What designers did you learn about in school? Angela Bains wants to expand the list

During the RGD’s DesignThinkers 2020 Virtual Conference, Angela Bains, a Black designer with 30 years of experience in the design industry, shared her views on decolonizing design education. She takes a unique approach teaching students about design; Angela highlights the work and stories of designers from around the world who the students might not learn about in a more Eurocentric design education.


Angela spent many years designing for social change. Her work included the Free Nelson Mandela Campaign, the first World Aid Day Concert, the election campaign for the UK’s first female Member of Parliament and she introduced the first in-house black youth design training scheme in her studio.

Below are a few of the designers Angela teaches her students about. How many have you heard of?

W.E.B. Du Bois — Social Scientist, Artist, Designer — USA
An artist from the 1890s who used drawings to depict what was going on in America's Black communities. His infographics, which he called "nation within a nation," showed the Black American's growth. His designs were all hand-drawn with paints and colour pencils, and he is credited as the inventor of data visualization due to his distinct aesthetic. His most famous work is from the 1900 Paris Exposition, when he designed and curated "The Exhibit of American Negroes," a collection of 63 data charts/visualizations.



Michael Freestylee Thompson — Graphic Designer — Jamaica & USA
Michael’s poster art is internationally recognized. In it, he expresses his solidarity or protest on issues such as poverty, racism, anti-war, migration policies, peace and justice. Michael also uses social media to raise awareness . His strong visual narratives explore the many facets of the global struggles of the underclass. He believes that through his work, which he refers to as Creative Activism and Social Design, he can give back to the community and the world.



Fares Cachoux — Designer — Syria/Denmark
Fares' art depicts what is going on in Syria, aiming to present powerful stories in a simple manner. His designs, which include bold colours and simple forms, have appeared in publications such as The Huffington Post, Le Monde, La Presse and Le Temps. He also directed the film Al Kalb (The Dog), which followed two Syrian expats opposed to the Syrian revolution and the struggle for freedom. 



Growing up in the UK, Angela witnessed racism and discrimination. During her schooling, she realized that “the system is designed to keep you in your place. The system is not designed for people with colour.” Angela believes that addressing diversity in the design industry is achievable if you share your story and listen to the stories of others. In her lectures, she encourages students to develop empathy and critical thinking skills through class projects. And, she teaches them to stand up for themselves, giving them the strength to say ‘no.’


Watch the full talk in our Video Archive.