Creating a diverse and inclusive children's product is a lot like creating a beautiful garden. It requires research, planning, and mindful effort. The Diverse and Inclusive Growth (DIG) Toolkit will equip creators of children’s media with a pragmatic roadmap to creating products that are more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. It is organized around nine milestones in the production process.
A beautiful garden begins with a team of creative gardeners. Theirs are the hands that will do the hard labor of creating the garden. Likewise, the groundwork for the creation of beautiful children’s media begins with the recruitment and hiring of a committed and creative team that will see a product through from concept to creation. The more diverse the team, the better. Research shows that building a diverse team is not only key to creating a smarter and better product, but also a good business decision.
Budget & Timeline
A bountiful garden requires proper planning. Gardeners look at a plot of land and ask themselves questions like: What seeds and saplings should I buy that would grow well in this environment? When is the best time to plant to obtain the best harvest? Likewise, creating content that is truly diverse and represents a range of learning styles, cultures, and ethnicities is not just about throwing some “diversity sauce” on a product in the last stage of production. It requires proper planning such as mapping out a timeline and a budget for product development that incorporates the feedback of advisors, experts, and testers, as well as earmarking time and money in our schedules to meaningfully make changes based on user testing.
Audience & Device Choices
A sustainable garden is designed to attract a variety of birds and insects and starts with the sprinkling and planting of a diversity of seeds and saplings. Children’s media too, shines when it is designed with consideration of the needs, abilities, and accessibility of children from a variety of backgrounds. Imagine if we broadened our thoughts on audience beyond age banding and gender and asked ourselves questions such as: What are the different abilities of my audience? What are connectivity issues that my audience might have? Rooting product design in an investigation and consideration about the needs of all children can guide our device and audience choices, inspiring us to create products that can also reach underserved audiences.
Pick the right spot, clear the ground, dig the earth. These are the first steps to starting a garden. In the children’s media landscape, our digging begins when we begin to conceptualize our product. If we can—from the get go—dig into the process of concept design with the goal of creating user experiences, storylines, and characters that inform, entertain, teach, connect, and inspire all kids from all backgrounds, we can create rich media that serves as doors, windows, and mirrors for all children.
Character Design & Casting
Without rain, a garden—no matter how thoughtfully landscaped or planted—will not bloom. In the landscape of children’s media, our products bloom when they are mindfully sprinkled with a diversity of characters from different races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, age groups, and social classes with a variety of physical attributes and range of abilities. When designing or casting characters, how can we challenge ourselves to include a wide range of authentic characters while subverting stereotypes and avoiding tropes of representation?
Once a garden has begun to grow, providing it with the right type of fertilizer allows it to bloom to its fullest. The design, illustration, and animation of a children’s media product require similar attention. The intentionality with which we create, select, and review design, illustration, photo and animation can dramatically alter how inclusive our final product is. Our process can start with something as simple as selecting stock photos and footage that reflects the world we live in and that are free of stereotypical representations.
A rich garden grows in proportion to the amount of direct sunlight it receives. We can create high-quality, inclusive media that shines by creating music, narration, and sound that authentically reflects the diversity of content while supporting diverse families and audiences. From narrators to character voices, how diverse are the actors who are heard but not seen? Similarly, when it comes to original music, how can we create an auditory experience that matches our visual one?
User Testing & Focus Groups
Whether it’s a vegetable patch or a floral landscape, all gardens require careful tending. Weeds are unavoidable! As we create children’s media, hiccups and mistakes are unavoidable. The best way to address this is to check in with our target audience early and often. When we test our products with children and their parents—from initial concepts to the final production—we can weed out stereotypes, eliminate exclusions, and create truly diversive and inclusive media.
Marketing & Social Media
After a season of careful cultivation, the harvest of a beautiful garden is ready to be shared and celebrated! Likewise, when the production process culminates, it’s time to market your product by expanding your usual marketing platforms. Whether it’s the inclusion of diverse families in our advertising images and messaging or training our social media teams to listen and appropriately respond to audience feedback, there are many ways in which we can share our products so that they reach a wider, more diverse audience.