The Charger Blog

Recent Grad’s Thesis Explores Diversity and Inclusion in Graphic Design

For Stephanie Bedoya ’22, reimagining products and ads as part of her Honors thesis enabled her to explore the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging in graphic design and helped her discover her own areas of interest in the field.

June 22, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Stephanie Bedoya ’22
Stephanie Bedoya ’22 on campus.

When Stephanie Bedoya ’22 was considering what she wanted the focus of her Honors thesis to be, she wondered how individuals’ demographics impacted their graphic design preferences. She began thinking about diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging (DEIAB) and how it could apply to design.

When discussing her ideas with her adviser, Prof. Gene Mayer, a practitioner in residence at the University, he suggested focusing on the challenges facing the design industry – even, perhaps, reimagining certain designs she discovered through her research. After gaining a better understanding of the scope of these challenges, she was inspired to re-create several existing designs – including ads and product packaging – in an effort to make them more inclusive.

“The audiences I discuss in my thesis are all represented by people I have in my life,” she said. “I have always loved helping people, and with this project, I had the opportunity to make designs more appropriate and accessible.”

‘Impacted my goals significantly’

Bedoya began her research by determining which underrepresented groups and issues in graphic design to focus on. She discovered issues that were specific to several populations and explored what designers could do to avoid or improve upon these issues.

Stephanie Bedoya ’22
Stephanie Bedoya ’22 at Spring Commencement.

“I found specific examples of poor design for each population that I could redevelop in a more effective or less offensive manner,” she explains. “This entire process was very helpful in giving me a sort of mental checklist that I can reference when designing, which will benefit me in any job or internship.”

As part of her project, Bedoya redesigned products for elderly audiences and for those who suffer from color blindness, making them more accessible. She re-created a cotton swab package to make it more gender neutral and redesigned an ad for diamond rings so that it would be inclusive of members of the LGBTQ+ community. She also reimagined ads and products with racist imagery so that they would be respectful of all audiences.

“The work I did for my thesis has impacted my goals significantly,” she said. “Prior to this experience, I was designing mainly for aesthetic purposes. The redesigned examples I created for my thesis proved to be very rewarding. Although sometimes challenging, it was something I enjoyed due to the greater purpose of making a design better for a certain audience.”

‘It is essential for designers to be aware’

A recent criminal justice graduate, Bedoya has decided to pursue a career in graphic design, her minor. Before she began her thesis, she had not yet decided what area in design she wanted to focus on. While redesigning brand packaging as part of her project, she discovered she enjoyed the work and wanted to do more of it.

Bedoya’s thesis also enabled her to learn more about user experience and user interface design (known as UX and UI design), which focus on the design of user interfaces for software and machines. This area of design also requires making products accessible and visually appealing, and it is another area of design that interests her.

Bedoya, who plans to begin her career as a graphic designer, is completing an internship in the field this summer. She also intends to pursue her master’s degree in graphic design. She says working on her thesis gave her a better understanding of the field and helped deepen her appreciation of the importance of DEIAB in design.

“It is essential for designers to be aware of the audience they are designing for,” she said. “Designing without adequate knowledge can impact an audience negatively. Even if we are not knowledgeable on every population, designers should at least ensure they know enough about their target audience. Being inclusive and celebrating diversity impacts the potential reach of a project and makes people feel supported and heard, which is especially important in a country as diverse as ours.”