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Texas State University

Background Story

April 9-10, 2021

Black Design

Past. Present. Future.

Presented by IBM

The State of Black Design

The First Event

On September 18, 2020, Texas State University's Communication Design program hosted "The State of Black Design," a two–hour virtual discussion presented via YouTube Live. The event featured prominent Black design practitioners, activists, and academics, each exploring the intersection of identity and practice. Open conversations were segmented into four focused panels: Industry, Pedagogy, Black Design Organizations, and Design Activism. Texas State's Common Experience and the School of Art and Design co-sponsored the event.

The Purpose

Despite the growing number of minority students entering college, they are not reflected in design-related fields. Diversity in design has been a decades-long topic of conversation. The goals of the first event were to explore the intersection of identity and practice, precisely why the design field has failed to attract African American students, how hegemony works, spaces impacting professionals of color and potential improvement methods.

What Happened

The discussion included topics such as the Aunt Jemima brand and the rebranding of racist trademarks. Panelists explored whether the subject of rebranding was enough. Hegemony in design curriculum + workspace was also analyzed in the intersectionality of race, LGBTQIA+, Latinx, and disabled identities. The evening concluded by questioning whether the momentum around race is used by designers to also champion equity for other minority groups (including gender, sexual orientation, race and religion) and how designers can better function as advocates.

Attention and Audience

Some key details about "The State of Black Design" event, held September 18, 2020:

  • Media mentions in The New York Review of Architecture, Ward 9 Great Neighborhoods, Eye Magazine, The Power Broker Magazine, In/Visible Talk and the Texas State Newsroom
  • 3,616 registered — largest livestream event registration total in Texas State history
  • 2,071 live viewers — second-largest livestream audience for an academic event in Texas State history
  • 4,409 total views — most online views for an academic event in Texas State history

And Now: The Conference

Shortly after the outstanding success of the September event, a decision was made to take the conversation to a larger audience with more speakers, more topics and more career opportunities for young designers — with a focus on student designers of color.

The State of Black Design Conference is the next step in that conversation.