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Black Connect
by on January 23, 2020

If you're a business owner or entrepreneur, you have likely been inundated by offers from graphic designers to design your logo, revamp your website, create flyers, business cards, posters, and every other piece of marketing material conceivable.

It may come as a surprise to know that despite the seeming proliferation of Black graphic designers, the field of professional graphic design is approximately 86% white.  Racial diversity has been an issue in the graphic design community for over 20 years, yet the gap in representation and opportunities for Black Americans remains.

The Problem

In 1991, AIGA, a professional association for graphic design, published a report entitled “Why is graphic design 93% white? Removing barriers to increase opportunities in graphic design.” In the report, 7 problems are identified that contribute to the lack of diversity in the field of graphic design:

  • Access to Resources
  • Old Boys Network
  • Myths and Misconceptions: Can People of Color Serve Only People of Color?
  • Lack of Role Models
  • Need for training and education opportunities
  • Not accepting of other languages of cultures
  • Internalized Racism

Fast forward to 2019 and the statistics of the leading design-driven companies show that the racial gap remains consistent at best.  Across its American operations, Facebook, one of the larger design-driven companies, reported in its 2019 annual diversity report that its workforce is 44.2 percent white, 43 percent Asian, 5.2 percent Hispanic, and only 3.8 percent Black.  Twitter reports that only 5% of its U.S. workforce is Black.  These single-digit figures exist despite each company’s strategic efforts to diversify its workforce that began years ago - Facebook in 2014 and Twitter in 2017.

How Do We Fix It?

In a 2015 video of a SXSW presentation titled “Where Are The Black Designers?,” renown graphic designer and Morehouse Man, Maurice Cherry, explored this issue and addressed questions such as: How do we fix this? Can we fix this? And what’s the overall benefit of diversifying the design industry?

As Mr. Cherry points out in his video, Black designers are operating from a deficit in many areas including exposure, education, and inclusion.  Like most issues impacting the Black community, the solution to closing the gap in graphic arts is multidimensional. Awareness, opportunities, mentoring, and more, is needed to bridge the divide.

Get Involved in Black Connect’s Design Contest

The diversity problem in design lies not only in the numbers, but in public awareness.  Black Connect is taking a step toward creating public awareness and exposure with an opportunity for Black graphic designers to demonstrate their professionalism, talents, and creativity.  The national #CloseTheGap Design Contest takes place during the month of February and allows designers to win prizes and have their work featured across Black Connect’s merchandise and media channels.  Learn more about the contest, how to submit your entry, and when to cast your vote for the winner.

The #CloseTheGap Design Contest is co-sponsored by Ellen Lupton.  Ms. Lupton is founding director of the Graphic Design MFA Program at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in Baltimore, where she has authored numerous books on design processes, including Thinking with Type, Graphic Design Thinking, Graphic Design: The New Basics, and Type on Screen. She also serves as Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Recent exhibitions include The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, How Posters Work, and Beautiful Users. Her book Design Is Storytelling was published by Cooper Hewitt in 2017.

Get involved!  Tell a friend, share on social media, tag a graphic artist and vote in the contest!

For further reading, check out our blog, “These Entrepreneurs Are Continuing the Legacy of Black Designers”