I want to represent myself in my designs, and a how-to manual is a great opportunity to show and tell what a day in the life of being a Black woman is like. I chose “How to be Black” as the title of this piece, not because I wanted to tell people “how to be Black”. In fact, I preface the book, by stating on the first page of the accordion fold that “this is not a how-to guide.” That in fact, there is no one way of “being Black”, but there are processes and perspectives that differ on a day to day person when you are living in the skin of a Black person. Therefore, this is truly a how-to on trying to listen and understand where this unique perspective of living in colored skin has taught me about the world. As seen through my eyes, a one-of-a-kind person regardless of my skin color.
In this how-to manual I include history facts about Black historic moments and figures for the reader, a clock that represents the day in the life of me, and a color-by-numbers piece where I provide colored pencils for the reader to “rainbow-fy” the illustration of a Black woman provided in the accordion fold. There are instructions that go along with each piece to the manual that explain my reasoning for my placement of such certain items, and the significance they hold to me as a woman of color.
Type is one of my main focuses in this design. I use my type in this how-to manual to elicit certain emotions that I want the reader to associate with my perception of Blackness. Therefore, thick bold sans-serif type that is kept consistent throughout the manual with Headline Gothic. But, there are also more delicate moments that show the complexity of Blackness, and that although I see strength as bold and big type, I also see strength in other features of myself. Where, to be strong is not only physical prowess, but I can also find strength in my wit and clever intellect. Therefore, I use Mrs. Eaves in contrast with the headline type, as paragraph copy, in order to display the different dimensions of my Blackness through two typefaces that represent the different sides of myself.
Illustration: Lorenzo Plaatjies
Designer: Avery Youngblood