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Exploring DEI and its Impact on Design

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September 29, 2022
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
In today’s era of shifting demographics and changing social norms, “DEI” or diversity, equity and inclusion, is now broadly recognized as the litmus test for creating fairness and achieving social justice in our society. A good way of measuring our relative progress in recognizing the contributions of those from underrepresented groups and creating environments where all individuals and groups feel sufficiently respected and valued to participate fully in social life.

When these three elements work together as mutually reinforcing components, they create a sense of belonging, where everyone feels part of the wider group and empowered to speak up and play a part in creating a truly inclusive and equitable culture. Based on present evidence, this may be best described as a work in progress. While many design organizations in our space have had success in creating diverse environments, we’re still a long way from being equitable and inclusive. Fostering diversity is a great place to start but we need real progress in all three.

Right now, Canadian employers are slow to take up the challenge. A recent survey revealed that while most companies are focused on DEI, only a few of them seem to be committed to achieving the end result in the long term (Mercer 2020). As user-centred design researchers, we’re motivated and inspired by the values and meaning of human empathy and compassion. And as designers in the humanist tradition, we’re challenged to design from this perspective in human behaviour and experience.

The question is, how are we to take this perspective to the next level? Can we take our user empathy a stage further and go beyond what we current understand as inclusive design?

Inclusive design has its origins in the concept of universal design from the 1970s. Coined by U.S. architect Ronald Mace, “universal design” was the design of all things used to the greatest extent possible by anyone capable of using them, regardless of age, physical ability or status in life. It became the design standard for the built environment and deemed as “inclusive.”

Conceptually speaking, design and DEI would take us further along this spectrum. Pursuing the DEI mindset to its full extent would not only target all users across the full range of human diversity, abilities, language, socio-economic strata and culture, it would also integrate the principles within design practice and design thinking, and significantly affect the evolution of the profession itself.

So, is DEI destined to become a leading factor in the growth of our profession? Will it be a priority in our thinking and creativity? And will it shape the design studios of the future as well as the career choices of the next generation of designers?

Today, our panel of experts – Ana Rita Morais, Shaun Vincent, and Gavin Barrett are here to share their points of view on this important topic and tell us what “DEI” means for them.

Dr. Ana Rita Morais, BA, MA, PhD
Chair of the School of Design, George Brown College

Ana Rita Morais is a Portuguese-born, Toronto-based academic, educator, and administrator. She is the Chair of the School of Design at George Brown College, and holds a doctorate from the Communication and Culture Program at Toronto Metropolitan University.

She has devoted much of her academic career to investigating mobile media, including her SSHRC-funded research-creation doctoral project, me-dérive: toronto— an augmented reality counter-archive of Toronto's historical urban environments.

Ana Rita is the Principal Investigator on a multi-year NSERC-funded project in partnership with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a former member of the HXOUSE programming team, a director on the board at The ArQuives, and the recipient of Eastern Canada's 2021 RGD Educator Award.

Shaun Vincent
Founder, Vincent Design Inc.

Shaun Vincent is an artist, graphic designer and entrepreneur. He founded Vincent Design Inc. in 2007, after several years working in the design industry. As someone with strong roots in the Métis community, it was in those early years of his career that he saw the need for representational design.

It became the driving force for striking out on his own, building a branding and marketing firm with a focus on promoting Indigenous communities, organizations, and companies. From those early days in the basement of his St. Boniface home, he knew he wanted to create authentic, memorable work. Since then, he has grown Vincent Design Inc. to include a team of 17 people serving local, national and international clients.

He's known for his personable working style and his careful intention to create authentic, memorable work that speaks volumes.

Gavin Barrett
Founder, Chief Creative Officer, CEO at Barrett and Welsh

Gavin Barrett is the founder, Chief Creative Officer and current CEO of award-winning Toronto agency Barrett and Welsh. He is a co-founder of People of Colour in Advertising and Marketing (POCAM) and of the Multicultural Marketing Alliance of Canada. He was the inaugural and 100th anniversary Jury chair at Marketing’s multicultural awards.

In pursuit of big ideas, he has nibbled on pigs' ears (not on a live pig at the time), gone elephant-back in the Thai jungle (no elephants were hurt), and gambled in a Macau casino (was utterly destroyed). His work has been brought to life on screens and on pages by Deepa Mehta, David Carson, Bruno Barbey and Louis Ng. His work has run in 35 countries, helped elect prime ministers, attracted the ire of the lawyers for Dolly the cloned sheep, drew an angry crowd in Lagos, been studied in business texts in Canada and India and received derisive mention in a John Irving novel. His poems can be found in Understan, his new book, and in Penguin’s anthology of 14 contemporary Indian poets, Reasons for Belonging. He has accumulated one wife, two kids, a BA (econ.), an MA (eng. lit), and 200+ awards for his work. He cannot sing.


George Brown College - Waterfront Campus - School of Design

3 Lower Jarvis St, Toronto, ON M5E 3Y5
Auditorium room 240


Student Discount

Use the promo code GBCSTUDENTS to receive a 50% discount off your ticket.