On July 31, 2023, Stamps Professor Audrey Bennett delivered a lecture titled “Si Mi Yah: Finding an Autochthonous Black Aesthetic in Swiss Design” at “Wi Deh Yah,” the Caribbean Fashion and Design Research Network’s lecture series sponsored by the Design History Society in London.
It used to be that the graphic design canon was primarily White and globally northern, with Black and globally southern perspectives either marginalized from the canon or vastly underrepresented. The prevailing design tenets hewed closely to Western traditions, with purported origins in Ancient Greece. However, Bennett’s 2003 Journal of Design Research article “Towards an Autochthonic Black Aesthetic for Graphic Design Pedagogy” and her 2012 Critical Interventions publication “Follow the Golden Ratio from Africa to the Bauhaus for a Cross-Cultural Aesthetic for Images” bridge this great intellectual divide in the canon by positing that the most iconic Western graphic design tenet – the Swiss Grid – has African roots. This discovery means that the long-sought-after autochthonous black aesthetic has been embedded in Western design.
Bennett’s presentation explored the implications of this discovery for the history and future of the discipline of graphic design within the African diaspora. It also explored how “culturally-situated design tools” have been used to create computational images representing an autochthonous black aesthetic.
Professor Bennett presented the implications of the black aesthetic in Swiss design in the series’s second session, which focused on visual communication design and Caribbean visual culture. The session explored the “intricate dynamics of visuality, emphasizing the significance of what is seen, who has access, and the complex interplay between seeing, knowledge, and power.”
‘Wi Deh Yah’ — Caribbean Fashion and Design Research Network In Collaboration with Design History Society