Chicago, Ill. – Vernon Lockhart, executive director of Project Osmosis, a nonprofit helping youth pursue careers in design, was honored by AIGA Chicago June 14 for his commitment to diversifying the design industry.
The lack of diversity in industries where minorities are underrepresented has pushed companies like Uber, Google and Airbnb to demonstrate stronger commitments to diversity and inclusion. Like the tech industry, the design industry has historically had low numbers of minority representation. A 2016 study by Google and AIGA, the professional association for design, found that only 9 percent of designers were Hispanic, 8 percent were Asian, and 3 percent were African American.
As the executive director of the nonprofit, as well as founder of Art on the Loose, Lockhart has dedicated his 30-year career to increasing those numbers. The native of St. Louis started his career as a designer at Northwestern University after graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He launched AOTL, his multidisciplinary design firm, in 1995. Key projects include designing and building the Bronzeville Children’s Museum and working with corporate giants like Exelon, as well as designing and constructing the Marcus Garvey Interactive Museum and Peter Tosh Museum in Jamaica.
Just as meaningful is the work he’s done with Project Osmosis, the nonprofit organization, which emerged from the Chicago chapter of the Organization of Black Designers. For the past 21 years, Osmosis has engaged minority youth in activities that promote creativity and self-expression. The organization helps 700+ students each year to gain access and knowledge about career opportunities in design.
“We want to say 10, 20, 50 years from now, that we have encouraged thousands of youth to pursue careers in design they may never have considered otherwise. I believe every person has the human right to be creative, regardless of their economic background or race,” Lockhart said.
His accomplishments include helping to implement internship programs at the Harrington College of Design, Columbia College, SAIC and Chicago State University. Lockhart helped UIC establish the Osmosis Charles Harrison Scholarship, and recently published Design For Life, a full-color coffee table book celebrating the life of Leroy Winbush – one of Chicago’s pioneering designers of color.
Because of his contributions to design, Lockhart has been selected to receive the 2018 Above & Beyond Award from the Chicago Chapter of AIGA.
“We bestow our deepest appreciation to Lockhart for leading the profession in its efforts to become… inclusive… and encouraging young people to discover design as an expression of creativity,” said Rick Grefé, former executive director of AIGA.