Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

White Should Not Be the Default

Slack’s Diogenes Brito:

On August 25th, Slack unveiled a new way for developers to connect to Slack, the “Add to Slack” button. It was the culmination of a great deal of work from many Slack employees, and just the beginning of what we have in store for Slack in the near future. Today, though, I want to talk about a seemingly small detail that has been more important to me than I would have expected: the skin color of the hand in the launch graphics.

It has become the norm in much of Western design to see white people — mostly men — represented everywhere, with more diverse groups visualized solely for illustration purposes. When a photo is chosen, white is the default; when “skin tone” emoji first launched, they were a white skin tone. As Brito notes, this becomes isolating:

The result of that American tendency is the telling and retelling of what Chimamanda Adichie would call a single story, one that reinforces people of color as “culturally other.” And boy, do we feel it.

This is a smart design decision. It’s subtle, but immediately more inclusive.