Artist and author Cheryl D. Miller will lead MICA’s exploration of Black designers.
Artist and author Cheryl D. Miller will lead MICA’s exploration of Black designers.

In 1987, designer and author Cheryl D. Miller published a Print magazine article titled “Black Designers: Missing in Action,” questioning the dismally low number of Black professionals in the design industry.

In the nearly three and a half decades since its publication, not much has changed.

According to the 2019 design census created by AIGA and Google, Black men and women make up just 3% of the design industry.

The dearth of Black designers has taken on new urgency in recent months, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the cultural conversation and racial reckoning that followed. 

In light of racial injustice felt across the country, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) will focus its most prominent annual design event, the William O. Steinmetz ’50 Designer-in-Residence program, on the topic of Black graphic design. 

In the free webinar series, “Voices: Black Graphic Design History,” Cheryl D. Miller will hold conversations with three other Steinmetz Designers-in-Residence: Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton, Maurice Cherry, and Deyane Moses.

“The needle can’t be moved without history and scholarship,” Miller said in a statement, “We can’t decolonize design education without something to decolonize with.” 

Miller’s archives were acquired by Stanford University Libraries, and she is currently curating the The History of Black Graphic Design in North America, an open-source database, in collaboration with Stanford Libraries. 

“The challenge with Black design history online is that it has missing pieces; it’s missing important voices,” Miller said. “Many of our stories are sealed away in card catalogs, our memory banks and our oral traditions. So many weren’t digitized and didn’t make the leap across the technological divide.” 

“Voices: Black Graphic Design History” will be split into two events.

The first, “Making History: Black Graphic Design, Past and Future,” will be held at 1 p.m. EST on Tuesday, April 6. The event will feature a discussion between Miller, Cherry, and Moses on the legacy and future of Black graphic design.

Maurice Cherry is the creative strategist for CodeSandbox and principal and creative director at Lunch, a creative studio he established in Atlanta in 2008. 

Deyane Moses, a graduate of MICA, is an artist, activist, and curator. She is also the founder of Blackives, LLC, a cultural research firm that explores Black history within colleges, universities, churches, and other institutions. 

The second event will be held at 6 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 15. Miller and Arceneaux-Sutton will present “The History of Black Women In Graphic Design.”  

Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Southeastern Louisiana University and faculty in the MFA Program in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is also the principal of Blacvoice Design Studio, which does work for small businesses, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. 

Registration for the event on April 6, “Making History: Black Graphic Design, Past and Future,” can be found here.

Registration for the event on April 15, “The History of Black Women In Graphic Design,” can be found here.