Graphic designer, writer and educator Anoushka Khandwala is a voice of reason on the design industry’s diversity problem. In 2018, while she was still studying at Central Saint Martins, she wrote a piece for Creative Review about the lack of women of colour in design. Two years on and the conversation is, in many cases, still just a conversation.
Through her writing, Khandwala continues to expose the industry’s oppressive tendencies, putting forth a fresh perspective on how we can decolonise it – and why it’s essential that we do so. She also gives talks on the subject, including a recent online event in June, when she joined multidisciplinary creative Sunny Dolat for a conversation on the subject as part of Virtual Design Festival.
Khandwala often produces graphics to accompany her writing, and has created striking designs and illustrations for clients including Notting Hill Carnival and Gigwise. Although the work has continued to flow during the pandemic, lockdown has thrown up questions around her work-life balance and whether we need to adjust our working patterns in the future.
While lockdown has offered her an opportunity to reflect on how she would like to work moving forward, it has been also been a time for the wider industry to examine itself and its history of exclusion. The recent Black Lives Matter protests around the world in particular have thrown the design industry into an existential crisis, forcing it to recognise the subjects that Khandwala, like many others, has been broaching for years.
Here, she talks to us about the issue of inaccessibility in design and education, why creatives need to go beyond whipping up graphics for Instagram in their efforts to become anti-racist, and whether this unique juncture truly marks a turning point for the industry.