Conference rooms change culture
Maybe you’ve had that moment when you walk into an office and are looking for a conference room, and the room you’re looking for is named something generic like “Manhattan”, even though you are in Los Angeles. Now we also have virtual spaces, zoom rooms, Facebook groups, email lists, and slack channels and we name all of them too. Those names of our highly-used spaces become part of our culture. We refer to them and connect with them daily.
Right now is a time of massive upheaval and uncertainty, but also of change. We have the opportunity to improve and make the world better in large and small ways.
One thing I have learned over many years of designing products and services is that changing people’s behavior is not only an intellectual and educational exercise but also a practical one. Change must be fused into people’s daily lives and become a new type of habit which is not only embraced by an individual but by the rest of the culture around them.
What if we begin to create new habits in our most common spaces, the spaces of work? What if all companies and groups across the globe changed the names of their conference rooms and virtual meeting rooms to honor significant people in their field, discipline, or industry from underrepresented groups?
What if a design studio in New York honored Sylvia Harris, who in her role as creative director for the US Census Bureau’s Census 2000, helped to encourage previously under-represented citizens to participate? Or, Jack Whitten who is celebrated for his innovative processes of applying paint to the surface of his canvases and transfiguring their material terrains. He also lived for many years in Soho around the corner from many design studios. What if your global consultancy considered honoring Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel prize for economics for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons?
Just as we must say, and never forget, the names of Black people murdered by police, we also need to say the names of the Black people, people of color, and women whose work makes America. When people say these names every day and make them part of their lives, they may become curious as to who these people were and what they contributed to our culture, helping to change the perception of who makes culture and society. Real diversity cannot be attained by a single action, it is a practice which if not encouraged on a daily basis falls to the wayside, making each of our worlds greyer.
“In learning about difference, we become less afraid and therefore more courageous. In learning about commonalities, we become more hopeful.”
- Neil Postman
ABOUT DESIGN + CULTURE
The Design + Culture series illustrates new approaches and tools for shaping the culture we live in.