Instagram’s @design and Brooklyn Museum Announce Recipients of the Inaugural #BlackDesignVisionaries Grant Program, including an additional Impact Grant

November 3, 2021

Instagram’s @design, the official account dedicated to celebrating the craft and creativity of the design community, is announcing the five recipients of the inaugural #BlackDesignVisionaries grant program. Presented in partnership with the Brooklyn Museum, #BlackDesignVisionaries aims to uplift, center and invest in rising Black designers and Black-led design businesses who offer experimental expressions of Black culture and have a powerful vision for the future.

@design has also created an additional $75,000 Impact Grant, in recognition of the exceptional talent of the shortlisted designers and businesses. In total, $205,000 has been awarded to the following #BlackDesignVisionaries recipients:

  • Fashion design house Head of State has been awarded the $100,000 Visionary Small Business Grant.
  • Graphic design studio Morcos Key has been awarded the $75,000 Impact Grant.
  • Spatial designer Dominique Petit-Frère, type designer Tré Seals and designer and art director Sablā Stays have each been awarded a $10,000 Aspiring Designer Grant.

In addition to the grant money, each recipient will be connected with a team of mentors, selected by the grant committee and the program’s esteemed partners, Chicago Mobile Makers, Inneract Project and The Hidden Genius Project.

The grant recipients were chosen from more than 500 applications by a prestigious committee led by writer and curator Antwaun Sargent and including Ruth E. Carter, Justina Blakeney, Toni L. Griffin, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Rick Lowe, Bobby C. Martin Jr, Heron Preston, Ian Spalter and Asad Syrkett.

“I'm overwhelmed by the quality of submissions and the ways in which these designers are thinking about the world. A grant like this could mean limitless possibilities, providing an opportunity to those who do not have access to traditional pathways into spaces such as art and design. We all live in this world, we all have to navigate this world. When we have those different perspectives, we all benefit.”

- Antwaun Sargent, grant committee lead

The Grant Recipients

Visionary Small Business Grant:

Head of State (@headofstate_)

Fashion design house

Photo: Elias Williams; Digital Art: Temi Coker

Multidisciplinary artist and designer Taofeek Abijako founded Head of State in 2016, at the age of 17. Three years later, he became the youngest designer to show at New York Fashion Week (Men’s) and debuted his first womenswear collection, ‘Homecoming’ in September 2021. Inspired by Abijako’s Nigerian roots, HOS represents postcolonial youth culture today — a diverse space impacted by Western influences. HOS donates a portion of its proceeds to initiatives that help build more sustainable futures for underserved communities.

“One of the things we loved about Head of State is how they use design in a number of different ways. There's the design of artifacts — the fashion and the clothing itself. And there's the narrative around what the aesthetic of the fashion means. The other is the way in which the artist designs a creative ecosystem: how the economy of fashion can have an impact on addressing issues of social and spatial justice – especially economic equity and representation.”

- Toni L. Griffin

Impact Grant:

Morcos Key (@morcoskey)

Graphic design studio

Photo: Elias Williams; Digital Art: Temi Coker

Morcos Key, a graphic design studio founded by Jon Key and Wael Morcos, collaborates with arts and cultural institutions, nonprofits and commercial enterprises. The studio prioritizes advocating for underrepresented groups, creating visual systems that present complex historical narratives with contemporary urgency. They have worked with organizations including the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; MoMA; Nike; and the Sharjah Triennial; as well as publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New York Times.

“The work Morcos Key is doing is groundbreaking — focusing on subject matter crucial to the future of Black culture, while also advocating for greater rights and representation for the LGBTQIA community. In the visual design field, Black voices are often overlooked, so the work that Morcos Key is doing can feel like pushing a boulder uphill. They've shown us the beginning of something really special. A grant like this could help propel them into a space of greater freedom and give them the opportunity to really make a difference.”

- Bobby C. Martin

Aspiring Designer Grant:

Dominique Petit-Frère (@limboaccra)

Spatial designer

Photo: Carlos Idun-Tawiah; Digital Art: Temi Coker

Dominique Petit-Frère is the Founder & Vision Director of Limbo Accra, a collaborative spatial design studio dedicated to architectural projects, art installations and urban design. Petit-Frère imagines a future that is young, inclusive and regenerative, using urban design as a form of spatial justice that can bridge the gaps between communities and create socio-economic change. At a time when many African cities are experiencing rapid urbanization, Limbo Accra explores the significance of abandoned, incomplete concrete buildings, revitalizing and repurposing these sites. Limbo Accra was recently appointed architectural lead for Ghana’s first-ever recreational skate park, which will be their first built project.

“Dominique Petit-Frère’s interdisciplinary approach to spatial justice is groundbreaking, and I love how she uses art and design to create conversations around sustainability and collaborative community-led development. I am so excited to be a small part of celebrating her and her work and to see how this grant will help support the growth of her mission, projects and studio.”

- Justina Blakeney

Aspiring Designer Grant:

Tré Seals (@vocaltype.co)

Type designer

Photo: Jared Soares; Digital Art: Temi Coker

Tré Seals founded Vocal Type, a diversity-driven type foundry, to confront the lack of diversity in the graphic design industry. Each typeface Seals develops is designed to highlight a historical moment — from the women's suffrage movement in Argentina to the civil rights movement in the U.S. Since 2016, Seals’s fonts have traveled around the world, taking the form of street murals, protest signs, voting materials and brand campaigns.

“Vocal Type Co. founder Tré Seals learned that only 3 to 5 percent of practicing designers in America are Black and took it as a call to action. His innovative designs "Trojan Horse-in" underrepresented cultures. For example, if his new typeface, ‘Martin’ looks a little familiar, it’s because it was inspired by the placards at the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968. His ‘Broome’ typeface honors the design aesthetic of the first Black-owned record label in the United States. Every type has a story. His ‘Du Bois’ typeface was inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois's bold, innovative infographics diagramming Black American life. This powerful marriage of innovation and history is a way for Seals to herald the significance of the cultural events that have designed our society.”

- Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Aspiring Designer Grant:

Sablā Stays (@callmesabla)

Designer and art director

Photo: Elias Williams; Digital Art: Temi Coker

Sablā Stays is a multidisciplinary designer and art director whose practice seeks to channel the multidimensionality of the Black collective experience through image and design. She aims to showcase people and subjects that live within the shadow of mainstream culture, using storytelling and design as a tool to educate and challenge narrow perspectives.

“I was immediately impressed by Sablā’s intelligent work in graphic design and art direction, in which she combines photography, type and visual ephemera in a language informed by the internet and Black-American cultural artifacts. Sablā’s work — most recently for Solange Knowles's Saint Heron — has a rigorous, almost analytical sensibility. I'm so excited to see how her talent develops.”

- Asad Syrkett

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