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Where do all the black / brown people & white women go after graduating in design?

78% of the UK’s design workforce is male’, a whopping 25% higher than the percentage of men in the wider UK workforce; despite the fact that 63% of participants on creative arts and design courses are women.

Short answer: not into employment within the UK’s design industry.

According to The Design Council’s recent Design Economy report, 78% of the UK’s design workforce is male’, a whopping 25% higher than the percentage of men in the wider UK workforce; despite that 63% of participants on creative arts and design courses are women.

This research, follows on from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 2017 stats, that stated ‘over 90% of the design workforce is still white’.

So how does this absurd situation prevail? Particularly in a sector that likes to prides itself on ‘forward thinking, innovation and general niceness’? Fortunately, that myth is in the process of being busted.

However bleak the stats currently stand, the design industry is not impervious to cultural changes in global attitudes — even in the name of economic self-preservation. This means that there are questions being asked, which is a start. But as my gym instructor often says: “it’s not how you start, but how you finish.” In order for tangible results to occur, so do tangible actions: such as dealing with an uncomfortable truth that the design industry is just a reflection of wider society; meaning that racism, sexism, classism, ableism and every other ism is present and has to challenged.

The good news is that we – as humans – are becoming far more sophisticated in our understanding of structural privilege. You know, how the world really works. White privilege, feminism, intersectionality, and transgender identity have become part of the cultural lexicon. And it is this continuous deconstruction of our socially designed lives that will lead to shifts in attitude. And shifts in attitude are what will change behaviour — and behaviour change leads to a change in outcomes.

This is where design as a ‘practise’ – and those that think of themselves as designers – have the opportunity to create a new cultural landscape. Designing in the detail, an inclusive outlook from comms, to products, to buildings. Design really does have a say in shaping the future, providing designers first partake in hard personal and collective change.

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Originally published in WOW (Ways of Working) – a celebration and critical reflection on the engagement with the creative industries in the U.K. and internationally by students and staff from the Diploma in Professional Studies at London College of Communication.

The publication was designed by Marion Bisserier, Oli East and Sam Carballo and edited by Nicole Jesse, illustrated by Sarah Butler and printed by Pureprint.

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