June 15, 2021

Design Firms Team Up to Launch the Diversity in Design Collaborative

Nearly 20 firms, spanning all sectors of design, came together to create the newly launched Diversity in Design Collaborative to address disparities in representation, equity, and inclusion among Black creatives. Initiated by Herman Miller Group, the DID Collaborative will target individuals at three key stages: Awareness & Activations, aimed at spreading awareness of design careers among teens; College Programs & Education, focused on providing mentorship opportunities and portfolio reviews for students; and Recruitment & Retention, centered around supporting and fostering the development of early career creatives. 

“At Herman Miller, design is core to who we are—we believe in its power to solve problems and make the world a better place. But the alarming data about diversity and representation in the industry has served as an urgent call to action for us to do better,” says Andi Owen, president and CEO of Herman Miller. “In our early stages of research on how to best address the underrepresentation of Black designers, it was immediately clear that we could not make substantial and lasting change alone.” Member organizations include 2×4, Adobe, Architecture Plus Information (A+I), Aruliden, Civilization, Collins, Dropbox, Fossil Group, Freeman, fuseproject, Gap Inc., Knoll Inc., Levi Strauss & Co, Pentagram, Stamen Design, Studio 0+A, Wolff Olins, and Work & Co. 

Currently, less than 5% of designers employed on a full-time basis identify as Black and the average Black student enrollment at design colleges and universities in the U.S. is less than 10%, and fewer than 10 of the 100+ Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer a design degree, according to data cited by the DID Collaborative. “Our industry is suffering from a pipeline issue and we knew we could do better to reach the creatives we need to reach,” adds Mary Stevens, Herman Miller SVP of special projects who co-led the creation of the DID Collaborative with Caroline Baumann, former director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. “We thought the most powerful thing to do would be to join with other companies to enact change.” 

The DID Collaborative logo, designed by advisor, Forest Young, is conceived as a data visualization of this moment in time, and reflects the work to be done. “DID can be seen as prefiguring a new order,” he offers. “Differing opacity connotes uneven representation and serves to signal a perpetual ambition.” Image courtesy of the DID Collaborative. 

Long term, the group aims to significantly increase representation among Black creatives in the design profession. Short term plans include launching a DID Teen Fair early next year to expand awareness about career opportunities as well as initiatives focused on mentorship opportunities.

“As a Black designer I have waited three decades to receive Herman Miller’s call proposing the concept of DID. The lack of diversity in design is too large an issue for one brand to try to solve itself. To me DID is about more than purposely creating more diversity in design, it is about an entire industry creating a more meaningful relationship with a consumer that goes beyond them being a consumer,” shares advisor, D’Wayne Edwards.

The DID Collaborative website, designed by Work & Co., celebrates timeless designs by Black creatives often overlooked. “Black design history not taught anywhere,” continues Stevens, who notes that more designs will be added to the existing 10 as they are unearthed from patent office records. “We want to keep highlighting that, and reclaiming history.” 

The graphics on the website represent historic and timeless designs by Black designers from the traffic light to the mailbox. Image courtesy of the DID Collaborative. 

Firms with design at their core are invited to learn more and join the conversation by visiting the DID Collaborative website.

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