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24 Nov 2022
Lack of diversity in the design industry struck two leading interior designers so forcefully they tackled it head on. Through their charity United in Design, Alexandria Dauley and Sophie Ashby have already opened up apprenticeships and mentoring schemes to a far wider community. RedBook’s CEO, Tom Adams, joined them, and asked ‘where next?’


Tell us, Alex and Sophie, about your mission for United in Design.

Alex Dauley: United in Design is a charitable trust that aims to address the lack of diversity across the design industry and provide companies with a pathway to create change. We partner with design studios, landscape designers, furniture manufacturers, joiners, suppliers, lighting designers, project managers, architects, textile designers, magazines and editors to provide career opportunities and open doors into the interior design world.

Above image: Co-founders of United in Design. Left: Alexandria Dauley, Right: Sophie Ashby 

“The proof is in the pudding; our 5 apprentices for 2021 are now all in full-time employment in our industry and practically created a bidding war…”

What are your goals for the programme over the next year?

Sophie Ashby: Our goal for the year ahead is to sign up more companies to become partners with the charity so that we can in turn create more apprenticeship pools, mentoring pairs, work experience weeks, career insight days and employment positions for the talent we’re helping. We currently have about 170 companies signed up; in our first year we were able to create 5 apprenticeship positions, this year it’s been 8 – so next year we’d like to get close to twelve but in order to do that, we need 49 companies to participate. We’ve also created over 40 mentoring pairs as well as funded bursaries to attend design courses at KLC and we’d love to do more of that.

RedBook are delighted to be members, what other businesses and designers are already taking part in the programme?

Alex Dauley: Sophie and I have been so thrilled with the response so far since we launched in 2020 and we have now had hundreds of businesses sign up to the pledge. We have major design firms including Peter Mikic, Katharine Pooley, Carden Cunietti, Studio Duggan, Natalia Miyar, De Rosee Sa, Brady Williams, Clare Gaskin, Elicyon, RedBook, Salvensen Graham, Studio Ashby, Hubert Zandberg and David Collins Studio signed up as well as incredible suppliers such as Fromental, The New Craftsmen, De Gournay, The Rug Company, Farrow & Ball, Porto Romana, Vaughan, Lanserring, Dedar, Balineum, Bill Cyndert, The Invisible Collection, Sedilia, Julian Chichester, Aiveen Daley, Shame Studios  and CP Hart. We were also able to create a special Media Apprenticeship this year so one lucky individual is spending her year across House & Garden, The World of Interiors, Elle Decoration, Living ETC and Homes & Gardens.

Will you be approaching more?

Alex Dauley: Absolutely, we want to continue to grow the number of businesses signed up across the industry and the country. It’s quite simply just the right thing to do.  We’re finding once we have the opportunity to tell people about it – we have a 100% success rate in signing them up. The proof is in the pudding; our 5 apprentices for 2021 are now all in full-time employment in our industry and practically created a bidding war amongst the companies vying to be their employers.

“We are committed to supporting United in Design, and will be offering our own internship and mentorship in the coming year”

– Tom Adams, CEO, RedBook


How can RedBook and designers’ studios help further with diversity and inclusion within our industry?

Sophie Ashby: The key to United in Design is that it addresses the issues with tangible results because it puts the business at the front of change. In order to take your 3 pledges and become a member of the United in Design movement, businesses (or individuals) must commit to three actions from the seven-point actional pledge, which aims to encourage partners to unlock doors and inspire others within the industry to share their wealth of expertise and time with those who need it most. So if you’re a larger business of 15+ you might like to do the Apprenticeship Scheme, become a mentor and provide work experience in your company. If you’re a medium-sized company it might be an internship, some mentoring and using your platform for change. If you’re a one-person band it might be a career insight day, schools outreach and mentoring for example.


What will RedBook itself be doing?

Tom Adams, CEO, RedBook: We are truly committed to supporting United in Design, and we are excited to be offering our own internship and mentorship in the coming year, as well as using our influence and connections in the design industry to promote and drive awareness and change. It is great to be involved in the charity, a huge thank you and congratulations to both Sophie and Alex for launching such an important initiative,.

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