AIGA’s design community is taking measures to embrace diversity and respect with empowering design.

The 2016 AIGA Conference in Las Vegas was an empowering one with a strong emphasis on the topic of diversity and inclusion. This three-day design conference was filled with insights from numerous design professionals, inspiring design work and speakers with a range of powerful topics. Many topics heavily embraced the idea of social change and the power of a community to reach out to the world. The design community as a whole is creating steps towards a more equal work environment and produce respectful design work that involves diverse perspectives, in turn elevating the community to greater, impactful design.

AIGA Conference Speakers Present Why We Need Respectful Design

Session: “Culture and Criticism Symposium”

Speakers: Sadie Red Wing: Tribal visual sovereignty advocate

Neebinnaukzhik Southall: Graphic designer, photographer, bodypainter, artist, and writer

Dori Tunstall: Design anthropologist, researcher, academic leader, writer, and educator

In this session hosted by Sadie Red Wing, Neebinnaukzhik Southall and Dori Tunstall, the topic of collectively creating “respectful design” set the stage for new AIGA initiatives to promote diversity and respect. Bringing awareness to the existence of design work that is indigenous to specific cultures was one of the first steps in recognizing that certain designs have a greater meaning than being visually appealing. This session emphasized why designers should be cautious about indigenous, cultural designs and the people who are affected by it.

Throughout history, design work has impacted society. Many times it interprets common culture that can be associated with the “norm.” Although, in reality it shapes the way people view certain cultures and skews certain perceptions.

“In regards to promoting respectful design, Southhall stated, “we desperately need more comprehensive curriculums for design students.”

A message that can be drawn from these three speakers is that to change the world, there is a need to generate awareness to those designing it. There is a collective experience for those designing and the audience who they are designing for—they feel a platform needs to be created to include all perspectives.

Gathering together as a group will create a bigger voice. Design is also a part of history and it has the ability to affect things socially. As a design community, we can strive to create belonging, safety and awareness throughout our designs.

View the video collage addressing respectful design featured in this AIGA symposium by Dori Tunstall.

AIGA Takes Initiative in Promoting Equality and Respect

In an effort to lead by example and spur change, AIGA announced several initiatives during the conference that they have started to promote equality and respect in the larger design community. The launch of the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, the Gender Equality Tool-Kit and the Design Census helps position AIGA as a reputable source for the community to turn to in pursuit of respectful and diverse design.

Taking Force

AIGA has built an action-oriented committee that encourages diversity in design education, discourse, and practice through the “Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce.” This taskforce is led by two chairs: Jacinda Walker (Cleveland designer, entrepreneur and instructor) and Antionette Carroll (founder and executive director of Creative Reaction Lab). It also seats many members throughout the nation’s AIGA chapters as chairs, emphasizing unity and bringing about a collective vision to bring awareness to issues and take steps in creating a design industry where equality and respect for all (professionals and the audience alike) is embraced.

Tool to Battle Gender Inequality

AIGA as a whole is helping shape the industry to be more diverse and inclusive of everyone. One aspect that AIGA is tackling this year is fighting implicit gender biases, including the impact of gender in leadership roles as well as the discrepancy in fair and equal salaries. With these inequalities in mind, the association teamed up with designer and sociologist Leyla Acaroglu to create the “Gender Equality Tool-Kit,” an activity set (and guide) that is a tool to battle gender inequality. This tool-kit includes videos and a downloadable DIY activity set to use in the workplace. It is meant to strengthen empathy and equality to help re-program implicit biases.

AIGA Partners with Google

Jonathan Lee, design lead and founding member of Google UXA, announced at the conference that AIGA is partnering up with Google to publish raw industry data for everyone to use for free. The “Design Census” will be an open and collaborative resource for understanding the complex economic, social, and cultural factors shaping the design practice today. This will allow everyone in the industry to use this data to take charge and build a design environment that is empowered by equality. The survey ]opened on December 1st.

Take Charge

Being aware and informed about others, especially their culture, can help shape both the work and work environments found in the design industry. Working together as a community can vastly mold the design community and will affect the world we live in to be a better one.

The empowering experiences I found at the 2016 AIGA conference has made me proud of the design community and their efforts to create change. Passionate individuals throughout the industry are taking leaps and measures to ensure that diversity is embraced and that everyone is included. We live in a diverse world, and as designers and people within the industry, we have the power to break down barriers and shape the world to embrace everyone living in it.

Written by Kristine Garcia

AIGA has many resources and tools to help keep you informed and involved: