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United In Design
United In Design

Designing Opportunity: How United in Design Is Opening Doors in the Industry

By Matilda Sturley, Founder of Legato Studio


The word ‘opportunity’ is defined as a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. Timing is important. When opportunity strikes at the right time, it feels as though the stars have explicitly aligned for that moment. Yet, circumstance is so often the silent partner that creates the opportunity, and those who might have experienced it often may not have noticed that it was, in fact, the elephant in the room of the design industry.


During the first lockdown in 2020, when the murder of George Floyd shocked and angered the world, reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement at a global scale, and starting conversations about equality and inclusion in almost every household. Perhaps it was lockdown, where we, as a collective, were observing the world from our homes, without distraction or life’s usual priorities, and we could truly understand the challenges faced by people of colour. For Alexandria Dauley, founder of design studio Alex Dauley, and Sophie Ashby, founder of Studio Ashby, their conversations turned to the design industry.

Founders of United in Design - Sophie Ashby & Alex Dauley
Founders of United in Design - Sophie Ashby & Alex Dauley

Alexandria and Sophie were having conversations independently with people in the industry about the lack of diversity, and they were quickly put in touch with one another, so they decided to join forces to help make a change.


Approaching the issue from the angle that there were simple things that the industry could do that would make a huge difference, Alexandria said: “Rather than doing the black square [on Instagram] and nothing happens, we wanted to take action.”


Having thought there would be a charity or organisation already in existence in the design industry that they could feed into, they quickly realised there wasn’t. The designers decided that rather than shying away from the idea, they would be the change in the industry and there began United in Design. The concept would be to pair apprentices and interns with industry brands to provide excellent experience and opportunity by creating a platform for individuals to really stand out.


Their approach involved Alexandria leading from a community outreach perspective and Sophie, who already had experience hiring interns within her design studio, leading from this perspective. This created the concept of their United in Design apprenticeship programme.


 Apprentice Graduation United in Design
Apprentice Graduation

They quickly realised that United in Design was the exact tonic the design industry was looking for, as since 2021, over 200 Interior Designers, Studios, Suppliers and Publications have signed up to the United in Design Pledge. These brands include industry leaders such as House & Garden, Porta Romana, Clare Gaskin, and many more.


Partnering with Interior Educators, a charity that runs courses in Interior Design and Interior Architecture at 56 universities across the UK, United in Design is committed to inclusivity. They encourage individuals from all walks of life to apply for jobs within the industry, regardless of age, race, or background. The only requirement is a relevant qualification—be it a diploma or certificate—in Interior Design or Interior Architecture. This approach allows people at any stage of their lives to enter the design industry.


Since its inception a few years ago, United in Design has successfully placed 17 apprentices and five fully paid interns. "We have seen a 100 per cent success rate with our apprenticeship program, with all participants graduating and securing full-time employment," Alexandria proudly states. "They are not only succeeding but thriving and genuinely enjoying their professional experiences."


The charity plans to expand and develop the school's outreach programme to cities across the UK so it becomes more accessible for those who don't live in London. United in Design is, therefore, looking for organisations in all areas of the UK to partner with to ensure students can be placed more locally.

United in Design has opened a huge door since its beginnings in 2020, a door that swings both ways. “We are seeing change across the board. I’m really proud how everyone who has been involved in our charity have really embraced it,” Alexandria said. Through its Apprenticeship Programme, the charity is ensuring different cultures, backgrounds and views are being brought to the design industry, bringing further creativity, voices and ideas, which is precisely what an industry as vibrant and artistic as the design industry thrives on.


Visit United in Design's website at www.unitedindesign.com to learn more about becoming a partner.


 



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