What will it take to fix the diversity problem?

Programmes raising awareness of the creative industries’ lack of diversity are a dime a dozen, but are they just shouting into the void, or is there potential for them to effect real change?

As diversity has become a buzzword in creative industry companies, a wealth of resources have popped up in response. From manifestos that demand change, to initiatives that raise awareness of under-represented groups, there’s an ongoing effort to draw attention to the creative world’s failings – as well as the potential that can be unlocked by working with a broader range of people.

One of the more recent programmes is Design Can, which describes itself as “a campaign and tool to fight for the future of the design industry”. It’s been set up in response to figures that show the UK’s design industry is 78% male, with only 13% of its employees from BAME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds. Design Can includes a manifesto that calls on the industry to confront its prejudices and eliminate discrimination, as well as links to relevant reading and events, and a list of practical tips.

“The design world can be significantly improved by celebrating – and representing – the rich diversity that exists in the real world,” writes Priya Khanchandani, Editor of ICON magazine and a member of Design Can’s steering committee. “We need to see people of all backgrounds authoring design books, curating design weeks and standing at the helm of design institutions. While those who influence design remain relatively homogenous, we will have a skewed understanding of design. No chair in history has changed lives in the manner of the lightweight, foldable wheelchair, yet it is nowhere to be found in most furniture books.”


Milton Keynes