A person’s race is responded to differently based on context. A person’s race can shape their identity, both inwardly and outwardly. Race “defines” a person who exists in some locations more than it does in others. A person’s race is more or less of a defining feature historically—a person who was Japanese living in the United States during World War Two had different “freedoms” and was perceived differently by others than they are today.

Race does not define a complete person, but it does affect how they are perceived by others. For many, race is a source of pride—facilitating a sense of belonging. For many, race is tied to oppression, slavery, and conquest. (European Union and Stanford University, 2011). Race and ethnicity are intertwined; no universally accepted relationship definition has been established.

Researching Race

A person’s race is not always an essential factor to study when researching for design. Race is often not a clear and helpful way to understand peoples’ uniqueness. Research race carefully and combine it with other factors to develop a clearer picture of a person or people group. When designers consider a person’s race when conducting research, they gain insights into how a person’s race could be a factor in how they identify themselves and how society defines them based on prevailing and past attitudes.

Questions to Ask

  • How significant is race regarding the issue I am studying?
  • In what ways is a person’s race a source of pride?
  • How have others regarded race in ways that may have created hardships for this person/people?

Look For

  • Ways a person talks about their race as a source of pride, concern, embarrassment, etc.
  • Ways people talk about other races and their race in different contexts.
  • Ways people of different races are represented in media.



Updated: June 22, 2024 11:52 am
portrait of a mixed-race woman
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