A call to action for design agency leaders
By Lee Dale
In light of the terrible injustices we’ve recently witnessed—the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor in the US and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Canada; the increasing militancy of the United States, who continue to attack their own citizens; and our already crystal clear understanding of the systemic oppression of the Black community and other marginalized groups—we have spent the past week deeply considering our responsibility as designers.
I believe that being intentional about designing products and services in an inclusive way can lead to outcomes that radically transform communities and lives for the better.
I know that these methodologies can be applied to more systemic change, but I also know and recognize the strengths and limitations of design agencies who work across a broad spectrum of specialties that include graphic design, user research, service design, architecture, media, software, and more.
As a design agency leader, I have a responsibility to our team and to the people who engage with our work. We cannot be a party to oppression. We cannot make excuses for our own failings. We cannot hide behind our clients should they not take their responsibilities seriously.
I need to take the lead from the design leaders who have been doing this important work—especially those leaders from underrepresented groups. I need to be open to criticism and acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers.
And as I make this pledge today, I call on all other design agency leaders to also be responsible to your team and those people who engage with your work in the following ways.
Be selective about the clients we work with and the projects we work on.
Demand representation on our project teams, with our clients, and with our suppliers.
Be intentional about co-creating with diverse and underrepresented communities.
Use our platforms to spotlight exceptional but underrepresented people, organizations, products, and services.
Invest time and money in providing underrepresented youth with access to industry training, mentorship, and events.
Above all, listen to community leaders and individuals from underrepresented groups to better understand needs, objectives, and outcomes that can lead to equity.
Every day, we have to strive to deliver products and services that better serve diverse and underrepresented people, and reshape the products, services, and culture of our clients so that they may do the same.
That is our responsibility as design agency leaders.
It is a responsibility I take on with great sincerity and humility, beginning with:
- Asking deeper questions of our clients and prospective clients to evaluate whether we’re enabling poor outcomes by working with them.
- Focusing our marketing communications on inclusive design to better attract clients and partners who also believe that intention, access, and representation is a responsibility.
- Increasing our advocacy of underrepresented professionals with event organizers, publications, and through referrals.
- Making more space for underrepresented talent through our paid internships, mentorship, and youth-focused events.
- Assessing our talent engagement, outreach, and hiring practices to build stronger relationships with diverse talent.
- Evaluating our internal cultural behaviour and workplace practices to ensure we foster a place of belonging for our staff.
I hope you’ll join me in this commitment.
Lee Dale, CEO
Originally published at https://sayyeah.com on June 4, 2020.