Design Diversity is currently developing a tool for guiding short and long term actions toward creating more diverse and culturally relevant design communities. The Design Diversity Index is a tool for gauging the numbers and percentages of people of color in academic programs and professional careers in architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, and related design disciplines in Ohio. Made possible through the support of The George Gund Foundation, the Index will measure current baseline conditions and annual progress toward expanding racial diversity in the design professions. It will provide a model that can be adopted in other communities and will also link to established national efforts to promote diversity in design.

Design Diversity Index is a tool for gauging the numbers and percentages of people of color pursuing academic degrees and working in architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, and related design disciplines in Ohio.

It could be argued that the lack of diversity is one of the most pressing problems in the design fields. This problem is especially pronounced in architecture, where people of color represent fewer than 10% of the registered architects in the US. In Ohio, the number of people of color within each discipline is very small, limiting the opportunities to learn what works locally to increase intra-disciplinary minority representation. Strikingly, Ohio has 2,650 licensed architects, but only 63 are African American. The city of Cleveland has fewer than 20 African American licensed architects. The fact that design professionals do not reflect the communities they serve limits the creativity and relevance of organizations in Northeast Ohio. Academic institutions, private firms, and non-profit cultural organizations alike would benefit from a shared resource that enables this situation to change.


Measuring to Drive Change

Collecting relevant baseline data is a critical first step toward effective change. Although professional organizations maintain data on the diversity of their members, this data focuses on each single discipline. The Design Diversity Index is a cross-cutting tool that will collect and track data from multiple design professions that maintain a state-level or national registry or certification, including architecture (American Institute of Architects), landscape architecture (American Society of Landscape Architects), and graphic designers (AIGA). Although our primary interest is in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, this initiative will gather data at the state level, while comparing differences for regions across Ohio.

Our initiative examines ways in which design education, research, and practice influence recruitment and build awareness of design fields within communities of color. The Design Diversity Index will collect and maintain data on the number of African Americans and Latinos from design schools, programs, and professional organizations in Ohio. Advancing beyond diversity initiatives targeted within a single discipline, the Design Diversity Index takes a unique multidisciplinary approach. Design Diversity Index will visualize comparative data from a range of disciplines, including architecture, graphic design, landscape architecture, and urban design. This cross-cutting approach, linking traditionally separate design fields, creates the opportunity to identify and spread effective strategies for increasing diversity within a geographic region. Strategies that work in one part of the country may not be transferable to other parts of the country due to unique industry standards, immigration patterns, or state policies. For example, Washington D.C. has a relatively high percentage of African Americans in the architecture profession. But this has been attributed to the significant number of federal government agencies in the city, a unique condition not easily replicated in other cities. Initially focused on Ohio, the Design Diversity Index will serve as a template for measuring progress toward achieving diversity goals in other states. 

Research Team

The project’s key individuals include Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) staff members and research consultant Jacinda Walker. They will lead the project's development with the guidance of the Design Diversity Advisory Committee. CUDC Associate Director, David Jurca, will serve as the project manager, supported by CUDC Director Terry Schwarz.  Jacinda Walker is the founder of designExplorr, and currently serves as Chair of AIGA’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Walker’s research on the experiences of African Americans and Latinos in design professions in Ohio provides a deep and relevant foundation for the Design Diversity Index. 

Integrating new data from multiple disciplines, the Design Diversity Index will increase the exchange of ideas and accelerate actions across the broader design community. As researcher Jacinda Walker has noted:

  • Increasing the diversity in design is a business strategy that will drive innovation.
  • In this knowledge-based, tech-driven, global world, exclusion is no longer sustainable.
  • Design can create opportunities for underrepresented populations in academia, employment and entrepreneurship.
  • More African-American and Latino designers in the industry will provide role models for youth in underrepresented communities.

The project is expected to launch in fall of 2017. If you would like to receive updates on the Design Diversity Index, please stay connected through our Design Diversity mailing list: