This article was originally published on 03/04/2019
Across creative industries, low representation of Black people is often met with the same excuse, “I don’t know any!”
Now, Black designers are working together to make sure they don’t have to hear those words ever again with the creation of Blacks Who Design, an online directory of Black designers.
The project was founded by designer Wes O’Haire, who has worked for companies like Hudl and Dropbox. O’Haire was inspired after starting a Slack group for Black designers and finding a lot of people wanted a site like this to exist.
Back in 2014, designer Maurice Cherry posed the question: Where Are the Black Designers? In a post for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Cherry wrote, “Design-driven companies in Silicon Valley like Twitter report only single-digit percentages of American employees of color.”
The AIGA conducted a survey of the industry in 2017 and found things hadn’t changed a lot. According to their survey, only 3.4% of the industry is Black.
So, for O’Haire, it was important to build a platform highlighting Black designers specifically because there tends to be low representation of them in companies.
“What I keep hearing is ‘I don’t know any Black designers!'” O’Haire said. “This site solves that exact problem.”
The goal of Blacks Who Design is to inspire new designers, diversify feeds, and help people find individuals to join their teams. The site itself is also easy to use. On its homepage, users are immediately greeted by a Twitter directory of Black people working in the design industry.
For the purpose of the project, “design industry” is a pretty vast term. On the site, people can filter by categories like: product designers, freelances, UX designers, writers, and more. O’Haire boils it down as, “Really, it’s about people who are creative problem solvers.”
When asked what inspired the project, O’Haire identified the work of Jules Forrest’s Women Who Design and Pablo Stanley’s Latinxs Who Design. Both sites are also shouted out directly on Blacks Who Design.
“They both had similar problems that we were trying to solve, so I sought them out for guidance and inspiration,” O’Haire said. “It’s been really amazing to have their support and bounce ideas off of them.”
So far, the project’s been a success. In just a few weeks, people have already started getting invites to speak at conferences and more recruiters are hitting them up, all thanks to the site.
To O’Haire, the project extends past only helping those already in the industry. For him, Blacks Who Design is also a way to inspire more Black people to do design work.
“If people see the site and see thriving designers that look like them, that could be enough inspiration for them to sign up for a class or apply for a job” O’Haire said.
Although Blacks Who Design is still pretty new, its team has already identified how they want the project to expand. In the future, they’ll focus on three key areas: jobs, community, and skill development.
“Since creating better representation is one of our goals, our first project that we’ll likely work on is connecting our community with companies that are looking to hire,” O’Haire said.