Shine Award 2021: August de los Reyes

June 7, 2021 • Posted by Design Bay Area

For outstanding generosity, commitment and contributions to the design community in the Bay Area, California.

The Shine Awards began in 2021 honor and give visibility to individuals who work and live in the Bay Area who consistently use their skills, resources and talents as a positive force to benefit others to give back to the Bay Area Community. These individuals have also supported the efforts of San Francisco Design Week, Design Bay Area and other community focused nonprofits. Honorees were selfless and giving of their time, often without asking for anything in return.

August de los Reyes 2021: Visionary and Inclusive Design Pioneer and co-founder of Design Bay Area

Above all, August cared about Community. He worked tirelessly to co-found Design Bay Area and helped acquire the San Francisco Design Week brand so that it could better represent all disciplines and nine counties in our region. In 2019, August was responsible for San Francisco Design Weeks annual theme: Community which was visualized by Mucho SF. Sadly, August passed away due to complications from Covid just months before Design Bay Area received its nonprofit status.

Excerpts from Fast Company written by Mark Wilson is the Global Design Editor on January 5th, 2021 :

August was among the most influential designers of his generation. Through his work at tech companies and startups such as Microsoft, Google, Pinterest, and Varo, he was responsible for spearheading a new way of designing through the philosophy of inclusive design. Its central tenet is that by designing solutions alongside people in the margins—including those with physical limitations and those who are part of underserved communities—companies can make products that are better for everyone. This was borne of personal experience. After an accident in 2013, de los Reyes was paralyzed from the chest down and experienced firsthand the limitations of existing design approaches.

In 2013, de los Reyes landed a new dream job back with Microsoft, leading design on the Xbox. He believed that video games would be the transformative narratives of the future, as film and TV had been in the 20th century.

That year, he fell out of bed, fracturing his back. Due to an initial misdiagnosis at the hospital, the accident confined de los Reyes to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It also radicalized his perspective as a designer. One of his first projects after the accident was to loop in other designers to audit what had gone wrong procedurally during his hospital diagnosis so that it wouldn’t happen again. Along the way he began seeing disabilities, not as shortcomings of someone’s body or mind, but as a failure of the built environment to accommodate people’s ever-changing needs. As de los Reyes put it on more than one occasion, “Disability is designed.”

De los Reyes worked alongside his former Microsoft (and later, Google) colleague Kat Holmes to develop a theory of inclusive design. The core idea, that designing for people typically cast as outliers creates better outcomes for everyone, is now a mainstay across the corporate world, from Apple to Airbnb to Nestlé to Crayola.

But as de los Reyes told me in 2016, after he left Microsoft to take a position at Pinterest, inclusive design was just one piece of his three-part vision of what 21st-century design should look like. “The [next part is] equitable design, not just for gender equity, but all marginalized communities within the design of software,” he said. “And the third is reframing ecological sustainability.”

InclusivityEquitySustainability. “He saw them as intertwined and interdependent,” says Holmes, now senior vice president of product experience at Salesforce. “Sustainable, to August, is about the durability of an idea. A design that would endure and serve multiple generations of people, while also minimizing any harm on the ecosystems that sustain life. Inclusivity is about ensuring that those designs worked well for as many people as possible, especially commonly excluded communities. And equity is understanding historical inequities as a way to rebuild systems that ensure social justice. August understood that design is simultaneously derived from and creating our cultural context—and that anyone could impact that culture through design.”

More to read:

Is disabilty designed? If so, what does love have to do with it? | August de los Reyes | TEDxBasel

San Francisco Design Week: August de los Reyes: Design Can’t Exist in a Vacuum

Fast Company: Inclusive design pioneer August de los Reyes dies of COVID-19 complications
The late designer, who held key positions at Microsoft, Google, Pinterest, and Varo, leaves a powerful legacy in his wake.

Microsoft Designer Fell Out of Bed and Found a Mission