Edited by Educator and Activist Kaleena Sales
CENTERED: People and Ideas Diversifying Design, edited by design educator Kaleena Sales, has been published. Through essays, interviews and images, the book is intended as an inclusive, contemporary, and global look at design diversity, past and present. As the design industry reexamines its emphasis on Eurocentric ideologies and wrestles with its conventional practices, CENTERED advocates for highlighting and giving a voice to the people, places, methods, ideas, and beliefs that have been eclipsed or excluded by dominant design movements.
The thirteen essays and interviews are curated by Sales, an Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Chair of the Department of Art & Design at Tennessee State University, an HBCU in Nashville TN. They feature important and underrepresented design work and projects, both historical and present-day, including:
• Gee’s Bend Quilters, by Stephen Child and Isabella D’Agnenica
• A Chinese Typographic Archive, by YuJune Park and Caspar Lam
• Indigenous Sovereignty and Design: An Interview with Sadie Red Wing (Her Shawl is Yellow)
• The Truck Art of India, by Shantanu Suman
• New Lessons from the Bauhaus: An Interview with Ellen Lupton
• Vocal Type: An Interview with Tre Seals
• Decolonizing Graphic Design, A Must, by Cheryl D. Miller
Q & A With Kaleena Sales:
Q. What was the inspiration for your book?
Beginning as a series of short essays through my board service with AIGA’s Design Educators Community Steering Committee in 2019, I developed the Beyond the Bauhaus article series with the goal of amplifying design work from underrepresented groups who have been left out of the design canon. Now, as this work moves from an article series to a book, there is space for fuller writings and more in-depth research.
Q. Please describe your book—its subject, contents, emphases, and/or its scope or intent.
As the design industry works to de-center Eurocentric ideologies and wrestles with its conventional practices, this book advocates to include new and diverse work in the canon. The essays and interviews center people, places, methods, ideas, and beliefs that have been eclipsed by dominant design movements. In doing so, this book also centers the lived experiences of those cultures and communities whose voices have been quieted because of colonial dominance.
Q. Do you have any stories or anecdotes about the book’s history or your work on it?
When I began this book process, I envisioned a neat and streamlined series of essays, matching in length and format. What developed over time became something much more organic with essays and interviews of varying lengths. Often, I was left speechless and humbled at the generous sharing of knowledge.
Q. For whom was the book written?
This book is for practitioners, educators, students, and anyone interested in expanding narratives and gaining a more inclusive understanding of design. I embarked on this project because I want to see an industry that does a better job of acknowledging and learning from the beauty and intelligence found within global design practices. After reading this book, I hope that more designers from communities around the globe see themselves represented. I want them to know that they belong in this industry, and that their ideas and approaches to visual communication have value. I also hope that design educators feel excited and supported in their efforts to diversify design pedagogy.
Q. What features make the book unique?
To my knowledge, there is currently no major graphic design book on the market written or edited by a Black Woman and HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) design professor. The perspective on which voices to include, and the insight provided from teaching within a marginalized community, offers a critical difference. It does not focus exclusively on women in design history, but instead, the focus is on communities and cultural practices excluded from the dominant design canon.
Q. What are the three most important things about your book?
1.) Honors cultural customs related to craft and art making 2.) Helps redefine what “design” can be, outside of Western ideals 3.) Honors the lived experience, including belief systems as design methodology.
In addition to teaching at Tennessee State University, Sales is a coauthor of Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Non-Binary Field Guide for Graphic Designers, and cohosts a podcast about design and culture with Design Observer. During her service on AIGA’s Design Educators Community Steering Committee, Sales advocated for a more inclusive view of design history, through her Beyond the Bauhaus writing series, from which this book originated. She formerly served as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for AIGA Nashville.