DID Returns to Detroit for its Second Designed By Youth Fest and a New Networking Experience for Black Designers
DETROIT, MI - September 29, 2022 – The Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative hosted another “Designed By” youth design fest at the College for Creative Studies. The Collaborative also offered a networking experience for Black creatives in Detroit.
Designed By - A Youth Design Fest
Designed By youth fests aim to foster awareness of design as a viable career path for high school students. Around 215 Detroit high school students heard from influential speakers, participated in small group discussions, and viewed design work across different typologies.
Designed By began with students arriving at the College for Creative Studies and exploring design exhibits contributed by DID member companies. Fest activities were kicked off by a 17-year-old emcee, Duke Alexander, a Cass Technical high school student interested in a career in Fashion Design who is also taking classes at the College for Creative Studies. Duke guided students through five roundtable sessions learning from and engaging with 32 design professionals, the majority of whom are Black designers, across varied areas of practice.
Our spotlight speaker was Akil Alvin, a 27-year-old Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Digital Detroit Media and a Forbes “30 Under 30” award recipient. The impressive creative shared his winding path into the design world and grounded students in the importance of chasing their goals as they grow up, not when they grow up.
New to Designed By for this September program was a hands-on design challenge where students were asked to design creative solutions to address flooding issues the city of Detroit has faced due to the climate crisis. The proposed solutions were tangible and thoughtful – from assembling task forces in the community, to address flooding to designing new drainage systems to protect homes and businesses from flood damage.
While Designed By is primarily focused on illuminating pathways into design for Black and brown youth, adult facilitators and volunteers also felt the impact. Cortnie Squirewell, a Design Thinking Catalyst at Ford Motor Company and an active part of the planning behind Designed By, reflects on what her career might look like if she’d had a similar opportunity.
“I was a creative student growing up, I painted, prototyped, and designed, however, it wasn’t until adulthood that I learned I could have a viable career doing the thing I enjoyed most. This would have allowed me to start my education career focusing on specific design skill instead of entering the non-traditional pathway to design.”
Beats+Bites+Backgrounds – A Networking Experience
Later in the same evening, DID presented its first Beats+Bites+Backgrounds networking experience for Black creatives in the Detroit area.
The event featured beats provided by a local DJ, quality bites and beverages, as well as insightful guest speakers who shared their stories and backgrounds in design. Beats+Bites+Backgrounds will appear in a new location in 2023, and will grow across the country.
DID is made up of working groups that lead programs and initiatives within the Collaborative. Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Fossil Group, Inc., was one of the key players in the development of Beats+Bites+Backgrounds. The goal of this event was to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere to network and connect with others in the industry.
“We’re trying to build a sustainable community of individuals that can support and be resources to each other while simultaneously serving as a critical mass of Black design talent for organizations to look to,” Crosby Wheeler said. “I hope that attendees walked away with a desire to attend more of these events, engage with more Black creatives, and someone had at least one fruitful professional connection.”
Detroit, a city of many firsts, is distinguished as a future city and leader of American innovation, influencing music, design, industry, and social progress. With a population of 78.3 percent Black residents, according to the 2021 census, Detroit exists as a representative of Black America’s creative community. Detroit's palpable influence contributes to how the nation shapes more human-centered cities. Detroit is an ideal civic partner as DID hopes to energize the creation of mindful design that promotes a world with greater solutions for all.
DID plans to bring Designed By to additional cities across the nation as early as 2023. DID will also continue to show up in the Detroit area with programming for aspiring and practicing Black creatives as part of its ongoing commitment to the community.
DID recently sponsored a design workshop in June 2022 for a group of UPrep students. Students participated in an exercise that taught them the problem-solving power of design when applied to real-world scenarios. DID member company, Rightpoint, put on the event as part of DID’s ongoing youth-focused programming.
DID is actively working to bridge the gap from school to design careers. Working groups within DID conducted research to identify barriers to entry in the design industry particularly for Black students. Results show that meaningful internship experience is a hurdle for many students.
To overcome this obstacle, DID is launching a pilot internship program, connecting design school students with internships among DID’s growing 53 member companies. Interns are matched with DID member companies, provided a mentor, and offered opportunities to connect as a cohort across organizations and fields. All applicants receive coaching assistance such as portfolio reviews or educational programming opportunities. DID’s internship program will launch in Summer 2023.
The Collaborative was also recently awarded Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards in the General Excellence category.
We look forward to all the exciting events and programming to come!