Past, Present, & Future: 5 Black Designers You Should Know About & Their Design Impact

The design industry is constantly seeking fresh ideas and talent. The question is, are diasporic designers included in the search? Diversity and inclusivity in design influence attitudes, standards, and consumption, which then influences culture and economic power. In honor of the need for a diverse representation of designers, we created this list of Black influential designers in the past and present who are sources of inspiration in the design community, and how they are changing design as we know it.

Gail Anderson

Gail Anderson is a praised designer, writer, educator, and trailblazer for African Americans in the graphic design scene. In her early career, between 1987 and 2002, Gail Anderson served in three ranks as art director for Rolling Stone magazine. Between 2002 and 2010, Gail served as the Creative Director of Spotco, an advertising, and marketing agency in New York. During her time there, she designed artwork for Broadway.  

Most of Gail’s work is typography-driven. However, she draws her inspiration from different sources and encourages upcoming artists to collect experiences and items to inspire themselves. 

Besides graphic design, Gail Anderson is the author of Outside the Box, as well as tons of books, magazines, blogs, and more. She is also the Chair of BFA Design and BFA Advertising at the School of Visual Arts. Gail is also the creative director for the Visual Arts Press.

Her awards include the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Medal from AIGA and her work has received great recognition from renowned design organizations.

Virgil Abloh

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh took the luxury fashion world by storm and made history as the first African American to lead Louis Vuitton. He is the founder of Off-White a luxury fashion label that collaborated with prolific brands such as Nike, Jimmy Choo, IKEA, and Levi’s’. Mr. Abloh revolutionized fashion, often using irony and self-awareness with a digital twist to design clothes. In 2018, he served as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection. 2017 was also a great year for Mr. Abloh because he launched The Ten, a sneaker partnership with Nike.

In the same year, his brand Off-White won the British Fashion Award for Urban Luxe Brand. Virgin also worked on collaborations with Takashi Murakami, Warby Parker, Jimmy Choo, and Jacob & Co.

Virgil also served as the creative director at Donda, Kanye West’s creative agency, and directed Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Mr. West. While Mr. Abloh passed on in 2021, his legacy will live on.

PARIS, FRANCE – Louis Vuitton Menswear – Virgin Abloh (Photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Mariam Braimah

Mariam Braimah is bridging gaps between Silicon Valley and Nigeria as a Product Designer for Netflix. Mariam joined Netflix’s Growth and Acquisition team in 2016, where she participated in creating an attraction and retention strategy across web and mobile. Currently, she focuses on the client-story side of her team, where she focuses on storytelling.

Mariam credits her success to her journey through design. She has worked in design, user research, and UX writing. Her path has improved her awareness of user interaction and design, particularly in Nigeria, Africa.

Being of Nigerian descent, Mariam was keen to discover the Nigerian tech ecosystem. After observations and research, Mariam noticed a gap in learning. It was then that she launched the Kimoyo Fellowship, to connect Nigerian designers with Silicon Valley. For Mariam, it’s an opportunity for creators from different continents to learn from each other.

Designed by Mariam Braimah

Eddie Opara

Eddie Opara is a multi-faceted graphic designer. Mr. Opara began his formal training at London College of Printing and Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in graphic design and obtained his Masters in Fine arts by 1997.

Upon graduation, he worked for several firms before finally settling in New York from London. Mr. Opara joined Imaginary Forces and 2×4. In the second agency, Mr. Opara worked his way to the top and served as art director.

In 2005, Eddie Opara left 2×4 and founded his agency, The Map Office. He served clients in packaging, brand identity, and publication. Some of his clients included St. Regis Hotel, Studio Museum in Harlem, Queens Museum of Arts, Princeton Architectural Press, New York University among others.

His successes at The Map Office led to his appointment at Pentagram as a partner. In order to fulfill his role at Pentagram, Eddie Opara focuses on three key areas: technology, design, and strategy.

Eddie Opara, Lululemon Manifesto. Courtesy of Pentagram

Jessica Bellamy

An award-winning motion infographic designer, speaker, workshop facilitator, and research analyst are a few of the titles Jessica Bellamy applies in her career. She presents and gives workshops on information design and data equity. She has spoken in universities such as Vermont College, UCLA, and Yale.

Jessica is also the co-founder of Root Cause Research Centre, where she collects and analyses data, and presents it as data storytelling to share the information with the community. In addition, she is a Design Justice Advocate, a skill that helps her break down complex policy information for the community.

Wrap Up

This is only a handful of Black designers who continue to shape graphic design, UI/UX, product design, and related fields. These designers also make it a point to pay it forward and uplift others through their work. At Kingdom Branding, we are inspired by people who push the envelope and use innovative and creative ways to solve our worlds pressing problems. If you’re looking for a creative partner, learn more about our work by visiting our website.

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