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InspirationJan 10, 2024

Designers inspiring designers

This Black History month, 5 emerging designers introduce us to Black creative professionals who inspire them and their work.

Riane Ayoung Provisional RGD

Freelance Graphic Designer

Riane is a professional graphic designer with an advanced diploma from Conestoga College's Graphic Design Program. She is an award-winning (MUSE Photography Awards Fine Art Photography: Gold Winner) (MUSE Photography Awards Commercial Photography: Silver Winner) Canadian freelance photographer and designer born on the island of Trinidad.

Inspiration: Denyse Thomasos

Denyse Thomasos is an award-winning Trinidadian-Canadian artist popularized in the 1990s. She is known for her architectural structures and wall paintings. She has been identified as one of her generation's finest painters. She embraced the style of semi-abstraction while also bringing to light issues of race, slavery, structures of confinement and psychological impact on people of colour. She was inspired by her research on mass incarceration and mega prisons. Through her abstract pattern, scale and repetition, she retells stories of events such as the transatlantic slave trade and conveys strong emotions through her work. Denyse was committed to telling stories about the history and the continuing injustices to the Black and Caribbean communities. She was able to make an impact with her art and shed light on situations in an interesting way, which is something I aspire to do as a BIPOC creator myself. I am passionate about raising awareness about injustices happening in my community.

Brittany Russell Provisional RGD

User Interface Designer, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board

Brittany is an artist, educator, graphic and user interface designer who is passionate about working with brands and communities that protect the climate and create culture shifts for the greater good.

Inspiration: Art Simms

Richly embedded in many BIPOC communities are visual and performance art references depicting life and historical attributes relatable only to that community. Art Sims, graphic designer and art director, understood the need and importance of depicting Black voices on film posters. Working alongside renowned film directors such as Spike Lee and Steven Spielberg, Art saw an opportunity to bridge a very large gap in the film industry of representation and the need for correcting many culturally elusive design patterns and trends. Realizing the importance of telling Black stories while ensuring the elements within the design were aligned to the emotional landscape of the Black community, he forged a path to inspire many BIPOC designers by creating the first Black-owned design company in Los Angeles while working on some of the largest Hollywood film projects of the time, including Do The Right Thing, New Jack City, Black Panther, Ali and Red Tails. Many of the film projects and posters Art created were for movies that were significant to my growth and development as a designer. His process of empathizing with the storyline and characters has been an important element in my own design process.

Kathy-Ann Scantlebury Provisional RGD

Graphic Designer at Flybridge Inc. and Professor at Seneca College

Kathy-Ann is an award winning multidisciplinary designer, from the small tropical island Barbados with a passion for branding, photo manipulation, graphic and motion design. The simple method of combining lines, simple shapes and text and turning them into creative visual communication is what drew her to design.

Inspiration: Alex Carrington

Alex "Lex" Carrington is an award-winning graphic designer, photographer, artist, educator and consultant with over 10 years experience. Like me, Lex is Barbados-born and raised and was my mentor during my internship in Barbados. Not only did I learn a great deal from Lex, I am to this day greatly inspired by his design style. A strong photo manipulator, composite creator and brand designer, Lex creates colourful, dynamic designs through collage and photography. He takes this further by developing political memes that have circled the globe voicing the concerns of the people. He not only uses his skill and training but also his happy-go-lucky attitude and cultural influences to portray his views. Though minimalistic his work is clean, refreshing and has a powerful impact that I find myself trying to embody in my own creations, along with the bold cultural influences that represent Barbados.

Ashley Tomlinson Provisional RGD

Freelance Graphic Design & Co-Founder, Creative Director at Cove Collective

Ashley is a multidisciplinary graphic designer based in Toronto, Canada. So far her career has focused on editorial design at Studio Wyse and Clean Eating Magazine. Ashley is also a cofounder of Cove Collective, a space that celebrates the joy, creativity and culture of BIPOC women through a book club, events and podcast. Always up for a conversation; her favourite topics include books, dogs and food.

Inspiration: Jade Purple Brown

Jade Purple Brown is an illustrator and artist based in New York City known for her use of vibrant colours and playfulness throughout her illustrations. I first came across her work on Instagram and was immediately drawn to her depictions of strength, femininity and Black women. I’d grown accustomed to not seeing myself reflected in illustration and appreciate that Jade consistently creates work that shows the beautiful breadth of Black women. Never the one to shy away from bold colours, her work often uses colour palettes inspired by the 60s and 70s. They make you smile and quite literally spark joy. The artwork shown, titled 'Hoping, Wishing, Waiting', was a personal piece created at the beginning of the pandemic as a reminder to try and remain hopeful through uncertainty. It was then used by Adobe as their Adobe Illustrator splash screen in 2021.

Donica Willis RGD

Graphic & Web Designer at Toronto Metropolitan University

Donica is an interdisciplinary artist & graphic designer based in Toronto, born and raised in Preston, Nova Scotia. She recently completed a Master of Design (MDes) in Interdisciplinary Arts, Media & Design at OCAD University. She founded The Blaqk Gold Project and DW Creativ.

Inspiration: Temiloluwa (Temi) Coker

Temiloluwa (Temi) Coker is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria who now resides in Dallas, Texas. He defines his work as an "absolute force of creativity, depicting layers of his Nigerian culture with colours, patterns, dimensions and textures". The first time I saw Temi's work was at the Adobe Max Conference in 2018 in Los Angeles, California. His work was showcased alongside 6 other participants of the Adobe Creative Residency. I distinctly remember being stopped in my tracks by his unique visual style and intricate blend of design and photography. I've been following Temi's journey since then and what has inspired me most is how his visual style has become iconic worldwide — so much so that he was asked to re-imagine the 2021 Academy Awards Oscar statuette. He has maintained his visual style and consistently centred his identity and stories of blackness through his work which is something I strive to do daily.


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