Design remains a largely white profession, with Black people still vastly underrepresented—making up just 3% of the design industry, according to a 2019 survey.
This dilemma isn’t new. For decades, the field’s whiteness has been recognized as a problem, and was being openly discussed as far back as the late 1980s, when the few Black graphic design students preparing to enter the profession spoke of feeling isolated and rudderless.
Part of the lack of representation might have had to do with the fact that prevailing tenets of design seemed to hew closely to Western traditions, with purported origins in Ancient Greece and the schools out of Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands deemed paragons of the field. A “Black aesthetic” has seemed to be altogether absent.
But what if a uniquely African aesthetic has been deeply embedded in Western design all along?