Design, as an industry, has been, and is still, polarised with a lack of representation and inclusivity. In 2019 the annual Design Census, carried out by The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Google, revealed that only 3% of its respondents were Black/African American compared to 13.4% of the total population of the US. In a time where the creative community is fighting issues such as climate change, which often affects marginalised communities the most, the narrative of design’s internal make-up needs to change. With the #blacklivesmatter movement shifting our global society to realise that inequalities still exist, the industry must rethink its approach going forward.
Elevating BAME voices is critical in design and, looking forward to the circular future we are hoping to create, representation is key. With many organisations working hard to disrupt the industry, we must rally to support, highlight and get behind these initiatives. These three platforms showcase some of the ways we can get involved in coming together collectively to support underrepresented communities, creating a brighter future for all.
The Black Artists and Designers Guild (BADG)
The Black Artists and Designers Guild (BADG) is calling for support in creating an inclusive design community. Since its inception in 2018 the organisation has focussed on a vast array of global Black talent and its founder, Malene Barnett, calls for representation. “The home furnishings industry falls short on being proactive towards creating an environment that embraces culture from all perspectives,” She states, “especially when African (amongst other POC groups) cultures are the source of inspiration for many collections.”
Representing a variety of skillsets, the BADG works with talents including ceramicist Hadiya Williams, textile designer Johanna Howard and furniture designer Marie Burgos. By providing this framework for black talents to receive international recognition, it is imperative to work against the underlying bias which often falls against such creatives. Alongside its work within the design sector, the BADG is currently calling for donations which will be distributed between four campaigns: Black Lives Matter, National Bail Out, Campaign Zero and Colour of Change. “Our industry is incomplete without all artists at an equal and equitable place of power.” continues Barnett, “Using an anti-racist framework will help to make this necessary change.”
Find out how to support the initiative here.
With only 13% of the UK design industry’s employees from BAME backgrounds (as reported by the Design Council in 2018), Design Can launched to raise awareness around this issue and to discuss solutions which can disrupt an industry in urgent need of change. With a steering committee of designers, editors and activists, the collective’s manifesto states “an industry that fails to reflect the people it serves will quickly become irrelevant.” The tool offers five areas: Read, Watch, Listen, Follow and Attend in a bid to empower change and draw attention to underrepresented creatives.
The platform, designed by London-based collective Not Flat 3, is fighting hard to redefine the UK’s creative community and the campaign’s leaders include Priya Khanchandani (ex-editor of ICON), artist and designer Yinka Ilori and emerging designer Mac Collins. “Campaigning platforms have an important role to play in raising awareness and sharing information but are not here to give people all the answers.” states Khanchandani, “In a recent interview, Reni Eddo-Lodge said “I’m not looking to tell people what to do” and she had a point. I would like to see people taking individual responsibility for challenging racism. That includes asking difficult questions. It means making an effort to work with people from underrepresented backgrounds. It is time for people to educate themselves and do the right thing.”
Find out here how you can contribute to the platform.
Where are the Black Designers?
Initially announced via Instagram and founded by Interaction Designer Mitzi Okou, Where are the Black Designers? is a virtual event taking place on the 27th June. The event will host a series of panels and individual speakers focused around the rhetorical question which was posed by Maurice Cherry in his 2015 SXSW keynote. The event will take place over 5 hours, flowing from design education to action, spotlighting creatives of colour along the way.
The team behind the initiative called on the design community to participate in a creative protest by submitting visuals outlining the question and calling upon large agencies and companies in asking “Where are the black designers?”. The stellar line-up on the 27th June includes speakers such as Jasmine Burton, founder of Wish for Wash, Social Entrepreneur, designer, educator and founder of Creative Reaction Lab, Antionette Carroll and Naj Austin, founder of the first social and wellness platform, Ethel’s Club.
RVSP here to reserve your space at the event.
Alongside these initiatives there are many ways you can support in creating a new future for design. Through educating ourselves around the systemic racism and oppression which still exists today we can raise awareness and encourage action, especially within our individual circles of influence. The Slow Factory Foundation is creating a community-centric educational program that offers a series of courses covering topics such as fashion design, journalism, agriculture, and manufacturing. Currently looking for funding to ensure the initiative can become a long-term program, these classes will take place in September and will be taught by Black, Brown and Indigenous scholars, educators and thought leaders, including Aja Barber and Hawa Arsala.
Many design campaigns are also emerging on social media such as the Pree Interiors Directory set up by Kierra Campbell, co-founder of Poodle and Blonde. The directory will showcase industry figures and interior influencers from BAME backgrounds alongside other initiatives which all work towards a more inclusive industry. Change starts with ourselves and, through education, we can individually move forward to join together collectively in rewriting the future of design which lies ahead and fight against the imbalances which currently exist today.