A newly launched initiative, Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative, hosted its first career fair for high schoolers of color, this past week in Detroit. “Designed By” included 30 roundtables, each featuring a Black designer from various industries. Students had the opportunity to engage with executives and entrepreneurs working throughout the worlds of fashion, architecture, tech, industrial design and more.
“Putting Black and BIPOC creativity at the center of culture has been the [core] of a lot of what I do,” says DID’s new director, Todd Palmer. “DID was an opportunity to move from creating awareness of perspectives of Black communities . . . to take a look at design itself: How can we open this up to create more positions like I’ve had the privilege to occupy?”
As a trained architect, Palmer has worked throughout his career, both directly and indirectly, to make design education a more equitable space. “I have a firsthand knowledge of what it means to work in a profession that’s very white,” Palmer tells Fast Company. After a bout of burnout and a sabbatical in 2020, Palmer began to prioritize doing the work, over teaching about it.
“Learning how to make our educational system more equitable [alongside] workforce and industry hasn’t been solved!” Palmer continued. “We can maybe fix it, or solve for it, somehow. That’s hugely appealing.”
His directorship at DID will assist the organization in broadening its sphere of influence by connecting colleges and curriculum to corporations, and establish professional development.
Following this week’s “Designed By” event, DID will analyze provided feedback, and make necessary adjustments for the next event. The hope is to expand the program nationwide, giving more Black teens the chance to explore potential careers in the field.
According to Data USA, only 5% of designers in corporate spaces are Black, despite protest inspired diversity initiatives.
“We’re approaching this enormous problem, knowing we can’t boil the ocean,” says Palmer, “We’re thinking about how a senior at this design fair, in a few years, is going to be entering the workforce. Maybe they go to an HBCU, maybe they go to Pensole Academy. But how do we [help with] that next step to higher education?”