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May 03, 2022

The Racial Politics of Graphic Design — A Transversalist Approach to Anti-Racist Literacy

Neela Imani

About this video


Conventional understandings of racism are rooted in overt, violent manifestations, only recently extending to more implicit varieties (e.g., unconscious bias, microaggressions). However, present within the social fabric is an inconspicuous, almost invisible subgenre. A banal form marked by gross abundance, occupying both commercial and public spaces, subsequently finding its way into our homes, stocking our refrigerators, lining our shelves — watching us, consuming them. A ubiquitous kind that has desensitized us to racism. Taking a cue from Ruben Pater’s The Politics of Design, this presentation unwraps the generation and reproduction of racism in packaging and label design. Drawing on key marketing concepts, namely (unethical) market segmentation, autoethnography is coupled with purposive sampling to arrive at a select series of graphic designed-consumer packaged goods. Samples are then subjected to a comprehensive visual analysis, informed by ethnic and racial studies. Developing an analytical and theoretical approach that can support the identification of racialization, racist typologies are situated in graphic design. Themes derived from the analysis include scientific and cultural racism, (self) orientalism and cultural appropriation, among others. Adopting an anti-racist framework, this presentation offers transversal cosmopolitanism (transversalism) as a modality for decolonial praxis within graphic design.


Neela Imani

Interdisciplinarian. Student and practitioner of art & design. MA candidate with a focus on racist typologies and anti-racist literacy. Afghan settler on Turtle Island exploring the confluence of her identity. Inquisitive. Transversalist. Passionate about transformative pedagogy and praxis. Recognized for academic distinction, entrepreneurialism and innovation.