Audrey G. Bennett receives funding from the National Science Foundation and the University of Michigan. She has previously received funding from Google and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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.
Through my research collaboration with design scholar Ron Eglash, author of “African Fractals,” I discovered that the design style that undergirds much of the graphic design profession today – the Swiss design tradition that uses the golden ratio – may have roots in African culture.