| To Be Included to Learn Sound Design
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To Be Included to Learn Sound Design

Diversity is not a person or an old, old wooden ship. It’s an action. It’s ultimately a practice of understanding, respecting, and valuing difference. But what is inclusion?

Like diversity, inclusion has become a buzzword to sound progressive. But like diversity, inclusion is something you have to consciously want to do.

Imagine you are part of the planning committee for a week-long series of events about design for AIGA. Everyone on the committee is well-aware of the importance of design being inclusive. You decide,

Hey, what about sound design?

Your fellow committee members say,

That’s nice, but is sound really designed?

Nonetheless, you persist. You make a convincing case that sound, is in fact, designed. While your fellow committee members are reluctant, they agree to let a sound design studio participate. You contact the sound designers, and they say,

Thank you, but we don’t we’re really a part of AIGA, in the traditional sense. AIGA is mostly graphics and websites, right?

You say,

AIGA is more than that, and we want you to be a part of it.

While they are also reluctant, they eventually agree to be a part of the design week. Now imagine that the staff of the sound design firm is all-White and mostly men. Design Week comes, and the agency is not ready. Yes, they have lunch and a nice presentation ready. But the agency is visibly struck by how many women and people of color are coming through their doors. You know.

They avoid shaking hands or making eye contact. They don’t trust you to walk around their offices by yourself. They over-instruct on their expertise. They tell you not to touch their precious equipment.

Now, imagine the exact opposite of all that happening.

Defacto wanted to share knowledge without pretense or condescension. As an attendee, I truly felt welcomed in their space.

AIGA DC wanted to include sound design as a part of this year’s design week. Defacto Sound, the sound design company, wanted to be included in DC Design Week. There was mutual excitement about participating. Defacto wanted to share knowledge without pretense or condescension. As an attendee, I truly felt welcomed in their space.

Since attending the event, I not only do I listen to their podcast, Twenty Thousand Hertz, I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of some of my favorite TV shows: Sherlock, Taboo, Power. Previously, I’d only admire these shows for production design, cinematography, or title sequences. But now I know foley adds sonic atmosphere to a story. I was able to bond with these designers with shared values of passion for the work, wanting a seat at the table earlier in the production process, and geeking over the sound design for Blade Runner 2049. And always, it’s an excellent opportunity to network across disciplines. I could’ve used Defacto as professional audio recording for The Education Trust’s ESSA Animation.

The initial scenario is hypothetical, but how many of us are familiar with it? How many of us have planned an event or participated in a project, with the intent to be inclusive, only to confront bias and microaggressions along the way? And how many of us consider the consequences of our exclusionary tactics?

Like diversity, “inclusion” has become a buzzword to sound progressive. But like diversity, inclusion is something you have to consciously want to do. In this context, inclusion simply means being invited, heard and understood for your expertise and knowledge. Being included can also mean learning in a welcoming environment.

Image courtesy of Defacto Sound.