Decolonizing design means challenging the colonial histories that affect our training and practice, and the stories that our designs tell. We can create space for new perspectives and identities by breaking down historical ways of seeing, as VCFA Graphic Design faculty members Silas Munro and Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton show in their collaborative book Black Design in America, forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2023. “It is urgent that we give voice to lineages that have been overlooked in contemporary design and design education.”

In 2022, Vermont College of Fine Art graduate Monique Ortman presented Kamama: From Butterflies to Elephants, 8-bit to Baskets at Ezhishin, the first-ever conference on Native North American typography.

For too long, my graphic design career and Cherokee identity were like opposite worlds, and I needed to find a balance between them. Finding inspiration and graphic design resources along with representation within this field is difficult, and reconnecting to culture is a challenging task because of colonization.

The above typeface represents my experience of fusing traditional Cherokee arts and crafts methods with my visual techniques. Some are inspired by museum field research, and they express contemporary issues affecting myself, my daughter, and my Native American students. By exploring the visual language of Cherokee traditional crafts, this work culminated in a typeface named Kamama, which aims to aid language preservation through typography. Because of this work as an educator, I am better equipped to guide my students in expressing their cultures and identities in graphic design.

Monique Ortman, VCFA MFA in Graphic Design ’22

Interested in a progressive, student-centered, inquiry-based MFA in Graphic Design with an accessible, low-residency model? VCFA offers a world-class education without interrupting your life and career. Create a body of work that resonates with your story and redefines the field. Join a community of international educators committed to the values of excellence, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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