We believe that design needs to reflect the diversity of the world it shapes. Our national, published research shows that many people working in the design economy do not sufficiently represent the people they are designing for.  This means that – at best – the design of particular places, policies, processes and products often overlook many people’s needs and aspirations, and – at worst – reflect and reinforce the privilege of those who design them, excluding others from shaping their worlds in the same way.

This must change. And it must change now. As a leading voice in design, Design Council will play a central role in making that happen. As we carry out our mission to make life better by design, we will always focus on making life better for all.

When looking at ethnicity, for example, the design economy employs a slightly higher proportion of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups than are employed in the wider UK economy (13% compared with 11%). However, BAME designers are least likely to be in senior roles, accounting for only 12% of all design managers. Further analysis shows that 88% of design managers are White, 7% come from an Asian background, 2% are Black/African/Caribbean/Black British, and 3% come from other ethnic groups.

Over the last year, we have spent much time as an organisation reflecting on our efforts to promote equality, diversity and inclusion within design, to make lives better for all. Shocked by the traumatic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US, and the increasingly visible unequal impact of Covid-19 on Black communities, we – like many organisations – formed a group of colleagues to consider our response. 

  • We have co-written a series of statements – clear commitments on how we can address societal inequalities as individuals, as an organisation, as a platform for the design industry and in our programmes. Ameena McConnell, curator and founder of 8PUS Drum, has worked with us to ensure these statements are human and transformative. We are working hard to put these into practice, for example not speaking on all-white panels, and making sure that we include a proper diversity of thought in our programmes.  

  • We have continued to diversify our Design Council Expert Network, and have announced a refreshed cohort of experts specialising in the built and natural environment. 

  • We have hosted a series of three events where Black designers showcased their work and led conversations around design for inclusion and equity, across graphic, UX, product, social and urban design. 

  • We have launched a programme on employee health and wellbeing with Impact for Urban Health and an initiative to address inequalities in physical activity for Sport England, using co-design to improve outcomes for specific groups including Black communities; we’ve started training on inclusive environments with Network Rail. Meanwhile our ‘Design, differently programme with The National Lottery Community Fund and Local Trust is working with ‘hidden’ designers in communities, amplifying their work and democratising design. 

  • Our flagship research programme, Design Economy 2021, has diversity at its heart, and this has been reiterated by all stakeholders in our engagement webinars. 

As well as these clear actions, we are encouraging every day positive behaviours at an individual level. In our organisational culture we will continue keep diversity as a critical lens for how we are with each other, our clients and partners. 

Tackling inequalities not only means getting rid of the unfairness of disadvantage, it also allows more people to contribute their rich talents and strengths, joy and laughter to society. This makes it better for everyone.   

We are publishing an updated set of our statements below, and we have used them to strengthen our overall statement on equality, diversity and inclusion, together with a set of actions we’re taking, and a list of useful resources for design justice. These can be found here.  

Refreshed commitments to Black Lives Matter 

Starting with ourselves and our organisation, we will: 

  • Reflect on why Black Lives Matter matters to us, both personally and as an organisation that represents a practice that has the power to shape the world, its values and how we behave together within it. This involves creating safe spaces* for everyone to reflect on their own advantage and experience, and support each other to be more inclusive in every everyday action. 
  • Expand and strengthen the external statement about equality, diversity and inclusion that we use, for example in job adverts and partnership agreements. 
  • Review the 2019 training we held for all colleagues on equality, diversity and inclusion, checking we have put into practice everything we have learnt. CContinuing that learning, we will bring in a range of additional external experts to guide us in our journey, and expand this to our expert network. 
  • Understand how our current recruitment efforts are currently perceived externally by different groups. We will work as a team to make sure that our transparent and fair processes on equality, diversity and inclusion really do work to welcome people from all backgrounds to all levels of seniority. This includes actively addressing the impact of unconscious bias. 
  • Ensure we have up-to-date, robust baseline data on our colleagues, trustees and expert network as our starting point and set ourselves the aspiration of reflecting the national census figures on ethnicity. 

Amplifying Black designers within the design profession, we will: 

  • Diversify our networks, and dedicate the time and space to connect, listen and build trust.  
  • Use our platform to promote Black designers including declining to speak on non-diverse platforms and suggesting alternative Black speakers. 

Using design to tackle racial injustice in society, we will: 

  • Meaningfully engage and understand how different Black groups experience issues around health and wellbeing, sustainable living and access to design skills (our strategic themes). As we develop our programmes, we will use this understanding and co-design them  with the diverse range of people we are supporting to thrive. 
  • Share and discuss our equality, diversity and inclusion aspirations with our partners (whether funders, stakeholders or clients) before we start work together and ensure Black Lives Matter and other equality, diversity and inclusion goals are addressed consistently and regularly in our interactions**. 
  • Forge trusted partnerships with Black-led organisations, as part of our wider work to co-design programmes that tackle systemic inequalities. 

* Safe spaces are meetings/events/sessions/workshops etc where there are ground rules, facilitation and guidance for people to reflect and question their own assumptions, circles of influence and bias and meet some challenge in a constructive manner. It is the role of senior leaders to create these (themselves or by bringing in external facilitation).  

** Part of project mobilisation should include sharing our Black Lives Matter and our  equality diversity and inclusion statements and including an agenda item about these values and aspirations, developing a common goal and think through what this means in practice.  

Join the discussion

Join the discussion and find out more about what's going on in the world of design. 

Find out more

Read More

Video: Elsie Owusu – Founding Chair of the Society of Black Architects Elsie is a specialist conservation architect, interior and urban designer, and founder of her own architects practice. Elsie believes that the diversity of the people living in London should be reflected in the architecture industry. For change to occur, the image of the architect has to change,... Elsie is a specialist conservation architect, interior and urban designer, and founder of her own architects practice.

Feature — 23/07/2018

Jo Arscott: Britain's first black female Creative Director In the first article in our Leading Women in Design series, Jo Arscott talks diversity in design and tells us what design means to her. In the first article in our Leading Women in Design series, Jo Arscott talks diversity in design and tells us what design means to her.

Feature — 31/01/2018

Video: Morag Myerscough – The bright and bold Royal Designer for Industry Morag’s work straddles a space that includes designers, artists and architects. Her work is characterised by colourful boldness with a strong graphic design signature, often using big type or lettering and geometric elements. In this video, we find out about Morag’s work, which straddles a space that includes designers, artists and architects.

Feature — 30/10/2018