Brandcenter director will contribute to new anthology, ‘The Black Experience in Design’

Nov. 19, 2021 - Sarah Murphy

Vann Graves, Ed.D., executive director of the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been selected as a contributing author in a new anthology, “The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Reflection & Expression.” His segment, “Another Brick in the Wall,” will discuss the importance of soft skills and building a “wall” of credibility as a professional.

“Growing up, I was taught that, in order to achieve success as someone Black, I needed to over-index on the accomplishments that society views as ‘credible,’” Graves said. “The unfortunate reality for me and other Black people in our culture is that we have to work harder, run faster and otherwise do more to come close to an even playing field.”

“The Black Experience in Design” will publish in February and presents the work of six editors and over 70 designers, artists, curators, educators, students and researchers who represent a wide cross-section of Black diasporic identities and multidisciplinary practices. Forewords are written by graphic artist Emory Douglas and Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D., an associate professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, with an afterword by graphic designer Eddie Opara. 

Throughout the anthology, writers spotlight teaching practices, offer critiques of design methods, and shed light on Black interventions in sustainable design methods, healing practices, activism and designing for Black joy. They write about multicommunity design, biophilia as a Black reparative practice, the history of African fractals and the intersections of race, gender, ability and sexuality as it informs their teaching, scholarship and professional work.

For educators, the book includes a series of prompts to help integrate readings into the classroom, as well as a robust glossary, and a dedicated website for sharing syllabi and additional teaching and learning resources.

Graves joined the Brandcenter as executive director in 2018. He previously served as a chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson; executive vice president and global executive creative director at McCann New York; and vice president and creative director at BBDO New York. A Fulbright scholar and decorated combat veteran, he holds degrees from Howard University, the Pratt Institute, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.