DBA to assemble diversity and inclusion council

The initiative will be the first of many “vibrant communities” which will be set up to help designers address areas of concern.

The Design Business Association (DBA) has announced it will launch a council dedicated to diversity and inclusion, as it looks to tackle pressing industry issues by helping designers deliver measurable solutions.

The move is part of a wider push from the organisation to develop “vibrant communities” within its membership and beyond. A diversity and inclusion (D&I) council will be the first of many, DBA CEO Deborah Dawton says, with each council dedicated to a different concern, job or topic.

“To open the aperture”

Jeremy Lindley, chair of the DBA and global design director at Diageo, has been announced as the chair of the council. On the role, he says: “The lack of diversity within the design sector is not new news, but as an industry it’s time to come together and take more action to address it.”

As for how the council will be organised, Dawton says it will be grounded in how the DBA has previously worked. “We’ve always had a policy of leaning into other people’s initiatives – organisations like Creative Equals and Kerning the Gap are incredibly specialised in their fields and have experience we can all learn from,” she says.

In this instance, several different organisations, stakeholders and designers will convene to work through the issue, with the intention of producing a solution or way forward. The DBA is currently looking for people to be involved. Dawton lists potential solutions or end products like a white paper, a programme, or wider movement.

“Our vision for the DBA D&I Council is to open the aperture, to include those who may have been inadvertently excluded from our industry, and to ensure that subconscious bias does not reduce the effectiveness of our design output,” says Lindley.

“A good space for professional development”

Beyond D&I, Dawton says the DBA envisions a host of other councils as part of the Vibrant Communities initiative. “The idea is to get designers involved and engaged with one another,” she says.

Other councils the DBA plans to look into include sustainability and internationalisation – and will likely require external “experts” to be part of the group. Beyond this, councils will be formed based on the suggestions of designers who raise an issue to the DBA board, which will then help establish the working group.

Not all will be dedicated to “issues” in the traditional sense. Dawton explains that others will be geared towards support – for example, a council which allows account directors or other people with a specific design industry role to meet. “These councils will likely have less experienced people working with more seasoned people, which will make it a good space for professional development,” she says.

Crucially, Dawton says, each council will have a deadline date by which time a solution or way forward should in theory be reached. This is to prevent a revolving cast of people being elected to the group. “It will allow people to move through an agenda in a reasonable amount of time but ensure each council doesn’t just become a space for talking and no action.”

“There are areas of our industry that are very young”

Outside of wanting to provide a way for designers to engage with each other, Dawton points to the benefits that cross-discipline work can have when tackling “thorny issues”.

“There are areas of our industry that are very young, like AI and VR,” she says. “And the people working in these spaces have valuable knowledge which can benefit those working in other fields.” Dawton says cross-disciplinary collaboration also helps to dispel the myth that only older designers can offer valuable educational experiences.

What do you think of the “vibrant communities” plan? Let us know in the comments below…

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  • Stephen Bell November 18, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    Ermmmm… so a white, straight, alpha male is heading up the DBA’s diversity drive? Can’t they be more…well imaginative/ inclusive? It would be a good start.

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