June 4, 2020
How to be Diverse in the Design Industry
By Rukmini Patel
Design Industry

With recent shocking events in America, words cannot even describe the grief felt across the world. The brutal killing of George Floyd and many other black people in America has sent deep shockwaves everywhere. When Instagram’s feed turned black on Blackout Tuesday, people were coming together for one cause and perhaps the first signs of some sort of change, acknowledgement even. This blog posit is about How to be Diverse in the Design Industry.

I have written this post after being presented with the opportunity to send my comments to The Great Interiors Podcast. Hosted by Sophie Robinson and Kate Watson-Smyth. Their next episode is about the lack of diversity in the Design community. After sending my comments through I really didn’t expect anything to come of it.

I was a bit shocked to see Sophie’s response when asked if I could be quoted on the Podcast. I don’t know if the comments will make it as she received so many of them! However it made me realise that maybe, just maybe there could be a shift in society if one person listens, maybe someone else will listen too?

So here I am writing this blog post, I want to talk about how to be diverse in the design community and how it can do better. How we can all do better. Like many, we are trying to better educate ourselves, researching and so I’ve added links to help aid your research.

I don’t believe that only one person has all the answers. I do believe we can try to do something if we talk about it, create discussion and hopefully open up barriers which were once closed.

Include diversification in mainstream magazines

I subscribe to Elle Decoration and House & Gardens magazines. Rarely have I seen a spotlight on black or People of Colour (POC) featured consistently. I have come across so many interior designers who are black/POC on Instagram yet I’ve not seen them featured in magazines. I feel media share responsibility in bringing diversification to light.

If they aren’t open to representing other races, then subscribers will only see white interior designers as reputable, successful designers.

I would like to see more diversification in magazines consistently. Talk to the black/POC designers, ask us about our businesses, champion us, celebrate us as you would white designers.

Please don’t put us on the back pages or run a “Diversification Special Edition” there needs to be a consistent representation in each version, month after month. Show our faces, say our names, celebrate us, give us space. We are only asking for the same treatment as you would give white designers.

How to be diverse in the Design Industry

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Educate individual communities about diversification

Racial preference exists within individual communities and the likelihood is its not even a conscious decision. Perhaps your parents or grandparents lived in an area where the same race was densely populated. So when the toilet needed fixing perhaps your parents called the plumber down the road who happened to be part of the racial community. The same thinking patterns may have rubbed off on you and so you reach out to the person within your community. Please don’t feel bad for it, I don’t feel this is anyone’s fault and it’s just how society made us the way we are today. We just need to educate ourselves better.

If you are wondering what has this got to do with how to be diverse in the Design industry? Allow me to explain…

If you are Asian [or add your race] and only seek out Asian [people within your race] tradesmen, designers, etc. Then this is part of the problem. If you are only working with individuals within your race or skin colour it limits diversification.

Seeking out the right tradesmen, designer etc. for you not based on their skin colour – this is diversification. I speak from experience having received a lot of enquiries from Asians who have not checked out my website or portfolio! It’s nuts! They only contacted me because of my skin colour not because I am the right designer for them or because they like my designs.

I’m sure this happens within other racial communities and this is where education needs to come in. It goes back to my point above if the media show diversification in their magazine’s people will be more likely to accept black/POC when working with design professionals.

It’s OK to hire a black/POC interior designer if they are right for you/ like their work etc. It’s not OK to pick a designer purely based on their skin colour.

How to be diverse in the Design Industry

Diversify your social media

Diversifying your social media is a really great way of meeting new black/POC people and instantly connecting with them. Social media is a fun platform, where barriers and formalities don’t exist. Perfect for meeting new people.

Have you noticed that the people you follow on social media channels may reflect you as a person, albeit skin colour, looks etc? It’s a subconscious decision that you probably don’t even realise you are doing. I know that I follow a number of beauty influencers who all have dark hair because, well I have dark hair! Hence a reflection of me.

Now is a good time to diversify your Instagram/Facebook etc. feed. You’ll see things from their point of view, how they live, you may even learn something completely new.

Try finding black/POC in the same industry as you, or different or subjects you like, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you can easily start listening, supporting and engaging with different ethnicities just by diversifying your feed.

Here are some new interior black/POC accounts I’ve come across:

Life_of_isatu

Hill House Vintage

Elizabeth Ash Interiors

Jazzierere

Design bodies & Design events need to diversify

Having attended design events such as London Design Week, Clerkenwell Design Week, Milan Design week and others, I’ve noticed they are dominant with white designers and suppliers. I’m not sure why there aren’t many black/POC designers or suppliers.

Perhaps design bodies need to encourage young black/POC designers to enter the design community? Perhaps offer grants or actively encourage black/POC to enter design events?

If you are a designer or supplier who is black/POC I urge you to attend and showcase your work. We need to see diversity. We need to give hope to young designers that there is a space for them too.

Other bodies like Amara Blog Awards need to be more inclusive and include more black/POC in their candidates. I noticed last year’s 2019 Amara Blog winners were predominately white.

I find it hard to believe that there are only white interior designers/ bloggers/ influencers. What kind of message does this send if only white people are shortlisted and winners?

How to be diverse in the Design Industry

I am not sure if I’ve caught the wrong end of the stick here and stumbled on a year where there is a massive lack of diversity? Perhaps in previous years, there was and I’ve got it all wrong? I’m not sure, but I am a bit shocked by the lack of diversity.

Whatever is the case, I would like to see more diversity from a large UK interior brand. There are many black/POC interior designers, stylists and bloggers in the UK and I would like to see them represented too.

I’m sure other people in the design industry feel the same. It could be a community gap or something we need to open up a dialogue between us. I am open to any suggestions and I’m sure many others would be too.

Buy from black/POC brands

And finally, on how to be diverse in the Design industry is to buy from black/POC brands.

Think for a minute when was the last time you bought products from black/POC? Perhaps it’s not an active decision and likely another subconscious act. It could be you just don’t know enough black/POC brands to buy from.

The good news is now that you know, it’s easy to find them with so much information currently shared on social media. Think about diversifying when you buy your products, next time you are about to purchase something.

As you know I love interiors and so I’ve put together a few black/POC interior brands for you:

La Basketry

Prick

Bonita Ivie Prints

Bespoke Binny

Basket by La Basketry

I hope you found this blog post on how to be Diverse in the Design Industry useful and gave you some insight.

I really hope I haven’t caused any offence to anyone. I’m not perfect and I know I need to do my part.

I would love to hear from you and your thoughts. What are your opinions on how we can create a diverse design industry?

RIP George Floyd

 Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

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