Making Inclusion an Engine for Change at Maga Design

Inclusion at MD graphic

Although there is a sizable movement towards inclusion in technology and design industries, a supportive initiative behind the hiring and recruitment process is still behind the times. Studies have shown that efforts to shift the cultural dynamics within an organization are confounded when the work environment does not provide an atmosphere where individuals of various backgrounds are integrated for the unique perspective they bring.

Instead of perceiving differences as an asset within the organization, cultivating ideas are often limited and devalued. The reality that equal opportunities are not afforded to individuals of diverse backgrounds stifles growth that comes from inclusion within the organization. As a result, the workplace suffers from denying the vibrancy of diverse design.

We interviewed several Maga Design team members for comments on implementing inclusion strategy within the organization. Digital Project Manager, Ashlee Ealy, comments on overcoming the invisible, and sometimes discordant, factors that may pervade the work environment:

“I think there is a tendency to try to fit into one’s surrounding environment. In some places, that environment is so homogenous that an individual might feel the need to be one person at work and a very different person at home in order to avoid making coworkers uncomfortable. This is slowly changing as the workplace becomes a more aware and accepting place.”


For organizations to prosper, it is crucial to take a proactive approach towards forming a community that fosters diversity as creativity. At Maga Design, we try to practice inclusion in our everyday activities. We recognize that inclusion leads to more creative views, innovative capabilities and profitable solutions. If an organization strives to gain a broader appeal, enabling an inclusive culture is a great way to start.  

Here are a few tactics organizations can use to develop an environment that celebrates difference.



Empowering qualified individuals in upper management positions is a great way to establish an inclusive environment. According to Greenhouse’s eBook published in April, 4 Method to Build a Diverse Team, inclusion in every sector of the organization should be top priority:

“Diversity and inclusion efforts are often reserved for a single segment of the business, and this is why they often struggle to be effective. In order for short- and long-term D&I efforts to work, a concerted effort must be made by an entire company: employees, executives, human resources and/or the People team, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), among others…Culture and priorities are often signals from the executive team (intentionally or not), and the success of a diversity or inclusion program relies on the right culture.”

When the organization make a conscious effort to incorporate people of diverse backgrounds  at the administrative level, it symbolizes that the responsibility of ensuring inclusion thrives, is not only a lower management objective but the initiative of the entire organization.



Aside from leadership, recruitment also needs to enact diversity practices that actively battle the inequality quotient within the industry. To fully benefit from the diverse perspectives that come with inclusive practices  within the workplace, it is important to focus on authentic talent. When hiring employees, identify key skills that can be an asset to the organization.

CatchTalent CEO Christina Lock comments on looking beyond the perceived differences to leverage diverse skillsets:

“For a workforce to truly thrive, it not only needs to attract and retain diversity, but know how to use it. The inclusion of each individual’s talents, perspectives, and vision is a recipe for success, and one that not only produces results for clients, but a positive work experience for employees.”

This helps ensure that both the individual and the organization can work together to create an inclusive environment. Its also provides an opportunity to acknowledge what insight the employee can offer as an addition to the team.


Community Outreach

A great way to incorporate diversity into your organization is through community outreach programs. By getting employees involved, it raises awareness and helps formulate a collaborative environment that establishes a network of diverse candidates.

Juancarlos Morales, UI/UX designer, explains how community outreach is a valuable impact engine for the organization:

“Reach out to technical school and local organizations to foster these relationships. Talent is everywhere if you look around, you can find extraordinary talent in people from all walks of life that can be utilized to make your company a success.”

Rather than view diversity as an obstacle, create an integrative space that establishes a sense of mutual respect and appreciation. Go beyond tokenized diversity hiring practices and acknowledge each diverse individual for their unique experiences and creative skills.  Understand that learning has to happen on both ends and made with a conscious effort.

Maga Design influences a culture that nurtures inclusion and celebrates different perspectives, bringing them together as whole-brained thinking. How we collaborate creates an inclusive environment that shapes our Ever Curious nature, and makes a profound impact on the work we produce.   

The Best Design Blogs to Follow on Medium

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We asked our team what their favorite design blog publications are, and they came up with quite the list!

Following the trend of Tumblr and WordPress as leading blog publishing platforms, Medium rises as a force to be reckoned with. It hosts a huge following, ranging topics from established corporate entities and publishing firms to startups and growth hackers.

Our top picks cull submissions from all around the world, from designers of all backgrounds and professional levels, to bring you the very best of best practices for modern design in a digital age. At Maga Design, our team loves these publications to access professional training, reflections on experiential learning, a lab for creative ideas, and editorials from the experts.


Dear Design Student

Dispelling the myth that design school teaches you everything you need to be prepared for a job in the real world, ‘Dear Design Student’ gives motivation, inspiration, and advice for fresh talent in the industry.

Our top pick: 10 Things You Need to Learn in Design School if You’re Tired of Wasting Your Money


Ideo CoLab

Ideo has several publications on Medium. The CoLab explores collaboration between prototyping research and design technology. Find great stories about inspiring innovation and collaboration on the product design floor.

Our top pick: R&D for the Current Age


Frog Design

The latest and greatest from beloved design and strategy firm, frog, from San Francisco by way of Germany.

Our top pick: Chief Executives Learn to Innovate by Thinking Like Designers


Ideo Stories

A monumental mainstay on Medium, Ideo’s largest publication focuses on stories from innovators within the industry, growth hacking booms and busts, and wistful ideations.

Our top pick: Be the Leader You Wish You Had


RGA by Design

From the strategists and creatives at R/GA, their publication covers topics from social impact design to building millennial brands, and doesn’t miss a beat in between.

Our top pick: Combatting Unconscious Bias in Design



All about brand storytelling for those who want understanding on how market trends are affecting their work.

Our top pick: Why Complex Storytelling is Thriving in a Digital Age



Branding behemoth Huge, Inc., brings its inventive new blog platform, Magenta, to Medium, with a bang.

Our top pick: How Steven Heller Redefined the Design Industry


The Design Team

An addicting and entertaining journey through Silicon Valley design startup land told through the story of Junior Designer, Petunia.

Our top pick: How to Pretend You’re a Great Designer


Thinking Design

Insights, notes, and pick-me-ups from the completely defensible “people who obsess over design”.

Our top pick: From Form to Function, Our Thoughts on Design are Changing


SAP Design

The experts at SAP Design offer end to end design innovation advice not limited to its signature UI technology suite, but also about enterprise design and business strategy (to name a few!).

Our top pick: Does All Design Need to be Intuitive?

Thinking Outside the Box with Design and Code

Our team was inspired by talks at Smashing Conference 2017 that presented unique approaches to everyday design challenges.

Smashing Conference, hosted by Smashing Magazine, comprised of a series of workshops and presentations by industry experts. Topics ranged from UX/UI design patterns to technical discussions on front-end development techniques with CSS, JavaScript, and SVGs.

Here are our team’s top takeaways from the conference that will help to inform our interactive design approach and process at Maga Design.

Design Systems FTW!

Several speakers focused on pattern libraries and design systems: storing and sharing modular, repeatable components to build digital interfaces. What makes this mission critical? Teams are able to save time and stakeholders to save money.

Design systems create a shared vocabulary across teams and enable faster feature development via reusability. However, they can be costly and difficult to maintain, so it’s worth examining specifics to your organization—including team size, brand maturity, and goals—before devoting resources.

At Maga Design, digital design systems are a key consideration as we scale our interactive practice.

Image uploaded from iOS (2)


Enable Intuitive Data Storytelling

There are many frameworks and tools available to visualize big data (e.g., D3), but we shouldn’t let these technologies constrain our approach to data viz. Combining and transforming chart types can lead to unique solutions tailored to specific data sets, use cases, and audiences.

Despite the explosion of big data, quantitative methods like surveys and site analytics can be dangerous if we rely too heavily on them—human error, biases, and interpretation can skew the real story. We can’t overlook the importance of understanding human behavior to inform design decisions.

Performance = Perception

In the last 15 years, the average size of a webpage has exploded while our expectations for page load time continues to shrink. So how do we manage effective performance against technical constraints?

Optimize the user’s perception of load time. Most users won’t notice changes that affect page load time by less than 20%. This threshold can be achieved by increasing the time the user spends in the active phase. For example, YouTube doesn’t wait for a full video to load to start playback, which decreases the amount of time spent passively waiting.

Image uploaded from iOS


Designing and developing for accessibility were common themes throughout both days. Despite how far we’ve come with web development, designing for visually impaired users and screen readers is still overlooked.

The (<a href=”#”) and buttons (<button>) elements links are often misused and misunderstood. Many designers use the two interchangeably, using CSS to achieve a specific style, which is just one example of unnecessarily compromising on accessibility and hindering users with screen readers.


We <3 San Francisco

Loaded with insights from the conference, we put our “Ever Curious” rubber to the road and took advantage of every spare moment to explore the Bay. Juraj, our SF-based designer, led us on a tour to see the redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument early one morning. We made pit stops at Equator Coffee in Mill Valley and the breathtaking Hawk Hill, a lesser known but unbelievable vantage point of the city.

After the conference, we had a team jam session at the Maga Design studio in the Presidio, a beautiful location that put DC commutes to shame.

To be considered among a vibrant community of designers and developers in Silicon Valley was a great honor. We left with a lot of expert insights from SmashingConf and had a smashing time in San Francisco.

Learn more about the presenters:

Maga Design’s Collaboration with AIGA’s 2016 Design Census


We are excited to share with you Maga Design’s contribution to the AIGA 2016 Design Census results, released January 2017. The Maga Design team, under the direction of Rebecca Williams, VP and Chief Creative Officer, was inspired by author Dan Pink’s perspective about factors that influence employees’ motivation at work given its changing landscape. The team mapped a number of Design Census survey questions against Dan Pink’s Intrinsic/Extrinsic framework to create insightful data visuals that tell the story of what drives designers.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) enlisted Maga Design, as well as other partners, to visually interpret the survey responses from over 9,000 designers. The survey, opened December 1–16, 2016, captured everything from salary range to demographics, locations, disciplines and industry-specific challenges—even how much coffee designers drink each day.


The Maga team is made up of those who believe in the work of author Daniel Pink, and his perspective on the ways humans are motivated in the 21st century. The team mapped a number of the Design Census questions to Pink’s motivation framework. What emerged are a set of considerations for companies looking to attract and retain top design talent. Understanding “What Drives a Designer?” is critical for creating a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world.

Tulsi Desai, the Art Director at Maga, shared that while the data was straightforward, the challenge was finding a compelling story that emerged from it.  The team came across a common theme among the questions and the data points, that it was important for designers to balance practical things like compensation and a defined work role against the internal motivators like a sense of purpose and feeling good about the value one brings to the table.  She says, “While not all designers may think this, we certainly feel most contributing and forward thinking designers feel that way about the work they do.”





Become a Data Bard in 5 Leaps


By RJ Clark


In medieval Gaelic and British times there was a person whose sole job it was to compose poems, songs or stories about their employers life (usually a monarch or nobleman.) These story tellers were called bards and they are credited to prolonging the oral history and cultural times of these groups.

Today, while no one holds an official title of bard, the need for capturing what’s happening in an organization, project or experience is still critical. The modern poetry of the technological era is data.

Collecting and interpreting data is a driving force for modern businesses and organizations, but as data reaches higher and higher levels of complexity, it can seem less and less connected to our daily lives and the story becomes harder to tell. Data visualization can bring multiple layers of complexity into a single story. It is up to those charged with telling those stories to turn important ideas into epic memorable moments.

  1. Go Slow to Go Fast

Many data analytics projects happen under a time crunch. It is very tempting to dive in and start collecting information. But there are a few steps that MUST be taken first.

Starting off with a strong plan saves time on the overall project. Reworking and editing won’t take up so much  time if you have good planning. If a step is missed, due to rushing through the project, there may be no way to go back and recover a lost opportunity.  At a minimum, data planning needs to:

  1. Establish what the user needs to learn or accomplish through this activity.
  2. Match the goals to all possible data that might be collected to accomplish those goals.
  3. Use a collection format that is easy to use for both those collecting data and the analysts that will need to turn that story into insight down the road. It will also need to be flexible enough to add new fields and make new requirements as the research gets underway.
  4. Ensure good data quality. This will save time and give more options down the road.
  1. Catch it All!

The preparation is complete. The plans are set. Now it is time to start gathering data.  This could be research, an event, a information mining activity, a series of interviews, a survey, or almost anything that needs to be broken down for study.

Now, it is important to avoid tunnel vision. The task of collecting or mining a significant amount of data can be daunting, and it is easy to focus on understanding and recording only the minimum to meet the needs of a project. Oftentimes the most important points are the unexpected ones that will reveal the real value of the project.

  1. Put on Your Hunting Hat

There may be basic questions that can be answered with simple counts and averages. It may be that the relationships between different areas need to be examined very closely to find high value insights. Experiment with combining different areas and fields to look for correlation vs. causation. This is where simple data tools like Microsoft Excel’s Powerpivot really shine.

  1. Get Dynamic

It might be tempting to turn your data into graphs, but everyone knows what a graph looks like. And they are not very interesting. Graphs are excellent at conveying limited amounts of information in a clear way, but many problems today have increasing degrees of complexity that can’t be shown in a simple graph. By introducing dynamic elements to link elements of data, we can then move into the realm of storytelling. If you want to see a great example of this in action, check out this awesome Ted Talk by Hans Rosling.

  1. Make it Shine

Now you have the story together that your data will tell, but don’t stop now! Just like a wonderfil tale, it needs a setting. Great stories are going untold because they lack this vital human step. Advanced Visualization will make your data story easier for your audience to understand, more engaging and, perhaps most importantly, more memorable. An experienced graphic artist knows how to make visual information speak to a specific audience to convey a specific message. Just like with great storytelling, there are layers of meaning and finesse that are vital to transform data into an epic story.