Announcing “Black Design in America” Book

Press Release from Princeton Press:

Princeton University Press is grateful and excited to announce the forthcoming publication of a groundbreaking new volume, Black Design in America: African Americans and the African Diaspora in Graphic Design 19th–21st Century.

Rooted in a broadly defined vision of design—including graphic design, visual art, architecture, visual culture, and Black studies—and centering Black designers, scholars, and cultural figures, this critical volume promises an overdue recounting of the histories, legacies, communities, and futures of African and African American visual traditions. Foundational to Black Design in America is the lived experience of the authors, leading BIPOC designers, and scholars. Primary text coauthored by Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton, Pierre Bowins, and Silas Munro will guide the historical narrative; interwoven throughout will be a call-and-response engaging the work and voices of volume contributors.

The coauthors note, “We are so honored to take the collaborative and multivoiced approach to these collective perspectives of design history, which represents lineages that have been overlooked and reflect the makeup of people in contemporary design and design education that has been emerging for generations.”

Spanning a diversity of places, spaces, topics, and moments in time, the book will feature chapters on the ancient origins of African alphabets; design systems within slavery and white supremacy; the type and typography of emancipation and abolition; the graphic traditions of Blackface and minstrelsy; W.E.B. DuBois and data visualization; queer design of the Harlem Renaissance; the Great Migration and multigenerational networks of Black Excellence; the typography of the civil rights movement; the design legacy of discrimination against Black drivers and homeowners; Black design and production of the 1960s and 1970s, including collectives like AfroCOBRA; music and design in funk, Blaxploitation, and hip-hop; the visual culture of Black Lives Matter; and the multiple radical futures of Black design and designers.

Michelle Komie, publisher for art and architecture at Princeton University Press, says: “We are thrilled to partner with this outstanding team of designers and historians to bring Black Design in America to publication. Our highest praise is usually the term ‘field-defining,’ but this book requires a new descriptor, ‘field-creating,’ as it has the potential to vastly grow the existing discipline. It is the kind of book that generates new thinking into existence.”

Black Design in America evolves from the first series of courses in BIPOC Design History, online classes facilitated by Polymode Studio. Using lectures, readings, and discussions, BIPOC Design History illuminates “moments of oppression and visibility” and recounts the trajectories of design history to foreground previously marginalized figures from BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) and QTPOC (Queer Trans People of Color) communities. The thirteen Black Design in America courses were launched to the public in the winter of 2021 with the support of teaching assistant Tanvi Sharma. They were followed, in the autumn of 2021, by Incomplete Latinx Stories of Diseño Grafico, facilitated by Ramon Tejada, and exploring art and design from a Latinx diasporic perspective.

BIPOC Design History is in planning stages for future courses centering First Nations and Indigenous design, Asian American Pacific Islander design, Japanese design, Arab design, and QTPOC design.

Course recordings and syllabi for both series are available at Enrollment is available via sliding-scale rates to prioritize inclusivity and access for students and BIPOC students; educators and BIPOC educators; professionals and BIPOC professionals.

Instagram: @bipocdesignhistory
Twitter: @bipocdesign

Black Design in America will be designed by Polymode and published as a paperback in the fall of 2023.