Diversity in Design Finds Platform at Design Week Portland
“Everybody was really eager to listen to each other’s stories.”
As part of Design Week Portland, SERA’s Gauri Rajbaidya and Travis Dang participated in Diversity in Design: Storytelling Mixer. This was the group’s first public event, and it sold out.
“This topic of diversity and people of color trying to find each other and find solidarity has come to the forefront in the last couple years,” says Travis. “This was the group’s first big event—their coming out party.”
Diversity in Design was founded by Sun Joo Kim and Tejara Brown, and is focusing on advocacy. This event, though, was more of a celebration and time for sharing. Gauri says, “It was really interesting to see such a diverse group in the room. It was a safe space.” Travis adds, “Some people talked about being the only woman or the only person of color in a meeting or in their office. There’s this terrible sense of being the only person like them in all of Portland. Getting us all in a room together is a great way to get us all to connect.”
Three years ago, Gauri, along with Lia Peacock (ZGF) and Ruwan Jayaweera (PAE), launched a separate group called Diversity Portland. “That speaks to how much designers of color are seeking to connect,” he says. Now that the two groups are connected, “we’re talking about collaborating, trying to figure out the best way to go forward.” But where Diversity in Design wants to focus outward, Diversity Portland may look inward: “We want to come from the lens of empowerment,” says Gauri. “From my perspective, we need to throw a rock into the pond—it doesn’t have to be a huge rock, it can be a lot of little rocks, making lots of ripples.”
The power of the community is unquestionable. “Anybody in the audience could have been on the panel,” Travis says. “I really liked sitting back and listening.” And to build on what they have now, both Diversity in Design and Diversity Portland are thinking about mentorship and professional development, bringing successful figures from various communities to share their experience. “We’re capable of giving,” Gauri says. “We’re not here to beg or ask.”