ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GRAPHIC DESIGN/ DIRECTOR OF DESIGN JUSTICE, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BLACKBIRD REVOLT, MINNEAPOLIS MN
Terresa Moses is a proud Black queer woman dedicated to the liberation of Black and brown people through art and design. She uses creativity as tools of community activism like her exhibition, Umbra, and community distro project, Stop Killing Black People. She created Project Naptural and co-created Racism Untaught. She has two books releasing in October 2023, Racism Untaught and An Anthology of Blackness. Terresa is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and the Director of Design Justice at the University of Minnesota. She is currently a PhD candidate in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto and serves on the board of Black Liberation Lab.
Additionally, Terresa is the Creative Director at Blackbird Revolt — an abolitionist design studio — influenced by artists, activists, and educators. Blackbird Revolt was founded in January 2017 to actively combat the lack of Black representation that still exists in the design industry. Furthermore, even where there is representation oftentimes liberation, abolition, and community are not centered, intentionally excluding Black and racially diverse voices from the dominant narrative. Blackbird Revolt is an alternative to that exclusion — a platform for conscious creatives looking to transform our communities — breaking the social and political barriers that keep us caged.
Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.
I became involved in the work of disrupting, dismantling, and destroying systems of oppression most intentionally during my graduate studies while earning my MFA. I became heavily engaged in the Black natural hair community and understanding the systems that work against Black women in the societies and communities we exist in and influencing these oppressive realities using community-engaged design practices and methodologies. After moving to Minnesota, I co-founded Blackbird Revolt in order to combat oppression and anti-Blackness more intentionally and directly. Since its inception, we’ve worked with community partners and grassroots organizations looking to center abolition, anti-racism, and Black liberation in their work furthering positive community impact.
While we are excited about the work we’ve accomplished with partners, one work that we are particularly proud of is one of our self-initiated projects: Stop Killing Black People. After the murder of George Floyd and soon after Daunte Wright, I created typography inspired by the movement to create messaging to unify our protests. My work exists on tee shirts, hoodies, posters, and pins that I organized to be distributed for free within my community. This design work is important to the Black movement — unifying our message and us as a people.
Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?
Engaging in liberatory and abolitionist-based work requires us to increase our understanding of how systems of oppression and White Supremacy Culture continue to strategically influence our design outcomes. Now is not the time to shy away from conversations about racism, sexism, ableism, and the like — let alone actions that actively combat these isms. It is, in fact, an opportunity to lean into discomfort, to be strategic about how we are positioned in these systems, and use our power and circles of influence for social change and good. Ask the question: how might design work support our collective liberation?