The past year has been transformative for many of us. Unparalleled global events have impacted us both personally and professionally in ways we may not yet fully understand. As the year draws to a close and another begins, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future.
With the world as we know it shifting beneath our feet, the creative industry has also undergone unique changes. We’ve seen many designers struggle to find work, while others grapple with serious questions and challenges, exploring how they can use their creativity to inspire change and support important causes.
We invited leading designers into our virtual living rooms to sum up 2020 and discuss their expectations for the year ahead.
Visual and interaction designer, co-founder of Where Are the Black Designers.
The events of the past year led visual and interaction designer Mitzi Okou to make significant changes in her life. After quitting her job at HP, she placed her focus on Where Are the Black Designers, an initiative fighting to amplify Black voices in design.
Although she was always passionate about social justice, race design activism was never part of Mitzi’s plans. “2020 awakened that activism in me that I didn't honestly think I even had,” she tells Shaping Design.
The first virtual conference for Where Are the Black Designers took place in June. She has since continued to use the platform, as well as her other projects, to support Black designers and change the way the world looks at diversity and representation.
Mitzi stresses that “Black designers are out there, and the talent is extreme,” yet the design industry doesn’t reflect these facts. She calls for better, more inclusive hiring practices, encouraging brands to take meaningful action so as to not exclude people of various races, genders, abilities and ages from their workforces.
“All these circumstances are causing me to think, how can I amplify Black designers? How can I put them in the forefront? How can I center Blackness, or what Blackness means to me in my work?”
Writer, designer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the podcast Design Matters.
With the pandemic leading her to temporarily move homes and adapt her lifestyle, Debbie Millman has found solace this year in growing vegetables and caring for her newly adopted puppy. While the changes may have caused “a lot of tears,” she’s kept as busy as ever: teaching, producing new episodes of her well known Design Matters podcast, creating animated visual stories for TED’s conferences, presenting on the new CBS series, New York by Design, and much, much more.
As the co-founder of the branding graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Debbie and her team had to move the program online in just three days. “We ended up having to produce an entire thesis with technology as opposed to in-person,” she recalls. “I was very pleased with the way that it ultimately came to life, but it was really stressful.”
Another big change was adapting Design Matters to fit a new socially distanced format. Unable to interview her guests face-to-face, which she feels adds warmth and intimacy to the conversations, Debbie shifted the communication online and set up an in-home studio.
Following a year full of uncertainty, social turmoil and political unrest, Debbie is deeply concerned by the state of the world. “That’s what designers need to be thinking about: politics and the environment,” she concludes.
“I think that people are using the discipline of branding to create movements that unite and connect people to make a better world. But there are very few brands that are risking anything for their beliefs.”
Designer, filmmaker and a partner at Pentagram.