Diversity & Inclusion: learning basics

About the Diversity & Inclusion learning list

Designers have always been familiar with critical thinking, but as societal forces and systemic issues change the landscape they work in, the need for critical thinking about social justice topics such as equity, inclusion, privilege, and bias has become even more necessary. The benefit of expanding social justice knowledge as designers is that the messages communicated become more inclusive. When thinking is inclusive, it enhances creativity and the ability to generate more ideas and better solutions—which in turn activates the ability to be innovative.

The learning list below is a great foundation for designers that are on the beginning of the social justice learning curve, and is the first of many tools from the AIGA Diversity & Inclusion task force to help activate a designer’s ability to think critically about equity, inclusion, privilege, and bias.

Selection process

Each reading was selected by a task force member and includes why the recommender selected the article, what it changed in their perspective, and how it can serve within the context of a designer space. Add these tools into the thinking process to influence your designs with a truly inclusive approach, and to have a strong foundation for any project.

Get started with the learning list below:

  1. “Expanding Diversity For Design”
    This must-read article offers insights of why diversity is still a major issue for the profession. However, the critical component of the article is the visual diagrams it provides to show the relationship between diversity, inclusion, engagement, and the difference between equity and equality. I recommend this reading to open our dialogue about the real need of diversity and inclusion, because as Gould states, “Without diversity, we all suffer. With it, we thrive together.”
    —Jacinda Walker

  2. The Education of a Graphic Designer by Steven Heller
    This book contains a number of essays from prominent designers such as Milton Glaser, Liz Danzico, Sagi Haviv, and others. The diversity of thought provided in this book by these luminaries is crucial to the development of any well-rounded designer. Of special note is Sylvia Harris' "Searching for a Black Design Aesthetic"—a must read for black designers of all stripes.
    —Maurice Cherry

  3. Is Everyone Really Equal by Robin J. DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy 
    This easy to read beginners book provides the context to many social justice concepts, such as privilege, oppression and racism. The authors use a non-academic language to articulate the terminology and includes examples to reinforce the meaning of these terms. Is Everyone Really Equal, will help AIGA leaders rethink systemic inequalities to increase their consciousness as designers for the 21st century.
    —Jacinda Walker

  4. “Has ‘Diversity’ Lost Its Meaning?” by Anna Holmes
    Thought-provoking op-ed about what we mean when we say Diversity. Does the word carry meaning? What does it communicate when we say it? Is it an “empty signifier”? Has it gone from communicating something idealistic to something cynical and suspect?
    —Julio Martinez

  5. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
    Freire’s signature read about the theory of oppression, the liberation of oppressed people and those who oppress them and how to move beyond it. This academic text outlines that through dialogue in education, systemic change can occur. AIGA leaders can utilize this text to develop a better understanding of socioeconomic and sociocultural issues residing in their design communities.
    —Jacinda Walker

  6. “Tomorrow’s Test, America’s Students of Color & Hispanic Majority Schools” by Sarah Carr
    This article discusses the majority-minority tread occurring across United States and offers an educational context easily relatable to diversity in design. “I believe this article serves as a wake up call to our country, colleges and all citizens. We only have more opportunities to become more versatile and resourceful in a global market. Let's acknowledge the talent of all our youth for the legacy of every neighborhood, city and state. We are a nation of immigrants full of rich culture, language, and diverse skills that will only benefit us, if we tend to all segments of our society. Our children are our future.”
    —Carlos Estrada

  7. Understanding Implicit Bias by The Kirwan Institute
    The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity s an interdisciplinary engaged research institute at The Ohio State University. The Institute's mission work is to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed. This article provides a clear understanding about implicit bias and how it influences multiple sectors of our society. Such as social engagement, policy making and law enforcement to name a few.
    —Obed Figueroa

    The nature of the work designers do requires empathy and a deep understanding of people. Designers without a clear understanding of their own implicit bias may be contributing to the cycle of explicit bias often seen in advertising and media. Designers should read this article to become conscious of their implicit bias and work to unlearn them.
    —Jacinda Walker

  8. “Why ‘Thought Diversity’ Is The Future Of The Workplace” by Anna Holmes
    This article is a couple of years old, but if focuses on the fact that diversity of thought is the thing we should be concerned with in our communities, workplaces, organizations, and teams. With a focus on people who think differently, it is inevitable that the diversity in demographics will follow.
    —Nakita Pope

Looking to delve deeper? After mastering this foundational reading list, visit AIGA Diversity & Inclusion's resources page to further broaden your knowledge of social justice issues and design.