DESIGN FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY LAB
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
ANN ARBOR MI
Audrey G. Bennett is a naturalized American scholar of Afro-Caribbean descent and the 2022 recipient of the AIGA Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary. She is a 2015 Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a 1997 College Art Association Professional Development Fellow. She joined the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design faculty in art and design as a full professor with tenure in 2018. In 2019, she became an inaugural University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor. Previously Professor Bennett taught for 20 years at Rensselaer in Upstate New York, where she directed the doctoral program in Communication and Rhetoric. Her scholarly agenda diverges into theoretical and applied lines of inquiry on the design of interactive aesthetics to facilitate cross-cultural communication to yield cognitive and behavioral changes toward equity and justice.
Through Baohouse, a virtual design studio she founded around 2005, she works collaboratively with professional and community stakeholders to broaden participation in museum experiences by blind, partially-blind, and neurodivergent visitors; increase awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS; and diversify STEM and graphic design. Professor Bennett is a member of the Editorial Boards of the journals Image and Text (South Africa) and New Design Ideas (Azerbaijan) and a former member of the Board of Directors of the College Art Association, where she served as Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Her 2021 op-ed, “The African Roots of Swiss Design,” has garnered over 89,000 reads and was republished through various media outlets, including Fast Company.
Looking forward to 2023, are you optimistic about the role and impact of Graphic Design and Visual Communication in Business? Culture? Causes? Have the events and disruptions of the past few years changed the role or trajectory of Graphic Design?
There are two reasons for my optimism about the role of graphic design in culture and the discipline’s canon. First, the horrific murder of George Floyd in 2020 underscored the festering perennial problem of systemic racism and oppression in American society and how graphic forms continue to lend a hand in communitybased advocacy efforts for justice and equity. Second, the simultaneous highlighting of old, marginalized scholarship and the emergence of new texts also played a vital role in decolonizing the history and future of graphic design.
Most influential graphic designer(s) or art directors(s) of the past 60 years?
Steven Heller, Sylvia Harris, Michele Washington, Saki Mafundikwa
Maurice Cherry, Silas Munro, Anne Berry
Most influential graphic design firm(s), ad agency(s), or inhouse department(s) of the past 60 years?
Favorite or most influential logo or branding project of the past 60 years?
Black Lives Matter
Favorite or most influential design project or campaign in any medium for the past 60 years?
Black Lives Matter (movement), Culturally-Situated Design Tools (website), The Black Experience in Design (Edited Collection)
Most influential design products, services or technology of the past 60 years?