Pip Jamieson: Creativity should not be reserved for those who can afford it

The founder at creative networking platform and jobs site The Dots talks about why art and design skills should not be reserved for the middle class, and suggests how the industry can help diversify its workforce.

Pip Jamieson © Adrienne Pitts

We all know the robots are coming. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, do our accounts and legal work. However, there are three very human traits that machines currently struggle with: they don’t have common sense, they don’t understand (or have) empathy, and they can’t match our creative capabilities.

If we want our children to have jobs, author Sir Ken Robinson was completely right when he said in a conference that “creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

The Government is neglecting creativity

This is all very well, but unfortunately it’s not what is happening in the current education system. Our Government is increasingly obsessed with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), however STEAM is far more important – putting ‘Art’ (in other words, creativity) at the heart of tech. As automation replaces non-creative routine jobs, we need more people to come up with creative tech solutions. It’s when you put an engineer next to a creative that the magic really happens.

With the Government neglecting creativity, there has been a corresponding drop in the number of specialist creative, art and design teachers being trained, and a 28% drop of students taking creative GCSES. This is largely due to recent changes to UK curriculums, where the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) qualification has drastically limited creative choices at schools, enough so that British icons such as Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin have called for a stop to the new qualification structure in an open letter.

Why should design be reserved for those who can afford private tuition?

Then there’s the sheer lack of Governmental funding for arts and creativity, as highlighted by cultural experts in the 2015 Warwick Commission. What all this means is that creative education is becoming an middle and upper-class luxury, afforded by students whose parents can either send them to private schools or pay for creative education outside of school.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud parents who take their children’s creative education seriously – I am one of the lucky ones, as my father sent me to a creative school that specialised in dyslexia, resulting in me being the first person in my family to make it to university. My education helped me cope with my crippling dyslexia and go on to have a wonderful career. But I often ask myself, what if I hadn’t won the middle-class lottery of life? There is a strong chance that I wouldn’t be where I am now. There are so many squandered minds and creative innovators that we’ve left behind.

Diversity improves creativity, research has shown

During my time working at MTV, I also experienced how dangerous a homogeneous workforce can be for creative thinking. As with most creative businesses, we hired via word of mouth, resulting in an inherent lack of diversity – our creative output became stale.

There is now endless research proving that diversity is good for creativity. A London Business School study found that more gender-balanced teams are best to promote environments where innovation can flourish. A Harvard Business School study found that teams that include workers from different backgrounds and experiences come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems. The list of examples is endless.

I have dedicated my career to helping businesses increase diversity in their teams in all its guises. For example, 62% of The Dots’ members are female, 31% black and Asian minority ethnic (BAME), 16% lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) and I’m also a massive advocate for disabled and neurodiverse talent, so those with dyslexia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions.

Broader experiences mean a broader perspective

I want to open our amazing industry up to incredible talent from families who don’t see the creative industries as a viable career route; particularly those from minority and low-income backgrounds. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs probably explained it best when he said that creativity is all about connecting the dots.

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences,” he said. “So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

How can you help?

I founded The Dots to democratise talent and give everyone the opportunity to break into our historically word-of-mouth driven industry. We removed the ability for the 8,000+ companies who use The Dots to be able to search for talent based on where people went to university, to help people rise to the top irrespective of educational background. We also adjusted our algorithm so a more diverse selection of talent appears at the top of searches. But if the design industry is really serious about diversity then we also need to inspire, train, mentor and support the designers of the future. But how?

If you work in our wonderful industry and want to help drive change, then support these organisations in any way you can. Become a mentor, offer to talk or volunteer and, if you can, give them funding.

Or if you’re looking to get into the industry, then all these organisations are here to help.

A New Direction: A not-for-profit organisation that exists to ensure that all children and young people in London can develop their creativity and play an active part in the culture and heritage of the city.

Commercial Break: A youth transformation agency and social enterprise that transforms the lives of both young adults, and brands looking to connect with them.

Creative Mentor Network: A charity that works directly with schools to connect talented young people from diverse backgrounds with those working in the creative industries.

D&AD Shift: A career-making night school that helps those who don’t have a degree or A-Levels by fast-tracking them into the creative industries.

Dream Nation: Hosts events, training and technology helping people to improve their productivity, emotional intelligence, financial literacy and physical health.

Diversity Matters: Since launching in April 2016 with Diversity Matters Awareness Week, Diversity Matters now umbrellas a host of projects, workshops, events and services linked to promoting diversity in the arts and media, as well as education and work environments.

Ideas Foundation: Works with 13-19-year-old students to deliver on client briefs with teaching support.

L.I.F.E Talks: L.I.F.E Talks stands for Learning from Intelligent, Fearless Entrepreneurs and is a platform created by Velma Simmons, who witnessed first-hand how hard it was to break into the entertainment industry.

Livity: A youth-led creative agency that connect brands and young people to give ambitious talent access to opportunities through workshops, co-working spaces, exhibitions and more.

Next of Kin: Looks to bring care leavers into the world of creativity, because their voices are valuable. Founder Naomi Taylor came through foster care, and is now working at advertising agency Mr President. She founded Next of Kin to help others from similar backgrounds succeed in advertising.

Pepper Your Talk: A platform for young fashion creatives. Founder Dior Bediako’s new project The Junior Network has created a community of fashion professionals at the beginning of their careers, with events and resources to propel them forwards.

Rich Mix New Creatives: A free, year-long programme, introducing 16-25-year-olds from Tower Hamlets in London to the arts and offering an opportunity to gain a Silver Arts Award qualification and work placements.

The Other Box: Founded by Roshni Goyate and Leyya Sattar, The Other Box celebrates people of colour and other minority backgrounds and helps increase diversity across the creative industries through events, workshops and a growing network.

SocialFixt: Encourages entry-level BAME talent into the creative industries via opportunities and events.

V&A DesignLab Nation scheme: A newly launched school initiative that looks to stop design becoming ‘endangered’, which aims to pique the interest of more students from the Midlands and North of England.

You Make It: Empowers young, unemployed women with the confidence, skills, networks, and experience needed to pursue their goals by putting self-esteem at its core. It looks to ensure that all women have access to opportunities to lead happy, independent and fulfilled lives.

Young Barbican Scheme: Gives 14–25-year-olds discounted access to art and entertainment as well as exclusive events and creative opportunities, such as “young poets” and “young programmers”.

Once on the career ladder, there are also loads of professional businesses and organisations that support diverse creative talent, including:

Creative Equals: an organisation that looks to increase diversity in the creative industries through training, help for parents returning to work and a series of events.

For Working Ladies: an online resource and magazine for women, focusing on careers, entrepreneurship and lifestyle.

Gal Dem: an online magazine written by and for women of colour.

Marguerite: an online platform and organisation that hosts 30 events a year for women who work across art, design, architecture, fashion and photography.

Riposte: a subscription print publication that aims to be a “smart” magazine for women, focusing on art, design, music, business, politics, food and travel.

She Says: a global organisation focused on engaging, educating and advancing women in the creative industries all over the world.

The Quarter Club: an online and real-life network for “fiercely ambitious, creative women”.

This Ability: an initiative working with businesses to help them be more inclusive in hiring, and increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

We Are Stripes: an organisation that looks to improve ethnic diversity in the creative industries.

Women Who: an online and real-life community group and resource for women working in the creative industries.

This is by no means a definitive list – it’s simply a selection of great organisations I’ve come across over the years. Please add to this list, so we can collectively help build a more diverse set of creative industries for everyone.

Do you know of any organisations that look to increase representation in the creative industries? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

Hide Comments (5)Show Comments (5)
  • Tony Swaby August 15, 2018 at 11:33 am

    The Appraisium Project:
    Real world feedback for creative students or anyone considering a career in the creative sector. http://appraisium.org

  • Madelaine Cooper August 17, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Creative thinking in it’s broadest sense is going to be at the core of the workplace of the future. And yet in schools creative thinking is being denigrated and denied. There are though some shining beacons in education which continue to value the creative individual; I’m very proud to be a governor at The BRIT School in south east London. The School is all about encouraging, training and valuing the creativity in all of it’s students whether they be designers, actors, theatre technicians, musicians, dancers etc. Importantly entry to the School is free. And the diversity of the student body is testament to their policy of giving people with aptitude, talent and a desire to get on with it a chance. But the School also needs the support of the industries that it’s building talent pipelines for. Please contact me to discuss how you and your agency, company, clients can help to support the BRIT School.

  • Nick Corston August 17, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Great article Pip… as the A-level results showed yesterday creativity and the arts are taking a hammering, not just because of the EBacc but also, frankly, because many teachers and parents need educating about the power of creativity to engage children in learning, provide career pathways and engage communities.

    We’d love to work with more creative agencies and individuals to deliver our STEAM Co. Days in Primary schools across the UK to inspire and educate children and their teachers, parents and other carers alike.

    Do please add us to your list: http://www.steamco.org.uk

  • Lucy Hobbs August 20, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Great article Pip. It’s so important to have creativity in schools especially for those who thrive in this area. and learn from doing rather than being told.

    Are you aware of The Future is ND? Its a neurodiverse network for neurodivergents by neurodivergents in the creative industries which was launched in March this year with an aim to empower and give a voice to this hidden minority.

  • Ally Owen August 24, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Great article Pip!

    Please can we add Brixton Finishing School into the list? It’s a practical, end to end solution to drive diveristy in the creative industries.

    Brixton Finishing School is not for profit, industry funded school that is challenging the lack of diversity in advertising.

    Here’s Campaign explaining how Brixton Finishing School is challenging the diversity issue inherent in the industry.


    Brixton Finishing School believes creative talent is distributed equally but opportunities are not. So we’ve set out to disrupt how we find talent. We are a practical end to end solution – conducting outreach into “under represented” groups (e.g. BAME, Working class) and selecting those 18-25s with the most potential. They undertake a 12 week full time course, taught by the best names in the industry and housed in a space within the SCA 2.0. Upon graduation there are 10 real entry level jobs on offer at top advertising names, just for those that successfully complete the course.

    Ally Owen, Founder


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