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Harvard launches online hub celebrating African American designers

A new initiative from the Harvard Graduate School of Design

Two white arches hover over an elevated round hub centered on a blue cylinder.
The iconic Theme Building, designed by Paul Revere Williams, at Los Angeles International Airport.
Getty Images

The design industry isn’t known for its diversity. At last count, only 2 percent of trained architects identify as African American—that number shrinks even more if you happen to be a woman.

It’s true that African Americans have been and remain deeply underrepresented in the design industry, but those glaring statistics also obscure the critical work that the community has been producing.

A new platform called the African American Design Nexus aims to change that by building an interactive canon of black designers and projects. The AADN is a product of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where a group of students began amassing a list of black designers whose work is often overlooked.

The result is a virtual collection of people, places, and projects that collectively begin to tell a story about black designers in the United States. The entries celebrate the work of African American designers including legendary architect Paul Revere Williams, landscape designer Walter Hood, writer and educator Mabel O. Wilson, and projects like the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

Each entry on the platform comes with a thorough profile of the person, place, or project, and is tagged with discipline and theme, effectively creating a deep and interconnected encyclopedia of work from black designers. Explore it here.