In March of 2020, Human After All officially became a B Corp. Our accreditation marked the end of 18 months’ hard work, but it also signalled the start of a new responsibility. As anyone who’s been through the process will tell you, applying for B Corp status involves running a fine-tooth comb over every aspect of your business. But this self-analysis doesn’t end the moment you’re accredited; if anything, we started paying even closer attention to our impact on the world.
In particular, we wanted to explore how Human After All could contribute something meaningful to the wider communities around our agency. So, in response to this drive, we’ve now launched Why work in design? — an initiative that introduces young people to the opportunities on offer in our industry, while also aiming to make the sector more inclusive.
The idea for Why work in design? arose as we were taking a long, hard look at our own approach to diversity and inclusion. We knew this was an area where we had to do better — and we weren’t the only ones. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, research published by The Design Council suggested that only 13% of UK design workers come from minority backgrounds. And that statistic is especially sobering for agencies that are based in London, considering that 40% of the city’s workforce falls into this category.
Hiring is obviously a key part of our strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Over the past two years we’ve overhauled our employment process to ensure our opportunities reach as broad a range of candidates as possible. But regardless of the effort we make here, the hard truth is we can only give a job to one person at a time. So the obvious question arose: what else could we do?
Aside from work opportunities, the most valuable thing we can offer future job-seekers is our knowledge and experience. There are things we know that, if passed on, could significantly enhance a young person’s chances of landing a job interview in the creative industries. And even before someone reaches that stage, they have to know what the opportunities are and why they’re worth pursuing. Much of this knowledge is straightforward but will rarely be explained in schools, because the careers advisor probably has little or no experience of the design sector. And that’s assuming the school has a careers programme in the first place.
Why work in design? aims to address this gap. Specifically, the initiative sets out to:
- Explain how the design industry works, outline the roles available, and show why it’s a great industry to work in.
- Include students from underrepresented backgrounds in the world of design, and encourage them to take an interest in this space.
- Advise young, aspiring creatives as they pursue their future career.
The heart of the project is an ongoing series of videos that we publish weekly on our social channels — Instagram and TikTok — and at whyworkindesign.org. In our first wave of videos, we’re explaining the basics of what a design agency does, the kind of jobs on offer, and what you need to do them. We’re also exploring some of the big thornier questions about our industry — such as the lack of diversity in this space, and how HAA is responding to it.
Each video is a maximum of 60 seconds long and is filmed in a mobile-friendly vertical format. As you may have guessed, we took this approach because we’re aiming at a young viewership: children aged 12 to 14, to be exact.
There were a few reasons why we picked this group to be our primary audience. For one thing, this seems to be an underserved demographic — at least, compared to the range of content that already exists for older students, and graduates in particular. But we also chose this audience because it’s at age 12 that pupils start making GCSE decisions. Our research suggested that some young people are avoiding Art and other creative subjects because they don’t see any career value in them, and this was something we wanted to actively counter.
Making a video series presents certain challenges. For one thing, it’s quite time-consuming to create videos, especially when you’re fitting them around client work. We’ve deliberately adopted a fast-and-loose style that fits our social-first approach, as well as our need for a swift turnaround. We don’t mind if our content has the odd rough edge, but equally we look for practical ways to bring our design skills to the fore — for example, by using branded stickers and overlays to give our videos a bit of personality.
While it’s early days for the initiative, we’ve already learned a lot from the process of making our content. For one of our clips, we planned to ask our agency staff to talk about their paths into the industry. Then one of our team rightly pointed out that viewers from minority backgrounds might not have access to the same advantages we’ve had — for example, being supported by family while you work an internship. Now, we try to focus on offering practical tips that anyone can use, whatever their situation is.
We’re really excited about the potential of Why work in design? In the near future, we’re hoping to expand the initiative to encompass live events at our studio. We’re also keen to partner with organisations that are already working with young people, especially those from minority backgrounds. Wherever the project takes us, we know there will be plenty more lessons along the way, and that’s fine with us. After all, self-improvement is a core part of what being a B Corp is all about.
See what we’re doing at whyworkindesign.org and follow us on Instagram or TikTok.