Lens: Type: Characteristic

A person’s race based on physical appearance.

portrait of a mixed-race woman

For this framework’s purposes, the characteristic of race is limited to a person’s physical appearance. This physical appearance does not indicate that one person is lesser or different from another. However, a person’s race is responded to differently based on context. A person’s race can shape their identity, both inwardly and outwardly. Race “defines” a person who exists in some locations more than it does in others. A person’s race is more or less of a defining feature historically—a person who was Japanese living in the United States during World War Two had different “freedoms” and was perceived differently by others than they are today.

Race does not define a complete person, but it does affect how they are perceived by others. For many, race a source of pride—facilitating a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, for many, race is tied to oppression, slavery, and conquest. (European Union and Stanford University, 2011). Race and ethnicity are intertwined, and no universally accepted definition of their relationship has been established. AoE4D aspects in the people: relational stack and the cultural aspect are more appropriate for examining race as a social and personal way of being.

Researching Race

A person’s race is not always an essential aspect to study when researching for design. Race is often not a clear and helpful way to categorize people. Research race carefully and combine it with other aspects to develop a clearer picture of a person or people group. When designers consider a person’s race when conducting research, they gain insights into how a person’s race could be a factor in the way they identify themselves and how society defines them based on prevailing and past attitudes.

Questions to Ask About Race

  • How significant is race regarding the issue I am studying?
  • In what ways is a person’s race a source of pride?
  • How have others regarded race in ways it may have created hardships for this person/people?

Look for These When Researching Race

  • Ways a person talks about their race as a source of pride, concern, embarrassment, etc.
  • Ways people talk about other races and their own race in different contexts.
  • Ways people of different races are represented in media.


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Burnham, J. J., Mills, J. D., & Youn-Jeng, C. (2019). The Influence of Race, Gender, Age, and Geographic Location on Children’s Fears. Educational Research Quarterly, 43(2), 3-23.


Morning, A. (2018). Kaleidoscope: contested identities and new forms of race membership. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 41(6), 1055-1073.

Oliver, P. (2017). Race Names. Retrieved October 10, 2019 from https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/2017/09/16/race-names/

Ramirez, R. (2007). Race, tribal nation and gender: a Native feminist approach to belonging. Meridians, 7(2), 22-40. 

Social Sciences

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Race, APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved October 27, 2019 from https://dictionary.apa.org/race

Betancourt, H., & Lopez, S. R. (1993). The study of culture, ethnicity, and race in American psychology. American Psychologist, 48(6), 629.

Collins, P. H. (2000). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.

Helms, J. E., & Talleyrand, R. M. (1997). Race is not ethnicity. American Psychologist, 52(11), 1246.

Peterson, L. J., Hyer, K., Meng, H., Dobbs, D., Gamaldo, A., & O’Neil, K. (2019). Discussing End-of-Life Care Preferences With Family: Role of Race and Ethnicity. Research on Aging, 41(9), 823-844. doi:10.1177/0164027519858716

European Union, & Stanford University. (2011). Race & Ethnicity. Retrieved October 28, 2019 from https://genderedinnovations.stanford.edu/terms/race.html


The Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Glossary of Terms. Retrieved October 27, 2019 from https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

United States Census Bureau. (2018). Race: About. Retrieved October 27, 2019 from https://www.census.gov/topics/population/race/about.html