Maybe you’re already enjoying a culture of belonging or hoping to start a trend of good feeling in your organization. Either way, consistently reinforcing the importance of diversity is critical to the health of any team.

I’m a Cuban-American UX writer, and a year ago I joined a Chicana design researcher and a Black & Pacific Islander product designer to form 3D—Diverse Dropbox Design, a working group dedicated to the planning, execution, and enrichment of DEI initiatives within our design team. But we didn’t start off with that directive. Like most grassroots initiatives, 3D was something we each felt personally invested in.

Dropbox Design had already made huge strides in gender balance. In the course of three years the Design team grew to more than 50% women on the team. But like many tech companies, Dropbox still had room to grow when it came to underrepresented minorities. With the encouragement of leadership, we started developing ideas about how we wanted 3D to show up, starting with a presentation at the January 2019 Design All Hands, the first time we shared a tip of the month.

The intention of the tips was to keep them as lightweight as possible to encourage adoption. They were things we could each do with a light touch that cumulatively might help foster a more inclusive culture on our design team, and ultimately help diversify the world of design over time. The tips organically fell into a few themes:

  • Promoting a culture of diversity
  • Sharing your spotlight
  • Encouraging others

Consider picking a couple of tips to test out for yourself or galvanize your team to follow suit. Either way you’re making a difference—change can begin with just one.

Theme: Promoting a culture of diversity

Inclusion starts with awareness. Broadcasting, in seemingly minor ways, that diversity matters to you can have a domino effect.

Tip: Add an email signature

Showcase an unsung influential artist, writer, or other designer of color by adding a quote to the footer of your emails. Even better, link to a page with more info about them. Here are a few good ones:

“You need to keep evolving your depth of intellect to be able to see design from another side.” –Michele Y. Washington, African American design critic, writer, design educator

“Creation is everything you do. Make something.” –Ntozake Shange, poet, playwright, Black feminist

“Speak and act your truths to each other and give space to change minds!” –Karyn Campbell, writer, designer, Latinx feminist

"Let's bare our arms and plunge them deep through laughter, through pain, through sorrow, through hope, through disappointment, into the very depths of the souls of our people and drag forth material crude, rough, neglected. Then let's sing it, dance it, write it, paint it." –Aaron Douglas, African American painter, graphic artist

Tip: Use a multi-tone emoji

Default to a multi-tone emoji whenever you’re adding a thumbs-up reaction. In Slack, type :thumbsup_all: to insert an animated emoji that cycles through skin tones.

Multi-tone emoji

Tip: Read and share articles

There are lots of provocative and inspiring articles about the role of diversity in design. Take a few minutes to read one. Even better, tweet about it to start a conversation thread. Need a recommendation? Start with one of these:

Theme: Sharing your spotlight

Whether you identify with an underrepresented group or consider yourself an ally, you can help others gain exposure and expand their networks.

Tip: Actually respond to recruiters

Instead of hitting Archive on that email from a recruiter, spread the opportunity. Create an email template that you can quickly copy and paste that says something like:

“Thanks for reaching out. Although I’m not interested in a new role right now, you should look at blackswho.design, latinxswhodesign.com, or womenwho.design for more candidates.”

Tip: Change your URL during heritage months

On one or more of your social media accounts, add a link to a website or organization affiliated with the theme or heritage celebrated that month. For example:

  • February—African American Heritage Month
  • March—Women’s History Month
  • June—LGBT Pride Month
  • September 15–October 15—Hispanic Heritage Month
  • November—Native American Heritage Month
Roxanna Aliaga on Twitter

Theme: Encouraging others

Diversifying the world of design is a long-term affair. Giving affirmation to junior designers is an investment in the diverse design force we might all enjoy 10 or 20 years from now.

Tip: Invite designers to have coffee

Spend a few of your breaks or lunches connecting with designers of color. To get things going, tweet an invitation like Dropbox designer Wes O’Haire: “Are you black and an aspiring product designer? If so, I want to help. Next week I’m devoting my lunch hours to portfolio reviews and career talks.” Then:

  • Review your messages and pick people to talk to
  • Send them a Calendly link so they can schedule around your meetings
  • After you’re done, tweet out their profiles

Tip: Praise portfolios you like

Visit Latinxs Who Design, Blacks Who Design, or Women Who Design and check out some portfolios. Like something you see? Send them a note to say so or, if you’re in the same city, invite them to your office for a visit. You’ll help buoy them in their work and make them a friend of your company.

Bonus tip: Volunteer at a nonprofit or school

This one isn’t exactly quick, but can help uplift a new generation of diverse and inclusive designers. If your company, like Dropbox, offers volunteer time off for employees, use it to share your design knowledge with kids. In the Bay Area, Inneract Project and Alternatives in Action are two good options, as well as Techbridge Girls, which is also in Seattle.

If you try one of these tips, share the experience on your favorite social network. And if you’ve got your own tip for creating a culture of diversity, share that too. These actions might seem small, but they’re made all the more mighty when we spread the word.

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