Drawing Diversity: Reflections by a visual scribe and illustrator

It feels self evident that illustrations should seek to reflect both the diversity of the world in which we live and indeed, actively draw attention to a lack of diversity. However, as an illustrator it is a delicate balancing act, avoiding tokenism whilst maintaining an artistic or brand style. A lot of the work in which we are involved at Transition Tradition demands the creation of figurative representation, quite often people and faces are very small, making it more difficult to incorporate meaningful detail that identifies people as individuals rather than mere ciphers of diversity. When it comes to representation in illustration, there is a temptation to simply ‘shade in’ a handful of faces, hinting at diversity, whilst neglecting differences in hair, clothing and facial characteristics that would make the differences unequivocal. That said, a tension remains between our house style, innate biases and aspirations.

In an attempt to address this, we also look at other aspects, not just the physical appearances of the humans we depict but also who the active agents are in our illustrations. One obvious example is considering who is at the front of the room but also who is directing, speaking or gesticulating when we portray a group or activity.

When it comes to representing a diverse workforce in a stylised two dimensional form, for me, it is about thinking about the changes we would like to champion in the three dimensional world. As a team, we know we often inadvertently replicate our own biases but we are committed to continue having difficult conversations, both internally and with our clients to try to reduce those instances (or at least support each other to shift from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence)! As an illustrator, it feels imperative not to shy away from trying to draw diversity for fear of falling short and I continue to strive to find new ways to represent richly diverse workplace cultures in my work with Transition Tradition.

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