[Editor’s note: we recently published a shorter version of this story, but it was resubmitted with additional details that we decided was worth a revisit. Enjoy! Or cringe. Whichever is appropriate].
I was hired to create a short animated ad for a start up company. In the process I designed a handful of mother and baby characters. I made the main mother Indian, but it was in a simple, cartoony style, so she could be interpreted as another race.
Client: These moms need to be more aspirational. Can she look more like this?
He sent stock photos and clip art of white blonde women.
Me: Okay… Just so I know, is there a specific ethnicity that you would her to be?
Client: Well, if we had more characters it would be nice to have some diversity. But since there’s only one mom she should be white.
Client: What? She should look like the majority of the population.
Client: You know what, we’ve changed our minds. We want one shot of ten diverse mom characters.
I design and send them.
Client: We don’t like this mom wearing a hijab. Let’s replace her with an Asian mom.
Me: There’s already one Asian mom. But fine, here.
I design a mom with straight black hair, pale skin, a rounder face, and almond-shaped eyes.
Client: Can we make her look more asian? We didn’t really get that she was asian.