Cards for Humanity is an online tool to help designers overcome unconscious bias

The site by Idean works like a card game, dealing random user scenarios to challenge creatives’ perspectives and encourage inclusive design.

25 August 2020


We all have our own biases that are often hard to see, but important to challenge, particularly when creating products or services for people to use. This is the driving force behind design consultancy Idean’s new online tool, cleverly called Cards for Humanity, which aims to help designers overcome their unconscious biases and test their work from the perspective of a range of vulnerable customers.

Cards for Humanity works like a card game (inspired by the much-less-PC Cards Against Humanity) in which you are dealt two cards: a person and a trait. When paired, these create a random user scenario; for example, “Aston Wall, 20, is very caring… and is blind,” or “Lashanda Washam, 18, is excitable… and is not very confident when using a computer.” On the backs of each card are further considerations to make when designing for that person or trait, and statistics to help you decide whether you’re meeting the user’s needs. You can also swap out individual cards or deal again to get a new random scenario.

The tool is intended to be used at various stages of the creative process, to challenge the inclusivity of the product being designed and hopefully usurp any assumptions or subconscious choices the designers have made, based on their own personal experiences and biases.

According to WHO, 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability; two million people in the UK have sight loss, and 6.4 million have dyslexia. This tool hopes to advocate for those people, as well as countless others who experience temporary impairments, the consultancy says, such as missing a tube stop when listening to music, or working from home with small children in the house. “Designing inclusively benefits the majority, not just the minority,” says Idean’s director for inclusive design Charlotte Fereday. “Businesses need to consider the needs of people with all types of impairments – whether that’s a personality trait, like shyness, or their age, race, or context. These factors all impact how people experience the world.”

Fereday explains the idea was given extra impetus after reading worrying reports on the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people, particularly when it comes to access to digital services. “Whether temporary or permanent, vulnerability can affect everyone. And the number of people experiencing vulnerability in the UK has sadly increased.” According to The Guardian, 1.8 million people told to self-isolate can no longer provide for themselves as they used to, leaving them potentially unable to shop for food or medicine, pay their bills, or access mental health support. Many more are now financially vulnerable; ITV reports an unprecedented 950,000 people lodged new benefit claims for universal credit in the last two weeks of March.

“Vulnerability doesn’t stop with financial health. 70 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds felt anxious about the future more often than normal during lockdown,” Fereday continues, citing that The Mental Health Foundation reported almost a quarter of UK adults had felt loneliness because of coronavirus. 

“Without inclusive design, we risk excluding people from an increasingly digital world – which means excluding them from society at large. We wanted to help organisations understand this and tackle it head-on.”

GalleryIdean: Cards For Humanity (2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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