Design as a field of innovation requires care for diversity, adaptability, and broadening impact
New York, NY—Today, AIGA, the professional association for design, released the fifth installment of its 2021 AIGA Design POV Research Initiative: Creative Communities, Lifelong Learning, and Design for Positive Impact. This in-depth look at the design industry highlights issues of diversity and designers’ need for continued learning, as well as design’s key role in creating widespread positive impacts beyond profitability.
“Design is powerful. It creates new paths that enable us to take on more complex challenges that extend beyond what is on the page. Design provides needed solutions,” said AIGA Executive Director, Bennie F. Johnson. “What the AIGA Design POV research initiative has shown us is that we have yet to unpack all that design can and will do.”
Understanding designers as lifelong learners and innovators driving positive impact, this chapter examines competency gaps alongside diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Competencies often referred to as “soft skills” can include: communication, adaptability, complex problem solving, collaboration, relationship management, and presentation skills. In this report, the design community noted that these skills were more important for the future than design knowledge. This highlights a critical point—having design skills is not enough to perform in the world of work where cross-functional collaboration to address complex problems is needed more than ever. The AIGA Design POV reveals that designers, depending on where they are in their careers, are seeking to grow their ability to adapt to technology and social changes, alongside increasing business skills.
Additionally, the report shows how individual identity shapes and compounds experiences. For example, the field’s increasing need for technological adaptability means an older generation often experiences more difficulty adapting to technology changes in the field. It’s essential to note that some communities index higher in representation in the design profession as compared to the overall population (e.g., Asian/Asian Americans; women; young professionals). Also, the LGBTQIA+ community is more represented in the profession as compared to the overall population, with 15.7% of respondents self-identifying as LGBTQIA+ in the current study.
The design community also under indexes on Black/African Americans (4.9% vs. 12.6% in the labor force,), Hispanics/Latino/Spanish (9.0% vs. 18.0%) and Veterans/Active Military/Military spouses (1.5% vs. 5.6% of Veterans). It’s important to underscore that while women make up 61.3 % of the profession overall, they are underrepresented at the leadership level; women make up only 25% of senior executives compared to 81% at the entry level. Addressing these disparities is imperative.
Offering the AIGA Better Workplaces for DesignersTM model as guidance, these findings further bolster previous installments’ conclusions that a workplace of respect and care for social justice is essential to attracting and cultivating designers. In fact, 88% of employed respondents revealed they would not work for a company whose values did not match their own. As with other installments, this chapter features interactive visioning worksheets for designers to understand how they could advance community diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and their individual long-term learning, and broader positive impacts.
AIGA’s Executive Director Bennie F. Johnson will host a Fireside Chat with PepsiCo’s SVP and Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, on Thursday, September 16 from 11:15 a.m.—11:45 a.m. ET talking about the AIGA Design POV research initiatives and the future of design. The chat will also be live streamed on AIGA’s LinkedIn and Facebook channels.
The AIGA Design POV was made possible thanks to the support of PepsiCo.
Additional information about the report can be found here. To request a copy of the report, which is available free to members of the media, please email us.