Episode 13 – The Design Industry’s Representation Crisis w/ Ian Rolston

There is ‘saying,’ and there is ‘doing.’ Both are important, and in many cases one can’t happen without the other. But eventually the latter must happen, otherwise the former has been abandoned and rendered meaningless.

We all saw the slow emergence of conversations about diversity in representation kicked into high gear during the summer of 2020, as companies and organizations queued up to give their official Statements on Diversity and Inclusion in the face of intense scrutiny coming from social upheavals. And deservedly so, for while Canadian workplaces may appear more diverse than ever before, that appearance belies the reality that diverse representation is commonly found at the lower end of company hierarchies, with clear gaps in positions of influence and power at senior leadership levels.

What is interesting is how professionals in the design industry think of themselves as having progressive and inclusive mindsets, that it is baked into the very nature of what they do. However, a homogeneity within design leadership coupled with a fear of even engaging in these conversations has slowed the acceptance of ways to increase and advance diversity. Yet the reality is, if done for the right reasons, these actions can directly impact business sustainability and ultimately its profitability.

In this episode of Bevel we sit down with Ian Rolston, founder of the design equity consultancy firm Decanthropy, to explore the myriad of complex issues imbedded in any conversation about representation in the design industry. We discuss what must happen to move the needle from talk to action, and zero in on three key areas: design education, professional practice and the role of advocacy.

Ian is a creative soul, thought leader, design professional and speaker, inspired by connecting humanity to what matters most. His insights, studio workshops and project collaborations focus clients on leading with one’s sense of humanity to inform the design process, shift thinking and transform ROI to reimagine new possibilities for the spaces we live in.