Brighton Gin features in Daily Design News

Why more diver­si­ty makes for bet­ter design

Sarah West­wood, cre­ative strate­gist at ODA, tells us why agen­cies should be remind­ed to take Pride in diver­si­ty with­in the design sector.

As we approach Brighton Pride this week­end, I’m con­fi­dent­ly expect­ing the usu­al snip­pi­ness from some quar­ters of the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty about the involve­ment of brands.

It’s easy to be cyn­i­cal – to assume brands are just putting a rain­bow on it to trum­pet their virtue and tap into the pink pound. And of course, in some cas­es this view will be jus­ti­fied. Good­ness knows, many com­pa­nies aren’t above a bit of cap­i­tal­ist appropriation.

But I invite you to park that cyn­i­cism for a moment to con­sid­er the good that comes from brands’ involve­ment with Pride. For me, there are some exam­ples where it just feels right.

Skit­tles (catch­phrase: Taste the Rain­bow) is going all-white for Pride again this year because only one rain­bow mat­ters …’. It’s a wit­ty, self-dep­re­cat­ing approach that clev­er­ly aligns the brand with Pride with­out any sug­ges­tion of inau­then­tic­i­ty con­ceived by the agency involved, Adam & Eve/​DDB.

We’re proud to have worked with Brighton Gin to pro­duce lim­it­ed edi­tion designs to cel­e­brate Brighton Pride for the last two years (top: this year’s). It would be easy to sneer at it as an attempt at rain­bow appro­pri­a­tion, but look more deeply and you’ll find a team that’s high­ly diverse.

It’s also a team that has been involved in the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty for years, and a team that’s giv­ing a cut of the sales of the Pride lim­it­ed edi­tions to The Rain­bow Fund, a local grant-giv­ing fund for LGBT+HIV organisations.

And Abso­lut vod­ka has been sup­port­ing Pride and the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty in gen­er­al since the 1980s in part­ner­ship with Stonewall – includ­ing last year’s kiss with pride’ ad by Bogle Bar­tle Hegar­ty that cel­e­brat­ed the fifti­eth anniver­sary of the decrim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in the UK. Again, there’s no sug­ges­tion of inau­then­tic­i­ty or cutesi­ness – just a sin­cere and cre­ative expres­sion of support.

All three brands are doing their bit to vis­i­bly sup­port the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty and main­stream vis­i­bil­i­ty helps to nor­malise – just like the inclu­sion of Pearl Mackie’s les­bian char­ac­ter Bill in Doc­tor Who did. And main­stream adop­tion can make a real dif­fer­ence because of the sheer per­va­sive­ness of big brands.

Abso­lut’s 2017 Kiss with Pride’ cam­paign (Image: Cam­paign)

So when it’s done with authen­tic­i­ty and cre­ative orig­i­nal­i­ty, cor­po­rate sup­port for LGBT issues is okay with me. Just like many peo­ple, I’ll cut you a lot of slack if you impress me or make me laugh. But lots has been writ­ten before about why com­mer­cial involve­ment works when it works and doesn’t when it doesn’t. What I’d like to focus on is the effect these asso­ci­a­tions have on employees.

On a Pride march in Lon­don last year, I was struck by a dis­play in the win­dow of M&S on Oxford Street. Don’t let any­one rain on your parade’, it said, tying into an inter­nal cam­paign called Be your­self’ that pro­motes sup­port for its LGBT employ­ees. For LGBT peo­ple in M&S, see­ing this would make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence. It would tell them they don’t have to hide – that they can be themselves.

To a young kid grow­ing up in a small town where atti­tudes might be very dif­fer­ent to those we expe­ri­ence in our met­ro­pol­i­tan bub­bles, the sight of two peo­ple of the same sex kiss­ing on TV, or the knowl­edge that the shop their mum goes to sup­ports LGBT issues, can be lit­er­al­ly life-changing.

The impor­tance of tol­er­ance and diver­si­ty in the work­place feels like a com­plete no-brain­er to me. We know the mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives of a diverse team make for bet­ter design. We know that peo­ple who feel they can bring their true selves to work are more con­fi­dent and pro­duce bet­ter work. We know diver­si­ty makes for bet­ter lead­ers and a hap­pi­er, more relaxed work­place. It’s real­ly not that com­pli­cat­ed. And it’s what we’ve always strived for at Our Design Agency.

You’d think agency boss­es would be falling over them­selves to diver­si­fy their teams as much as pos­si­ble. But they’re not. We have a long way to go as a sec­tor. There’s still too much blokeish­ness among men and women alike. There’s still too much insid­i­ous belit­tle­ment in the name of ban­ter’. It’s still too hard to put your head above the para­pet to chal­lenge inap­pro­pri­ate behaviour.

Large cor­po­rates have a bet­ter han­dle on this than we do. They have ded­i­cat­ed HR teams and diver­si­ty spe­cial­ists and for­mal poli­cies. They have to because if they get it wrong and some­one takes them to a tri­bunal, their rep­u­ta­tions can take a hit from which it can be hard to recover.

Let’s see this year’s Pride as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us all to choose to embrace diver­si­ty in design. As the world around us grows ever-more intol­er­ant, our sec­tor can stand up and make a state­ment – not only to our clients and their con­sumers, but cru­cial­ly to every­one who works for us – that we embrace diversity.

Check the full arti­cle here

31 July, 2018 | Sarah Westwood