Diversity in Design:
Shaping the Future
Diversity in Design: Shaping the Future
Collaborating to Expand Design’s Reach
In the summer of 2022, IA’s Seattle studio collaborated with MillerKnoll to launch a diversity-in-design initiative focused on increasing inclusivity in the design industry with the goal of introducing students of varied backgrounds to the world of design and architecture. The two firms explored ideas, acknowledging the common objective of enhancing awareness and understanding of interior architecture and design.
The general consensus was that a greater understanding and exposure to the opportunities and the possibilities for personal accomplishment when working in our industry would help students from diverse backgrounds consider or even choose interior architecture as their career. At the very least, it would make them aware of career opportunities available in the design and architecture field.
Based on this thinking and inspired by the possibilities, IA and MillerKnoll inaugurated a summer program in 2022 to introduce interior architecture and design to students from diverse backgrounds. The studio worked with the Boys and Girls Club of King County and its YouthForce program to reach interested participants, with the potential to expand the program to cities where clubs and IA studios are located.
The program’s successful first year introduced middle and high school students to the professions of interior design and architecture. This year’s more refined program, in collaboration with YouthForce, MillerKnoll, and MillerKnoll dealership Catalyst Workplace Activation, offered high school students six sessions with multiple IA design professionals focused on various aspects of interior architecture and design. Seventeen students were able to join the program, which spanned activities, exercises, site visits, and assigned projects. Retail, interior, virtual, furniture, and experiential design were explored with the students. They were also challenged to draw a floor plan with dimensions, design a storefront, experience how virtual reality is being used in design, and ponder what the youth center of the future might look like.
In addition, they designed a large graphic mural and explored how furniture is designed and used in a variety of environments. A tour of IA’s Seattle studio, as well as the Climate Pledge Arena, the world’s first net zero-certified arena, was also included. Furthermore, the students attended YouthForce career readiness workshops as part of the Seattle Diversity in Design (SDID) program. The workshops were Basic Work Skills, Resume Writing, Interview Skills and Mock Interviews).
The participants’ creativity amazed us. For instance, when asked to brainstorm and design a chair for gaming, one student suggested a chair for pregnant women that would adjust in size as needed. When the assignment to design a school of the future was discussed, another participant’s design was perplexing until he explained that the new school would be named the FYI Academy (Find Your Intelligence Academy). To accommodate different types of students, there would be three distinct zones: one for the intellectuals, another for the athletes, and another for the creatives. This school would be designed to acknowledge and inspire these diverse sets of students rather than offer a single design for all students. Another participant created a large wall mural of interesting shapes in a universal black and white scheme entitled The Place that Soaks in All Your Troubles. He was an eighth grader, the youngest in the group.
A graduation ceremony, which included Youthforce staff, board members, parents, and instructors recognized each participant and their accomplishments. Their projects were exhibited, and they received certificates for completing the program.
Not only was the energy and enthusiasm of the participants inspiring to witness, but it also infused inspiration into what we as professional designers and architects create every day. The results of programs from the past two years have been exciting for us to observe: a student from last year’s program, inspired by their experience, has been accepted into a college design program. Three of the students this year were repeat enrollees. Several parents let us know that their students came home excited to talk about their involvement with design, and some students have proudly displayed their projects at home.
We believe that diverse representation in our industry is key to developing the best ideas and most innovative outcomes to ensure meaningful spaces for human activity, connection, well-being, and joy. We are inspired and humbled to be a part of the next generation's journey towards design.