Design Can

  • Rupert Evans-Harding
  • Katie Logue
  • Sabine Zetteler
  • Jess Meyer
  • Chris Hayes
  • Wase Aguele
  • Yinka Ilori

For too long the design industry has been the domain of a privileged few with 78% of its workers male and only 13% of employees from BAME backgrounds. A new campaign and online tool, called Design Can, aims to disrupt the status quo, equipping every single person in the industry with the tools to make a difference.

“The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.” This quote by design legend Viktor Papanek and brought to our attention by ICON editor Priya Khanchandani, hits the nail on the head in terms of the current problems in the design industry. At present the industry really isn’t representative of the society it serves. According to recent research by the Design Council (2018), the UK industry is 78% male and only 13% of employees are from BAME backgrounds. Worryingly there are few comparable statistics for people with disabilities. If design is to relate to people – all people – then this toxic demographic needs to change.
That’s why a group of designers, editors and activists – including Priya and us here at Zetteler – have launched Design Can. It’s a new campaign and online tool that maps out clearly how the design industry needs to change to better represent everyone and what we can all do to make that happen. Priya states “The design world can be significantly improved by celebrating - and representing - the rich diversity that exists in the real world. We need to see people of all backgrounds authoring design books, curating design weeks and standing at the helm of design institutions.”
The new site, which has been designed and built by up-and-coming collective Not Flat 3, features a manifesto, where readers can understand the aims of the campaign: a section called You Can, that gives people practical take home actions to help make the industry more inclusive; and then a growing resources section where readers can discover the work of a diverse wealth of talented creatives, as wells as read up on ideas around inclusivity through podcasts, videos and articles. Priya continues, “When I once asked a magazine editor why he didn't commission more diverse design writers, including women, he said: but where are they? Design Can will hopefully help us rebut the ‘but’.”
Design Can was conceived in 2018, emerging out of growing frustrations with the lack of progress on these issues. Following these conversations, a separate group evolved and conceived Design Can as a campaign– made up of Icon’s Priya Khanchandani, designer Yinka Ilori, Intoart co-founder Ella Ritchie, Stephanie McLaren-Neckles, Ansel Neckles (both of Let’s Be Brief), Dr Jane Norris and the Zetteler team – and recent CSM graduates Not Flat 3 were commissioned to build the site. 

Just as Design Can was born from a group coming together to empower change, it’s hoped that the site will become a growing community, with users submitting insightful resources and celebrating designers that deserve recognition. Yinka Ilori adds, “Design is a powerful tool and I believe it can change the world but we need to switch it up massively and bring in some new tastemakers from diverse backgrounds. It's important because it gives people the opportunity to have their voice heard and tell their own story.”

You have the power to change the design industry for the better. Find out how over at Design Can.