This week, there were protests in the United States and around the world against police brutality and the perpetuation of injustice against black people by governments, both local and federal. If you didn’t know this already, please stop reading here and visit Black Lives Matter to educate yourself on the issues at stake – or find out how you can help here:

First, I would like to say, emphatically, that the intention of this article is not to try to describe the pain and rage that has led to the necessity of these protests – first because I believe these truths to be self-evident, and second because it is not my narrative to tell. What I want to do instead is talk about the ways in which I, and other people in my industry, can ensure that we do not inadvertently perpetuate an unjust and discriminatory system.

What we do as designers is design systems. We are, in essence, designing how people interact with and experience things, whether in a digital space or physical one. This means considering how people with a multitude of different backgrounds or experiences will perceive our work. And the best way to do this is to ask people to give suggestions about what they’d like to see, and critique what they consider to be unnecessary or offensive.

Good designers integrate what they hear with their technical knowledge, and imagine all the ways their work might be experienced in as many different shoes as possible during the creative stage of the design process. Yes, a major goal is to avoid making work that is bad or downright offensive, but running designs through a diverse array of models can lead to positive outcomes that aren’t simply a reduction of all the negative ones. Unlocking new design solutions by empathetically considering the multitude of ways people can experience the world is one of the reasons I like this job.

That being said, this work can only be done well if you are open to hearing other people’s experiences, and to really listen when they give you criticism. You or your team might believe wholeheartedly that the end product is inclusive, but unless your team is itself diverse (and not only in a token way), or actively seeks out feedback from diverse communities, you could in fact be reinforcing the same prejudices that people have fought so hard to overturn. It is therefore imperative for all of us to interrogate what we think to be true, and to consider whether those perspectives are supported by the realities of others.

A powerful article by Isis Dallis outlines the responsibilities that the creative industry has to combat stereotypes against people of color. As she points out, merely hiring “a token Black person to the team” is not enough to prevent such narratives from being used, nor is it fair to rely on that person as “the sole litmus test to police creative and ‘represent the race’.” It is only when there is meaningful diversity that people can feel a) like their input makes a difference and b) comfortable in sharing their experiences in the first place.

But the issue remains: what should you do when either the brand you are designing for or your own design team lacks diversity? The answer, as many have pointed out time and time again, is to be aware of your own invisible knapsack of privilege – to know that you have more to learn, and, above all, to know that you must listen.