Today in Detroit, more than 200 local high school students will attend what you might call a career fair like none other. It’s a world-class design event called “Designed By,” featuring 30 roundtables led by Black designers on the topics of architecture, fashion design, industrial design, and others. The goal? To give young Black students a peek into the world of design, and maybe interest them in pursuing the field as a career choice.
Because, despite the countless diversity initiatives happening inside corporations, only 5% of designers are Black. And the only way to move those numbers significantly is to consider them generationally.
At least, that’s the perspective of Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative, the organization behind “Designed By.” First launched and still funded by MillerKnoll (formerly Herman Miller) in 2021—you can read the full details here—a consortium of companies ranging from Gap to Adobe committed funds, personnel, and professional development programming to incubate the next generation of Black design talent. Since our first story ran, DID has been busy. It’s now amassed nearly 50 partner companies, including 3M, Airbnb, and Johnson & Johnson. And it’s also landed its first official director, Todd Palmer.
“Putting Black and BIPOC creativity at the center of culture has been the [core] of a lot of what I do,” says Palmer. “DID was an opportunity to move from creating awareness of perspectives of Black communities . . . to take a look at design itself: How can we open this up to create more positions like I’ve had the privilege to occupy?”
Palmer is an architect by training, but he’s spent his career working, directly and indirectly, in design education focused on equity. Early in his career, Palmer was one of only two Blacks on staff while producing some of the inaugural exhibits for Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
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SOURCE: Fast Company, Mark Wilson