Throughout history, design and innovation have advanced not only our industry but transformed everyday life. Imagine the days prior to television sets, Universal Product Codes (and now QR Codes), the iEverything, Adobe Creative Suite…because they really weren’t that long ago. Design has the power to permeate every product, moment and solution in our lives—with immense opportunity for change.
However, there are two overlapping areas in which design as a profession is lagging: demographic diversity and a culture of inclusion. The two rely on each other, and both are crucial for the future success of the industry. Diversity may be a more popular buzzword in discussions about design education, conferences, and icons, but without inclusive gestures by hiring managers and businesses, senior designers and agencies, educators and other role models, individuals from underrepresented groups entering and remaining in design will remain firmly in the minority.
Approximately 86% of professional designers are Caucasian. And race is only part of the picture. Diversity in design means diversity of experience, perspective, and creativity—otherwise known as diversity of thought—and these can be shaped by multiple factors including race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual identity, ability/disability, and location, among others. The diversity problem in design is not only in the numbers, but also in the lack of diverse role models, opportunities, and public awareness—which leads to apathy, insensitivity and even outright discrimination.
Why does this matter?
Interconnectedness in all its forms, including technology, multiculturalism, and globalism, make diversity and inclusion more relevant than ever in design as well as all areas of business and culture. The shifting status of “minorities” in the U.S.* affects not only the pool of possible future designers a, but also the makeup of clients, colleagues and collaborators. From a practical (not to mention moral) standpoint, diversity and inclusion within the field of design lead to more innovation through problem-solving, whether in service to business or society. And that’s what design is all about. In order to continue successfully and authentically leading improvement and change, design must openly embrace more diverse practitioners and retain them through inclusion.
I believe that creativity thrives through participation and the unexpected. Diversity & Inclusion are passions for some of us, but they matter to all of us. Join this movement in changing the conversation from problem to progress to proof.
*According to the 2010 Census, by 2050 53% of the country will be people of color. In 2010, 19% of the US population reported that they had a physical and/or intellectual disability. In 2020, 46% of the workforce will be millennials.