Design leadership has a responsibility to support and uplift the next generation of designers. With the enormous challenges that we as a society are facing right now, this responsibility becomes even more important—especially when it comes to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups to take part in our industry. Design must evolve and for that to happen, it’s more crucial than ever for new, diverse voices to enter the industry and to flourish. Education is one of the key components to effecting this change.

In January, Adobe announced a new scholarship program to provide the means and support for aspiring designers to access the education they deserve, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, economic or cultural background, and despite any challenges they’re facing. We were humbled to get applications from 1,000 truly impressive individuals from 80+ countries. This is an incredible response for a scholarship fund in its first year and it was difficult work to choose just ten from among them. But reading through the applications and looking at the portfolios gave us great confidence that we have an amazing new generation of talented, passionate and diverse individuals poised to enter the world of design.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce we have selected from that group, 10 future designers to receive the scholarship. Each will receive up to $25,000 per year, for each year of their undergraduate education (up to four years or $100,000), along with mentoring and support along their educational journey.

Meet the winners of Adobe’s first annual Design Circle scholarship

This scholarship is an initiative of the Design Circle, a collective of 27 leading voices from the design industry, coming together to drive positive change in our profession. This group of design leaders, along with Adobe, have spent time reviewing applications to select the designers who both deserve and need this scholarship the most.

Collectively, we believe in making opportunity in professional design available for all and are always striving to make this possible in everything that we do. At Adobe, we are deeply committed to supporting, elevating, and amplifying diverse voices through our community of employees, creatives, customers, partners, and now, scholarship recipients. This is as crucial now as it ever was.

As we look towards a brighter, more diverse future in design, it’s my pleasure to introduce our winners of the Design Circle scholarship.

Chia Amisola (She/Her)

Hometown: Manila, Philippines
Yale University

Chia is a Computing & the Arts student at Yale University and an aspiring creative technologist. Ever since first exploring tech in BBCode message boards and Macromedia Flash games, she continuously seeks to explore the experiential potential of the web by designing radical spaces that empower creators. She founded Developh, a non-profit to bridge the technology gap for thousands of Filipino students, that she continues to build community within; she’s also worked in newsrooms, designed for the Manila Pride March, and spoken on computational justice.

Sola Babatunde (He/Him)

Hometown: Garland, Texas
Texas A&M University

Sola is a passionate, African-American mechatronics major with a desire to design technology to build a better world. He has experience designing for organizations ranging from small startups like Dive Chat, to massive corporations like Facebook. He aims to be a product designer who incorporates accessibility and design diversity into all the products he builds, so that the tools are useful to anyone, regardless of their educational, cultural, or personal background.

Carrera Caldwell (She, Her)

Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
The British Columbia Institute of Technology

After completing a new media certificate program, Carrera fell in love with design and the power it holds to spread a message and bring awareness for good causes. She has started two companies, including a clothing brand named Type Two Fun that aims to support Paralympic athletes, and her own web marketing studio, Flipt Digital.

Katherine-Aria Close (She/Her)

Hometown: Olney, Maryland
University of Maryland – College Park

Katherine-Aria Close is a multicultural student studying at the University of Maryland, College Park, pursuing a dual degree in Graphic Design and Environmental Science and Policy. She aspires to become a UX designer for an environmentally focused organization, non-profit, or think tank. As a person with a strong emotional connection to the world and natural environment, it is her goal to use design to make a difference in the community around her, starting with environmental protection.

Oskar Garcia (He, Him, His)

Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico
Columbia University

In Oskar’s dreams, learning is interactive, colorful, and social—but most importantly—accessible to everyone. Having experienced first-hand what it’s like to be limited by his environment, his goal is to design interactive technologies that make learning more engaging and enjoyable, and that are capable of reaching those with limited resources all over the world. As a graphics and human-computer interaction major, his current research focuses on translating mathematics into a fully digital experience, which gave birth to EulerType, an open-source interactive math editor for the web.

Jaymie Gill (He/Him)

Hometown: London, United Kingdom
Brunel University London

Design has always been a passion for Jaymie; a vessel through which he could outlet anything he wanted to express. Through his experiences in life, design has also become a purpose, and an anchor that has kept him going and he aspires to be a part of the field so he can contribute to doing the same for other people. Jaymie plans to study UI/UX design to leverage creativity in improving peoples’ lives and facilitate connection, community, unity, and social change; especially for those of us with disabilities, are part of ethnic minorities and who have experienced adversity.

Gökçe Güven (She, Her, Hers)

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey
University of California – Berkeley

Gökçe studies International Business and Cognitive Science with a Computer Science minor at University of California Berkeley. In the intersection of technology and design, she aspires to address financial needs and inequalities. She is proud to be an international woman working in STEM.

Aleksei Igumnov (He, Him)

Hometown: Parfino, Russia
Columbia University

Aleksei is a non-traditional student at Columbia University, focusing on UX design/research while getting a degree in information science. He migrated from Parfino, Russia to the U.S. in 2014 and, since then, has aspired to serve marginalized communities in any capacity possible. Currently, he is working with projects that encompass universal design and building technology that empowers people from all walks of life. He is passionate about the environment and trying to employ design to solve climate problems.

Edidiong Okon (She/Her)

Hometown: Uyo, Akwa Iborn, Nigeria
Carleton University (Canada)

Being African has not only made Edidiong recognize the subtle inequalities and challenges plaguing certain societies, but has also helped her understand the importance of using creativity in solving problems with no defined solutions. With the use of web and mobile app design, she hopes to solve problems unique to African societies and inspire youths to reach their greatest potential.

Johnathan Woods (He/Him)

Hometown: Hendersonville, Tennessee
The University of Tennessee – Knoxville

Pursuing a degree in Graphic Design with a minor in Entrepreneurship, Johnathan is particularly focused on branding and identity design for businesses and crafting meaningful user experiences for their customers. He is interested in doing projects with startups that seek to shake up the way we live and view society for the better. He is a proud African-American designer invested in pursuing how design can be used to educate, inform, and cause positive reform to society from social to environmental.

Investing in the future of UX design

The focus of the Design Circle scholarship is interaction design. Overwhelmingly, our applicants and our winners are focused on pursuing UX/UI, product or industrial design as a career, citing its power to change outcomes for people as a major driver to becoming part of our growing industry. They want to cultivate their design skills to be able to create meaningful change in their communities, and we want to foster their talent to do so.

Now that we’ve announced the winners above, they’ll be able to start or continue their education without having many of the financial concerns being a part of the equation. Our Design Circle members will be working with them in ways that include, remotely for now, job shadowing opportunities, workshops, networking, and more.

This is just a first step to tackling some serious issues that continue to face the industry. A lack of diversity in design won’t change overnight, but our hope is that a program like this will help move the dial. We need good design now, more than ever, to forge a better future, and we’re doing our part to find the good designers that can do that.

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