Event Recap • Diversity to Equity, By Design

April 9, 2019 | | View Comments

Event Recap • Diversity to Equity, By Design


How has design become homogenized? Future Work Design Co-Founder Nina Narelle and Partner Katie Ausburger said it is “by design” at Design Museum Mornings in March at Prosper Portland.

Future Work Design is a consulting firm where Narelle and Ausburger provide strategy, organizational development, and employee experience solutions within human resources to businesses who wish to do the work in examining the ways they participate in homogeneous design and how to create a more inclusive work environment from within.

In their Diversity to Equity, by Design presentation, Narelle and Ausgurger shared how homogenous design exacerbates inequality by pushing marginalized people further into the margins. From the Federal Housing Act in 1934 to the routine rejection of people of Asian descent in passport photo recognition software, design for the dominant culture is simply bad design.

In reality, there is no set formula or ‘top 5 things to do’ for more inclusivity in design. The process of unpacking inequity and homogeneity is riddled with discomfort for those experiencing whiteness. “Your job is to look for the gap between your intent and your impact,” said Ausburger.

Design impact happens when we solve problems in creative ways. The challenge is broadening the audience that problems are solved for. Doing so requires efforts beyond diverse hiring practices – all organizations  must create safe environments for diverse perspectives to be included and to be successful.

“Start with the right framing questions and you will come to a better design,” said Narelle in response to the assumption that the solution is getting more people of color into design. Ausburger adds that 75% of white people have exclusively white professional networks. This is a problem when examining which perspectives are missing in design solutions.

Where do we go from here? “Disrupt the status quo. Not from a place of benevolence but reclaiming your humanity. [And recognize] that it is also safer for you to do so,” said Ausburger. “Get ok with being uncomfortable. And know that there are people of color who also feel that way all the time,” said Narelle. The road to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a long one, but fortunately, we’re in this together.

Special thanks to our March Design Museum Morning sponsor, JE Dunn Construction.

Join us on April 26th for our next Design Museum Mornings, Runway for Change, lead by the Port of Portland’s Social Equity Program Manager, Dr. Steven Nakana. Steve will share how his work at the Port of Portland can help any organization with the tools to build a different perspective at the front end of any large or small program.

What is Design Museum Mornings?

Design Museum Mornings is a monthly event series brought to you by Design Museum Portland. These events are meant to inspire you before your day begins and bring you closer to the Design Museum Portland community. Each event will include a short presentation by a local thought-leader, free breakfast, and great people to wake up with. These events are hosted and sponsored by various generous businesses of the Greater Portland area. If you are interested in hosting one of these events, please check out our host page here for more information.

Become a member to attend this event for free • Membership starts at just $5/month