Skip to content

Black Lives Matter: personal statement from Sarah Weir OBE, Design Council’s Chief Executive

Black Lives Matter: personal statement from Sarah Weir OBE, Design Council’s Chief Executive

9 October 2020

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.

This document focuses specifically on combatting racial inequality through the policies, practice and culture of Design Council and shows our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter: personal statement from Sarah Weir OBE, Design Council’s Chief Executive

As Chief Executive of Design Council, I acknowledge my position as a white woman who does not suffer racism and the privilege I therefore have. I understand and own the responsibility I have to others which comes with that privilege. I will continue, as I have done throughout my entire career, to: 

  • consciously act in ways to change the systemic racism and injustice which currently exists. 
  • give space and pay full attention to diverse voices than my own, both internally and externally.
  • listen carefully, hear what is being said and provide an environment where deep, lasting change can be made and be seen to be made.
  • push even harder to truly fulfil our mission to make life better by design for all.  

Whilst I will be standing down as Chief Executive shortly due to ill health, everything we say in this statement will continue without change.  Any work we do under the guidance of the next Chief Executive, will put tackling systemic racism and injustice at the core.  Our ultimate goal is to have a sector which represents the world in which we live and achieves the equality that we strive for.

Our ultimate goal is to have a sector which represents the world in which we live and achieves the equality that we strive for.

Black Lives Matter: our 10-point plan

Our 10-point plan outlines the actions we are taking together to address racial discrimination and injustice in society.

Starting with ourselves and our organisation, we will:

  1. create a more detailed diversity, equality and inclusion statement, for internal Design Council use, with specific examples of how to call out racism and how to ensure everyday conscious efforts to dismantle it.
  2. expand and strengthen our external statement about equality, diversity and inclusion that we use, for example in job adverts and partnership agreements.
  3. review the 2019 training we held for all staff on equality, diversity and inclusion, checking we have put into practice everything we have learnt, and continue that learning (mindful that we are a predominantly white organisation), bringing in a range of  additional external experts to guide us in our journey.
  4. ensure greater awareness of how our transparent and fair processes on equality, diversity and inclusion are built into all our recruitment policies. This includes welcoming people from all backgrounds to all levels of seniority and being acutely aware of the impact of unconscious bias.
  5. ensure we have up-to-date, robust baseline data on our staff, trustees, design associates and built environment experts as our starting point and set ourselves an aspiration of reflecting the national census figures on ethnicity.

Amplifying Black designers within the design profession, we will:

  1. spend time individually and collectively reaching out to, and diversifying, our networks.
  2. use our platform to promote Black designers including declining to speak on all-white platforms suggesting alternative Black speakers.

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

  1. identify through research how Black groups experience health & wellbeing and sustainable living, and access design skills (our strategic themes), and use this to develop our programmes and policies.
  2.  share our equality, diversity and inclusion statement with our partners (whether funders, stakeholders or clients) before we start work together and ensure Black Lives Matter and other equality, diversity and inclusion issues are addressed consistently and regularly in our interactions.
  3. create strategic partnerships with organisations to tackle systemic inequalities faced by Black communities.

It is our duty to act on these commitments, ensuring that equality, diversity and inclusion are the heart of all that we do. Always. Working in this way, we can look forward to bringing about meaningful, demonstrable and lasting change.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to keep up with the latest from the Design Council?

Sign up