Where are the black designers? Watch the initiative’s inaugural conference
Written as part of Miller’s thesis “Transcending the Problems of the Black Graphic Designer to Success in the Market Place” the article was printed in the magazine’s September 1987 issue, shedding light “on a disenfranchising issue facing black graphic designers.” Unfortunately not much have changed over the course of three decades.
As noted in AIGA’s 2019 Design Census, the insightful data project by Antionette D. Carroll, the design industry lacks diversity. In terms of racial inclusion only 3% of designers across a variety of design disciplines are Black. In the light of the Black Lives Matter movement against the systemic racism, the issue is brought into the limelight and the initiative “Where are the black designers?,” launched by UX designer Mitzi Okou and fellow Savannah College of Art and Design alum Garrett Albury on the 5th of June 2020, demands answers to a problem that still haunts the creative industry.
“Where are the Black Designers is an initiative which aims to give a platform to creatives of color. By connecting designers, educators, and creative leaders we hope to start a dialogue about change in and out of the design industry” notes the team.
Kicking off with its first ever conference the WRTBD initiative will continue to search for answers which “cannot and should not be ignored.”
Speakers include founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab Antionette Carrol, Dean for the Faculty of Design at OCAD University Dori Tunstall, Head of Brand for Ethel’s Club and founder of Design 2 Divest Vanessa Newman, founder and CEO of Somewhere Good Naj Austin, Wish for WASH CEO Jasmine Burton, IDEO CEO Sandy Speicher, and more.
“Where are the Black Designers?” takes Cheryl D. Miller’s work, as well as Maurice Cherry's 2015 SXSW presentation of the same name and builds upon them to provide solutions to the question.
“This year there is a sense of urgency and attention around the lack of representation in the design industry — this is so important. As we push forward together we must be mindful of the past and strategic about the future. Make no mistake: this is a movement, not a moment” reads the introduction to the initiative.
As noted in Cherry’s talk “design-driven companies in Silicon Valley like Twitter report only single-digit percentages of American employees of color. Design conferences and smaller events promise to do better every year after unveiling speaker panels with majority white speakers. And between magazines, podcasts, and other media, the field of design can look like it’s only created for and by a certain group of people.”
“How do we fix this? Can we fix this? And what’s the overall benefit of diversifying the design industry?” wondered designer and host of the podcast Revision Path, Maurice Cherry back in 2015.
Still searching for answers, the initiative’s “Where Are the Black Designers?” conference is a first step toward effecting change and according to Okou this is not a one-time event.
“We’re really hoping that after this webinar people understand this is not a moment,” she told Fast Company. “This is a movement, and we all want to carry this through to the end so we don’t have to ask this rhetorical question ever again—and so we can build a community of people that want to see a brighter future in terms of diversity and representation in the creative and tech space.”
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