What happens when your creative team isn’t diverse enough?

“Exclusion is not a PR-friendly word, but it is a universal human experience. We all know how it feels when we’re left out.” - Kat Holmes

We find that when people think about diversity, a lot of the talk is about inequality in the creative industries and how they are dealt with. We often hear about specific hiring policies or campaigns to recruit a wider range of talent. But, for us, the issue of diversity — at least when we’re talking about building a creative team — deserves to be about more than ‘balancing the books’ in terms of who is in your team.

Tea Uglow, Creative Director for Google Creative Lab in Sydney, puts it really nicely in an essay she wrote for D&AD. “My personal interest is in increasing the business viability of diverse voices in every industry,” she writes. “Moving the whole notion of ‘diversity’ out of a stream of conscious that considers it an HR issue and putting it where it more rightly belongs - as a structural component of any business. That means doing something rather than just talking about it.”

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On a cultural and social level, diversity in design, storytelling and technology should be about connecting people who otherwise might not be connected, and reflecting the real world we live in. To not use diverse storytelling risks you being left behind whilst other creative organizations, teams or individuals shine. In other words, without encouraging differences in ideas and including different opinions in our creative process, we’re actually selling ourselves short in terms of coming up with creative solutions to the world’s problems.

While we’re on the subject of doing things and not just talking about them, we thought we’d share a few of our favourite platforms, resources and projects that demonstrate what we mean by all of this, and hopefully inspire you to think about how you can apply it to your own creative process.

Adobe’s #DiverseVoices at Cannes Lions 2018

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#DiverseVoices was an Adobe portrait series that explored what creatives at Cannes Lions 2018 think about diversity & inclusion in advertising. The project was curated by two of Adobe’s 2018 Creative Residents: photographer Laura Zalenga, and mixed-media artist and photographer Temi Coker. While at the festival in Cannes, France, the two creatives asked Cannes Lions attendees what diversity means to them and how it has affected and/or contributed to their work in the advertising and creative industry. They also asked attendees about what they thought was missing and what industries could be doing to solve certain problems. Laura and Temi then shot and designed some #DiverseVoices portraits, which were shared with festival participants and also shared via social media on Adobe’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels.

Inclusivity

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When we think of diversity, we often (and quite naturally) think about inequalities in the way ethnicity, sexuality and gender is represented in creative fields. But one aspect of diversity that’s we tend to miss is the issue of socioeconomic class and who even gets access to the creative opportunities and initiatives available.

In the UK’s creative sector, working-class people continue to be hugely under-represented. There’s a bunch of studies that show that the industry is still mostly dominated by middle-class, privately-educated, white men. For example a report released by Arts Emergency and Create London this year  (conducted by sociologists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield) claims that the percentage of people working in the publishing industry with working-class origins is 12.6%, while in film, TV and radio it was 12.4%; in music, performing and visual arts, 18.2%.

To try and tackle this major inequality, one platform has recently stepped up and hopes to bring balance back to the British creative sector. Inclusivity is a new initiative that is dedicated to “providing creative guidance for the working class”. It’s a non-profit organization that has teamed up with 33 creatives and 33 London districts to provide guidance, equipment, and education for people who want to get into creative projects. Whether it's giving young people tips on improving business strategy, building a marketing plan for your creative business idea or even just helping people update their CV and portfolio, it’s trying to make creativity something that everybody has access to; the way it should be, in our opinion!

RARE Global

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In the past year, D&AD, Google and The Berlin Leadership School have all pledged their support for a new international platform that’s very vocal about promoting inclusiveness, openness and opportunity in the tech and creative industries. RARE Global is a program that hopes to give creative people from ethnic minorities an advantage for once.

It puts on two masterclasses: R-LDN and RARE SYD. Both of them are held in both the UK and Australia and the idea is to give attendees the tools, the network and the professional skills they need to lead a creative business. It’s very focused on highlighting their unique values and perspectives. As if that wasn’t enough, all the money generated from the masterclasses are channelled into other initiatives such as internships, maternity and research grants which all help promote diversity in the workplace.

TONL

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We find that visual storytelling can also be incredibly important to the way diversity is represented, particularly within the advertising and marketing industries. For a very long time, however, even finding culturally-diverse stock photos that actually reflected the real world was a huge challenge.

One Ghanaian-American photographer and creative director by the name of Joshua Kissi and Nigerian-American entrepreneur Karen Okonkwo got together and create TONL to try and change this. TONL a stock photography company which focuses on showcasing people of color. It's a disruptive initiative that aims to challenge the stock photography industry's lack of authentic diversity by providing clients with photos for editorials and campaigns that are more representative of, well, real life, really! It seems to be paying off: the two co-founders were recently named one of Inc. Magazine's "30 Most Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs of 2018".

What have you heard?

Got some of examples of projects, companies or initiatives that are using diversity to positively impact creativity? We’d love to hear about them!