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RCA talks

In Session: Exclusion! Why Design should be doing more

30 July 2020 | 5pm – 6pm

This event was live-streamed via Zoom.

Brought to you by the Short Courses & Executive Education team at the RCA.


Design touches almost every aspect of our life, but is it really diverse and representative? We will look at how design can be less exclusive and more inclusive, and discuss the questions we need to ask and actions we need to take. Design in this century has to ensure longevity through diversity, without resorting to tokenistic approaches. The same sun rises and sets on us all every day, but that day can bring a radically different experience depending on our age, ability, gender or race – just a few of the many aspects of human diversity that are often not considered. This session will share strategies for change, stories of challenge, celebrate success and voice aspiration.

The conversation, curated by the RCA’s Rama Gheerawo (Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design), features:

  • Dori Tunstall (Dean, Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada and the first black Dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere)
  • Carole Bilson (President of the Design Management Institute and previously the first African-American woman to lead global design at a major corporation)
  • Mark Rutledge (the first Indigenous National President of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, and Lead Designer at Animiki, driving social innovation through Indigenous technology)
This group simply asks - how can design open its doors and windows to a variety of experiences and cultures … and ensure that they stay open?


Rama Gheerawo

Director, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, RCA

Rama is an international and inspirational figure within design. He is a serial innovator in the fields of Inclusive Design, Design Thinking and Creative Leadership having personally led over 100 projects working internationally with governments, business, academia and the third sector. He won a ‘Hall of Fame’ award for his work at the Design Week Awards in 2019 and was named a 2018 Creative Leaders by Creative Review alongside Paul Smith and Björk. Empathy is at the heart of his practice. As Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, he uses design to address society’s toughest issues from ageing and healthcare, to ability and diversity. He looks at how to instigate positive change in individuals and organisations through personal research in Creative Leadership, with workshops delivered globally to thousands of people including 700 civil servants. He is in high demand as a keynote speaker, writes, curates exhibitions and runs workshops for audiences that range from students to business executives. Rama advises major institutions such as the UK Design Council, the Design Museum, the Royal Society of Arts and the Design Management Institute.

Carole Bilson

President, Design Management Institute (DMI)

Carole was appointed president of DMI in November 2014. In this role she has introduced a number of new initiatives such as: dmi:Design Value Awards, dmi:Student Essay Competition, dmi:Diversity in Design Manifesto, Conference, and magazine issue dedicated to Diversity. Prior to this position, Carole was president of Strategic Change & Innovation, an organization whose mission was to provide strategic and operational guidance to managers and executives wishing to create organizational change, utilizing design thinking and innovation. Prior to this she was the Vice President, Global Design & Usability & Technology Support Operations at Pitney Bowes. Carole oversaw these award-winning departments, at Pitney Bowes for 11 years, delivering leading edge, global design solutions for mail and document management solutions. Her organization consisted of visual and industrial designers, information architects/ human factors engineers, front-end software developers, regulatory & safety compliance engineers and the engineering prototyping ctr. Under Carole’s leadership, the department received 12 international Design Awards and was awarded 49 patents, and helped the company win a $21 million dollar bid from the US Federal Government. She spearheaded and developed an innovation project for the division that resulted in a product launch for Apple App Store.


Mark Rutledge, CGD™ is one of Canada’s design leaders with deep roots and experience designing for Canada’s Indigenous communities and organizations. He is currently the Lead Designer at Animikii,Inc., working with many Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations helping First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. He has helped design websites for The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, New Journeys and Indian Horse, the movie. He has also created branding and visual identities for Primary Colours, Turtle Island Institute, EntrepreNorth and many others. Mark is the first Indigenous National President of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) and the first to lead from the Arctic. He is a proud Ojibwa from the Little Grand Rapids First Nation who lives and works in Whitehorse, Yukon on the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.

Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall 

Dean of Design, Ontario College of Art and Design

Elizabeth is a design anthropologist, public intellectual, and design advocate who works at the intersections of critical theory, culture, and design. As Dean of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University, she is the first black and black female dean of a faculty of design. She leads the Cultures-Based Innovation Initiative focused on using old ways of knowing to drive innovation processes that directly benefit communities. With a global career, Dori served as Associate Professor of Design Anthropology and Associate Dean at Swinburne University in Australia. She wrote the biweekly column Un-Design for The Conversation Australia. In the U.S., she taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She organized the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative and served as a director of Design for Democracy. Industry positions included UX strategists for Sapient Corporation and Arc Worldwide. Dori holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University and a BA in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.

Recording of the session: