Building Bridges: Reflections on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in the Creative Industry

Photographer Credit: Caitlyn Guarano

This weekend, I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion organized by The One Club for Creativity in collaboration with Samsung at Samsung 837 in NYC.

The panel served as an opportunity not only to discuss current challenges but also to reflect on the transformative impact of initiatives like Young Guns: Colorful. As a spin-off from the renowned Young Guns competition, Colorful has emerged as a beacon of opportunity for emerging BIPOC creatives, providing a platform to showcase their talents and forge meaningful connections within the industry.

Photographer Credit: Caitlyn Guarano

I was joined by an impressive panel of fellow artists and designers including:

Rich Tu: artist, designer, co-founder of COLORFUL and Partner / Executive Creative Director at Sunday Afternoon.

Mischelle Moy: artist, photographer, last year’s YG COLORFUL first place winner and winner of the Young Guns main competition

Ritesh Gupta: Designer of this year’s competition identity and founder of the Useful School a program that offers accessible pay-what-you-can classes for creative skills

and Marte Galarza: illustrator, designer, Young Guns veteran and all-around powerhouse in the commercial illustration game.

We engaged in a dynamic conversation exploring the nuances of the creative landscape, with a particular focus on the experiences of BIPOC individuals in corporate settings.

The conversation was rich with insights, covering a myriad of topics that resonated deeply with me. Here are some of my key takeaways from our discussion:

Photographer Credit: Caitlyn Guarano

Embracing Multidisciplinarity:

One resounding theme was the notion that creativity knows no bounds. As creatives, our ability to traverse various mediums is not just a skill—it's a gift. We must resist the urge to confine ourselves to one medium and instead embrace the fluidity of our craft. A strong, distinctive voice transcends boundaries, manifesting seamlessly across different platforms.

Building Bridges, Not Just Tables:

While the concept of "building our own tables" has gained traction, I resonate more with the idea of constructing bridges. These bridges symbolize freedom—the freedom to move, pivot, connect, and navigate the industry without being confined to predefined roles or expectations.

Sustainable Diversity Initiatives:

The spotlight on Black creatives in 2020 underscored the immense talent within our community. However, the subsequent folding of diversity initiatives and programs revealed a harsh truth: many brands prioritize short-term gains over long-term impact. True diversity, equity, and inclusivity require sustained commitment—not just one or twice during designated heritage months, but throughout the year.

The Vital Role of Organizations:

Despite setbacks, organizations like The One Club for Creativity and initiatives like YG COLORFUL continue to champion diversity in the creative sphere.

The One Club  and other organizations like the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective, which provides opportunities for the diverse creatives to go learn at The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, are continuing to press on and evoke change through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. Their emphasis on nurturing new talent underscores the importance of succession planning in driving meaningful change.

Photographer Credit: Caitlyn Guarano

I extend my gratitude to Rich Tu, Brett McKenzie, The One Club for Creativity, and Samsung Electronics for fostering this enlightening conversation on DEI and the state of the creative industry. And I urge BIPOC designers with exceptional portfolios to explore opportunities like the COLORFUL competition—a platform that not only celebrates talent but also fosters invaluable connections within the creative community.

Let's continue building bridges, breaking barriers, and shaping a more inclusive future for all creatives.

If you're interested in joining the COLORFUL competition, apply here: COLORFUL Competition

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Lo Harris is an NYC-based artist, educator and children’s book illustrator who champions vibrance, confidence and joy.

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