Tasheka Arceneaux Sutton is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Southeastern Louisiana University. She earned an MFA in Graphic Design from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where she also worked as an in-house designer for several years. For the past 10 years, she has been the principle of Blacvoice Graphic Design studio, which specializes in branding, electronic media, identity, illustration, print, and publication design; providing design services for educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and small business. She has done work for Eric Own Moss Architects, the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA), HarperCollins and most recently, Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane University.
Tasheka’s personal design work and research focus on the discovery of African Americans who throughout history have made significant contributions to the field of graphic design. She’s also interested in the visual representation of black people in the media and popular culture, especially through the lens of stereotypes. The use of typography has a strong presence in her work—she is a type enthusiast who enjoys hand-lettering, typesetting and deconstructing type through a combination of analog and digital processes.
Tasheka has exhibited work nationally and abroad—in 2013 her work was featured in Idea: International Graphic Art and Typography magazine.
We took some time out to chat with Tasheka about her favorite design reads, the importance of design education, and understanding design history.
You are really good at instilling a working understanding of history in the students you work with. How do you do it?
Instead of just telling them ‘hey your work reminds me of such-n-such, I encourage them to survey design history as a whole and hope that they make discoveries. They inevitably find at least a nugget that is interesting, then I get them to investigate the hell out of that person or design movement/philosophy/theory and anything and everything related and indirectly related.
I try to help them see a connection through their work, to help them understand their own work better.
What are things that you think every graphic designer should read in order
to deepen their understanding of design?
- A Primer of Visual Literacy by Donis A. Dondis, great book for any beginner art
and or design student.
- Texts on Type: Critical Writings on Typography by Steven Heller and Philip B. Meggs (Reading the essays in this book truly gave me a better understanding of typography in a historical framework.)
- Design Writing Research by Ellen Lupton
- Typographic Design: Form and Communication
- Chasing the Perfect: Thoughts on Modernist Design in our Time (It’s a must-read because Natalia is brilliant!)
- The New Typography by Jan Tschichold
- American Modernism: Graphic Design 1920 to 1960 by R. Roger Remington
- Participate: Designing With User-Generated Content by Helen Armstrong and Zvezdana Stojmirovic
- Its Beautiful, Then Gone by Martin Venezky
- Two Lines Align by Michael Worthington
- No More Rules by Rick Poynor
- The Elements of Style by Robert Bringhurst
- Gateway to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts by Debra J. DeWitte, Ralph M. Lawrence, and M. Kathryn Shields
- Graphic Design in Context by Denise Gonzales Crisp
- Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fire and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936 – 1986 by Louise Sandhaus
- Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People by Emily Pilloton
- Logo by Michael Evamy
- The History of Motion Graphics: From Avant-Garde to Industry in the United States by Michael Betancourt
- Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Design Dos & Don’ts
- HTML & CSS: design and build websites
- Fly in the Buttermilk: Memoirs of An African American in Advertising, and Design Education by Archie Boston
- Motion Graphic Design: Applied History and Aesthetics by Jon Krasner
- Looking Closer: Classic Writings on Graphic Design by Michael Bierut and William Drenttel
- Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
You’ve helped mold a new generation of African American hybrid designers and design educators at VCFA. I’m curious as to your thoughts and feelings regarding your mentorship and what you feel you have contributed to their education as both a teacher and a role model.
Wow, wasn’t really of aware of that, but okay. I have a pretty strong agenda and that is to make designers, regardless of race aware of the contributions made by black people in the field of design. But I do think it is extremely important for black designers to be aware even more so, even if its something that they are not particularly interested in.
Who are your design heroes/heroines?
- Ed Fella
- Martin Venezky
- Lorraine Wild
- Hannah Hoch
- Art Sims
- Louise E. Jefferson
- Georg Olden
- Paula Scher
- Gail Anderson
- Piet Zwart
- Marian Bantjes
- Irma Boom
- Herb Lubalin
- Joshua Darden
- Seymour Chwast
- Sister Corita Kent
- Jan Tschichold
- Emory Douglas
- Leroy Winbush
- Sylvia Harris
Who are the inverse?
Not sure if I have any. There is definitely work out there that I’m not a fan of, but I
can’t think of anybody in particular.
After taking a semester off, what are you most excited about returning to school?
The students, faculty and visiting lecturers are such an inspiration to me. Just being able to be apart of a rigorous intellectual discussion about design is so important. It really helps me reflect on my work and what I’m doing—not only in the classroom, but also for my personal projects and freelance work. Just being apart of the discussion, even if I’m just there as an observer is what I miss the most. It is such a great feeling when every six months you feel like you are starting the first day of school again.
Agreed! Thanks, Tasheka!