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The Case for Creative Optimism

Diversity is becoming increasingly integrated into the creative process, a shift which is driving change across the industry.
13 January, 2022
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If BLM provided a catalyst for brands to take greater action around diversity and inclusion, then Covid has helped to cement its position as one of the most important aspects of how brands work, behave and communicate today: from internal culture to how their retail environments look and feel. Whilst there is still a lot of work to do across the whole spectrum of diversity and inclusion, the kinds of conversations we are now having with clients, compared to even just 18 months ago, shows great promise and potential to achieve long-lasting change.

A couple of years ago, sustainability was the number one issue driving change in the industry. We saw that in the creative briefs coming our way. However, recently we’ve seen our clients' focus on sustainability being matched by the need for our work to also prioritise diversity, as clients seek to weave both of these important issues throughout their brand and retail experiences.

The result is that, just like sustainability, diversity is fast becoming an essential and integral part of all creative briefs. Even for the brands who are not quite ‘there’ yet with their diversity and inclusion policies and practices, the fact that they are turning to their creative partners to help them work out what diversity means to them as a business is a promising development. Creatives are increasingly being empowered by their clients to address these important issues.

"Finally, there seems to be a growing understanding and appreciation of how reflecting the diversity of a brand’s customer base in the teams who design it can lead to a better quality of work, more innovative ideas, and more engaging designs" - Queenie Lo


We're not just seeing these developments in the briefs that we get. Clients are also being proactive about requesting diverse creative teams to work on their projects. Finally, there seems to be a growing understanding and appreciation of how reflecting the diversity of a brand’s customer base in the teams who design it can lead to a better quality of work, more innovative ideas, and more engaging designs.

This approach seems obvious but it has been lacking for so long in the creative industry. Now that clients are prioritising it, there is a greater impetus for creative agencies to ensure their recruitment is more diverse, and that can only be a positive thing. Added to this, the fact that Covid has led to both clients and agencies being more open and willing to try different working models, beyond the 9-5, five-day-week, is facilitating even greater diversity in the area of recruitment - another reason to be optimistic.

As retail design specialists, another interesting development we are seeing is more and more briefs asking us to create retail environments that address the diversity of a brand’s staff and workforce, not just their customers. To me, this suggests that clients are beginning to show a deeper appreciation of diversity and inclusion that goes beyond box-ticking to more authentically embed diversity into how their business functions.

"From an agency perspective, when approaching the design of retail spaces that feel more inclusive, we have been considering more ‘inclusive design’ processes that include the people who will use the space in the creative process" - Queenie Lo


This is always something we strive to do in our work as we believe retail design is not just about making a store look pretty, it’s also about creating an environment that best serves the people who inhabit it: both customers and staff. But the fact that clients are also now requesting this is a positive development. Not only is it the right thing to do from a human perspective, but brands who follow this route may also see a commercial advantage because a workforce who feel seen, represented, and comfortable at work will also be in a position to deliver better customer service. Design that embraces diversity and inclusivity can facilitate this.

From an agency perspective, when approaching the design of retail spaces that feel more inclusive, we have been considering more ‘inclusive design’ processes that include the people who will use the space in the creative process. This is in contrast to the traditional ‘design-thinking’ approach that places ultimate control in the hands of the designer: someone who may never actually use the space.

Involving the end-users in the process helps ensure that the space genuinely caters for the diversity of the people who will use it. It also means we need to think of diversity in all its guises, including lesser-discussed aspects such as neurodiversity: ensuring that the full spectrum of diversity is considered for both a brands’ staff and customers.

As clients continue to prioritise diversity and inclusion, it’s imperative for creatives to also flex and evolve their working methods in these kinds of ways. This will help them to meet these demands and take full advantage of the opportunities clients are now presenting us with to achieve real change. While it won’t happen overnight, and there is still a long way to go, we must make the most out of these positive developments in order to continue building a creative industry that all of us are proud to be a part of.

This article was written by Queenie Lo our CEO and first appeared in Creative Brief: https://www.creativebrief.com/...

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