The Black Experience in Design

Image credit: Skyhorse Publishing

The contributions of Black Americans—in particular, the work and experiences of Black designers—have long been erased and overlooked from history books. Influenced by Western and European modernist perspectives, design history and education has also been dominated by white culture and represented through a white lens. The Black Experience in Design, an anthology centering Black voices and perspectives, is a vital response to this systemic erasure within the design profession and American history at large.

Featuring essays and conversations with Black educators, scholars, and thinkers on design, the book spotlights teaching practices, research, stories, and conversations from a Black/African diasporic lens. The essays render previously invisible Black experiences visible by acknowledging, celebrating, and documenting the ways in which Black creatives have shaped American history, and by extension what it means to be American. Not just a design book or a book about Black designers, the book opens a conversation about what it means to be Black, and the perspectives that collectively comprise “The Black Experience.”

On February 17, Open House New York hosted a conversation between Saundra Thomas and the co-authors and contributors of The Black Experience in Design: Anne H. Berry, Kareem Collie, Penina Acayo Laker, Lesley-Ann Noel, Jennifer Rittner, and Kelly Walters.

Order The Black Experience in Design here.

Author Bios

Anne H. Berry is a writer and educator whose research focuses on race/representation in the field of design. Her writing has been published in AIGA’s Eye on DesignCommunication Arts, and the inaugural issue of the anthology Recognize featuring essays and commentary from indigenous people and people of color.

Kareem Collie is a designer, strategist, and educator specializing in collaborative and human-centered design approaches to capture, reveal, and produce visual and experiential narratives. He holds a master’s degree from NYU in culture and communication studies and a bachelor’s in fine arts from Pratt Institute in communication design.

Penina Acayo Laker is a designer and educator whose practice and research is centered around topics that utilize a human-centered approach to solving social problems, locally and internationally. She is currently broadening the scope and access of design education to young people in Uganda through her DesignEd workshops.

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel focuses on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design education, research and practice. She promotes greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio e.g. through The Designer’s Critical Alphabet and the Positionality Wheel.

Jennifer Rittner is a writer, educator and communications strategist who teaches in the graduate and undergraduate design programs at the School Visual Arts, including courses in design history, design for social value, design & politics, and thesis. She has been published in the New York TimesDMI: JournalAIGA Eye on DesignCore77, and Against the Grain; and in 2021 served as guest editor for a special issue on Design & Policing published by Design Museum Everywhere magazine. She frequently writes and lectures about design and social justice. A daughter of women, Jennifer centers the voices of her near ancestors Bernadette, Aurea, and Dianqui in her practices.

Kelly Walters is a designer, educator and founder of the multidisciplinary design studio Bright Polka Dot. Her ongoing design research interrogates the complexities of identity formation, systems of value, and the shared vernacular in and around Black visual culture. She is the author of Black, Brown + Latinx Design Educators: Conversations on Design and Race published by Princeton Architectural Press. Kelly is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the BFA Communication Design Program at Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York.

OHNY Stacks

OHNY Stacks is a series of virtual book talks exploring the unknown, the unseen, and the unnoticed. Join us on Thursdays, 5:30—6:30pm ET through February with authors of highly acclaimed books critical to understanding the past, present, and future of New York—as well as national trends or global issues that influence the shape, structure, and experience of cities and urban life today.