A more inclusive design field

July 1, 2020

During the more visible days of the Black Lives Matter movement a few weeks ago, you may have noticed something in our social media posts: silence. This was not because we do not agree with the movement’s goals and ideals, but because we weren’t sure what to add to the conversation. We were also asking ourselves what it means if ID joins the public discourse about political topics, but we realised the dismantling of institutional racism should not be a political issue. So, we want to share something with our members and the Dutch (industrial) design community in general.

It should go without saying that ID opposes racism or any other form of discrimination based on any other arbitrary human attributes like physical abilities, sexuality, gender identity or religion. In the past, we have done the (bare) minimum of celebrating Sinterklaas without blackface. Additionally, the association is actively working towards making our communication more inclusive for the international student community by making sure more and more is available in English and actively inviting/including them to our events, too.

However, we are aware this is not enough. The Dutch design community, our non-international student population and member base is remarkably white. Looking at our honorary members, it’s even still dominantly male, showing where the design field is coming from. This stands in stark contrast with what is basic knowledge in design: diversity is important, to make sure our designs are inclusive. To prevent mistakes like racist biases in algorithms or ignoring half the population when designing cars. And while we have no policy in place preventing anyone studying at our faculty to become a member, we have not been actively working to make our association more diverse and inclusive, either.

Going forward, we want to do more. Not all plans and ideas are concrete and certain enough to share yet, but we would like to start with education. We want to actively find and share what has already been written and said by black people, people of color and other marginalized communities about this topic. This starts with a small list of resources below, but can continue through more of our channels. 

We think it’s a starting point for a study association. We’re glad to see the Executive Board has started to actively work on this topic, too, and are looking forward to see how we can help. And we will try develop this list over time, while making sure the work is intersectional.

If there is one thing designers are good at, it’s showing empathy and listening to users and stakeholders. We would like to remind ourselves and the entire Dutch design community that we should use those skills to actively make our field more inclusive. This should not rely on just a week of activity from the Black Lives Matter movement around the world. Neither should it be expressed solely in words and hashtags. We should be actively striving for it.

If you have any questions, suggestions or critique, please let us know, by sending an email to svid@tudelft.nl

Resources on diversity, inclusion and anti-racism in The Netherlands and the field of design