Design Diversity Index


It could be argued that the lack of diversity is one of the most pressing problems in the design fields.

The fact that design professionals do not reflect the communities they serve limits the creativity and relevance of design projects. Strikingly, Ohio has 2,650 licensed architects, but only 63 are African American. This means 2% of the architects are African American in a state where 12% of the total population is African American. The city of Cleveland has fewer than 20 African American licensed architects, although the city is majority African American. Across Ohio, the number of people of color within each design discipline is very small, limiting the opportunities to learn what works locally to increase diversity. Academic institutions, private firms, and cultural organizations alike would benefit from a shared resource that enables this situation to change.


What is Design Diversity Index?

The Design Diversity Index project began with a question: How can the design community know which actions are working best to increase diversity in our fields? In order to answer this question, data must be available on the number of people of color in design schools and professions. Strategies to increase African American and Latinx representation should be evaluated on their results. How else can one know if intentions actually work?

Rather than compare data from a single design discipline across numerous geographic regions, the Index compares multiple design disciplines within a single geographic area. By focusing on a single state, Ohio, the project aims to identify locally-relevant strategies to increase diversity. This approach is intended to complement other valuable diversity studies focused on a single discipline. In other words, the Index serves as a cross-cutting tool to share insights across disciplines, while maintaining a shared local context. 

Anticipated to grow over time, the current Design Diversity Index includes visualizations of demographic data from 15 academic design programs in Northern Ohio and three design professions across the entire state. Design Diversity Index provides a framework to add more data and user functionality through succeeding versions. The initial development version of the project is made possible by support from The George Gund Foundation.  

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What's Next for Design Diversity Index?

In order to advance beyond this first phase, the project intends to solicit feedback and generate action. Feedback on the Index structure is welcome in order to refine and improve the tool. Design Diversity Index is meant to provide a one-stop shop to easily find diversity data on multiple design disciplines. Therefore, several improvements will be necessary to ensure reliable comparisons across all six disciplines. Ideally, the Design Diversity Index started in Ohio will serve as a model that can be adopted in other communities across the United States. Enabling individuals in other states to track demographics in their geographic area may raise awareness of the local need for racial equity, encourage dialogue across disciplinary boundaries, and reveal the actions most effective to produce change in that community.


INDEX Template

The following template illustrates the actions other communities can take to create their own local version of the Design Diversity Index.

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Research Team

The project’s key individuals included Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) staff members Terry Schwarz, David Jurca, and Beth Conway. Data collection was led by research consultant Jacinda Walker, founder of designExplorr, and former Chair of AIGA’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Additional data collection support was provided by research assistant Velvette De Laney from dewdropstudios and information designer Josh Kruszynski.  

If you would like to receive updates on the Design Diversity Index, please stay connected through our Design Diversity mailing list: 

View the Design Diversity webinar hosted by the American Planning Association below: