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Decoloniszing Our Bookshelves

CLIENT

 

Decoloniszing Our

Bookshelves 

TAGS

 

Decolonising

Literature

Books

Cataloguing 

Libraries

MY ROLE

 

Design Research

UI/UX Design

Branding

Product Design

TEAM & DURATION

 

Madhushree Kulkarni

Rutvik Saptarshi

1 developer and 1 designer, 1 PM

OVERVIEW

 

OUTPUT/ RESULTS

 

decoloniszing our bookshelves is a project dedicated to questioning and challenging dominant canonical perspectives in literature. It is trying to create a catalogue dedicated to writers of inter-sectional, often marginalised identities, and create a network of independent bookstores and publishing houses.

Note: This is an ongoing project. The beta version of the website will be released by the end of November 2020.

Brief 1: Designing a system to increase awareness, consumption & production of marginalised & Decolonial literature in South Asia

Brief 2: Designing an accessible website to catalogue literary works by authors of marginalised identities.

THE PROBLEM

 

an image of the problems

 

1. Lack of awareness and accessibility of books by authors of marginalised and intersectional identities. 
2. Capitalist, hegemonic way of distributing books which focus on cis, white male narratives or focus on catering to a white/Western audience.

3. Algorithms that are ingrained with racist, sexist and colonial biases hence recommend and promote only a certain kind of literature

4. Lack of disability-friendly / accessible resources

5. Uncatalogued works of literature, and literature that has been suppressed or censored.

THE VISION

 

Creating a platform that values literary works by authors of marginalised and intersectional identities, and promoting this literature while making resources for decoloniszing accessible.

PROCESS

 

SYSTEMS DESIGN

 

DISCOVERY

 

STARTING SMALL, THINKING BIG

 

ACCESSIBILITY

 

BRANDING

 

WEBSITE

 

IMPACT

 

LEARNING

 

WHAT'S NEXT

 

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Before creating a visual language and a brand identity, I explored different disabilities, colours and contrast. 
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Exploring different colours and visual identity and how it looks like for people with different visual disabilities -
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Working on these variations helped us understand colour contrasts and how different colours are visible for different kinds of disabilities. We now understood what kind of colours to combine and use. We learned that we need to use colours with a sufficient contrast between text and background colour and not repeat the hue or tint of the same colour on the same post. 
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We went a step ahead and checked if the contrast fulfilled the WCAG 2.0 level AAA requirements. And we were surprised to find out that it did not. Therefore, we went back and changed the colour palette again to ensure sufficient contrast. A contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for normal text and 4:5:1 for large text is required. Large text is defined as 14 point (typically 18.66px) and bold or larger, or 18 point (typically 24px) or larger.
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We had one aim while designing the branding - To adhere to strict accessibility parameters to make the website inclusive. We also wanted the identity to keep evolving with time. So, we created a brand identity that champions diversity and at the same time is creative, simple and accessible.
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The logo is a representation of the domino effect, how one piece can affect another and create great change. We believe that literature is very powerful and that’s why we want to dismantle colonial structures by starting with our bookshelves. We decided to keep black and white as our primary logo colours since they appear the same to everyone.

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BRAND GUIDELINES

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1. The purpose of the website is simple - to build an accessible catalogue of literature that receives data from local bookstores and libraries from all around the world. We want to design a website that puts accessibility before aesthetic-- by which I mean the purpose of the website is to make literature by people of marginalised and intersectional identities easily available and provide independent, left-leaning bookshops with the visibility they lack. With this, we also want to somewhat tackle the problem Amazon has created by crushing competition and normalising unethical practices. A little too ambitious perhaps, but not impossible.

2. The primary objective of even building a website like this is to make education widely accessible, and here we emphasize on education that allows us to challenge and question the colonial, white, patriarchal frameworks within which most of our systems operate. Education of this sort should not be limited to academicians studying Post-Colonial theories; rather, it should be a norm for everyone to know enough for them to question and change the pre-existing hierarchies in the world. For this purpose, our visual language aims to be inviting and comforting. Even to a person who has never read a book, but wants to engage with these theories, we want our website to provide them with the tools to do that. A huge role here will be played by our social media, where we plan to have artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc. and engage with media apart from literature because, hey, resistance can go beyond the literary spaces.

 

3. Rather than organising the website/catalogue country-wise, we imagined how we usually would access literature in a library. Most probably go to the section or the genre we are looking for, then narrow our scope to the subjects and then choose readings/ authors. If we sorted the catalogue country-wise, the original purpose would get diluted and it would end up becoming a showcase rather than a tool which integrates marginalised literature into the mainstream canon.

 

4. While we want the catalogue to be an exhaustive repository of literature by diverse authors, we realise that people can be problematic. We plan to tackle this by having a disclaimer and another disclaimer like Wikipedia does, on individual author pages which emphasise on the fact that this author may have expressed sexist, racist views, and give appropriate trigger warnings. We can provide a list of arguments on why they still ought to be on the catalogue, however, we can have a report this entry button in case too many people find the author problematic.

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Note: This is an ongoing project. The Beta version of the website will be released by the end of October 2020.

MORE PROJECTS

 

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Feel free to reach out for a collaboration or a conversation!

© Aishwarya Jare