Celebrating Designers in Honor of Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate these influential designers who have through their creations made an impact not only in the design industry but also in our society. These designers have contributed groundbreaking work throughout the years in many forms such as advertisements, album covers, marketing collateral and even Census forms.

Georg Olden: The Trailblazer Designer

Shown Above: 100th Anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation Stamp design, 1963, below President John F. Kennedy at the design reveal (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Shown Above: CBS Program titles for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Web (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Georg Olden greatly influenced the field of broadcast graphics during the “dawn of television”. Working under CBS’s Creative Director, William Golden, he oversaw the visual identities of shows such as I Love Lucy and Lassie and Gunsmoke. Olden also sold cartoons to The New Yorker, purposely dropping the ‘e’ off of his birth name, George, in order to capture the editor’s attention which he then kept throughout the years. One of the many notable works he created was the postage stamp design for the 100th anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation making him the first African American to design a postage stamp that was also presented to President Kennedy at the White House.

Sylvia Harris: The Citizen Designer

Shown Above: US 2000 Census form design (Creative Director: Sylvia Harris, Art Director & Designer: Julie Marable, Designer: Colleen Hall) (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Shown Above: Voting by Design poster University of Minnesota Design Institute, 2003 (Creative Directors: Sylvia Harris & Janet Abrams, Designers: Kathleen Meaney, Leila Taylor) (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Sylvia Harris has used intelligent strategy and flawless design to communicate ideal functionality for both the end user and the companies she’s worked with. Sylvia gained an interest in taking complex information systems and recreating them to improve the user experience. Harris has worked with Citibank to help establish an industry standard for digitally based consumer banking systems. Working with the United States Census Bureau, she was challenged to improve participation among Americans in completing the form. Harris capitalized on this opportunity to learn how a new design can impact participation and solidify branding for the Census Bureau.

Leroy Winbush: The Pioneer and Entrepreneur

Shown Above: Materials created for the Black Expo, which was considered to be at the time the largest gathering of black businessmen in history (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Shown Above: Variety of album cover designs (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Winbush started his career right out of high school, learning from the South Side sign painters in Chicago which lead to a job designing signage for the Regal Theatre where he met famous performers like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In 1945, he established his own design firm in 1945. He was considered a jack of all trades who despite never having any formal design training taught classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. Winbush was also a strong advocate and used his design work to help the black community. He has designed exhibitions for the DuSable Museum of African-American History on subjects such as the Underground Railroad.

Emmett McBain: The Influential Advertiser

Shown Above: Playboy Jazz All Stars Album Cover, 1957 (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

Shown Above: Marlboro Advertisement, 1972 (photo courtesy of AIGA.org)

McBain was a determined socially conscious designer who gave a new voice to advertisers and the black community.  At 12 years old, Emmett started taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago during the summer and then continued on to attend Ray Vogue School of Commercial Art, American Academy of Art and the IIT Institute of Design. By the age of 24, Emmett had his own design firm and had created over 75 album covers for artists such as Tony Martin, Max Roach, and Sarah Vaughan. He then went on to help launch the Ford Mustang at the World’s Fair with a dealer promotion campaign. Some of his most famous work has been in the tobacco industry with groundbreaking ads for Marlboro and Newport.

Source: Aiga.org:

Sylvia Harris

Emmett Mcbain

Leroy Winbush

Georg Olden

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