The “Pipeline Problem” Is a Myth

What to do when all your design applicants are homogeneous

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

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.

Blacks Who Design by Tolu Olubode, Hasque, Yannick Zanfack, Nathalyn Nunoo, Wes O’Haire

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.

Latinxs Who Design by Sarah Sharara, Polo Garcia, Pablo Stanley


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.

Rememory by Mia Coleman

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.

Latinx Design Directory by Zuli Segura

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.

Brazilians Who Design by Zeh Fernandes and Fabricio Teixeira

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.

Filipinos Who Design by Clive Castillo

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.

Asian & Pacific Islanders Who Design by Koi Hernandez

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.

People of Craft by Amélie Lamont & Timothy Goodman

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.

Indians Who Design by Ivy Mukherjee, Zeeshan Hyder, Shashank Sahay

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.

Queer Design Club by John Hanawalt & Rebecca Brooker

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 Design by Jules Forrest

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.

Women Who Draw by Wendy MacNaughton and Julia Rothman

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.



Antonio García • executive design leader

designer, illustrator, podcaster, maker, educator, advisor, marathoner, beat selector, Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer at TXI and founder of Dadwell & Co.