Students and alumnae install call to action on the Daniels Building

The Daniels Art Directive, a student-led club at the University of Toronto (UofT), in collaboration with Daniels alumnae Ashita Parekh and Tolu Alabi, have installed a temporary mural on the Daniels Building. The mural’s text reads “Support Black Designers.” and features written pieces and illustrated artwork from Black creatives.

Photo courtesy of The Daniels Art Directive

This mural is a call to action for dismantling systemic racism in the discipline of design. Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, it calls for the urgent investigation and rectification of racism in workplaces and academic institutions of design.

When asked about the values and goals of this mural design, Tolu Alabi said, “This project brings awareness to the need to support Black designers. It also creates an opportunity to make practical changes to the educational system by bringing awareness to the diversity in design.”

Photo courtesy of The Daniels Art Directive

Ashita Parekh agrees, adding that “This moment isn’t about us at all; it’s about supporting social justice movements and challenging current institutional systems that don’t recognise the efforts of diverse communities.”

The mural is a community-driven project. Made of 248 pixels, it features both written and illustrated artwork submitted by Black creatives. The call for submissions was open online to all creatives. However, of the 84 pixel designs received, only 20 percent were from Black creatives.  The collective says that this is reflective of the marginalisation of the voices of many Black creatives in the design industry.

Photo courtesy of The Daniels Art Directive

Given that the mural was intended as  a platform to amplify the values of Black voices in design, the collective decided that only the work submitted by Black creatives would be installed. This decision was made after extensive consultation with students as well as Black professionals, both within and outside the design industry.

Photo courtesy of The Daniels Art Directive

“We are honoured to support this message, and the Black creatives who contributed,” said Michelle Ng, a founder of the Daniels Art Directive. “We were pleased when Tolu and Ashita’s design won the community vote, as it is crucial that we—as students and members of society—listen to and amplify Black voices in design. Through community consultation on this project, we learned and unlearned our own biases. While this mural is temporary, we hope to continue creating, sharing and supporting more platforms for Black voices in order to inspire change in design.”

Project coordinators worked with lead sponsor and partner Vistaprint to create and print pixel posters, banners and custom face masks. “Social change and the arts have always been inherently linked. As a business that prides itself on fostering creativity and bringing quality design to millions of people around the world, we see how great design can help to amplify a message to a much wider audience,” said Vistaprint North America Market Manager Erin Shea. “This has truly been a passion project for our team. We are so proud to be a partner in spreading this very important message alongside the Daniels Art Directive students and alumni, University of Toronto faculty and staff, and the amazing artists contributing their artwork to bring this mural to life.”

The team says that a mural does not do justice to address the various lived experiences and discrimination that Black creatives face, especially in the education system. However, they hope it will call to action all members of the public and institutions to create lasting reform in the academic and corporate fields.

The mural will be showcased as part of the DesignTO Festival from January 22-31, 2021.

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