling into tech, making it in the industry without a degree, and how to forge your own path.

Diego Rodriguez: Building design culture into big business

In this episode of the Design Better Podcast, Diego, executive vice president and chief product and design officer at Intuit, discusses how design thinking brings a diversity of perspectives to the design process.

Funsize’s Anthony Armendariz on designing a design team

This 2018 Inside Design article profiles Armendariz, the CEO and head of design of the Austin-based digital agency.

You should hire more junior designers

In this contributed post, Armendariz argues why junior designers offer an unparalleled opportunity to bring a pool of diverse talent to an organization.

Joanna Peña-Bickley on why design leaders need to prioritize inclusivity

This Design Better podcast episode recap expands upon Joanna’s views on why tech needs more diverse, inclusive, and empathetic design leadership.

8 resources for diverse stock photos

Set up your designs to feature people from all walks of life with these photo collections.

Designers

Alejandra Ballestros, creative director at Blasfemia-Studio
Alison Rand, head of DesignOps at InVision
Anthony Armendariz, co-founder and head of design at Funsize
Antonio García, design strategy director at Table XI
Azul Ceballos, product design lead at McKinsey & Company
Carlos Oliveras Colom, branding and type designer
Claudia Rubin, designer at The New York Times Magazine
Daniela Jordan-Villaveces, Los Angeles and Bogotá-based designer
Derek Fridman, associate partner, design at Work & Co
Diego Núñez, moderator of @InVisionEspanol
Elisa Wong, multidisciplinary designer and illustrator
Isabela Humphrey, designer and illustrator
Ivan Rodriguez, experience design and strategy at frog design
Joanna Peña-Bickley, head of research and design, Alexa Devices, at Amazon
Jose Coronado, VP design operations and head of DesignOps at JPMorgan Chase & Co
Justina Villanueva, product designer at WarnerMedia
Katia Gutiérrez, product designer at Twitter
Los Montoya, design director at Twenty
Pablo Stanley, creator of Blush.design
Paola Mariselli, design manager at Facebook
Polo Garcia, admin of @latinxwhodesign
Rachel Smith, founder of Design to Combat Covid-19
Ruben Gomez of Twitter Research
Sarah Sharara, design partner at Moss design studio
Zuli Segura, founder of Latinx Design Directory and product designer at Squarespace