How can you design for everyone without understanding the full picture?

An installation and creative toolkit

Shadow to Light

When you walk into a room, what assumptions do you bring with you? Our biases lurk in the shadows. They obscure our perspective, influence the stories we tell and the efficacy of the solutions we design.

To help examine how bias influences our worldview, Airbnb Design partnered with News Deeply, a journalism startup dedicated to providing in-depth coverage of the world’s most critical challenges. This digital experience is built to mirror our SF Design Week installation, which prompted attendees to recognize their biases, grapple with their limitations, and ask questions that challenged their perspectives.

“Even while the earth sleeps, [they] wander.”
- Khalil Gibran

Part 1. Deconstructing narratives

Finding common ground

With the help of News Deeply, we’re examining how bias clouds our views of refugees' lives and aspirations. In their Bags and Belongings series, created by Refugees Deeply founding editor Preethi Nallu, journalists ask displaced men, women, and children what they packed in their bags and what they left behind as they undertook dangerous journeys in search of safety. Listening to each narrative dispels many of the commonly held assumptions about refugees.

Explore these 5 stories. We hope you can relate to their desire for belonging and discover parallels to your own experiences.

Abuzar's Phone



"I had warm trousers, a change of shoes, a phone and some cash on me, and the contact number of the smugglers. The police took away everything I had at the Bulgarian border, including my jacket and warm clothes. They robbed me."

Contrary to images of people and boats constantly on the move, most refugees are confined to camps or trapped behind closed borders. On the frontier of Europe, some 1,500 men and boys were stranded behind Belgrade’s railroad station last

Read his full story here.
Shahed's Doll



Her memories of her homeland are already turning into “folklore,” according to her kindergarten teacher. But she does remember having a garden and a dog. She had to leave her dog behind, but she brought with her to Lebanon small items like crayons, a coloring book and her favorite doll.

Despite recent efforts to integrate refugee children into national schools, at least 530,000 Syrian refugee children have never set foot in a classroom. Seven-year-old Shahed Orbani, from the Syrian city of Homs, is among the lucky few

Read her full story here.
Diala's Ladle



"I left with a 3kg (7lb) suitcase. I brought things like clothes, sheets, simple things like kitchen equipment. I thought maybe when we rented a house in the beginning, we would not have enough money to buy these kinds of things. I thought I would be returning in a few months’ time."

After six years of unrelenting war in Syria, many of the country’s civilians remain in neighboring countries, often without opportunities for work or education. Among them are teachers, doctors, construction workers, lawyers, craftsmen,

Read her full story here.
Dr. Nur Kabir's Stethoscope

Dr. Nur Kabir

Dr. Nur Kabir

"I took a cloth bag with me [that was] gifted by an NGO that had all of the important documents and government papers. I brought essential instruments like surgical tools, a stethoscope, knives, scissors, cotton, saline, a thermometer and medicine that I would need to treat patients. I also brought home items that we would use every day."

An estimated half a million Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar are living in neighboring Bangladesh, unable to get refugee status in the country. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group that have long faced ostracism in largely

Read his full story here.
Sharif's Shoes



"All I took with me were two shirts, two pairs of trousers and an extra pair of shoes. I was trying to bring my books [manuals] as an electrician. I worked on electrical installations in houses for six years in Gambia."

The Mediterranean Sea between north Africa and Italy is one of the busiest and deadliest migration routes in the world. Last year, over 5,000 people died on the sea passage; over 1,500 deaths have already been recorded this year. Most of the

Read his full story here.
Part 2. An introduction to our toolkit

Design as journalism

How can we create solutions that don't leave any community behind?
Ask the right questions.

In journalism, as with design, bias can influence the integrity of a story or the efficacy of a solution. Both designers and journalists have the responsibility to shine a light on their bias by asking the right questions, seeking out conflicting viewpoints, and expanding their lens.

Together with News Deeply, our design research team put together a set of guiding principles and exercises. These help designers address skewed perspectives in order to create thoughtful, inclusive work. Our toolkit, Another Lens, poses a set of questions to help you balance your bias, consider the opposite, and embrace a growth mindset.

Balance your Bias.

“What are my lenses?

Your lenses are always there, and they influence how you see the world. Think about the lenses you apply to any given decision and consider what lenses you might be missing.

Consider the opposite.

“Who might be impacted by what I’m designing?

Don't just rely on your usual sphere of influence. Even experts can disagree on why something is happening, or what the right approach is. Many times the best ideas or solutions come from the people experiencing the problem firsthand.

Embrace a growth mindset.

“How do I learn from my mistakes?

Mistakes happen. Prepare for them mentally and recognize everything you'll be able to learn, even when something goes wrong. This will help your work be more thorough and thoughtful.

Want to know what questions to ask?

Explore the full toolkit