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Design by Diversity Fund: Supporting Design Education for BIPOC Youth

Pivot recently joined together with the IIDA and educator and designer Jon Otis to initiate the Design by Diversity Fund.

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The Design by Diversity Fund, or dxdf, was created to serve as a resource for BIPOC students to advance educational initiatives and awareness for and about the design profession. The initiative’s goal is to create awareness about design where people of all identities and experiences are embraced, including diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, nationality, disability, socioeconomic standing, and intellectual viewpoint.

Dxdf was founded by Jon Otis, Professor of Interior Design at Pratt Institute and Founder and Principal of OlA—Object Agency. Jon is also Director of the Pratt Creative Xchange at the Pratt Research Yard which provides connections with artists and makers and students. In 2017, he was named IIDA Educator of the Year and decided to used the award funds, $10,000, to commence launching the foundation through legal channels and develop the brand. The inception of the fund was paused during the pandemic and recently re-launched as the Diversity by Design Fund through the IIDA Foundation with the help of IIDA CEO Cheryl Durst. Jon’s contribution was matched by a $5,000 contribution from Pivot and a $5,000 contribution from Pivot’s Creative Director Edward Woodill.

Pivot is serving as a founding partner in the launch of dxdf, committed to both annual giving and raising awareness to promoting funding, providing publicity and exploring educational initiatives that could be approved – particularly in California communities.

“I have had a lifelong interest in diversity, in part due to viewing inequity in my environment, in my education, and in politics over the years. As a designer I have had the acute realization that there is a scarcity of Black and Hispanics in the field of design, evidenced by the absence of students in design schools. There lacks a pipeline from which to hire, which points to a lack of representation in design programs,” said Jon. “When I began teaching I saw firsthand that there was little to no student representation in the black community, and that there was a lack of awareness amongst minority community and students around career path toward architecture and design. Art classes have always been a place that felt safe, supported and able to express myself, and I believe that in the programs the dxdf will fund that is a place where a lot of these kids will have their creativity encouraged and can in turn hopefully discover a meaningful career path in design.”

How does it work?

Dxdf essentially established a fund within the umbrella of the IIDA Foundation to support programs that increase awareness and promote design education about employment in the design industry. While programs are in ideation, a few examples of this include adoption of an art teacher for junior high school students that attend underfunded public schools in diverse communities, or supporting IIDA's Design Your World program, an initiative that serves as a summer program in selected cities where local mentors from racially diverse communities are engaged to teach students about the concept and process of design. The program could also potentially fund supplies such as computers for students to help alleviate a high attrition rate in programs due to affordability of resources.

Early design education is a critical way to create an awareness about the profession for young people, particularly those in the BIPOC community, and increase the pipeline of qualified designers and architects. Dxdf believes that outreach, and initiatives of academic and community-based programs are critical to expanding an active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in educational curriculum and in social and geographical communities. This will, in turn, support an understanding that there are options within the varied disciplines of design to learn, grow and find a professional career path.

Who does dxdf serve?

Dxdf is committed to serving the BIPOC student population in underserved communities to combat a lack of inclusivity and diversity in design programs at all levels – the student population, university faculty and staff, academic content and mentorship and internships opportunities.

The program is intended to ensure that all populations have the opportunity to thrive in the field of design, as well as educate community participants about the needs father population and create change through de-bias processes (in recruitment) and to the evolve language of industry.

The potential positive impacts on the design community, and underserved, diverse communities are vast – attraction and retention of talent, improved creativity, problem-solving and communication amongst graduates, and a wider perspective in design. Diversity in design will allow for a greater ability to relate to the clients and communities we serve in terms of a global environment.

Read more about Dxdf.