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Designer Highlight

5 Black Designers, Makers, and Visionaries To Celebrate This Month

In recognition of Black History Month (during February and beyond), let us take a moment to celebrate and educate ourselves on the incredible legacy of some Black designers, creatives, voices, and taste-makers in our industry.

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From industrial designers, to artists, architects, interior designers, and furniture craftspeople, these incredible innovators have advanced our culture and society in profound ways. All month we'll be highlighting their stories, their struggles, their triumphs, and their unparalleled contributions.

Kick off this educative journey with us by learning about 5 Black designers below - both historical & contemporary - who have shaped design as we know it today.

Follow up next week for 5 more short designer highlights!

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Pictured: Norma M. Sklarek

Norma Merrick Sklarek

Norma Merrick Sklarek was the 3rd Black woman to become a registered architect in the United States, and a notable personality and role model for those to come after her. In 1985 she formed Siegel Sklarek Diamond which was the largest woman-owned architectural firm in the United States at the time.

In addition to being a role model in concept, she was a role model in practice, coaching aspiring architects through their licensing and early careers. Norma's project management talents were unmatched, she pushed boundaries in curtain walls and detailing to translate the design intent to its best possible technical application at the time.

Some of her notable projects are the US Embassy in Tokyo, Pacific Design Center in LA, and the San Bernadino City Hall.
Learn More About Norma
Pictured: Michael Ford

Michael Ford

Michael Ford, known as the "Hip-Hop Architect", is an architect, designer, educator, and keynote speaker whose years of research, publications and lectures seek to fuse his two passions, hip-hop culture and architecture.

Ford co-founded the Urban Arts Collective where he designed and launched the Hip-Hop Architecture Camp, a free summer intensive geared toward children and aimed at both diversifying the architectural curriculum and increasing diversity in the field.

Notably, in a collaboration with Herman Miller—one of two authorized manufacturers of Eames products—Ford has remixed a classic Eames Lounge Chair into a bespoke centerpiece for a newly launched campaign. Titled "Conversations for Change," the fundraising campaign aims to raise awareness about the "systemic racism and racial inequities faced by Black and Brown people" every day, according to a joint press release issued by HHAC, Herman Miller, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, in Wisconsin. (Source: Architect Magazine)
Learn More About Michael
Pictured: Cheryl McKissack Daniel

Cheryl McKissack Daniel (of McKissack & McKissack)

The historic architectural firm of McKissack & McKissack is notably the oldest and first black architectural firm in the United States. This firm was started by Moses McKissack III as a construction firm in Nashville in 1905. Moses’s brother Calvin later joined the firm making it McKissack and McKissack.

Cheryl, a daughter of the McKissack family currently owns this prominent firm. Some notable projects that they’ve been involved in include the renovation of the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, DC, the construction of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the design of the Atlanta Streetcar system.

McKissack & McKissack upholds their legacy of commitment towards innovation, sustainability, and diversity - and is poised to continue making a significant impact on the built environment for many years to come.
Learn More About McKissack & McKissack
Pictured: Paul Revere Williams

Paul Revere Williams

Paul Revere Williams was an African American architect based in Los Angeles, California. He designed many homes and commercial buildings throughout the early 20th century – by his passing in the 1980s he had designed an astonishing ~ 2500 buildings.

As a child he was told by teachers to choose a different profession. But he studied at design schools, and at age twenty-five, he won an architectural competition. At twenty-eight, he opened his own office. White clients were uncomfortable sitting next to him, so he learned how to render and draw upside down. They would have been able to see the drawings properly on the opposite side of a table.

Paul is the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects. He has designed homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, as well as the La Concha Motel and the Theme Building at LAX. He was also interested in prefabrication, and designed Airform structures. With simple materials Airform houses could be built in a few days.
Learn More About Paul
Pictured: Dr. Noel Mayo

Dr. Noel Mayo

Dr. Noel Mayo is a creator and teacher, and is proprietor and president of Noel Mayo Associates, Inc., the first Black industrial design firm in the United States. Dr. Mayo was also the first African American to receive a B.S.degree in industrial design.

His firm's prolific work spans graphics and packaging design, interior design, and product design – including: telephones, seating, desks, lighting fixture, offices, stores and restaurants. Dr. Mayo has also prominently worked on the design of exhibits in Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Lagos, Barcelona, Casablanca, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair!

At Ohio State, Mayo taught product and graphic design. He currently serves on the boards of directors of the University of the Arts and the Philadelphia Free Library.

Noel has also established minority coaching programs through IDSA, SEGD and Ohio State University and hopes to be remembered for his tireless activism and mentorship towards uplifting creative youths.

Learn More about Dr. Mayo