Professor William “Brit” Rowe is a Graphic Design professor at Ohio Northern University. He is currently in the middle of his semester-long sabbatical. He is working on a very influential project that will make a massive impact in the world of Graphic Design. His research project investigates the incomplete historic survey of design work created by Black graphic designers. Right now, the working title is called, “An Inclusive History: Black Design Practitioners Absent from Classroom Lectures and Textbooks.”

Professor Rowe has taken a sabbatical to focus on his passions to make graphic design more diverse and inclusive. (photo submitted by Brit Rowe)

When asked to further explain the purpose behind his research project Professor Rowe said, “The project explores the practice of moving away from Eurocentric and westernized systems of historic traditions and graphic design history. My research and scholarship certainly is an extension of my teaching and has influenced how and what I teach in the classroom. My research addresses the design for good initiative, a platform engaging designers to build their practice, expand their network, and lead their communities in positive change. Last fall, I worked with Claire Orsagos (BFA ’21) on Grafik Justice, a social justice, creative project based on the power of community-based design and people coming together for the better good.”

“That project was created to be an extension of this current research project, as an educator, it is my responsibility to expose students to designers outside of the largely Eurocentric, male canon. Learning and seeing the diverse people and portfolios create a rich studio and class experience where conversations about culture and representation are at the forefront. A challenge that I see is that there is rarely any resource material for faculty and students, as designers of color have largely been excluded from historical studies in graphic design. As a quick reference, our graphic design history book used at Ohio Northern by Philip Meggs includes only three black designers. I knew immediately that needed to be changed. There are very few history books for Graphic designers, especially diverse history books. We need a history book where we get all sides of history and an unbiased statement of the facts, featuring people of all ethnicities through the years. That unfortunately does not exist.

“So I am fortunate to use my sabbatical leave to research, write, and develop material focusing on this research for a variety of purposes, including college courses,” stated Professor Rowe. Other possible outcomes from Professor Brit Rowe’s research include class projects, professional presentations, sharing papers at conferences, and the possibility of the curation of an exhibit, featuring the historic research found.

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