This month, Marymount University Interior Design alumna Jessica Bantom launched her first book, ‘Design for Identity: How to Design Authentically for a Diverse World,’ with the aim of offering leaders a change management roadmap.
“Design is expression, a service, an act of creativity,” Bantom argues. “But if designers design for everyone, how can there be so little diversity in the profession?”
In her book, Bantom examines the implications of design in everyday life, from spaces and products to images and the fashion industry. She says too often, design concepts are based on assumptions and stereotypes that don’t necessarily reflect customers’ lives and values. Certain company symbols and brands, such as the image of Aunt Jemima, have stirred controversy for years but only recently has there been a ‘corporate social awakening.’
“The demographics of our society are changing and becoming more diverse, yet different perspectives are often ignored unless there’s fallout from public backlash,” Bantom said.
In ‘Design for Identity,’ Bantom explores the concept of human-centered design that taps into an understanding of identity – how people live, what’s important to them and what informs their perspectives and experiences. She says engaging directly with customers to identify their challenges and working with them to test ideas and solutions is the foundation of human-centered design, and it’s vital for businesses to get on board and change outdated mindsets if they want to be successful.
“I wanted to demonstrate how designing for identity directly impacts companies’ bottom lines,” Bantom emphasized. “If leaders don’t apply these principles, it’s not an exaggeration to say that they may not be around in a few years. Their employees have already begun to disengage, and if they don’t feel included, they will abandon these businesses.”
Additionally, Bantom explains the six habits of culturally competent designers that can make this shift happen, and result in design solutions that resonate with people of diverse backgrounds. She also offers a Design for Identity Blueprint that honors humanity, celebrates diversity, promotes equity and inclusion and ensures that the design profession mirrors and keeps up with the realities of our evolving world.
“Now is the perfect time for ‘Design for Identity,’ wrote Leatrice Eiseman, Director of the Eiseman Center for Color Information & Training and Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. “In this time when we’re navigating a pandemic-induced heightened awareness of difference, an expanding interconnected global economy and new expectations from younger generations, our dialogue must evolve. Jessica lays out a path for us to get there. In her words, start where you are, and we can all do our part to make design — and our world — more inclusive.”
Marymount is hosting a launch event for ‘Design for Identity’ on Tuesday, April 11 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Ballston Center. Seats can be reserved via this link. The book is now available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.
Bantom is a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) practitioner and workplace strategist whose mission is to enable individuals to take immediate actions that create meaningful outcomes for historically excluded people. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Marymount, she is a skilled management consultant with over 20 years of experience, a compelling speaker and a certified facilitator and coach with a passion for helping people and organizations activate the values of DEIB to become more culturally competent and thrive in our increasingly global economy. Bantom is also active in the interior design industry as an interior design and color consultant, and as an engaged advocate committed to promoting DEIB in the industry and in practice. More info is available on her website, JessicaBantom.com.