Black Lives Matter is Not a Design Challenge.

Schessa Garbutt
Design Toast
Published in
5 min readJun 2, 2020

Tweet by Amelie Lamont. May 31, 2020. @amelielamont
Thank you, Amélie, for a thread that so concisely and incisively conveys the issue.

If you’ve come here to be fragile, please check that at the door, or leave.

If you’ve come here to listen and learn like you vowed you would, welcome. Thank you for following through and making time and mental space for this.

As an Afro-Latinx designer, I follow a lot of other designers, artists, illustrators, calligraphers, and agencies on Instagram. It helps me keep up with visual trends and allows me to support my peers and their accomplishments. Some days, it serves as a visual version of a news feed when pop culture events are happening.

But this month, and this week especially, there’s been a tingling ache in my fingers as I scroll. There’s been a rock in my stomach. Social media makes it too easy to experience FOMO, especially when there’s a new challenge (e.g. Inktober, Mermay, 36 Days of Type — just a few I’ve put off each year) meant to get your creative juices flowing and show off your style. There’s a lovely sense of creative community and fun there. However,

Black Lives Matter is not a design challenge.

George Floyd is not a portrait exercise.

You are not the next Shepard Fairey. This moment is not about you.

Yes, you could read this and fume and justify why your art and intention are different, but intention isn’t impact. When I scroll past your post, this is how it reads (beyond the literal caption):

#blacklivesmatter is trending and I need everyone to know that I’m progressive, so I’m going to spend a couple of hours creating something that’s in non-offensive support of the protests (but not the looting!), and hope that it gets liked and shared and picked up by a more popular page that needs content. Maybe BLM will even reshare it! That will validate me and my allyship and also be a promotion of my skills! It’s a win-win-win!

Also known as virtue signaling. Creative labor doesn’t mean that you’ve put in the work that’s needed right now.

When I see your overworked hand-lettering and your redraw of George’s selfie and your retro typography protest poster, I feel like I, as a black creative, should be joining in. If anyone, I should be making a statement, giving a hot take, offering art to the world.