The “Pipeline Problem” Is a Myth
What to do when all your design applicants are homogeneous
As the former VP of Diversity & Inclusion for AIGA Chicago, I’m still approached by lots of well-intentioned hiring managers and group directors motivated to diversify their design teams but frustrated their job posts aren’t yielding the creatives of color, queer creatives, and female creatives they’re seeking. Inevitably, as I probe their tactics and what they’ve tried to date, they sigh defeatedly and wonder out loud, “I guess there just aren’t that many [fill-in-the-blank-minority] designers out there, huh?”
This is a dangerous claim and lazy excuse. Just because diverse talent isn’t applying to your job posts, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
There’s a good chance the job post itself is filtering out exceptional non-traditional talent. Industry jargon, outmoded criteria and biased/coded language can all be deterrents to candidates on the margins. In fact, startups are racing to harness machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve gender tone and eliminate bias to help employers from unwittingly sabotaging their chance to reach untapped talent.
Additionally, the job post must meet these highly desirable candidates where they are — which often means sponsoring and participating in events, programming, outreach, and communities IRL — environments where those hiring may be the minority. This role reversal is important. Showing up in an authentic, curious, open and motivated way to someplace where you’re the outsider is a humbling and perspective changing experience.
The pipeline of diverse talent moving from design schools and coding boot camps (and self-guided tutorials!) into the industry must continue to be expanded — but the issue is more likely employers looking down the wrong pipes.
To debunk the pipeline problem myth, here are 5 design directories every agency, studio, and in-house creative team should be familiar with:
Blacks Who Design
Blacks Who Design highlights all of the inspiring Black designers in the industry. The goal is to inspire new designers, encourage people to diversify their feeds, and discover amazing individuals to join your team.
Latinxs Who Design
Latinxs Who Design is a living directory of thriving Latinxs in the design industry. Our mission is to provide a space to find outstanding people to follow, look for a mentor, make new friends, or discover talented individuals to join your team.
Rememory is a growing directory which highlights work and experiences of black women and non-binary people of the African Diaspora doing the work needed to claim their narratives, gazes and legacies in the global media.
Latinx Design Directory
Latinx Design Directory is an open directory of Latina/Latino/Latinx designers and technologists, with ongoing editorial features of talent spotlights, created in an effort to highlight our community.
Brazilians Who Design
Brazilians who design is a place to showcase the work of talented Brazilian designers to the world. The goal is to inspire new designers to diversify their references, experienced designers to diversity their network, and companies to diversify their teams.
Filipinos Who Design
Inspired by Latinxs Who Design and Blacks Who Design, Filipinos Who Design is an online community built to bring the design and creative Filipinos from all over the world together.
Asian & Pacific Islanders Who Design
API (Asian & Pacific Islanders) Who Design is a living and growing directory that features API creatives in the design industry. This site draws inspiration by Latinxs Who Design and Blacks Who Design. Our mission is to highlight the breadth of talent within the API population, inspire new designers, connect with fellow APIs, share experiences, and help with the discovery of fresh talent for expanding teams.
People of Craft
People of Craft is a growing showcase of creatives of color and their craft in design, advertising, tech, illustration, lettering, art, and more. It’s time to redefine what a creative looks like.
Indians Who Design
Indians Who Design is a living directory of thriving Indians in the design industry. Our mission is to provide a space to find out outstanding people to follow, look for mentor, make new friends, or discover talented individuals to join our team.
Queer Design Club
Queer Design Club’s mission is to promote and celebrate all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design world wide — from LGBTQ+ designers’ contributions to the industry to design’s role in queer activism throughout history.
Women Who Design
Women Who Design is a Twitter directory of accomplished women in the design industry. It aims to help people find notable and relevant voices to follow on Twitter by parsing Twitter bios for popular keywords.
Women Who Draw
Women Who Draw is an open directory of female* professional illustrators, artists and cartoonists. It was created by two women artists in an effort to increase the visibility of female illustrators, emphasizing female illustrators of color, LBTQ+, and other minority groups of female illustrators.
So next time you’re hiring talent, planning a conference, or looking to rebalance the ratio of people you’re following on social media, adjust your margins, listen to a better podcast, and find greatness in the directories above.