after the jump: tina shoulders interview (mp3)

I’m incredibly happy to post an interview that will be the first in a series of many conversations I hope to have about the importance of diversity in the design industry. Diversity, or rather the lack of it, in design is sadly not a new topic, but it’s something that is rarely discussed in design media, blogs, television or the popular conferences and panels of our niche. Quite frankly, I have been embarrassed about my own lack of commitment to the issue, so I decided that if I was going to stop being part of the problem, I needed to try being part of the solution. I don’t know all the answers for solving such a widespread problem (and I don’t think the solution lies with just one person or one area of the industry), but I do know that the biggest problems seem most manageable when you just start talking about them.

A few months ago, I met with Tina Shoulders, whose work and contributions to the design industry, I’ve admired for a while now, but what really caught my eye was an e-book (inspired by a preceding web series) she created called 28 Days of Diversity. In her e-book (which you can — and should — read for free right here), she profiled 28 fantastic designers of color and highlighted the incredible works they are making. The idea was simple, but the impact for me was profound. It was a humbling (but much-needed) moment to realize that not only did I not know these designers, but I also didn’t know how to find them. Rather than remaining in the dark, I decided to meet with Tina to talk about that project and what I could do to improve my own research techniques and be a better supporter of designers of color.

Following up on that initial conversation, Tina and I had a really thought-provoking and enjoyable half-hour discussion on Monday’s radio show, where she shared some valuable insights about the problem, possible solutions and ways that both artists and bloggers can help increase visibility, awareness, inclusiveness and support systems for designers of color. I see this as part of a broader discussion that includes all non- “mainstream” creatives, whether that has to do with someone’s age, sexuality, gender, geographic location or race. It’s not something people talk about much, but I plan to start doing more of it. They say change starts at home, and today I’m making some changes around my online home. I’m working on some big ideas with Tina and hope to implement them this fall, so please stay tuned for updates. Also, please feel free to join the discussion in the comment section below. I will be continuing this series every month on After the Jump and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Thank you again to Tina for sharing her time and thoughts with me. I really hope this is just the beginning of a broader discussion that will include all bloggers and designers. Finding ways we can work together (and as individuals) to better reflect the broad spectrum of creative people in our industry is absolutely crucial, and while I wish I had started this process earlier, I’m glad we’re off and running with a conversation. Thanks for listening. — Grace

WAYS TO LISTEN

  • Stream or download the full interview in MP3 form right here (FREE)
  • Download the podcast on iTunes right here (FREE)
Elizabeth

Really happy to see this post. Just glanced through the e-book, and it’s awesome. Look forward to delving into it further and listening to the interview as well. Will also look forward to hearing about the ideas you are developing with Tina!

Patti clauss

i love this. i am going to reach out toTina and meet her as well. Thank you for reminding all of us to be a part of the solution.

Rachael

I’m a designer of color too, and its great to see another advocate out there! Thanks Tina for all the hard work and thanks Grace for the post. I’m going to check out the eBook right now and I look forward to seeing what you guys have in store.

Teresa

Can’t wait to get home and download this podcast! I look forward to finding out more about Ms. Shoulders and the designers she is highlighting. I agree that there is a shocking lack of diversity, especially in print, and it has always been a goal of mine to create a design magazine in the future which features a balance of professional design ideas.

Rhonda E. Peterson

Thank you for such an insightful interview! With social media being what it is today, I hope to see more diversity not only in design but all arenas across the board! Bravo to Ms. Shoulders for writing such a wonderful e-book and to you as well for continuing the conversation!

Leslie

I look forward to the day when people won’t need to be described as being color or non-color, but simply human beings. Thanks for highlighting a wonderful woman!

april

grace, i really appreciate the candor and commitment you displayed in this post. please do continue to push this conversation and shine the spotlight on diverse designers! it will make me love d*s even more than i already do (which i thought was impossible).

Erin

Thank you so much for this post! I am one of those “little blonde girls from the left coast” but completely agree that our conversations/experiences/lives are only enriched by diversity…color, and non-color aside. I appreciate that you, as a blogger that reaches out to hundreds of thousands of readers per day, are bringing attention to this issue and attempting to lessen the gap!

Sasha

I must admit that I am often distracted by the beautiful photos on Design Sponge and end up skimming the articles instead of reading them. That said, I read this one word by word and I think that the topic of diversity is incredibly important and that it is wonderful that Design Sponge is addressing it.

And you are right that this is about more than design; it is about the creative industry as a whole. As someone who works in galleries and museums it is obvious that diversity is lacking in the art world as well (not that one needs to have any kind of professional connection to it to know that) and I agree that starting the conversation is the first step.

I greatly look forward to this series. Thanks for starting the conversation!

Maria C.

Thanks for the interview! I its nice to finally see some diversity on this site. I love you guys but you have been seriously lacking in the diversity department. Minorities can have great spaces too!

Sarah

Thank you for being so open and humble in your reflections, Grace. I think it’s terrific that you’re taking this on!

Brandie

This is such a fantastic post and I’m so glad this is an area you will be exploring since the lack of diversity is extremely noticeable at least in the design blog (publishing) land. Hopefully you can also highlight some hispanic, asian-american and other ethnic groups who are also producing interesting design work that aren’t as well know.

Thanks!

Danielle

Oh thank you for introducing us to other phenomenal, creative designers. I was already familiar with Kim Myles for her “Myles of Style and love Afrochic. I most recently had a similair conversation with a friend who’s prominent in the photo industry {O magazine, Footlocker ads etc} because I was having a hard time finding lifestyle images of African Americans or hispanics on pinterest, tumblr etc, to use being fairly new to the blogging community. I could hear is snicker through the fb message because he basically said “good luck with that” I try not to get into politics of color, I’m black, African -American, a person of the sun {whatever} and realize that creativity is color-blind. I just wish it were better represented in the “popular” blogging community, design community etc. I look forward to seeing what you two have in store and thanks for opening up the discussion. I will reshare this post and that amazing E-book! ThANKS!

barb

thank you, thank you – we all are so more creative when he share and learn from each other

Tina

Thank you all for the kind comments and Grace for being bold enough to bridge the conversation which can be quite sensitive. It really was an amazing chat and the first of many things to come

kelly jo

I am so pleased about this post, about Tina and Grace’s frank discussion, and about the work I hope you both will continue to highlight. I think it’s also important not only to discuss who is doing the design but where they might be from – lots of design is blowing up in east and west Africa, along with southern Africa of course. The same for South America and the like. We are not a world of blind people, there’s all kinds of folks out there doing amazing things. Grace, props to you for admitting that even though some statements might be embarrassing or of the mark, it’s only getting through the conversation that will help all of us elevate to discover more. I am a white girl from California. I have also lived in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria for most of my adult life. Just those two facts alone help me see design, c0l0r, and ingenuity in an entirely different way than most of the design blogs I have read (so far). I know I am not alone. Thanks for opening the dialogue.

J.J.B.

I applaud you tremendously for tackling this issue which has been overlooked for a while. As an African-American woman who just recently became interested in interior design, I had been noticing the lack of diversity on many popular interior design/decor blogs and sites that I enjoy. While design should be color-blind, it is refreshing to see people of color featured and acknowledged for their work in the industry. I know there are more designers/bloggers in the field, but sadly I can only name two that I am familiar with (Nicole of So Haute and Jeanine of Aphrochic). So, thanks again for getting the discourse going and I look forward to checking out the ebook and getting familiar with Tina and the featured designers :)

Alex

I was very interested to hear about Tina and her work to promote diversity in design. I was however troubled when looking at her book titled 28 Days of Diversity that the subjects featured were just as monochromatic as ever, but instead of all caucasians, these individuals were all African American. Where is the diversity? Shouldn’t a book about diversity be truly diverse. Show me members of the LGBT community, Native American designers, even some Asian and Indian designers. I feel that this may be a step in the right direction, but it is still far from diverse.

Nik

Thank you, Design Sponge for being brave enough to touch on the topic of diversity as related to interior design and creative fields. I’m a person of color and often wondered why there are rarely any profiles or articles about our contribution to these industries. I too am very familiar with Kim Myles and Aphrochic, but I know there are others and thanks to Tina’s book I’ll have a chance to learn more about them.

Grace Bonney

Thank you to everyone for listening and commenting here. I’m really looking forward to continuing the discussion.

Alex- Tina’s e-book was related to a web series she did in February for African American History Month, so that’s probably why it was focused on African American designers.

I mentioned in the post above that I want this to be about more than just race, but many other factors. I didn’t mean to imply we’d only be attempting to discuss and promote one group over the other.

Grace

Curious

Why do we need to specially promote “designers of color”? I’m sure there are many terrific ones, but can’t their work speak for itself? Why does a person’s ethnicity need to be brought into the equation?

Grace Bonney

“curious”

i can only speak for myself here, but if feel strongly that representing and celebrating all of the facets of the creative community is important. because of the realities of the way our society (including the press) are structured, there can be greater challenges for designers outside of the mainstream to be fairly represented. no one is suggesting showcasing any designer purely because of their race, gender, etc. this is about showcasing talented designers who also represent a facet of the community that doesn’t get enough attention. i have spoken with many designers of color, designers in the LGBT community and designers who are older than the typical crowd celebrated online and they all feel like it’s tough to break in when you’re not a part of the “mainstream” crowd.

also, someone’s age, race and orientation often plays a big role in what inspires and influences their work, so i think it makes perfect sense to bring that into the equation.

grace

Maria Etkind

Hi my name is Maria Etkind and I am Latina. I was born in Panama. I have been loving at your site for years. I think it is important to know about peoples background and what makes us who we are. I am Latina but I don’t think about being Latina everyday of my life. What makes me different is my perspective in the world of design, my experiences and my challenges and how I apply it to my work. I think we have to talk about diversity in people and how it influences their work. I have a blog about being Latina in New Orleans. http://www.nolatina.com and we talk about how we feel being bilingual and what we love. I would love to help with any initiative!

Edoris

Great article and everyone’s comments are so insightful and good fodder. It’s good to get people talking about what’s important to acknowledge and take into account. I think everyone one had something good and important to say! Great work Grace I’m a huge fan for the work that you’re doing!
Edo

Lulu Kitololo

I’ve been enjoying Design*Sponge for years and I am so happy to hear that you’re making a conscious move towards reflecting more diversity on the blog. I am from Kenya, born & raised. I went to art school in New York and lived there for 5 years. I’ve now been in the UK for 7 years – studying, working and running a creative business.

This post hits so close to home because it’s a subject that I dedicate most of my life to – not only bringing to the world creative talents that the mainstream often ignores but, and perhaps more importantly for me – encouraging Africans (on the continent and the Diaspora) to pursue their passions when it comes to thinking about careers. There are a lot of factors that come into why this doesn’t happen as much as in other parts of the world/other cultures and that’s something that’s quite interesting to explore. After attending a design conference where the lack of diversity really hit home for me, I was inspired to write a post I called “5 Reasons Why Design Matters: An Argument for African Parents, Businesses and Other Skeptics” (http://www.afri-love.com/2011/03/5-reasons-why-design-matters-an-argument-for-african-parents-businesses-other-skeptics.html).

I’m really looking forward to what you’re planning and hope that it will get more people to think about why we don’t think about this more. And also expose more people to more great creative work.

Kara

Thanks Bonnie for such a great podcast. I’m a graphic designer in Sydney, Australia and I completely agree about the lack of diversity in the creative industries.

Most blogs I read are very much based on the same theme, the same people, the same trends and the same places. All the magazines use the same stylists, photographers, writers etc. Even the half-yearly craft markets are the same people with the same things over and over. It would be a very rare thing to see anyone of non-white heritage included in any of this. If there is any reference to Indigenous design for example, it’s usually more about the store who is selling it (owned of course by a trendy white person).

I think you’re on to something in your interview with Tina Shoulders. And Tina herself makes a good point in that it’s not about discrimination but who your peers are. It’s also more about where you’ve grown up and the access to the creative industries or probably who’s making the most noise about what they are doing.

You’ve really got me thinking now – thank you!

LEAVE A COMMENT