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Diversity in Design

4 MINUTE READ | April 19, 2017

Diversity in Design

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend a Design Diversity workshop at the University of Texas at Arlington (my alma mater). I listened to some incredible speakers discuss how their personal background influenced their careers and their designs. After the 2016 presidential election, diversity was (and still is) a constant topic in the news. One of my design professors from UTA saw the impact of the election on her students and had the great idea to start a workshop to discuss being a minority in the design community. Being a Hispanic designer and alumni of UTA, she reached out to me and asked me to attend.

I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t aware of the lack of diversity in the design community until recently. At UTA, I was fortunate enough to attend design classes with so many different people with so many different backgrounds. I never felt different or out of place because I was a different ethnicity or sexual orientation although that’s no surprise at UTA. U.S. News ranked UTA as the fifth most diverse national university in 2013, along with other universities like MIT and the University of California. Attending such a diverse university and design program, I was unaware of the larger issue in graphic design.

According to AIGA (the American Institute of Graphic Arts), approximately 86% of professional designers are Caucasian. But diversity is much more than just race. It includes gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and culture. Keep in mind that the job of a graphic designer is to solve creative problems that appeal to a large range of audiences. Audiences made up of different races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and cultures. In order to cater to such a wide range of audiences, creative groups need a wide range of diverse graphic designers.

Diverse graphic designers = diverse ideas and diverse perspectives.

Diverse ideas and diverse perspectives = quality work.

Minority designers with different perspectives in creative groups will save agencies from making huge tone-deaf, offensive mistakes like this ad Sony ran back in 2006 and the recent controversial Pepsi ad. The uproar and anger sparked from these kind of ads are a reminder of the crucial importance of diversity in creative groups. A phenomenon that is attributed to bad decision making in creative groups is groupthink, which occurs when you have too many people with too similar perspectives in a group. Whether you think groupthink is real or not, you have to admit that if someone with a different perspective would have seen those ads before they were released, they would have been appalled and would have stopped them from the very beginning. It shouldn’t be difficult to avoid making offensive mistakes, but it is still a reoccurring problem.

With statistics that show a lack of minority representation in the graphic design field, it can easily discourage young creatives from pursuing a career in graphic design. They may be afraid to succeed or they may feel invisible in the design community. Those are very real concerns. The fear of not receiving the same recognition as your peers can definitely have an impact on your career decision.

There is a lot of work left to do in this area of the design community. Minority representation in graphic design is a must if graphic design wants to continue to cater to everyone. But I would argue that the lack of minorities in the field is a very good reason to become a graphic designer. Join the ranks of the very few. Change the industry, raise the standards, and encourage other young minority designers to do the same. Become the inspiration and the role models for the younger generation of diverse designers. Like my mom always tells me, “ponte las pilas.” And that’s exactly what we need to do as minority designers. Put in the effort, succeed, and show the design community why diversity is so important.

To leave off, here are some great articles and resources about diversity in graphic design.

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Posted by Cynthia De La Torre

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