Harris’ work grew out of the frustration he encountered when he set out to profile the history of African American graphic designers. Instead of finding the information he needed to continue, he was met with a concerning lack of academic resources chronicling the work of black designers. His subsequent research led him to Cornell, Chicago, and eventually to his current position as a teaching fellow at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Throughout his career, Harris has continued to chronicle the history of African Americans in graphic design. Recently, he developed his work into an exhibition “As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes,” intending to share a spectrum of African American culture and identities. The exhibit contains work from both contemporary film & music, as well as infographics conceived by W.E.B. Dubois. The exhibition was designed in four sections: Parties & Protests, Advertising & Commerce, Black Data, and Musicality. The structure of the exhibit calls attention to the fact that the work of African Americans has been consistently excluded from traditional narratives about the history of graphic design. Moreover, it challenges the very concept of graphic design as an elite, salon-based art form. The designers highlighted by Harris in some cases ran elite design advertising agencies, while in other cases were self-taught flyer designers. In every case, the designers were exploring, creating and recombining different schools of graphic design theory, and using them to represent dimensions of the African American experience.
Currently, Harris takes on selected freelance projects focusing on arts, culture, advocacy, and community. In addition to his teaching fellow post, he is also the Design Director at Civic Nation.
We were fortunate to catch up with Jerome on Social Design Insights between exhibitions and he walked us through the genesis of the project as well as his ongoing research. Have a listen.