A lot can happen in five years. Isn’t that always the question employers ask you at interviews, where do you see yourself in five years? Well five years ago to this day I was at my final year graduation exhibition. I came across heart warming, nostalgic photographs on my Facebook memories. Me and old friends, me and my wonderful mama, my little niece in front of my stand. It’s crazy what can happen in five years. I look back on who I was when I was leaving university – lacking real industry knowledge, so naive of the world, under confident, the ultimate bubble-university-graduate. I could list all the ups and downs of the past years but I’d rather not bore you, or send myself off on a high speed rollercoaster just before bed! It’s been eventful to say the least.
Though we’re currently living in strange times with a global pandemic and political unrest. It’s all too easy to despair. But when I look back on my life in the last five years on a macro level, life has honestly changed for the better. There’s been a lot of hard lessons, but so much growth. A handful of older and newer friends who I’ll always hold dear remain. Family is still family, because thankfully we never change! Several grey hairs have emerged, I’m still trying to embrace those. I finally found a special soul, to match my own, one I can call home, he’s called Charlie. I found a new workplace and the Creative Director who interviewed me literally gave me hope again in the design world and myself just at a time I really needed. Finally, for the first time since leaving university, I’ve started to embrace all the creative parts of myself and what direction I want them to go in. It’s been no easy feat either navigating the competitive, white world of design and filling the gaping holes that higher education leaves.
All in all, five years on I’ve learnt how to make my own happiness. I’d never have predicted half the things that have happened since 2015 so who knows what the next five years have in store. Time is bloody weird when you think about it (too much) the idea that we’re constantly going forwards even though at times we might feel stuck. There’s still an underlying current willing us on towards something better. It’s surprising how much progress you make when you’re living day by day. Not too many months ago I was lamenting the feeling “I’d done nothing of value” but now, looking back five years, I can see how wrong I was.
Radmakes has been featured on People of Craft a wonderful online resource celebrating all creatives of colour, championing our skills and shining light on severely underrepresented individuals in the creative industries. Check them out and shout about them too! If companies are really serious about diversity and inclusion then start supporting your local creatives of colour.
There are great programs and resources emerging to promote and encourage women in design such as the Ladies, Wine & Design set up by Jessica Walsh which now spans over 170 cities. Which led me onto thinking about the representation of people of colour in design. I came across Timothy Goodman and Amélie Lamont’s People of Craft website a few months ago now, to say I got excited is an understatement. It’s something I’ve not seen before, the celebration of people of colour in my own field of work. Everything seems to link back to this topic I’ve been wanting to work on for some time now, that is essentially everything brown, hence the beginning of the brown-blog.
I recently read only 11% of design business leaders are women. It’s a strange occurrence when I consider that my university course was roughly evenly split. So where are all the ladies at? Not only are females underrepresented in design, so too are people of colour. In 2016 BAME employees made up 11% of the people working in creative industries. I’ve yet to find out what proportion of that are women but I doubt it’s a promising figure. In four years of design education and three years in industry I have only encountered a handful of people of colour in my field and virtually none in the working environment since.
It’s hard to become something you can’t already see. Undeniably our backgrounds shape our experiences and opportunities. Being able to understand that becomes an important part of my own practice and would hopefully be beneficial to other people of colour in design. My biggest frustration currently is opening up this conversation without being mistaken for ‘complaining’. To support people of colour is more than ticking the token brown person box. It’s opening up design to a diverse pool of talent who could bring valuable experiences to the table.
I want to create a positive network of BAME designers, however small in number to support each other, collaborate and discuss the barriers facing people of colour getting into design and more importantly what will keep us here. If you’re a designer and a person of colour or know someone who’d be interested, get in touch! Especially if you’re UK based, I’d love to hear from you.