Instagram’s official account dedicated to celebrating the craft and creativity of the design community, @design, has partnered with the Brooklyn Museum to launch the inaugural #BlackDesignVisionaries Grant Program, with five impressive grant recipients announced today.
The aim of #BlackDesignVisionaries is to amplify and uplift promising Black designers and Black-led design businesses through funding and mentorship. These winners were selected from a competitive pool of over 500 applicants by an illustrious committee led by writer and curator Antwaun Sargent. The committee included Ruth E. Carter, Justina Blakeney, Toni L. Griffin, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Rick Lowe, Bobby C. Martin Jr, Heron Preston, Ian Spalter, and Asad Syrkett.
A total of $205,000 in grant money has been awarded to the five recipients below. This group will also be connected with mentors selected by the grant committee and the program’s additional partners, Chicago Mobile Makers, Inneract Project, and The Hidden Genius Project.
Head of State, fashion design house – $100,000 Visionary Small Business Grant
Taofeek Abijako is a multidisciplinary artist and designer who founded the fashion design house Head of State back in 2016 at just 17 years old. In 2019, he became the youngest designer ever to show at New York Fashion Week (Men’s). His work is inspired by his Nigerian heritage and represents postcolonial youth culture. Abijako also donates a portion of all Head of State proceeds to initiatives that help build sustainable futures for underserved communities.
Morcos Key, graphic design studio – $75,000 Impact Grant
Jon Key and Wael Morcos are the founders of the Brooklyn-based design studio Marcos Key, which works with arts and cultural institutions, non-profits, and commercial enterprises in North America and the Middle East. They prioritize advocating for underrepresented groups, creating visual systems that present complex historical narratives with contemporary urgency.
Dominique Petit-Frère, spatial designer – $10,000 Aspiring Designer Grant
Dominique Petit-Frère is the Founder & Vision Director of Limbo Accra in West Africa, a collaborative spatial design studio specializing in architectural projects, art installations, and urban design. Her studio’s work is rooted in experimentation with the aesthetic and cultural significance of unfinished, decayed concrete structures in West African cities.
Tré Seals, type designer – $10,000 Aspiring Designer Grant
Tré Seals is the Founder of the diversity-driven type foundry Vocal Type. Seals created Vocal Type to confront the lack of diversity in the graphic design industry when he learned that only 3 to 5 percent of practicing designers in America are Black. As such, each typeface he develops highlights a critical historical moment. His typeface “Martin,” for example, was inspired by the placards at the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968, “Broome” honors the design aesthetic of the first Black-owned record label in the United States, and “Du Bois” pays homage to W.E.B. Du Bois’s bold, innovative infographics diagramming Black American life.
Sablā Stays, designer and art director – $10,000 Aspiring Designer Grant
Multidisciplinary designer and art director Sablā Stays channels the multidimensionality of the Black collective experience through image and design. She combines photography, type, and visual ephemera informed by the internet and Black-American cultural artifacts and is currently working with Solange Knowles on her Saint Heron Community Library project.