As we celebrate Black History Month, it's important to remember the contributions of black designers.
Here are seven inspiring black designers to celebrate this month. These talented artists have truly made their mark on the world of visual design. We hope their stories will inspire you as we continue to fight for equality and representation in the design industry. Thank you for celebrating with us!
Charles Clarence Dawson
Charles Clarence Dawson was a revolutionary African American artist and designer whose work fought to bring the beauty of black culture into public view during the 1930s. His iconic mural at Chicago's Century of Progress World’s Fair proved groundbreaking, with vivid portrayals depicting both adversities and hope for change in their lives.
After his service in WWII, he used his artistic endeavors to support businesses owned by members within this very same community; co-founding what would become known as one of the first black arts collectives. His most notable achievement is an inspiring poster adorning New York City's Metropolitan Museum, which serves as an enduring reminder – unifying generations through history and art alike.
Ann Lowe is widely recognized as an iconic figure in the African American fashion community. She is particularly celebrated for being the first black designer to gain widespread recognition among upper-class women in America. Lowe was active as a designer from the 1920s to the 1960s, during which time she achieved numerous successes including designing for prestigious figures such as Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, and even creating Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown!
Lowe was known for her intricate designs that used various techniques such as smocking, pleating, and hand embroidery. Her creativity helped to create timeless pieces that showcased her talent and aesthetic eye. Lowe led a remarkable life despite facing significant obstacles due to racism and sexism. Even with these challenges, she persevered in her craft and became an influential figure in African American fashion history, inspiring generations of young black designers who have followed in her footsteps.
Floyd Norman is an incredibly important figure in the history of animation. He made history in 1956 when he became the first African American cartoon animator at the Disney studios. While working directly with Walt Disney, Norman worked on some of the studio's most iconic films and projects, such as The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Toy Story 2, and Monsters Inc.
Norman was a trailblazer as a black artist and designer; he not only helped further representation within animation but also pushed to have better relations between different cultures at Disney Studios. Throughout his career, he encouraged more diverse hiring practices within the animation industry. After retiring from Disney in 1981, he continued to work as a freelance consultant and storyboard artist on various projects. Even after officially retiring in 2017 at age 86, Norman still works occasionally to stay involved in the business. His work has inspired many generations of animators from all backgrounds to follow their dreams and pursue their passions.
As a generous and creative leader in her community, it’s no surprise that Sylvia Harris is recognized by many. Sylvia Harris was truly a force of nature who made the world better through her creative work. Her unwavering commitment to helping others led her down paths as diverse as graphic design, teaching, and business leadership - but it doesn't end there! With an impressive range of research experience spanning from systems planning for some of America's largest public institutions all the way up to rebranding efforts with US Census Bureau’s 2000 initiative encouraging marginalized citizens' participation, she proved that one person can make a lasting impact on our society.
Not only was she a highly skilled graphic designer and business owner, but she was also an excellent teacher who shared her knowledge with passionate students through decades of teaching. Whether it be an idea jotted down on paper or a message she spread through her wise advice, Sylvia Harris' legacy is one that will stay alive for years to come.
Gail Anderson is a renowned figure in black history who continues to inspire many during Black History Month. Her design skills are legendary, with nearly four decades of innovation and creativity to her name. From 1987 on she worked in close collaboration with AIGA Medalist Fred Woodward at Rolling Stone magazine - a relationship made special through their shared fondness for music, low lighting, and late nights. Together they sought out the most unusual materials to craft the iconic pages – everything from hot metal snippets to twigs right down to bottle caps were all part of Gail’s personal toolkit.
Her journey of perseverance serves as a reminder that despite immense political, economic, and social barriers, black communities have continued to strive for progress throughout generations. Gail Anderson is a beacon of light that brings awareness to black culture this Black History Month – showcasing how embracing one’s heritage can empower individuals everywhere.
“As I’ve gotten older, I have begun to shift my focus to my legacy and reflecting on what I’ve given to others. I want to surround myself with people who want to do and be the best they can, not for the sake of awards or followers or likes,” -Gail Anderson
Maurice Cherry is a rockstar of the tech world. He’s the pioneering creator of the Black Weblog Awards, the web’s longest-running event celebrating black bloggers, video bloggers, and podcasters. Maurice facilitates conversations around diversity in technology and intersecting issues, urging people to question the status quo, and challenge the industry.
He's worked with countless companies to help them better understand concepts of inclusion and ways they can enact real change. Maurice has been a keynote speaker at events such as SXSW, GDC, and more, and has also worked with Google, Microsoft, IBM Watson, USAA and many others. His knowledge base and relentless drive for justice have earned him numerous accolades throughout his venture into tech.
Catt Small is a multi-faceted artist and designer who has made significant contributions to the world of design. She is the Director of Product Design at All Turtles, where she creates digital tools and experiences that are designed to solve meaningful problems with technology. But her talent and expertise go beyond product design; she also codes, makes video games, writes articles about professional development, and creates various forms of artwork. As a Black woman in tech, Catt has been an inspiration for people from all walks of life. She started coding at the age of 10 and designing at 15 – an impressive feat that showcases her dedication to her craft as well as her commitment to breaking down barriers in the tech industry.
Her work has been featured in places such as Asana, Etsy, SoundCloud, and Nasdaq - demonstrating her impact on the industry. In addition to her technical skillset, Catt also has a unique eye for aesthetics which allows her to create beautiful designs that can be appreciated by everyone. Her hard work is truly inspiring, and it’s no wonder why she continues to be praised for her contributions as both an artist and a Black woman in tech!
These seven black designers have made and are continuing to make a significant impact in the industry, whether it’s through their design work, teaching abilities, or creative approach to problem-solving. Their talent and drive are an inspiration to other creatives who are looking to make a name for themselves in the field. As Maurice Cherry says, “It’s important that we have people that look like us doing great things so we can show younger people coming up that this is something that they can do.” With designers like these paving the way, it’s only a matter of time before web design becomes more equitable and accessible to everyone. We can all learn from their successes and continue to strive for greater diversity in this industry.
By embracing diversity in design, we can create meaningful change through collaboration, creativity, and community. We have a unique opportunity to grow and learn from their experiences. By recognizing their achievements, we can create an inclusive design industry that encourages everyone to participate in meaningful conversations and take action towards social change. Together, with these seven inspiring web designers in mind, we can create equitable designs that foster positive changes in our society.