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Saturday, June 10 • 5:30pm - 6:30pm
For All of the People: Inclusive Design that Subverts Industry Tropes

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In her 2018 book Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, Kat Holmes equates the feeling of being excluded from a design artifact as akin to feeling left out on the playground as a child. In recent practices, brand designers and marketers are embracing inclusive design, yet these initiatives are often implemented in a trivial and superficial manner, simplifying issues of discrimination and racism and thereby doing more harm than good.
Launched in 2020, Spectacle Society is a woman- and minority-owned business located in Detroit, Michigan that sells independent eyewear that is curated by its founder. Spectacle Society has a conviction to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness with eyewear. To reflect the inclusive ethos of the business through its branding, the brand design team considered how to subvert traditional tropes in the industry.
As a case study for the design strategy, the designers for Spectacle Society looked to the interactive graphic identity for Copenhagen’s central library by design team Hvass and Hannibal. For this project, Hvass and Hannibal “[created] a modular system of shapes that can form different characters and patterns across a range of printed and online materials.” (James Cartwright, “Graphic Design: Hvass and Hannibal make Copenhagen's library fun for kids,” It’s Nice That, Oct 21, 2013.) This system allows children to play with elements like hats, mustaches, and bowties to create their own set of playful characters. For Spectacle Society, the designers developed a system of illustrated components that could be randomized, and that transcends the children’s audience to become more broad and inclusive. This system utilizes randomized head shapes, mouths, hairstyles, skin colors, and eyewear that showcases a diverse collection of people that represent various races, ethnicities, gender identities, ages, religions, and abilities, thereby creating a community of thousands of unique people who wear glasses.
These illustrations are a primary element of the brand’s story-telling, and subverts the common conventions in the eyewear industry that rely on generic fashion photography or the tokenization of minority representation. Further, the unique color palette of the branded system is not only unexpected and memorable, but references diversity in a critical and playful way. Rather than reducing identities to a spectrum of white to black skin tones, the color design system for Spectacle Society incorporates the color blue. The use of this unexpected color ensures that the strategy pushes past stereotypical references to race and ethnicity, a strategy that is utilized in the 1990s children’s television show, Doug, and that is discussed in “Racial Diversity in Nickelodeon’s Golden Age,” a Bitch Media article by Hanna White.
The design team considered recent strategies in branding and marketing that trivialized inclusive practices, such as Cadbury Dairy Milk’s “Unity Bar” campaign, which was initiated in honor of India’s Independence Day and that combined four shades of beige to brown chocolate to celebrate the country’s diversity. This strategy received criticism in several media outlets.
The strategy for Spectacle Society is on a trajectory of inclusive design practices that may be considered for future branding and marketing practices.


Lilian Crum

Associate Dean and Associate Professor, Lawrence Technological University

Meaghan Barry

Oakland University, United States of America

Saturday June 10, 2023 5:30pm - 6:30pm EDT
TBA 207 Ryerson St, Brooklyn, NY 11205