Even before the 2010 U.S. Census is concluded, sufficient evidence exists that the ethnic and racial makeup of the United States is changing. In contrast, recent surveys of the design profession show that it is still overwhelmingly homogenous in its racial composition. A task force put together by AIGA, the professional association for design, aims to change that by telling the story of diverse designers through "Design Journeys," an educational and inspirational program consisting of a virtual gallery including biographies, a hands-on traveling exhibition and a special collection in the AIGA Design Archives online.
"If we don't actively seek to reflect the changing racial and ethnic composition of our society, the design profession may well find itself marginalized," said AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefe. "If the profession as a whole cannot communicate to the diversity of cultures that comprise the national and global populations from its own experiences and backgrounds, how can it be considered an effective and critical agent in the economy?"
The AIGA Task Force on Professional Diversity developed a list of recommendations for increasing diversity within the profession. Among the stated goals were to create awareness of outstanding designers from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds by creating traveling shows of their work.
The Design Journeys project seeks to both celebrate the lives and achievements of 25 selected practitioners and encourage aspiring designers from all backgrounds to consider design as a viable and rewarding career.
Online, the "Design Journeys" project takes the form of a digital archive about the professional lives, contributions and portfolios of historically underrepresented designers. In person, a traveling exhibition entitled "Design Journeys: You Are Here" will kick off at the AIGA National Design Center on May 20. Designed by TODA, the exhibition emphasizes visitor participation and invites young people to consider their place in design.
"'You Are Here' relates to the journey of the exhibition attendee, both physically and metaphorically," said Marcos Chavez, principal at TODA. "Visitors will first get to know successful individuals who have brought diversity to the profession. Then they'll enter a truly participatory experience, where people ask themselves questions about their own cultures. Everyone, regardless of race, gender and age, will have the opportunity to realize their own diversity and participate in a public dialogue about their viewpoints on the subject."
Visitors outside New York City - indeed, all over the world - will be encouraged to participate online by uploading their photos and telling their own stories about their perspectives, unique characteristics and design.
"Design Journeys: You Are Here" will be on display at the AIGA National Design Center from May 20 through July 23, 2010. The gallery is free and open to the public during exhibition hours.