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ASID’s 2018 Ones to Watch Award Recipients Discuss Diversity in Design

Jan. 22, 2019
2018 Ones to Watch award recipients, Sandra Diaz-Velasco and Vivien Chen, share their thoughts on diversity and inclusion in the design industry with ASID.

The American Society of Interior Designers’ (ASID) Ones to Watch program supports rising leaders to ensure that diversity is reflected at all levels of the industry.

Supported by Steelcase and Autodesk, ASID recognizes young, under-represented professionals who demonstrate exemplary leadership and a willingness to push the boundaries of design.

ASID sat down with two 2018 Ones to Watch award recipients, Sandra Diaz-Velasco, ASID (owner/principal, EOLO Design Architecture & Interior Design) and Vivien Chen, Allied ASID (interior designer, HOK) to discuss their perspectives on diversity in design today.

ASID: Can you discuss your experience as an ASID Ones to Watch winner and what it means for you as a designer? How has it modified or impacted your career?

DIAZ-VELASCO: For me, it’s been an amazing experience on a personal and professional level. To have this prestigious recognition in my portfolio brings about changes and new challenges, inspiring me to continuously improve, learn and grow my firm — always striving for new heights.

Personally, being valued as a designer at such a high level has taught me to be less critical of myself but still to value critique as a way to grow and continue improving.

I’ve also learned how secluded the interior design community is, as diverse voices like my own are rare. The CEO of ASID (Randy Fiser, Hon. FASID) has taken on the challenge of expanding perspectives within the organization. The creation of the ASID Ones to Watch program has been eye-opening for the design community, allowing us as an industry to acknowledge that minority designers can bring something different to the table and truly enrich our profession.

CHEN: The ASID Ones to Watch program has been an invaluable experience for me. It has allowed me to hone my skills as a designer, nurtured me to lead with authenticity and encouraged me to shape our community by embracing diversity and inclusion. I truly believe ASID is leading our industry to greater inclusiveness through this program by mentoring rising leaders to leverage their unique perspective and backgrounds.

I believe by integrating diversity into our design thinking and allowing it to influence our actions and behavior, we are taking step after step beyond socially constructed barriers and typecasts towards a more united and compassionate world.

ASID: What would you say are some of the major concerns facing the industry today in terms of diversity and inclusion? What needs to be improved?

DIAZ-VELASCO: When it comes to the overall category of diversity, our industry tends to fear change. This was a topic at our most recent retreat. We all agreed that we need to work on changing the industry culture and erasing this fear and pre-judgement of minority groups. It’s a discussion that needs to happen at all levels. It’s already started at a national level, but people like me need to bring it [to the local level] and take the bull by the horns. No one can do it for us – we have to do it for ourselves.

All Photos Courtesy of ASID

CHEN: Diversity in its nature is highly personal as it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Our industry is highly populated with female practitioners, but there is a significant misrepresentation of women in leadership roles; statistics illustrate only 25 percent of firm leaders are female. I hope we continue to challenge those notions through our actions as female leaders, leveraging our unique perspective to become visionaries in our industry.

It is also crucial to practice inclusion, especially towards our next generation of talent. It is when people from different walks of life come together that we can begin to cultivate a more vibrant and innovative working environment.

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ASID: What does diversity look like to you in the scope of our industry?

DIAZ-VELASCO: At the most basic level, diversity means including more members of minority groups. Currently in the industry, the number is really small, as we saw last year at the leadership experience in Washington, D.C., where there was a minority showing of less than five percent. We need to encourage these groups to contribute more, and remove barriers to entry.

We need to keep fighting for a place in the industry, working hard, competing, completing licensure and fighting for continuing education for women and minority groups. Diversity ultimately represents education. If we aren’t constantly learning and evolving, we aren’t doing our part.

CHEN: As the world globalizes, it will become more diverse. It will encompass diversity in people, culture and talent. It will influence our every action, behavior and thought. Diversity, to me, is the privilege to work with every gender, every race, every discipline; to learn from every individual who has a different experience, perspective and idea than myself. It is working in an environment where every individual feels comfortable to contribute and share, ultimately providing great design and value to our clients and communities.

Diversity not only concerns age, race and gender, but also thought and discipline. I believe a diverse talent pool is key to an inclusive industry and the ability to connect globally with the best talent each community has to offer. All in all, I believe diversity goes hand in hand with purposeful, thoughtful and compelling design.

To learn more about the ASID Ones to Watch program, visit Ones to Watch.

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