In the 21st century, the design industry faces a problem of representation. Centuries of racial oppression and inequality in the United States of America have created barriers to entry for aspiring black designers.

These barriers over the country’s maturation have softened as racial disenfranchisement in the form of legal discrimination and segregation has waned. However, the impacts of those moments in time are long lasting and remain pervasive throughout the country.

The work of black designers is a volume of work that has never been more important in this country’s history. At a time of unprecedented inequality and environmental crisis, the designers of our homes, cities, landscapes, public art, fashion, music, movies, and other media have a crucial role in shaping the future. To have a future that is designed to reflect the diversity in the world requires different voices, perspectives, and thus new paradigms for design practice and education to emerge.

The Design Nexus seeks to gather African American designers in the design professions to showcase their craft, explore different geographies of design practice, and inspire change within design institutions to participate in adopting new approaches to elevate black designers.

The Design Nexus emerged from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s inaugural Black in Design Conference where Dana McKinney, the President of the GSD’s African American Student Union and other students discussed ways of connecting and representing black designers. Dana created a list of over 2,000 African and African American designers that is a growing volume of work the Design Nexus is using to populate its content. When Phil Freelon and Mohsen Mostafavi discussed the potential for housing this project at the GSD, the idea of the African American Design Nexus was born.

The African American Design Nexus was developed by the Frances Loeb Library in collaboration with the GSD’s African American Student Union. As an initiative housed in the library this project is about showcasing black designers as well as providing a resource to be accessed and used by everyone. This underscores the mission of creating a “nexus” of individuals and institutions that are pursuing a pattern break in design education and practice.