We’re at a pivotal stage in the story of design. The profession has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the past few decades that has produced remarkable outcomes and opportunities for practitioners, businesses, and society. At the same time, design’s impact on the world has never been more substantial – or controversial.

Where design goes from here is a question of the utmost importance. If you believe, as we do at Adobe, that design should serve the interests of people first and foremost and work towards the betterment of our world, then how do we help ensure that the future course of the profession stays true to that mission?

Today, we’re announcing a new initiative to help answer those questions. It’s called the Design Circle, and it’s a collective of 26 leading voices from throughout the design industry coming together to drive positive change in our profession. A key focus of this group will be directing a quarter-million dollar annual scholarship fund, devoted to bringing students from diverse backgrounds into undergraduate design programs. 

The mission of the Design Circle

Our goal with this program is to create a platform for a select group of leading design thinkers and practitioners to broaden our discourse, share ideas and knowledge, and help light a path forward for the industry. We’ve drawn from designers working in small and large teams, at studios, agencies, and in-house at Fortune 1000 enterprises.

Our charter is to award scholarships to ten individuals from diverse backgrounds every year. Adobe will fund $25,000, or up to $100,000 to each student over the course of four years, towards tuition at an accredited undergraduate design program starting in the fall of 2020. These efforts are  intended as a first step towards solving the design industry’s challenges in representation from minorities. We also hope it serves as the start of a new discussion on who gets to participate in design, a question that ultimately ladders back to our core challenge of where design is headed over the next decade and beyond. 

The members of the Design Circle have committed to facilitating this discourse. In addition to directing the scholarship funds, Design Circle members will offer mentoring, shadowing, internships and other training opportunities to the scholarship recipients so they receive real-world design experience during their undergraduate education. You’ll also see them active on XD Ideas, our new forum for examining the current and future state of design. They’ll be sharing their perspectives, contributing articles, offering their insights and opinions, appearing in videos and webinars, and taking part in robust dialogues on the issues that face the industry today. In short, you’ll be hearing (and seeing) a lot from the Design Circle.

A personal note

It’s such a great honor for me to be working with so many accomplished and respected fellow designers on this initiative. It’s long been a passion of mine to bring together a group like this to help mark a change in representation in the industry, and to point a way forward for design. 

I’m also incredibly grateful to my colleague Kari Norder at Adobe, who has done the lion’s share of the work to turn what started out as a vague vision into a tangible reality. Kari will continue to help steer this group’s efforts, and you’ll see more of her name and face as the Design Circle rolls out over the next year. 

We’re formally introducing the Design Circle to the public at Adobe’s annual MAX conference on November 4 in Los Angeles, and you’ll start seeing its members active here at XD Ideas, social media, and at public events soon afterwards. 

As I said at the start of this post, it’s a pivotal time—which means that there’s a lot on the line. But it also means it’s a time ripe with possibility to do good. Join us as we aim to do just that.