The idea behind this blog has been fermenting since I was in college. Here I was an eager, design student looking to learn all I can about my future industry. Semester after semester I’d pour over design annuals and magazines reading about the titans of design. But there was always something that really bothered me when looking through all this—I never saw anyone that quite looked like me. What I saw was page after page of designers that were male and white. Occasionally I saw some women but they too were white. The only folks of color I saw were the occasional Asian designer but they didn’t look like me.
All I keep saying to myself was, “Are there any black/brown folks in design?” One semester I did start coming across designers who looked like me but it was far and few. And it took a lot of looking. I noticed that not much was different years after graduating and now working. Most of the folks I encountered working were white and I was the sole creative of color. Basically I was used to the growing in school but was this really how I was going to live through my creative life. Not seeing, reading or hearing about any designers like me was extremely depressing. I mean it was the 90’s, right? What I discovered was that there were designers of color out there past and present…it’s just they weren’t talked about or given the same consideration as Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, April Greiman or Joe Duffy as examples. No disrepect to these legends but c’mon not one designer of color is ever put in the same conversation as them. Where are the legends that look like me?
So now it is 2009 some 20 years later and going through the annuals and usual design magazines and guess what?—IT’S STILL THE SAME THING. A lot of folks ask, “Why does it matter?” The answer simply is because it validates your being. For many folks of color we have grown up being thought of second and not as part of the complete picture. Advertising is a great example of that. Really now, how many times are you gonna have black/brown folks dancing and singing the praises of fast food? Or the selling of cable services like it was a reggaeton video with the blinged out MCs and sexy dressed women? Can’t a better, more creative campaign be developed?
There has been movement in telling the complete picture of design. AIGA has developed a National Diversity Taskforce and recently honored their first medalists of color. Some of the design magazines have been showcasing work of designers of color not as a show of diversity but to showcase talented designers who just happen to be of color. Back in 2006, I created a digital magazine called what about? that followed the same idea as this blog. I intended it to come out quarterly but life didn’t cooperate with me. So now I figured it would be best as an ongoing blog that can be more interactive and immediate. So I invite you to read, comment and contribute to this discussion so that the next generation of designers aren’t asking the same questions.
Hope you enjoy.