MELANIE ARAUJO

PRODUCT DESIGNER

Leveraging design as a change agent

The lack of race, gender and age diversity in tech is quite obvious. Low Black and Latinx representation in the the world's leading technology companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and many others, is disappointing. Diversity numbers reported by tech giants provide a stark contrast to the amount of diverse communities in the Bay Area.

Founded in 2015, Front & Center leverages the power of education and its ability to uplift people from low income ethnic communities through thoughtful design. By equipping local talent with product design skills, Front & Center hopes to deliver a more inclusive and highly skilled recruiting pipeline, by supplying qualified and skilled design professionals. In addition to teaching design basics, Front & Center fosters honest and actionable conversations in the tech community as a well to educate others on how to build an inclusive environment.

Goal

  • Define a brand identity and digital strategy for different user entry points, a messaging platform, and a visual system that reflected our vision for a more diverse and inclusive tech industry.

Defining the Audience & Opportunity

I conducted several studies to help inform the creative direction for the brand and messaging. I began my design process by digging deeper into hearts and minds of Front & Center audience: the passionate creative in their 20s, and design managers in tech.

By leveraging data from the Kapor Center on the leaky pipeline, I worked with design leaders and managers from Google, Facebook, Honor, KPCB, and others to identify the basic skill set required to start working as a junior designer in tech. The findings for the study revealed that a traditional 4 year degree was not required, but rather a mastery of tools, effective communication skills, and a deep sense of curiosity were the essential ingredients to getting started as junior product designer at a tech company. 

I collaborated with ReaLe Research to conduct exploratory and qualitative research to better understand the target audiences’ perceptions and current mental models around 'technology,' 'design,' and access to these fields. The primary goal of our research was to gather feedback from young adults on their background and lifestyle, in order to better understand their needs, wants, and pain-points, as they relate to their creative ability and future plans.

The Design System

I positioned Front & Center's messaging initially to gain support from tech companies. Knowing that ultimately it needed to evolve and speak to a completely different demographic, the brand needed to be versatile. I needed to create flexibility that would appeal to both the tech community and students who wanted to break into tech, ultimately connecting both parties in the process.

The brand feel is bold, warm, and energizing. I created the logo & watermark, Facebook cover images, color themes, typeface guidelines and layouts. Specifically designed assets for use in Keynote, logos for media & PR, conferences, workshops, and events.

Additional thoughts

As the Creative Director and Founder of Front & Center, I learned that building something you believe in is incredibly hard — but it’s the most gratifying thing you can do. I started building what I thought was missing from the conversation: empathy, awareness, exposure, skills, and mentoring.

Designing a brand identity and brand strategy for your own startup is extremely difficult. We've all heard expressions like "try to sell to all or don't sell at all." With Front & Center, this was the case as well.

I'm proud to say that I worked with some amazing individuals to take an emotional concept and made it a part of the brand that felt aspirational yet familiar. By saying 'Designing Diversity' the Front & Center brand empowers all advocates of diversity and inclusion in tech - even the ones that have never had heard of Front and Center.