Equity-centered design


This guide contains initial steps for designers, researchers, and developers at the CFPB to help give the communities we design for greater power and authority in the design and research process.

About equity-centered design

Traditional human-centered design and research practices aim to understand and solve for the needs of the people we serve, but with limited input from those people. Designers, researchers, developers, and stakeholders work together to determine goals, what questions to ask, what conclusions to draw, and ultimately what solutions to build. Collectively, we have the power to control the narrative for those we are trying to help.

Without better input from the people impacted by our work, especially those in underserved or underrepresented communities, we risk making decisions and creating solutions that do not help them. The natural limits of our own experience may lead us to omit critical perspectives or possibly even create solutions that cause harm.

Equity-centered design and research aims to give power back to the community by purposefully making all the people we design for collaborators in the design and research process.

About these guidelines

This guide is meant to help increase our awareness of the power we hold in the design and research process, and to take steps to give more power to those we serve to allow their voices to be heard equitably. We’ve written this guide for use in the context of design, user research, and technology development projects, but we hope it may be of use to any one involved in building solutions for diverse audiences. The ultimate goal is to infuse equity-centered principles into all our processes and practices to better ensure the products and services we build are actually useful for those who need them the most.

Be sure to always look for opportunities to standardize these principles as part of your everyday work. Reconsider recruitment practices, incentives, and how you interact with individuals and communities throughout the lifecycle of a project. Ask yourself, “how is my work contributing to building long-lasting relationships with the organizations, communities, and people the Bureau serves?”

This is a living document. We will continually reflect on our practices and revisit or add to these ideas as we grow, change, and learn more.


These guidelines are based upon the great work of others who are already working diligently in the justice and equity space. Acknowledgments are in order:

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