While a consortium of businesses are making an effort to ease the pathway for Black designers into major firms throughout the industry, a new collaborative effort between Instagram, the Brooklyn Museum, and group of established designers wants to give some of today’s leading Black creatives the opportunity to shine on their own terms. Today, Instagram’s @Design account announced the #BlackDesignVisionaries grant program, aimed at elevating the work of Black designers. The program plans to award a total of $130,000 in grants, including three $10,000 Aspiring Designer Grants, to Black designers between the ages of 18 and 30. A further $100,000 Small Business Grant will be given to a Black-led design business that has been in operation for less than 10 years.
Applications for these grants will be reviewed by a star-studded committee made up of some of today’s most notable Black designers. Led by Gagosian Gallery director Antwaun Sargent, the committee also includes Jungalow founder and creative director Justina Blakeney, Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, Champions Design cofounder Bobby C. Martin Jr., and Elle Décor EIC Asad Syrkett, among others.
Beyond simply connecting winning designers with funds, grant recipients will benefit from a year of mentorship that can take their practice to the next level. That will consist of regular check-ins and advice sessions with a team of mentors chosen by the grant committee, with help from The Hidden Genius Project, Inneract Project, and Chicago Mobile Makers—three partner organizations all focused on improving education and access for young designers of color.
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For Instagram’s @Design, the chance to support and uplift Black designers can have a positive effect that reverberates far beyond the practices of those lucky enough to win an Aspiring Designer Grant.
“Design forms the foundation of our lives,” says Kristen Joy Watts, a creative director at Instagram, in a press release announcing the grant program. “If we succeed in pushing culture forward and building a more equitable global design community, we will be serving not just Black designers but everyone who will benefit from a more diverse representation of design talent shaping our world.” U.S.-based Black designers can submit to the #BlackDesignVisionaries grant program through July 16. After committee review, a shortlist will be unveiled in the fall.