Seeking diversity and sharing an active interest in increasing representation doesn’t stem from a fabricated need to fill some arbitrary quota, but rather, the desire for diversity derives from the acknowledgement that white and male has not only become the default, but in being the norm, has become synonymous with “quality” or “talent.” The argument which is often made that prescribes diversity as a means of establishing an arbitrary quota tends to suggest that it’s not diversity that we should focus in but rather quality, talent, skill or craft. It’s not that quality, talent, skill or craft shouldn’t be focused on, it’s that we live in a white-washed world of graphic design where these four things have all been defined and standardized by white men.
This isn’t diversity for the sake of diversity, this extends well beyond that. This dives into the chambers of representation that has been long occupied by white men and dares to pose the questions: Are we accurately representing graphic design? Is it that white male designers are the most talented or is it that they’re the most normalized due to their historical privilege?
This article stems from Timothy Goodman’s tweet where he called upon white male designers to seek diversity in conference lineups before agreeing to speak at them. In Jessica Hische’s replies, she implies that failing to seek diversity and focusing solely on craft results in primarily white male representation and that “if you don’t include women/people of color [then] it’s about lazy curation [because] the talent exists.”
For women and people of color that aren’t interested in being contributors to an “arbitrary quota,” please understand it’s not a quota—seeking diversity derives from an understanding and acknowledgment of the rich history of unfair representation where no matter your level of skill, race and gender that deviate from white and male have historically and continue to receive the short end of the stick.
It took an extremely long time for diversity in art to not only be accepted but also respected. Even so, diversity in art ran the risk of being fetishized—being embraced more so for the sake of exoticness than that of cultural significance or value. In design, we’re beginning to recognize the importance of diversity, however, on the net, we’re understanding it from the wrong perspective. We live in a very diverse world, but we’re failing to accurately represent that world.