UXperts Weigh In: How Can Designers Support Diversity in Their Organizations?

by Patrick Faller

posted on 08-21-2017

To effectively create products that serve diverse users, you need a diverse workplace full of designers who bring different perceptions, experiences, and influences to the table. But establishing diversity in design workplaces is often a work in progress, and that is a key topic at the upcoming Design + Diversity Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Adobe is proud to be a sponsor of the event, and we decided to reach out to some of the conference’s speakers to ask ‘how can designers support diversity in their organizations?’ Here’s what they had to say.

Christa Rasberry, Director of HR Operations NA at Momentum Worldwide

Designers can support diversity within their organizations in various ways, however determining the best approach will be based on the culture of your organization and its stance on providing an inclusive and diverse environment. A good place to start revolves around how you attract talent. We often cultivate relationships and hire people that are similar to us. Utilizing your internal networks provides an opportunity to potentially bring more diverse talent into your organization.

Diverse talent not only brings different perspectives, it’s also proven to drive innovation through those differing perspectives. Find out your organization’s stance, support, and desire to make strides towards having such an environment. If this is a priority, identify where you feel you can make a difference. Since this is at the forefront of your organization, the approach you take can encompass your entire organization.

If your organization is in its infancy stage then taking smaller steps, such as within your department or team might be a better route. For example, promoting an activity that not only provides a creative outlet but also may trigger a broader conversation (i.e. a local exhibit or a lunch and learn panel). However big or small you start, it’s the starting that is important as only through action will we truly impact change.

Tim Hykes, Designer, Letterer, and Organizer of the Design + Diversity Conference

If you want to do something beneficial you can define your organization’s “design culture.” Develop an inclusive definition around the culture of design at your organization. This will allow your organization to think about how you want each designer to feel as they work and learn. It will also strengthen your knowledge of what your team lacks. This should be a cross-functional team with different viewpoints from various individuals from different racial backgrounds.

The goal is to be inclusive. Everyone should feel like they are at home. This will be hard, and you will find some members of the organization will not like an inclusive definition. I call that weeding out the bad. Others will enjoy the description and want to move to the next diversity problem together. The definition should be in black and white. It should be a definition that all designers work to help develop an inclusive environment together.

The next problem from there should be to tackle your company’s definition of diversity. For most of America, it’s ethnicity. For some, it’s sexual orientation. Define it and agree so when you talk about it as an organization you know what you mean. This is just a small step you can do to help your company. Also, don’t forget to let the world know. It’s the only way others will follow you.

Dawn Gipson, SVP and Creative Program Director at FleishmanHillard

Assume nothing.

Resist groupthink. Actively seek differing points of view. Quite often, there is at least person in a room who is hesitant to use their voice. Encourage them to express their opinions.

Don’t dismiss what you don’t understand. Be honest, and try to ask thoughtful questions to learn more.

Bryan Lee Jr., Founder and Director at Colloqate Design

Diversity, for what reason? Diversity in practice has implications far exceeding a search for a statistical quota. It is fundamentally a consideration of equity. To support diversity and equity requires us to start from a position of purpose, to acknowledge one another’s culture, and to respect each other’s humanity. Often we are asked to resign all of the above for the sake of the profession. This, to me, is our biggest threat to, and our greatest opportunity for diversity and inclusion within the field.

While cultural purpose is sometimes elusive in a profit-driven environment, it is critical. For me, supporting diversity means finding culturally-competent purpose in the projects, practice, and procedures we put into the world. It means understanding the typological and cultural history of the buildings and spaces we design. Purpose allows us to see past the immediate tasks and work for a reason greater than self.

The reason is that design and architecture, when diversified, opens up a language that makes room for different stories to be told. The way we navigate the stories allows us to better represent the users and clients we serve. If you want to support diversity in practice seek out purpose-driven work, acknowledge diverse stories are the natural occurrence of diverse cultures, and most of all recognize that purpose is embedded in the places and spaces where culture is recognized, stories are told, and language is valued.

Jessica Bellamy, Graphic Designer and Creative Resident at Adobe

Designers can encourage diversity by using their talents to create or support mindful and authentic narratives that feature unconventional and underrepresented perspectives and faces. We can also use our work to embolden ourselves and others to be compassionate, accountable, and mentally flexible. Committing to embracing difference–rather than just tolerating it–is a theme that can be embedded in any project.

Designers have a lot of power. Design has the ability to bestow authority, establish credibility, define narratives, dismantle or fabricate stereotypes, and so much more. We need to be conscious and–more importantly–responsible with what we support with our services. Being aware of the problem is not enough. We have the right platform as well as all of the tools and intelligence to reimagine the world.

Learn more about the Design + Diversity Conference on its website, and click here to read why diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a top priority at Adobe.

Topics: Design, Diversity & Inclusion, Career Advice

Products: Creative Cloud