Design industry seen as “exclusive” in Create London report

Research conducted into the diversity of the creative industries shows the sector on the whole to be hard to access for ethnic minorities, women and those from low-income backgrounds.

The design industry is difficult to get into for those from minority or low-income backgrounds, research has found, with over 40% of designers coming from well-off families.

The Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries report has been produced by Create London, with research conducted by academics at the University of Edinburgh and University of Sheffield. The survey features roughly 2,500 respondents, alongside 240 interviews.

It looks at the make-up and diversity of the creative industries in the UK, including disciplines such as design, publishing, architecture, advertising and crafts.

The research has found that the creative industries are “exclusive”, with those from affluent social backgrounds “dominating” the sector, and women and ethnic minorities facing “barriers” to jobs.

7% are Black, Asian and minority ethnic

Within the design industry, which includes product, graphic and fashion, the research shows that less than a tenth – 7% – are Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), while just under half – 48% – are women.

It also shows that 43% are from professional or affluent backgrounds, with their parents belonging to the two highest employment categories, as classified by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). One fifth of respondents’ parents – 19% – are in the three lowest employment categories.

41% complete unpaid internships

Additionally, it indicates that 41% of designers have completed unpaid internships at some point in their career. The report states that there is a “prevalence of unpaid labour” across the board in creative jobs, but that this is particularly high in design and advertising professions. It adds that this is a “significant barrier to some” for getting into and progressing in the creative industries.

The survey puts the “exclusivity” of creative jobs partly down to unpaid work but also references more “subtle” reasons, such as the “attitudes and tastes” of the sector.

The creative industries are the most liberal and left-wing of any UK industry, according to the report, and employees in the sector are more likely to attend arts and cultural activities, appearing to have different tastes from workers in other occupations.

Read the report in full here, and look out for more coverage on diversity in the design industry on Design Week in the coming weeks.

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  • H Devereaux April 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Your article started well by also mentioning low income backgrounds but then focussed on gender and race, which tends to be the modern trend. It took me over 6 years to get a design job after uni and it’s only by chance and luck that I managed to eventually get a junior design role. The person interviewing me once lived in the same area as me and that was my ‘in’. I personally thought that female designers had a better chance in the industry after my gf at the time got the job we both went for, even though we were equal candidates. They had to choose someone, but this was for Boohoo, so I wasn’t too surprised! Oh and I am a white, working class, British Conservative…

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