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The Diversity of Design

So I was reading this article about Abercrombie & Fitch getting sued for racial discrimination. It wasn’t a big shocker.

But it got me thinking. How racially diverse is my own place of business? My own profession of design? The truth is — not very diverse at all.

Graphic design just happens to be a profession that’s very racially homogeneous. I guess I’ve been aware of this fact since design school, where I was only one of 6 or 7 non-caucasian students out of a department of 60 or so students.

Nowadays, when I attend design conferences, AIGA gatherings, or even ICOGRADA conferences(!), it’s rare to see African-American, Hispanic, or other minority designers. Asians seem to be the most prevalent minority, though I have no idea why.

Do you notice this racial homogeny in your design community? Where you work?

Why is graphic design so non-diverse? Does it matter what race or culture you come from as a designer? Or is graphic design an ethnic-neutral discipline?

Ok Sam, here’s a tough question — Is graphic design racially-biased?

> For this discussion, let’s stick with the diversity of design professionals in the US and Canada. If you were a designer in Mexico for example, of course the majority of professionals would be Hispanic.

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PUBLISHED ON Jul.02.2003 BY Tan
Lea’s comment is:

How about Canada? All I can say was that I was the only Asian woman in my entire graduating design class -- and there were three majors (Digital Media, Illustration and Visual Presentation). And there was only one other Asian guy that I can think of, and one Black guy.

I don't think graphic design is biased by nature, but it's kind of like the wine industry -- it's dominated by caucasian/european people based on circumstances. I.e. Good land makes for good grapes makes for good wine; Catholic Church wants to publish lots of books, make it look fancy, lots of propaganda, etc. and they had MONEY to pay print guys to do something about it. Money = faster innovation.

It's because of graphic design history. The printing press, attention to type and layout was pioneered in Europe and bolstered by technology.

And perhaps the reason why Asians seem to be the a prevelant minority is because there is also a strong graphic design history involved (invention of paper, for example). As well, technology really pushes industries, and we all know how tech happy Asians tend to be. ; ) Just a theory.

Of course, with the current trends these days and more awareness and information, more and more minority cultures are going to be in graphic design. Already, the younger crowd looks more diverse than we are.

On Jul.03.2003 at 12:56 AM
griff’s comment is:

Gosh, i have never thought it to be lacking diversity at all. If anything the opposite. But, I must say I am in Dallas, a very diverse city. I must also say as a white male, I am probably more unaware than others.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:04 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> How about Canada?

You're right Lea. My mistake in forgetting our northern neighbors, eh? I'll fix.

Griff -- I went to school and started my career in Houston. You would think the professional makeup would be mostly Hispanic there, but nope. I attended a dept reunion (10 years of design alumnis) a few years back, and yep, it was predominantly white.

I don't remember the Dallas design crowd to be all that diverse either. Peterson, Sibley Peteet, and a bunch of other firms I visited looked the same as firms in other less diverse cities. But it's been years, I'm sure things have changed.

Btw, this topic is nothing to feel guilty or weird about, but just something I thought would be interesting to discuss.

On Jul.03.2003 at 02:18 AM
Amanda’s comment is:

Hi Lea - did you attend GMCC? My class (I went there as well!) was also predominate whites (come to think of it, there was one japanese guy in first year, and then he dropped out). I was in illustration, and the other majors were all the same.

On Jul.03.2003 at 03:04 AM
brook’s comment is:

Is the design industry less representative of diversity in society than the rest of the business world?

I'm not sure if it's worse or not. Either way, it's not a good thing. Some designer afirmative action?

On Jul.03.2003 at 07:59 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Well no, I think our industry is less diverse than other industries such as business, engineering, financial, etc.

Look at your clients. How many clients do you have that are minority versus designers you know or work with?

It's disproportionate.

It's not that there's discrimination in hiring or anything. I'm not suggesting racial injustice or anything like that. Let's hold off on calling the ACLU.

It's just that maybe graphic design is not a career path that minority students choose in college. Or even earlier in high school. And is that because of a cultural/racial value difference? Is design considered a white job?

Maybe this is a symptom of creative professions in general.

I heard Lucille Tenazas speak a few years ago, and she was telling the story about how she returned to her native Phillipines after growing up in the States. She rediscovered her cultural heritage on that trip, and it changed the way she looked at design. It was inspiring.

Then I started thinking about myself -- and whether or not I bring my ethnic background and culture into my work?

The truth is, I don't. I design like all you other white guys. My design heroes are all white guys too. I might as well rename myself Bob Anderson or something like that.

Anyway....back to the topic. Is graphic design racially-biased? This is not an accusation or anything, just a question of observation.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:29 AM
Sam’s comment is:

I have noticed an imbalance here in New York as far as there being very few African-Amercian designers. And it seems like there are more Asian women than Asian men, especially in the younger groups. But I am not all that convined that racial diversity would bring about creativity diversity--that is the point behind diversity, isn't it?

As far as the profession being racially biased, I assume you don't mean because of terms like "white space" right, Tan? (It's early, I'm tired and still clinging to being on vacation). When I worked in publishing, it was very homogenous and I always thought the reason was because the salaries were so low that only well-off kids could afford to have those jobs. Not so much with design, though. Maybe it's a lack of education--kids who love graffiti and videos games are never shown any connection between that and various kinds of design.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:33 AM
armin’s comment is:

White males.

That's what first comes to mind in terms of the dominant ethnic profile in GD. Obviously I don't stand by that, women are amazing designers, Asian Americans (men and women alike) have an extraordinary knack for visuals. Hispanics... I dunno, they (hehe, we) either have a very American style or very roots style. The AIGA things I have been to, there are many Hispanics and I was very surprised — none have my charm obviously.

Here at the office there is one Mexican (me), one Venezuelan (the other designer) and two Americans, so we are a very diverse group here.

At Portfolio Center, I think I might have seen 4-5 African Americans there. Lots of Asian Americans and lots of Latin people.

>Is graphic design racially-biased?

Not as much as other professions I think. Discrimination is just part of everyday life, it might not be that apparent in Graphic Design because we are "creatives" so it's ok if we are a little weird. By weird I mean the overall appearance: race, body art, hair do, jeans and t-shirt, whatever.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:39 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Sam, it's Caucasian Space. (I must remember to use that somehow.)

No, by racial bias -- I guess I mean whether or not the concept, styles, and vernacular language in design is racially ignorant?

Stuff like that.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:42 AM
christopher may’s comment is:

> How about Canada?

That totally depends where you are. I studied at OCAD and many of my classes had a 20 - 50 % inclusion of Asians among other cultures and races. But then again Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world so my perspective may be skewed.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:45 AM
Sam’s comment is:

There is certainly the notion of gender-as-style---didn't someone say in the "What's Wrong With Speak Up" that the visual design of the site was "male"? But I've never heard an equivalent racial style. Certainly there's all the different nationalities.

Armin, I think at PC, the advertising program was more diverse than the design program. And the photography program was 100% freaks, so that was pretty diverse.

I'm going with "happy space," Tan. Find your happy space...find your happy space...

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:54 AM
Christopher May’s comment is:

In our shop we have:







(a nice tossed salad)

I do agree with some of the comments with regards to African decent. I would like to see more.

On Jul.03.2003 at 08:59 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> the photography program was 100% freaks

I know you were half-joking, but this is my point exactly Sam. In some professions, diversity is much more common.

Chris -- I bet your office fridge has some funky, interesting smelling food in it.

On Jul.03.2003 at 09:11 AM
steven’s comment is:

I would have to say that I have not worked in the most racially diverse areas of the country and it really shows in the makeup of the design departments I have been a part of. I went to a private school in Texas and we were lucky to have 1 or 2 people of diverse backgrounds. We mainly had hispanics, but the school always boasted how they were able to draw students from more than 50 foreign countries. Yet they never made their way to the design department.

My first job out of school was in Louisville, Kentucky. I worked for an agency of 100 people that was completely caucasian. I was shocked. But it wasn't that they were exclusionary. Out of my 3 years there we only had one African-American candidate. About the only diversity the agency was able to attain was sexual preference. But, that isn't diversity. And now I work for a much smaller company in Nashville and it is the exact same. But, like I said, I think it is more a product of the environment than a specific racial bias. And we do have a Brazillian on staff here... but only 1.

On Jul.03.2003 at 09:35 AM
Sam’s comment is:

But they were almost all white freaks. Just more tattoos and schnazzy hair.

Are there any firms that are deliberately ethnic in profile (ugh, that term sounds terrible, please forgive)? Kind of like a Univision or BET of design? Can't think of any myself.

On Jul.03.2003 at 09:52 AM
Tan’s comment is:

That didn't sound bad or anything Sam. You gotta let go of the white guilt. It's ok to be caucasian.

I'm sure there are minority agencies out there.

One of my best friends works for an ad agency in Houston that specifically caters to minority advertising and marketing. They're a large agency, and 95% of their staff is minority -- and all are bilingual. And they get lots of work too -- for big clients like Ford, Microsoft, and General Mills.

I hear there are agencies in Atlanta and Los Angeles that specialize in African-American and/or Hispanic consumer markets. I'd love to hear their take on this issue -- where do they find designers?!

On Jul.03.2003 at 09:59 AM
armin’s comment is:

There is a firm called UnBurro* that does some excellent work for hispanic communities, I think they are in Miami. Their style is a great blend of both cultures. And the name rocks, translation: A Donkey.

*Note to Darrel: they maximize your browser.

On Jul.03.2003 at 10:33 AM
armin’s comment is:

>I'd love to hear their take on this issue -- where do they find designers?!

I'll try to get in touch with these guys, see if they have some cool insight.

Oh, Tan, two words for you: cottage cheese.

On Jul.03.2003 at 10:35 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> cottage cheese.


On Jul.03.2003 at 10:39 AM
Rick G’s comment is:

>White males.

>That's what first comes to mind in terms of the dominant ethnic profile in GD.

Wow, I beg to differ. I know we're talking race and not gender here, but in my experience this is a very female-laden industry. Wow, that sounds weird. Female-laden. Heh.

The last place I was at in NYC, the shop was probably 50% women designers. Once I moved out here to Seattle, I found myself in the definite minority - from the dotcom I was with (2 men / 5 women) to my current in-house team. Right now we're 11 people, and four of us are men.

And to echo something from a previous discussion, is the site's masculinity a function of MoveableType, or is this all you, Armin? I think the site looks fantastic (maybe that's the testosterone talking), but then again it looks not unlike my old coworker Holly's site. It seems fairly, err... androgynous to me. But then again, What do I know?


On Jul.03.2003 at 10:51 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Yes, let's leave gender out of this discussion for now. Not that it's not important, but it sidetracks this discussion a little.

Just for the record, I've read that graphic design is made up of 65% women. Hear them roar.

On Jul.03.2003 at 10:58 AM
Paul’s comment is:

Back in the horrible past when I worked as a copywriter (shudder), one of the first designers to inspire me to think about entering the design field was a Hispanic woman. The only other designer in my current department is an Asian woman. As a percentage of the professional colleagues I have had, probably 20% have been "minority."

Could be a regional bias, though: have any other SF Bay Area folks had similar experiences?

On Jul.03.2003 at 11:43 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

We could probably have this same exact discussion if we were actuaries or midwives or urban planners or librarians or publicists or pharmaceutical research assistants or fucking middle managers—basically any profession that requires a decent higher education. White people are more likely to have access.

On Jul.03.2003 at 11:45 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Whoah! Rebecca said "fucking." Watch out.

On Jul.03.2003 at 11:52 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I don't know about that, Rebecca.

When I was in medicine, I worked in one of the country's most prestigious teaching hospitals. The research staff, including highly-skilled technicians, PhDs, and biology specialists were filled with minority professionals. My point is that I don't think 'a decent higher education' is a barrier for minorities to enter graphic design.

> fucking middle managers

I know. I think that's the first time I've seen you swear, Rebecca. I'm a little shocked. Gimme a minute here.

Wow!! that's fucking awesome. Let it out now...

On Jul.03.2003 at 11:54 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Obviously we have never been in the same fucking room.

On Jul.03.2003 at 11:56 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Hey Tan. Some minority groups have better access than others, and elite colleges are crawling with Asian nationals. Minority is a deceptive label. Sorry—a fucking deceptive label.

On Jul.03.2003 at 12:10 PM
priya’s comment is:

i'm only speaking for myself but growing up art has always been discouraged to me by my parents as a future career goal. Indian-americans in particular... especially first generation, like myself usually go into medicine, computer science, engineering and now more than before, business.

i came to college pre-med... growing up it was drilled in my head that the application of a good education will ensure success (something i do agree with) and that i should choose a track that is, for the most part, a guaranteed success such as medicine or engineering.

i am the only brown person in my class and department... there are 3 Asians and 2 blacks and one Arab other than me so it's not all white either. but out of all the fine art disciplines i'm the only indian. i go to a college where the Indian population is quite high... our Indian Student Association has the second most members next to Black Student Union. so it's not like there aren't Indians at my school.

it's just not a career track that is 'accepted' in our culture. yet. :) it always makes me happy to see other brown people in design.

oh and gender... my design classes are majority femme.... 6 boys in a class of 25.

On Jul.03.2003 at 12:16 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Some minority groups have better access than others, and elite colleges are crawling with Asian nationals.

In the example I used, most of the minority professionals were African-Americans. A fair amount of Asians too.

Priya's point is more what I was hinting at -- that careers in art, specifically graphic design, is just not an "acceptable" career track for many minority cultures. It's a perception thing.

But I can only answer for Asians -- I don't know if that's true for other ethnicities.

> a fucking deceptive label.

Do you kiss your boyfriend with that mouth, young lady?

Please stop. It's a little unnatural. You're rocking my world.

On Jul.03.2003 at 12:59 PM
christopher may’s comment is:

Not to get off topic...

> White people are more likely to have access.

Rebecca I take a bit of offence to that. Maybe there is just more opportunity in Canada, but If you look in the campus of the University of Toronto ( which is one of the best universities in North America ) - the minority is as much "white people" as Indian / Arab / west Indies etc. When you look at lower income areas (in Toronto specifically) - there isn't any one particular race/culture like you see too often in the states. I think this whole discussion may be more of an American issue???, because from personal experience I disagree with what much of what you guys are saying. I think this whole "white people" majority spawns from the fact that in the early years of immigration (1700's) it was predominantly Europeans that built the early infrastructure of commerce/government/ etc. I would like to see stats in North America to see if what we perceive minorities to be are true numbers or just perception.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I think this whole discussion may be more of an American issue?

Good question Chris. I don't think it is, but it's fair to ask.

I'm chums with the GDC guys here in BC. I've never seen a black or hispanic designer at any function I've attended or participated in. Lots of Asians (incl. Indians) and a few Arabs, but that's it.

I'll email the GDC pres, Matt Warburton, and ask him if he'll join the discussion. Yes, he's a white guy.

I agree w/ you that university demographics are very well balanced racially -- perhaps more than the populace they're in. In that respect, us yanks are no different than you beavers.

But just to reel back the discussion a little here -- I'm asking about diversity specifically in our graphic design field.

We can talk more about general higher education, but I think it's opening up a huge can of worms.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:12 PM
Christopher May’s comment is:

"white people"

what the fuck is that? The colour of skin doesn't necessarily describe a culture or even a race. "White" Americans have cultural differences to "white" Russians. English people look different then Swedish people That's like saying "brown" is Indian, Hispanic, Somalian, Inuit, and Australian aboriginals.

white is such an ignorant classification.

Northern Spaniards are "white" southern Spain people are "brown". Look at brazil... Or Iran - yes there are true "white" skin colored people in Iran.

Being classified as "white" describes a qualification of my skin tone and not my culture or heritage or even geographical location.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:15 PM
bernadette’s comment is:


I totally agree with you. When I was growing up and while attending college, artistic endeavors were never encouraged as a viable career option - I wasn't even aware of the field of graphic design. It took years of mundane jobs and some exploring for me to a) discover the field existed and b) figure out that this was what I wanted to do. I think cultural expectations definitely affect who is going into the field.

I'm now currently taking a design class to supplement my skills and all 8 people are women; 3 are Asian, 1Hispanic, and 4 Caucasian.

BTW, I'm an Asian woman.

p.s. Armin, thanks for putting up such a great site. I've been lurking for a while and finally got the gumption to put up post.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:26 PM
Armin’s comment is:

ok... easy now. Nobody means any disrespect here to anybody, so all you whiteys, brownies (mmmm, brownies), yellowies, greenies, redies, whatever color or race you are, just chill. We are just talking here.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:28 PM
Tan’s comment is:

You're right -- the more correct term is caucasian. No offense intended Chris.

Look, this whole discussion is about cultural and racial diversity in design. I think for most regions, the field has a very low percentage of "minority" designers. Does that classification mean race, culture, geographic location? Yes, yes, and yes. I think we're splitting hairs here.

It sounds like you've definitely not seen this situation either in school or in your current workplace. Racial diversity is a non-issue for you. That's great -- it really is.

But that's not the case in many other regions of our two countries. You may not agree, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

But I sense that you're uncomfortable talking about racial, skin color, cultural classification entirely. And I don't think that's really necessary, Chris. We're not here to draw lines between anything.

Again, this is not a condemnation of any truths or racial strife here. It's just a discussion.

On Jul.03.2003 at 01:29 PM
neha’s comment is:

I was born in Chicago but grew up in India and have been back in Chicago for 5 years and happy to be working as a graphic designer.

I agree with Priya that its more of a culture issue but my experience has been that when I started working in the industry I met two kinds of people. One which loved the fact that I didn't grow up here and thus I could bring different ideas and the other which was too worried that i wouldn't understand the "american" culture and thus not be able to get the job done.

I went to UIC for my bachelors and even though its known as University of Indians and Chinese I was the only Indian in the entire art department for 3 years I was there. While my friends who went to portfolio center, parsons or school of visual art had such a culturally diverse group to study with. I wish I could have met people from other parts of the world while in school. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed reading about a discussion on underconsideration some time ago about design firms outside of America.

The good thing about being a minority is that all the people I have met or interviewed with in the industry all remember me as the "Indian girl"...and I don't mind that anymore!

On Jul.03.2003 at 02:38 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Hmm, if only there were some kind of...system that we could use instead of touchy words like "white people."

Sam Potts: PMS 7520 with some 1788 sunburn. Uncoated of course.

On Jul.03.2003 at 02:58 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Priya's point is more what I was hinting at -- that careers in art, specifically graphic design, is just not an "acceptable" career track for many minority cultures. It's a perception thing.

I take your point. Did anyone read the Ang Lee article in the New Yorker last week? His experience reflects the phenomenon you're describing.

On Jul.03.2003 at 03:08 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I can't believe I actually got up to grab my Pantone Book and held it against my arm to check my PMS color. It's not exact, but I'm more of a 480 uncoated. One week at the beach and I upgrade to a more rich478.

On Jul.03.2003 at 03:08 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Amanda -- yes! I went to GMCC too! When did you graduate? What a co-inki-dink. :) I was a digital media major, though.

A little OT:

Chris: I don't think anyone means any offence when caucasian people are "white." And actually, a lot of those "brown" people you listed consider themselves brown... ;) Me, I like to think I'm mocha-colored. Makes me sound tasty. ;) I think people need to loosen up, personally. And I'm speaking as a minority, here.

But of course, within friends and colleagues, it shouldn't be an issue. And I think we can consider the people in this forum our colleagues.

Also, Chris, you are lucky to have been immersed in a diverse environment. I am as well. But it is rather naive to believe that racial disparity is a non-issue/doesn't exist. It's the old story about the tree falling in the forest, and if it nobody saw it, did it fall? I'm from Western canada, so there is a lot more of a concentration of caucasian people. (yee haw! cow country... i swear! our beef is safe! LOL)

I went to predominantly Caucasian schools (i.e. Ukrainian and Italian, specifically) and it wasn't until High school that I was more immersed in diversity. Then, I went to college and everyone was white (except for a smattering, here and there). In fact, I've been in situations where I'm a Caucasian person's FIRST or ONLY ethnic friend or acquiantance. And yes, there were the rare times I've actually been harassed based on my ethnicity. Canada is a great country but it's not perfect, and race is still sometimes an issue.

Meanwhile, I like being recognized as an Asian. I'm proud of that. It makes me different. People think I'm "exotic." ROTFL. So I think it's all a good thing.

On Jul.03.2003 at 03:10 PM
priya’s comment is:

Priya's point is more what I was hinting at -- that careers in art, specifically graphic design, is just not an "acceptable" career track for many minority cultures. It's a perception thing.

indeed. i know my parents support me but they still in introductions to 'aunties and uncles' (family friends who aren't related but we bestow upon them the respect of calling them members of our family) remark that i am a student majoring in Business, with no mention of my degree in Art even though i personally regard that degree more important.

usually the reaction when i tell other Indians, my age and elder, is a long pause and some variation of 'ohh... that's.. nice.' pauses and all.

now that i think about it, i'm sure everyone gets that in some form or another regardless of race in situations where the Arts isn't an accepted career track.

neha : brown reppin'! i always get excited when i see other desis design. i think i'm just a dork but whatever.

(i say brown to describe me... i'm not sure if i can really be considered 'asian' even though we share the continent because after all.. if i were asian so would Russians? that's just confusing. if i say 'Indian' oftentimes than not, and this happened a ton in primary and secondary school, people would remark how they have 'a little cherokee in them' and ask which tribe i'm from. so i revert to referring to myself as brown. i love asking people, 'what has brown done for you?' hehehe.)

rebecca : now i must go and read the article! thanks!

On Jul.03.2003 at 03:49 PM
Tan’s comment is:

You guys are freaks. Sam -- I think you might be a little jaundiced. Take some vitamin A tonight.

Of course, I can't find a matching PMS for myself. Really.

TOYO ink system is more appropriate for us Asians anyway. I'm somewhere in between TOYO CF0546 and 0547.

> 'what has brown done for you?'

That's cute, Priya.

But don't let the Adbusters people hear you say that. They'll hunt you down, tag you, and take you to some corporate brand cleansing house.

On Jul.03.2003 at 04:24 PM
christopher may’s comment is:

I'm not as offended as I may have sounded in my last post.

the point I was trying to make is that you can be a minority and still be white.

in this particular discussion would a "Hungarian woman" be a minority?

I personally think the reason why we see this lack of "conventional minority cultures" (just looking at Hispanics, African / Caribbean decent, and Asians) in North American Design has to do with;

1) the point raised earlier - If you (arbitrary example) ask most Indian students what they want to be, I think a good portion would say engineer or doctor ( I have had a similar discussion with Indian friends) due to the "acceptable career track" that their culture teaches.

2) I think that immigration probably has something to do with it also. In Canada for instance, to become a landed immigrant it is based on a point system. Whether you have relatives here, your level of education, your profession, whether there is a need for your profession at that time, etc. - deem you points.

Doctor, engineers, and professionals of that sort score more points. I don't know exactly where graphic design scores, but I do know that there isn't a shortage here. I would also consider the possibility that immigration could skew �landed status’ to certain professions more than others.

I think armin raise a point not to overlook, "If you were a designer in Mexico for example, of course the majority of professionals would be Hispanic." and likewise in any other country. Should we ask �why don't more designers come to the US and Canada to practice’?

As for people studying Design in an institution, I think that's relative to location. OCAD for example has a very high enrollment of Asians, I think this trend is part �quality of the curriculum’, and part �reputation that many Asian enroll there’. A personal observation I have is that many people feel comfortable be in familiar surroundings. That's probably why there are pockets in certain areas like Toronto where large groups of a particular culture situates.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers and I don’t want to sound as though I am preaching, but I do feel that this discussion is only skimming the surface with of couple variables of a very complex equation.

On Jul.03.2003 at 04:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Chris --

This is definitely a loaded topic. And there was just no way that we could've actually come to any tangible conclusion -- other than the PMS equivalent of Sam and Armin.

After all, we are designers, not cultural anthropologists or immigration experts.

I think we're all flying by the seat of our ethno-flesh-colored pants.

The point of the whole discussion was just that, to discuss the issue -- and for some of us who are minorities ourselves, to share experiences and viewpoints.

Yes, it's a very complex question. But skimming the surface is a good place to start, is it not?

On Jul.03.2003 at 05:15 PM
christopher may’s comment is:

> and for some of us who are minorities ourselves, to share experiences and viewpoints.

...yeah, maybe I'm touching on a subject that is best suited for another time and place.


On Jul.03.2003 at 08:23 PM
Dustin ’s comment is:

Why is "diversity" always associated with race? Can't you have a diverse workplace while everyone is the same race?

On Jul.03.2003 at 09:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Why is "diversity" always associated with race?

Well, diversity is not always associated with race. It just happens to be so in this discussion. Your point is valid Justin. But please allow me to expand the context a little more.

Yes, the term "diversity" can mean a great many things--including racial diversity. But why is there always a negative stigma around that term? Why are people so uncomfortable talking intelligently about it? Why not celebrate our differences in skin color, culture, food, customs, viewpoints, and most relevant to this community--the uniqueness of approach to graphic design?

For example, I think it's cool that Armin and I are of different race and creed. I'll never truly know what it's like to be Hispanic, and he'll never know how cool it is to be Asian :-) But our racial differences as human beings can make it exponentially more interesting when we discuss design. Of course, there are a thousand other differences between us==but race, culture, and background is a large part of who I am versus who Armin is.

It's the same with the gender difference between me and Rebecca. Or the age difference between me and Ben Finch. Or geographic/nationality differences between me and Christopher May. Religion, sexual preferences, etc. You get the idea.

I think our profession would benefit greatly if there was more racial diversity among designers. But that doesn' t mean I think design is disciminatory or racially prejudiced -- it just means that I think it could be better. That's all.

So that's the context of why we're discussing the racial diversity of graphic design in this blog.

To tell you the truth, I never thought that it would be such a sensitive subject to discuss. A little naive I guess...

On Jul.04.2003 at 12:22 AM
Lea’s comment is:

Tan, well put. I think people are touchy about race because a mixture of positive and negative experiences, or lack of experiences all together. Some people just don't understand each other, and that's why people's defences start up. And the biggest folly is assuming that your experience is equal to or more superior than others, subconsciously or not. It's not. It's just different.

At any rate, I think an increase in diversity within the North American design community would be excellent. Not only would our visual experience be enhanced just by incorporating input from people of different styles, but it'd be a much funner place to be. Ethnicity already has a strong influence on design (Fashion alone is a huge one; and anyone watch Trading Spaces? Nice cultural influences abound in some decisions). But I think it needs to be pushed, and more education is needed to make people aware that this is a good industry to get into, and it needs people of colour.

On Jul.04.2003 at 10:16 AM
Amanda’s comment is:

Lea - I graduated, oh about 4 years ago. (i have lost track of time! ). how about you? and where are you at? working in an Edmonton studio?

On Jul.04.2003 at 04:30 PM
Bradley’s comment is:


More of an ad agency I guess, but well worth a look. I like how they ask "Why is February treated like the Super Bowl when it comes to minority-based advertising?"

Its not only the incredible lack of racial diversity in this industry, its the way people talk to various ethnic groups.

On Jul.04.2003 at 05:13 PM
Ben E’s comment is:

A&F gets sued for racial descrimination? Why? Who are they marketing to? Yeah, that's it. Wealthy white college kids. What the heck is wrong with that? They're trying to sell a product, no? If they wanted to flog bandanas and baggy ass I'm sure they'd feature bangers with gang tats in low riders.

I'm a 40 year old white male who thinks A&F clothing is great and admire their marketing. I buy their clothes. Believe it or not, as a MINORITY consumer of their product I DON'T GIVE A DAMN! Am I pissed that they aren't selling to middle aged men? Hell no. Nuff said.

On Jul.05.2003 at 10:46 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I'm a 40 year old white male who ..buy their clothes.

Ben, I don't mean to harass you man, but have you seen American Beauty?

Hope you don't own a 78 Firebird too.

Just screwin with you. I hear ya. I don't agree, but I hear ya.

On Jul.05.2003 at 11:07 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

Wealthy white college kids. What the heck is wrong with that?

They can market their product to whomever they choose. Companies from car manufacturers to fast-food joints pick and choose their demographic all the time. But marketing and hiring preferences are a different ballgame. Are we honestly going to buy A&F's assumption that, because mostly white people buy their clothes that only white people can sell them?? What in heavens would they do if hip-hop stars suddenly started wearing A&F everywhere? Hilfiger didn't suddenly eliminate all the hot, white women in their ads, did they?

Race is often too polarizing a subject and certainly not the only area of discrimination. I wonder, do we view discrimination differently when race isn't involved? Ben, do you think you would be able to get a sales job at A&F, since you are not in their sales demographic? Would you be upset about this?

Consider this: Could Nike get in trouble for not hiring an overweight person? Would Nike allow an overweight person to sell shoes in Niketown? I guess if we want to tie this more closely to the thread topic (barely), do you think Nike is discriminatory if it insisted that its product designers were in tip-top shape?

It's late, so I may not be making much sense anymore, but I think it's very important to stay vigilant to discrimination in any of its subtle and blatant forms. It is very easy to discriminate without really meaning to. A&F might be genuine in trying to have their sales staff mimic their ad imagery, but it is still discriminatory if it affects their hiring practices.

On Jul.05.2003 at 11:41 PM
Troy Francois’s comment is:

Hey my name is Troy... I am a black graphic/web designer. I believe the design world when it comes to graphic/web design does lack minorities in the area of spanish and black. If you was to take a walk to an urban street corner and find some beautiful artwork sprayed across a wall, most likely the artist would be spanish or black. I think the lack of minorities is within the educational world of design. I am graduate the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and honestly there was only a Handful of black folks (it could be the city I am in). I dont think graphic arts is stressed in alot of black communities because it is still something that is dominated by whites. I believe people feel there is no way for you to advance, so minorities do not get involved. I have already experienced discrimination when it came to getting a job in my field many times... If i was to be hired by those companies I would have made history... Cause I would have been the only black person there. Currently I have accepted a job... First time ever being hired by a white male and I had a chance to look around and as usual I am the only black male... I may go down in the companies history book. Also On the issue with clothing... I kinda agree with Ben. As a black male I know there are not alot of black folks wearing A&F, American Eagle clothing. I believe we are different... not by race but by culture. It shows in our music, hair styles, slang, body parts of a female that we like :) and most visible our style of dress. I think difference is an important thing to have in any community. To much of the same thing is boring. HOLLA. www.coismedia.com it will be coming soon.

On Jul.07.2003 at 12:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Thanks Troy -- and welcome.

> Cause I would have been the only black person there. I may go down in the companies history book.

sad, but probably true. I can bet that if the company decides to show employees on its website or a brochure, you'll be in there as proof of their diversity.

> It shows in our music, hair styles, slang, body parts of a female that we like :)

whoa...ahem...yea. I have no idea what you mean, but I beg to differ.

(see Armin, I don't start these things.)

On Jul.07.2003 at 12:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> see Armin, I don't start these things.

Just this once... just this once Tan.

On Jul.07.2003 at 01:04 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

What part don't you agree with, Tan?

On Jul.07.2003 at 01:07 PM
Tan’s comment is:

No...not disagreeing on any particular...um....see...Troy suggested certain men like...um...then I was...um...

How was your 4th Rebecca?

On Jul.07.2003 at 01:10 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

heh. :o)

On Jul.07.2003 at 01:26 PM
Troy Francois’s comment is:

This all goes back to our culture what we are used to, we become comfortable with. I feel graphic artist has become comfortable with not having alot of black and hispanic designers. As we move along in time I feel the opportunities for design will be presented to these communities but right now it is not. Take Rap for example... How many white, asian, indian, etc folks are huge rap artist, world wide...?. Hip Hop has become comfortable with just having black and spanish artist dominating... That does not say white, asian, indian, etc boys or girls cant rap... But rapping is not something that they are being exposed to so they dont know how to or even where to go to get started.

On Jul.07.2003 at 04:14 PM
mambo’s comment is:

There is too much prejudice in graphic design and this need to stop. Surely,if we are such creative thinkers and problem solvers, how can we pool our resources together to get past the color of skin.

As an African-American with 23yrs as a graphic/ package designer,I find the field, particularly intolerant to African-American men. I’m not exactly sure why this is; I have proven work, to my credit I have a MFA in graphic design from a renowned design schools.

I even taught as a graphic design instructor, but

for some reason when I walk through the door of an agency I’m always looked at if I’m going to steal something. The response is, “oh, you know how to design.”

Design by nature is competitive, but the lack of opportunity for an African-American man is overwhelming. Do, we as a race intimidate Caucasian men and women? All I want is an opportunity to participate as a collaborative thinker. What gives, I like to know.

Then there are the Caucasian women you guys are brutal. You seem to hate guys in general as if we stool something from you. Why are you so threaten, the only time I see men in a studio with you it’s because they are femine. I’m not knocking sex preference I’m not femine. However, it seems that you are more comfortable around a femine acting guy than a straight guy.

I not going to sexually harass you, I have respect for you. I just want to work.

On Aug.14.2003 at 10:25 PM
mambo’s comment is:

Basically, I'm saying stop, "creative apartheid"

African-Americans have done much to make

America a better place for many,especially for

Caucasian women.

On Aug.14.2003 at 10:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Mambo, I'm glad you posted -- I really am. I was hoping that this topic would draw more African-American (and other minority) designers to the site.

But I have to say that your comments in return about 'caucasian women' and 'femine' (?) men sound just as prejudiced, intolerant, and insulting to women and gay designers as you've been treated. That may not be your intent, but please be aware that's how it came across.

Look, let's just stop generalizing negatively about sex and race altogether. I'd rather we talk positively about the things that diversity can bring to design, rather than dwell on the hateful or harmful nature of it.

I posted this thread originally to promote some intelligent conversations about the differences in racial and cultural backgrounds and experiences (or lack of) among designers.

Let's try not to bring unnecessary baggage to the table, please.

On Aug.15.2003 at 12:49 AM
Armin’s comment is:

The problems an illustrator faces when assigning races to recyclable trash.

Not very valuable reading, but amusing.

On Aug.27.2003 at 11:53 AM
Tan’s comment is:

HahahaHaha....a "gay milk jug" and "chicano tin can"

that's awesome. I want a tshirt of this!

On Aug.27.2003 at 12:51 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Oh... also in the Onion...did you see about the "Burning Man Festival" and that no one showed up... that sucks for organizers - I would be pissed too! - Some funny excuses for no shows though!

On Aug.27.2003 at 01:25 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Uh, Sarah...you do realize that The Onion stories aren't actually true, don't you?

Maybe some of the banal ones are true -- columns like "The Video Store Was Out of 'Chicago' so I Had to Rent 'Flashdance' Again" and stuff like that.

The Burning Man article was hilarious.

On Aug.27.2003 at 02:33 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Yes, yes I do. We actually had an assignment in college to re-design the print or online version of the Onion... many refused, said it was a classic. I was trying to be a wise ass - perhaps I should have been a bit more sarcastic - ... I was trying to be seriously un-serious...oh, nevermind me, it has been a long week and it is only Wednesday and there is NO end in sight.

I am honestly not an idiot, well, maybe a bit...

On Aug.27.2003 at 02:43 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Ok, phew.

Please...I meant no offense. It was a friendly question of naivete, in an affectionate colleague kind of way.

Wise-ass away. Now I know :-p

On Aug.27.2003 at 02:54 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

No offense taken at all - be honest with me. Please. If I am sounding like a fool - let me know. And naivete is a high possibilty with me. :P

yes - I am the resident wise-ass, and also miss.serious too. I guess it is hard to tell me with... I need to work on that. but with you tan, i will let you know :). jk.

On Aug.27.2003 at 03:37 PM
April Thomas’s comment is:


I am a recruiter who is looking for minority designers. I work in the world of strategic and brand design and I am finding it very difficult to recruit minirities for the industry. I am located in Ohio and for some reason, I think that people are slipping with many misconceptions and therefore don't want to give relocation here a try. Any resources that anyone out there may have that would assist me with my search would be simply fabulous!

On Jun.18.2005 at 08:44 AM