In-App Diversity

For the past few years, I've been using Duolingo to improve my French. I've found it really useful and my proficiency in reading, speaking and comprehension has increased dramatically.

Some time ago, Duolingo introduced stylised illustrations of people speaking the phrases (I suspect this was in order to humanise and bring context to the exercises). While these illustrations must have presented an interesting challenge to the visual designers as well as the engineers, the thing about them that immediately stood out to me wasn't the style or the execution.

Instead, it was the diversity.

There are illustrations of women, men, girls, boys, people of colour, people of religion, bodybuilders, twins, punks, skaters, hippies, policemen, lumber jackszombies, astronauts, and same-sex couples.

Just some of the Duolingo characters

Some of the more unique characters

Some of the more unique characters

Some of these depictions must be intentional. In the above image, a character who looks suspiciously like Hulk Hogan proclaims his embarrassment and two women of colour proudly state their love has no limits ( 🌈 ). And if I'm not wrong, that's Riggs and Murtaugh in the bottom left corner.

I absolutely love this. I can't remember the last time I used an app that actually had so much diversity represented in visual form. I think it's commendable in this day and age, to say nothing of the fact that Duolingo allowed their designers the time and the budget to render these characters.

Hell, they even included a bear.

† From what I can tell, the illustrations are the work of Gregory Hartman and are based on a standard template – libraries of heads and shoulders are mixed and matched with other libraries of facial features and accessories. Fantastic stuff.