Huge creates scholarship to improve diversity in design

As part of its efforts to promote diversity in the industry, Toronto agency Huge will spend $30,000 on scholarships for underrepresented students at George Brown College over the next three years.

Dubbed “The Experience Exchange,” the program will see four design students in each of the next three years receive $2,500 apiece to attend George Brown College’s Centre for Arts, Design & Information Technology in Toronto.

“By launching The Experience Exchange by Huge, we are helping to improve access to opportunities for underrepresented groups in our industry, starting in our hometown,” said Huge Canada managing director Matt Di Paola in a release. “Our goal is to create a huge impact here.”

In addition to $2,500 towards their tuition (which ranges from $2,460 to $13,200 per year, depending on the program), students accepted in the program will receive mentorship from Huge Canada employees, as well as access to career development workshops, and a chance at a Huge internship.

“Design and design thinking is core to our offering, whether it is UX, brand, marketing or industrial design,” Di Paola told The Message when asked why the agency wanted to support the George Brown program. The agency also has a longstanding relationship with the school’s Institute Without Boundaries program, he said.

“When we were looking at making an impact in Toronto, it made sense to build on that existing partnership with the broader design program at George Brown, especially given how well the breadth of their programs aligns with the breadth of our subject matter expertise.”

Eligible applicants must “exhibit strong interest and commitment to their field of study through their extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, and involvement in the classroom.” Preference will be given to students from underrepresented communities, including BIPOC, people living with disabilities, women, and 2SLGBTQIA+.

The industry has long had a reputation for being disproportionately white, with a lack of BIPOC professionals in particular. That underrepresentation became an important topic last summer, with much of the world facing a reckoning about systemic racism and urgent calls for meaningful action following the murder of George Floyd.

Huge’s head office in the U.S. committed to increase the share of both women and BIPOC executives by 25% within two years, and has released DE&I data as a step toward ensuring accountability.

“As part of Huge’s ongoing action plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, we are focused on increasing representation,” said Toni Howard Lowe, group vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Huge, in the release. “This is something that can only be maintained by fighting systemic bias and inequity, which is why we invest in the creation of growth pipelines such as The Experience Exchange by Huge.”

“The Experience Exchange by Huge established at George Brown College is a shining example of the innovation, foresight and initiative that Huge Canada has in the design community,” added Luigi Ferrara, dean at the Centre for Arts, Design and Information Technology.

“Supporting students from underrepresented communities, both financially and professionally, elevates them to have equal access to opportunities that will allow them to build their design careers with success. We are excited to see this partnership come to life and evolve.”

Humber College introduced a similar scholarship earlier this year to improve diversity of racialized students in PR. The Impression Campaign was launched with Code Black Communicator Network and a founding investment from PR agency Agnostic.

David Brown