Design lecture series focuses on diversity in the field

Kaleena Sales presents at the InterConnected lecture Tuesday.

Debra Murray

Students from WKU and other universities attended a lecture Tuesday about graphic design and diversity in the industry.

The series was called InterConnected, and was sponsored by Eastern Kentucky University and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Several universities were invited to attend.

The guest lecturer was Kaleena Sales, an assistant professor of graphic design at Tennessee State University. She is interested specifically in the intersection of Black culture and the importance of diversity in design. She shared her experience teaching where many of her students’ designs were very similar to urban style images, specifically graffiti-style fonts.

“I started to look at my students’ work and put them next to some images of the urban landscape,” Sales said. “So I pulled the small samples and set them next to each other and I was really amazed at how similar they were.”

During her lecture, she also mentioned the lack of diversity in the graphic design community, and the importance of sharing more than one narrative when it doesn’t fit everyone.

“The problem is that singular narratives carry the lie that we all value the same things and that we gauge success through the same lens, and that’s not true,” Sales said. “I did a Google search for top graphic designers, and this is essentially what came up. There were no black designers and very, very few like designers of color at all.”

Sales also mentioned an assignment she gave to her students to explain how people interpret things differently.

“What do our experiences teach us in terms of the ways that we can interpret information? Do words mean the same when we give assignments?” Sales said.

She explained an assignment where students were asked to create a logo for a brand they made up in class called The Yard. The students had to make it urban and trendy.

She said the results showed how people from various backgrounds may have different ideas about what those words mean. For what some of the students turned in, she said one project would be considered traditionally a good design and one was not, but that did not necessarily mean either was bad. This was one example as to why it is important to have diversity in the field of graphic design.

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy