A pay-what-you-can online design school for people of colour launches in the form of Useful School

Created in response to “the continuing lack of representation in the design industry,” Useful School opens with two courses on product design.

6 January 2022


Ritesh Gupta, senior director of new product ventures at Gannett, has created Useful School, an online design curriculum that “fully centres people of colour”. The new school is pay-what-you-can and kicks off with two courses on product design.

While a range of organisations – including advertising-focused One School – continue to strive to diversify an overwhelmingly white, middle-class design industry, Useful School reminds readers in a statement: “Design is still 73% white.” The new online school has been created in response to this continuing inequality throughout the industry, to help fulfil the demand for an equitable curriculum that centres people of colour.

“We as people of colour deserve an inclusive approach that’s radically different from the close-minded, repressed educational institutions that aren’t built to teach or celebrate the success of people of colour,” Useful School founder Ritesh Gupta tells It’s Nice That. “If we comprise a large portion of the user base for products, then we deserve to help design and build them.”

To create a school that centres people of colour at every step, Ritesh Gupta approached every element of Useful School with this goal in mind. Notably, all the fonts used for Useful School are from people of colour. “We’re divesting – we have classes centring POC the whole way through, from constraining certain projects to utilise fonts by POC, to helping students rally around answering questions POC face at work”, Ritesh continues. “Also, the school’s branding has been purposely created to feel different from a typical school. The colours and tone are different. The logo is different… We’re swearing. We’re memeing.”


Ritesh Gupta: Useful School (Copyright © Useful School, 2022)

Applicants to Useful School will be accepted on a rolling basis and selected “primarily on raw design talent”; the school will run approximately ten weeks per class. The school’s first two courses will help students build their portfolio and find their unique individual voice, while developing the soft skills needed to start a career or continue a career in product design. Supporters of Useful School can contribute via Patreon-style contributions to help cover the costs for students who can’t pay.

“We want to see change at every level of the working life – we want to increase the total talent pool as well as improve chances of promotions and opening practices,” says Ritesh Gupta. “Useful School is on a mission to increase representation of people of colour in creative industries, while having fun doing it.”

GalleryRitesh Gupta: Useful School (Copyright © Useful School, 2022)

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Ritesh Gupta: Useful School (Copyright © Useful School, 2021)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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