Diversity in Design: Building Connections Through Inclusion

Hiring designers from an array of backgrounds keeps your content fresh and relevant to new audiences. Learn more on how diversity benefits creative design.

When working with designers, once you’ve found a freelancer or agency you’re comfortable with, it’s easy to dig in with them and no matter what the brief, return to them for all your creative needs. On the surface, it makes perfect sense—why would you go through the long process of building entirely new relationships, if the one you’ve already built is working so well?

The thing is, this method of working isn’t as proficient as you would perhaps think.

Today we explore an alternative way of working with designers that champions diversity and inclusion. What’s more, ultimately this process leads to a better outcome for your business.

Image via Nadia Snopek.

The Current State of Things

When you think of a designer, what image do you conjure up in your mind? A young white guy, in a coffeeshop with his laptop, ordering flat whites adorned with expensive coffee art, perhaps? It may sound incredibly clichéd, but stereotypes do exist for a reason.

The cold, hard truth of the matter is that 86% of professional designers in America are white, and 75% of those are male. Therefore, this mind-caricature we’ve created is likely to be close to the mark.

And that leads to a vital problem for business.

When it comes to picking a designer to work with, the pool of potential talent is vast in terms of actual numbers of designers. But, if a significant percentage of them hail from the same demographic, then chances are their viewpoints, perspectives, and attitudes to your project may not be vastly different from one individual to the next. After all, their experiences and way of life are quite similar.

Given that working with a designer is all about being able to generate a new way of thinking about something, usually in an effort to give you the edge over your competition, you can quickly see why a lack of diversity leads to a lack of innovation. The last thing you want is to look and feel like everybody else.

But it’s not all bad news. Despite that rather steep statistics, not every designer is a white male. In fact, in the last five years alone, there have been more entrants to the industry from non-white males than ever before, particularly from women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and members of the LGBTQ+ community.


Diversity Breeds Diversity

Image by Cienpies Design.

Improving Your Offering

Working with a diverse range of designers improves your business overall. By giving an opportunity to a designer from an entirely different background to your own, you open the door to a whole world that you may never have experienced before. This cross-pollination of experiences effectively doubles the number of ideas that you can generate between you. It’s a win-win, as both you and the designer have the chance to delve into new and exciting territory. As our horizons broaden and we develop a better understanding of the vast array of ways to live as humans, we can start to appreciate that other cultures and traditions are hugely valuable, and intrinsically important, to design and to business.

Doubling the number of ideas leads to a much bigger pool of possibilities for your next project. This increase in innovation has a direct impact on the way that you work, the way you market yourself, and ultimately the number of sales you make. At worst, you considered some entirely new ideas; at best, you could end up opening up an entirely new market.

Improving Your Opportunities

And that leads to the next point. Sometimes as business owners we fall into the trap of thinking that every customer is the same as the next. Doing this, however, invites issues for your business. This mindset prevents you from speaking directly to each customer on a personal level. In reality, every one of the people you hope to reach have entirely different experiences and entirely different values.

Image via Nadia Snopek.

If you’ve been concentrating on a similar target market for some time and traction is either not as high as you’d like or potentially falling away, then the simple act of employing a designer from a different community or background can have a profound effect on your business. Changing gears allows you to reach whole new communities, as the designer can think specifically about their experiences and incorporate those into the project in an authentic and organic way. They may have a better understanding of cultural cues, colloquialism, or design aesthetics that appeal most to those communities.

Improving Your Network

As a small business owner, your network is incredibly important. Without it, your pipeline dries up. Working with a designer from a different background than your own opens the door to developing contacts that you may otherwise have overlooked or never known existed. This could have a massive impact on your business as entirely new communities become aware of you and a whole new frontier of potential business opportunities open for you to explore.

Improving Your Leadership Skills

Finally, on a more human level, collaborating with diversity in mind allows you to grow as a person. Challenging yourself to take on the views and attitudes of others will improve your ability to interact with a broader range of people, which is a positive feedback loop when it comes to networking, sales, and leading a team. It will allow you to be much more critical about your thinking, your biases, and help you bring new voices into the conversation.


More Than a Checkbox

Image by Cienpies Design.

Design is a beautiful thing. With the right designer, it has the ability to generate something from nothing by developing a tiny idea into a winning campaign. That in itself can often be enough for some business owners. I would argue, however, that collaborating with the same designer over and over doesn’t do you or the designer any good. The constant requirement to iterate, to come up with even bigger and better ideas is a tough ask, especially when the same two people are involved each time.

The next time you have a project in mind, before reaching for speed dial, consider bringing in fresh talent, particularly from a background different to your own. That single step can have a dramatic effect on your creative process, which in turn could have a significant impact on you and your business. And if it works, then developing relationships with a larger pool of diverse designers is the next logical step.

Diversity is more than a checkbox. In a diverse world, diversity is a requirement.


Cover image by Nadia Snopek.

Learn more about why representation matters and how you can make your designs more inclusive: