The Designer’s Workshop is a collective founded by US-based interior designer Kamille Glenn, which aims to serve underrepresented young Black designers and makers across a broad range of design disciplines.
Next week, the collective is holding an online event that aims to bring together designers from an array of specialisms to address visibility in the design world. Visibility X Dsgn will be hosted by Glenn, an associate interior designer at Rockwell Group who has worked with clients such as the Hakkasan Group and Nobu, and Felema Yemaneberhan, the collective’s strategic planning lead, who comes from an interior design and architecture background. Among the pool of interviewers and moderators are Asad Syrkett, editor-in-chief at Elle Decor, fashion designer Chelsea Bravo, and industrial designer Bradley Bowers.
“My mission with this community is to create it, bridging the gaps between us as well as curate a safe relatable space to educate us and keep us inspired,” Glenn tells CR. “Second, we are on a mission to promote Black business and entrepreneurship by raising awareness within our design concentrations: encouraging inclusion and support externally in the design community, and challenging/supporting us internally, as a collective through programming. Black designers make up 3% of the design population; makers, an even smaller fraction – this is a necessary space that I’m dedicated to serving.”
Glenn’s efforts are underpinned by a desire to build connections between disciplines and among designers, based on her own observations of the design world. “While growing through design, lack of representation went from a general concern to a gnawing truth I could not ignore. After failing to find spaces I can relate to I decided to create my own – however, interior and architecture as a focus sounded way too limiting,” she says. “If I don’t know the Black interior designer at another firm, who’s to say the Black footwear designer at Nike knows the Black footwear designer at Adidas? Or the one who decided to go off on their own?”
Taking place on February 18, the virtual event draws on the structure of physical events by taking a campus-inspired approach to conversations. Disciplines are brought together into camps: Built (covering architecture, exhibition design, interior design and more), Wear (including apparel and footwear design), and Tactile (such as textile and packaging design). Yet the discussions will also aim to knit together disciplines often considered unrelated or too distinctive from one another and “create authentic conversations around the intersection points to help truly promote more intelligent spaces, products, and experiences,” according to Yemaneberhan.
For Glenn, Visibility X Dsgn serves the community’s needs in a number of ways. “It is essential that there are not just events but spaces in support of Black designers and our creativity for a few reasons, one of which is access – we don’t have much. The design industry was not created for easy access, let alone ‘minority’ access,” she says. “Like many fellow makers, I’ve found the industry to be very limiting to our processes and imagination. From things feeling too ‘ethnic’ to just straight up disregard of our input. This event is curated to be for us, by us. Giving ourselves the platform to have an uninterrupted dialogue to be transparent and heal is so important. Especially in such a demanding field – design, though fulfilling, can be very draining.”
“What spaces give us the platform to voice our challenges, needs, experiences, or concerns? Are we truly making strides to combat [a lack of] Black visibility within the design umbrella?” Yemaneberhan adds. “Black designers are not appreciated and recognised for their creative contributions in the current status quo and seeking validation in the wrong spaces. Now more than ever, the spaces we inhabit and items we use need to be filled with each other.”