BHM Spotlight: Sylvia Harris (1953-2011)
Hello, I hope your February has gotten off to a great start. For this Black History Month, I wanted to refresh and update my knowledge of Africans of the diaspora who've contributed to the graphic design world. This blog is dedicated to the graphic designer Sylvia Harris.
"Noted for her unwavering desire to help others, Sylvia Harris was a graphic designer, teacher, and business owner, who used her research and skill set to reach far and wide.
Born and raised in Richmond, VA, Harris experienced desegregation of the 1960s directly. This experience provided the foundation for her interest in social systems and their effect. After receiving her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Harris moved to Boston where she worked with a wide variety of creative types. It was through her work with WGBH and Chris Pullman that she realized the breadth and depth of the design field. After much prodding from her mentor, Harris enrolled in Yale’s Masters in Graphic Design program.
Two Twelve Associates was created with two of her former classmates in 1980 after graduation. Here, Harris really began to explore how to use and grow her skill set to create large-scale public information systems. Her work with Citibank set an early precedent for human-centered automated customer service.
In 1994, Harris left Two Twelve to create Sylvia Harris LLC where she changed gears and began focusing more on design planning and strategies. Harris helped guide some of the largest public institutions, hospitals, and universities with systems planning. In her role as creative director for the US Census Bureau’s Census 2000, Harris’ rebranding efforts helped to encourage previously under-represented citizens to participate.
Harris was awarded the AIGA medal posthumously in 2014, three years after her untimely death at the age of 57. For her contributions to the design field and far beyond, Harris will always be remembered."