Does the Design Industry Lack Diversity?

Does the Design Industry Lack Diversity?

As an industry that works to both create for society and listen to its audience for feedback, designers should represent the diversity of our world. However, according to the Design Census 2017, 60.4% of the 13,000 people surveyed within the design industry are White/ Caucasian. The next largest demographic is Asian, coming in at a mere 10.4%. African Americans make up a small 3.4%, whereas Pacific Islanders represent less than 1% of those surveyed at .8%.

The numbers alone signify a large problem – diversity in the creative field is a gaping hole. But, how can an industry that exists within and, at times, even defines culture be so far from representing society as a whole?

The Diversity Gap Creates an Inclusion Hole

The problem starts early.


Data from Adobe’s Creativity’s Diversity Disconnect research shows that 51% of people of color lack early access to information about creative professions. They report feeling less supported even if they do decide to pursue a creative career when compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

Since the lack of support happens early on, a large amount of creatives of color never make it to the industry as professionals because they either have limited access to information about opportunities or they are being told to pursue jobs in other fields that offer more immediate employment.

The research shares a similar story for women within creative fields; women are less likely than men to agree they see “people like me” in leadership positions where they work. This feeling has real consequences because it thwarts inclusion.

While diversity alone is important, inclusion is paramount. As Verna Myers so eloquently describes the difference, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” If a person doesn’t feel included simply based on their gender, or color of their skin, for example, then they are unable to be authentic. Women in fields that heavily deal with design, like engineering and technology, have said that “acting like a man” is a proven strategy in achieving career advancement. Therefore, female employees are expending energy pretending to be something they are not just to “fit in,” but if the environment felt inclusive in the first place, they could optimize their productivity.

Why Diversity Matters

At this point in time, it seems like it should be obvious why diversity and inclusion matter, but let’s take a look at some standout points of why it’s so important, especially within the design industry.

It’s a Two-Way Street: Design interacts with society, and vice versa. Designers respond to, and create trends. When people interact with brands, the brands analyze what’s working, and give them more of the good stuff! In turn, it’s important to have a diverse workforce that can address the needs of people from all walks of life.

Promotes Innovation: Like-mindedness doesn’t breed new ideas. Different perspectives and mindsets do. Collaborative and heterogeneous groups tend to come up with more creative solutions to problems because they approach them from different angles and experiences.

Diversity in design pushes different groups of people to come together to use their various perspectives to solve the world’s infinitely growing challenges.

For Relevance and Inclusion: When designing for a particular issue, product or moment in history, it helps to have diverse voices behind the design so that it’s both relevant and inclusive towards the intended audience.

The Impact of Inclusive Leaders
Having a diverse team is key, but every member should feel included and equally valued. How do you ensure that is the case?

These 6 quality traits make it more likely for your team to feel included:

  1. Ensure team members speak up and are heard
  2. Make it safe to propose new ideas
  3. Empower team members to make decisions
  4. Take advance and share feedback
  5. Give actionable feedback
  6. Share credit for team success

It’s possible to achieve a diverse team, but inclusion is takes your team to the next level, which helps to create an interactive, comfortable, and innovative design environment.

Tying it All Together

Of course, diversity is more than race. It’s more than gender, religion, and sexual identity. There’s an intersectionality that exists across cultures, socioeconomic status, etc., and then, there’s also diversity of thought.

In an industry where perception is at the heart of everything, how do we ensure diversity is a both achievable and considered a priority?

We can all take steps – starting with education and mentorship, and leading all the way into establishing corporate initiatives. Here are a few ways to help diversify:

  • Hire outside your referral network of friends
  • Use imagery that is inclusive and representative of all people
  • Allow a student to shadow your work and show them what’s possible for them to achieve

How We’ve Done It

Out of our nine person team, we represent several different nationalities including South African, Mexican, Israeli, and American. Of our American team, we’re all from different states and backgrounds.

So, how’d we make this happen?

We can’t say we knew we’d be so diverse from the beginning, but because we are attracted to diverse design styles, we’re inherently choosing from a broadened pool of people and using the power of social media, which is global, to source employees. We like to assess our talent pool for different strengths that are complementary to one another, and by recruiting with this strategy, we’ve found talented people from various parts of the globe.

Besides the fact that we are located in two countries (USA and Israel), we like to recruit from sources other than employee referrals and within our own personal networks, which translates to demographically different team members.

The Point Is…

One’s life experiences and cultural norms all play a role in one’s outlook on life, and ultimately, helps to shape perspective. That’s why, when it comes to design in any medium, a broadened perspective from a diverse team helps to create life-changing and life-shaping products, movements, and ideas.