Our Senior Designer Tim Brann, recently attended “Diversifying Design” as part of London Design Festival’s Global Design Forum. Here are his key takeaways from this thought-provoking discussion.
Creative industries and design in the UK have a much-publicised diversity problem. Those from a working class background are 2.5 times less likely to work in creative fields than those in higher socioeconomic groups. Only 23% of designers in the UK identify as female (in some fields, such as industrial design, this is as low as 12%) despite women making up 63% of all students studying creative arts and design courses at university. 88% of design managers identify as white. As the Design Council’s most recent report on the design economy said:
“The design workforce needs to reflect the diversity of the world it designs for. If it does not, the design of products, places, and services can overlook the aspirations, assets and needs of many people, excluding them and reinforcing existing inequalities and forms of marginalisation.”
So what steps can we take to build a more diverse and inclusive industry?
Representation and access
Without exposure to creative subjects from a young age, we risk missing out on individuals with strong creative talent and skills. Ensuring individuals from diverse backgrounds are exposed to creative subjects and the prospects of a career within this industry is a key first step, something that is becoming increasingly challenging with government cuts to the arts. Organisations like Arts Emergency and Creative Mentor Network provide mentoring and support for those from underrepresented backgrounds. (The Creative Mentor Network’s book “Making it in the Creative Industry” is an excellent satirical piece on the barriers many young people face).
Additionally, those from ethnic minorities have historically experienced greater cultural pressures to pursue what is perceived as a “traditional” career. While this is a complex subject often connected to feelings of belonging, stability and systemic inequality, without role models or representation this will remain a significant barrier to change.
Reducing focus on higher education
Be it through self-teaching, apprenticeships or internships, there are numerous pathways for people to kickstart their career in the creative industries. Yet there is still a focus on university education as the entry point for young people. This further excludes those who couldn’t afford to attend university, or those who struggled with traditional academic assessment processes.
There is significant research on the above average rates of neurodiversity among creative individuals. Understanding this and making allowances during interview processes and at work can help produce a more welcoming environment for these individuals.
Economic and geographic barriers
A spotlight is increasingly being shone onto unpaid internships and the barriers this puts up for those from a lower social economic background and those without ties to London and the South East, areas that make up almost 50% of the UK design economy. Low and unpaid internships are an abuse of power and privilege, with many young people feel they don’t have a choice but to accept these roles to get their foot in the door. Fair compensation is a must, in order to make these opportunities available to everyone.
Clearly, there is much to be done to help produce a more diverse creative workforce. Putting systems in place to address the issues identified by the panel are vital stepping stones on this path.
Tim Brann – Senior Designer
Tim is a multi-disciplinary designer, with many years of experience designing graphics with impact and seamless user experiences. He holds a BSc in Product Design from Brunel University London. Initially designing consumer products, he has since worked on a diverse range of projects from creating brand guidelines to website re-design and creation, animated video, event collateral and strategic brand positioning documents both for startups and large companies such as WWF, Motorola and Pyrex. Tim is passionate about the use of design as a tool for positive social change, and his main areas of interest are racial inequality and children’s social care.