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ARE DESIGN AGENCIES RUNNING OUT OF EXCUSES FOR THEIR HOMOGENEOUS STAFF?

ARE DESIGN AGENCIES RUNNING OUT OF EXCUSES FOR THEIR HOMOGENEOUS STAFF?

AUGUST 4, 2020
The Design world has a big problem. It’s 2020, yet there is still a severe lack of representation of Black and Indigenous designers.

In 1991, AIGA (the American Institute of Graphic Arts) published an article based on a 1990 symposium, begging the question “Why is Graphic Design 93% White?”. It’s been almost 30 years later, and nothing much has changed. In 2019 the Design Census was still 71% White. 

The AIGA Symposium discussed how Design is supposed to improve people’s lives, but in order to do that, we must ‘decolonize design' and strive for more diversity and inclusion. This is because diversity and inclusion within the design field leads to more innovation through problem-solving. This is still an extremely relevant conversation going on today, but these days, “diversity” is more of a buzzword in discussions based around race and representation. All these conversations with no action are getting stale, which is why we would like to highlight some organizations that are actually making a difference in trying to tip the scales and show that design agencies are running out of excuses for why their companies do not invest in Black and Indigenous designers. 

You might ask yourself “why are there so few Black and Indigenous designers”?

This diagram by Chris Befeld (below) says it all. At the Elementary and High School level students have a lack of exposure to creative careers due to lack of technology resources and computer literacy programs, as well as being told art isn’t a career worth pursuing. At the Higher Education and College level, there is a financial barrier since most four-year Visual Arts institutions charge upwards of $30,000k - $60,000k tuition per year to attend. Design schools are outrageously expensive, and not everyone can afford such a luxurious degree. On top of that, design curriculums at these higher Art institutions are centered around white design history and culture, and there is just an overall lack of representation in design departments. This can be extremely discouraging for non-white artists and designers. Finally, the job and career level is riddled with systemic hiring biases that make it much harder for non-white artists and designers to get hired. Not only that but even if they are hired, there is compensation inequality based on race and ethnicity due to a lack of representation in design departments. That is why the BIPOC creative student to professional designer pipeline is narrow and hard to traverse. 

Despite all of these hardships and roadblocks, there are several organizations trying to uplift BIPOC designers.

Afrotectopia

Take Afrotectopia for example. Afrotectopia is a school for Black Creatives, and is designed to offer creatives exciting alternatives to think about their education, activism, technology, culture, and design. They offer free workshops and operate in New York City. In a field that is filled with white-male gatekeepers, Afrotectopia has become an accessible place for POC to engage with professional tools and learn to create art and media through the much unexplored lens of the Black experiences. 

Black Type Designers & Foundry

The Black Type Designers and Foundry is a database of Black type designers and foundry owners, and gives them a platform to have their work be seen. Founded in 2014 by Jeremie Hornus and Gregori Vincens, Black[Foundry] is an international team of 12 talents, including type designers, art directors, programmers, and more, all working from Paris with connections around the world. No longer do companies and brands have any excuses for “not finding any Black type designers” and their work.

 

Vanessa Newman: Design to Divest Group Initiative

Design to Divest is an ad hoc group created by Vanessa Newman, amidst the George Floyd protests, intended to offer pro-bono work to activists, and it has flourished into a growing community of designers who care about the fight for racial equality. The group aims to push against the structural racism in the industry. One of our own Curina staff is an active member. The group is dedicated to increasing equity and representation for BIPOC designers in an industry that is built around whiteness. The group is also dedicated to divesting, because to them, divesting means to free oneself from an authority. You may have seen some of the many informative Instagram posts designed by the group explaining what to do if you get tear gassed, where to donate funds, and the history of the movement. 

 

Where Are the Black Designers? Initiative

Design to Divest is an ad hoc group created by Vanessa Newman, amidst the George Floyd protests, intended to offer pro-bono work to activists, and it has flourished into a growing community of designers who care about the fight for racial equality. The group aims to push against the structural racism in the industry. One of our own Curina staff is an active member. The group is dedicated to increasing equity and representation for BIPOC designers in an industry that is built around whiteness. The group is also dedicated to divesting, because to them, divesting means to free oneself from an authority. You may have seen some of the many informative Instagram posts designed by the group explaining what to do if you get tear gassed, where to donate funds, and the history of the movement. 

Time is Up

The topic of diversity in the design field is not a new discussion, but the intensity and force of the movement can no longer be ignored. Through the work of places and groups like Afrotectopia, Black[Foundry], Design to Divest, and Where Are the Black Designers?, we are starting to see real tangible change and results within the industry. Design agencies are running out of excuses for why their staff does not reflect the rest of society and invest in Black and brown designers. 

 

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