Inneract Project: Helping Black and Brown Kids of Low-income Families Become Designers

Inneract Project: Helping Black and Brown Kids of Low-income Families Become Designers
Maurice Woods, Founder of Inner Project. Image via YouTue video: "Valuing Diversity in Design + Technology, an event by Inneract Project"

At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has really been “on the move”, Inneract Project Founder Maurice Woods spoke during a live event about the low percentage of black designers and how the organization helps black and brown kids of low-income families gain skills and become design professionals.

In June 2020, Inneract Project Founder Maurice Woods participated in an online event held by San Francisco Design Week to discuss how the organization works and to highlight some important facts.

One very important fact is that design and tech companies have a very low percentage of black employees.

Last year, Wired published an article stating “It’s been five years since Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft first released diversity reports, revealing the companies’ workforces were overwhelmingly white or Asian men.”

Smack dab in the middle of a tech hot spot—San Francisco—, Woods worked up a solution to change these statistics. Except, it’s not so much about the numbers for Woods. He founded Inneract Project in 2004 with the objective of helping the youth of today, primarily middle and high school ages, who identify as Black, Latinx and/or of low-income backgrounds so they can discover the option of a future in design.

“Everyone knows there is a huge diversity gap in design and tech fields. What is important to note is that there is very little work being done with underserved youth at a young age to help prepare them and to combat this disparity,” Maurice Woods wrote in an article published on Shoppeblack in 2016.

That’s why he founded the Inneract Project.

WATCH: A replay of the live event here.

A professionally-supported organization, Inneract Project (IP) offers free programs which include design classes and initiatives, “ in order to introduce youth to the field of design and help channel their creativity into viable career paths.” 

Courtesy of Inner Project

Education Paves the Way for Opportunity

Since creative fields are projected to be one of the most promising new opportunities for employees over the next seven years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IP is truly an important support system for the black community. 

“There are a TON of career options for youth in these fields. I work in the Bay Area where design is an important skill in the tech industry. Design careers are in demand, and as a result, pay well.”

READ: ‘Blacks Who Design’ Directory Seeks to Increase Visibility, Diversity in Tech // What It’s Like to Be a Black Designer in America Right Now // Where are the black designers?

Except, the percentage of African American graduates with a college degree in art/design has been drastically low; only 6% in 2015, according to Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS).

Education is key to turning this around, to increasing opportunities for the black community. Woods knows this, just as he understands the parents of these children also need to be educated.

“We must also educate parents and the broader community so they can support this new generation of design thinkers. We believe parents are the key and invite them to not only sign their kids up for our classes and workshops but pass the word around, be involved, and help us build a network of parents dedicated to improving the quality of life and future for our young people.”

Courtesy of Inner Project

On Point with Technology and Methods

IP x Facebook Mobile App Design (MAD) Bootcamp—Students learned how to design and create their own mobile apps at Facebook Campus. According to IP, This program was led by Facebook Product Design Manager Miki Setlur and co-taught by Akeem Allen.

IP Design-a-thon 2018—Companies like Amazon, Adobe, Air BNB, and Collins paired with teams of IP students. They worked on solving issues within their community through app development and design for the SF Design week.

IP x Autodesk: 3D Design—Inneract project students worked with Autodesk designers and IP teacher Jeadi Vilchis in a 10 day 3D design program to help students learn to build and design 3-D objects.

Figma—A free open-source tool that allows students to access their files wherever they might be, whether they’re in class, at home or on a computer at the public library.

READ: An article by Maurice Woods, whose father was a police officer, about the current injustice in the US.


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