Let’s Get In Formation by Sandra Mawuto Dotou

Day 1 — Poster posted on February 1, 2023

Sandra Mawuto Dotou

Located: Hamburg, Deutschland

Tell us about yourself:

I’m a 26 years old freelance Interdisciplinary Designer based in Hamburg, Germany. I’m combining traditional graphic design elements with bold and modern colors and extensive concepts.

My work is incredibly diverse, ranging from deep social issues, such as racism to branding and quirky aesthetics. I’m always happy to combine diverse design tools, such as editorial, animations, face-filters or illustrations.

Besides the work as a designer for clients I am also the co-founder of “Ladies, Wine & Design Würzburg” Chapter (lwd_wuerzburg) a proud member of “Togo YÉYÉ” (@togoyeye), and Head of Design for “Educate to Recreate” (@educate2recreate_), a sustainable Black Dance Culture knowledge transfer program.

What is the inspiration behind your poster design?

I wanted to explore the phrase “Let’s Get In Formation” in combination with the Pick Poster Topic. My aim was to make a poster that would motivate black people to unify and work together to accomplish great and bigger things while enhancing the beauty of our similarities and features.

Why do you love being creative?

Creativity brings me joy because it always shows me, that if there’s no limit to my imagination, everything can be possible. I love how design, art, fashion, music and the everyday life can inspire me so much to create new design solutions for myself and my community. It’s fascinating how my ability to design shaped my family through redesigning our shop and therefore gain new costumers, opens communications, educateds through anti racism work and even inspires others to use design as a tool of empowerment.

Tell us about your experiences in the design world…

As a Black Designer, living in Germany and coming from a rather small southern city, my experience with being black in the design world only started being up to debate as I started implimenting black topics into my designs. This was around my sixth bachelors semester. I started receiving some backlash from professors and having to defend my topics more than other who had similar, world changing topics but weren’t specifically tying them to their race. More to environmental topics and feminism.

While applying for jobs I also experienced that some companies wouldn’t believe my list of accomplishments and I therefore had to prove my participation with open files and detailed thought processes. But I also have to point out that as soon as I started to own my blackness in design, opened up more boldly about my position and visions in the industry, I attracted more black clients, which wanted me for their work BECAUSE of who I am and what I’m standing for. I now get hired more frequently by fellow black people and agencies who stand for critical and open minded working spaces.

Afterall I still face the dangers of people, clients, agencies and organisations wanting to use me as a token for their fake-“we love all black people” approach, but right now I’m in a privileged position of being able to choose for whom I’m going to work for. I’m a Freelancer, I have a Scholarship and have student goverment aid, which makes it easy for me to have financial freedom and invest my work and time into empowerment projects or even create them from scratch myself and with friends. But I’m honestly not sure if I would have a likewise experience in the smaller city in nothern Bavaria, where I originally came from.

How can we create a more inclusive design world and ensure that Black people are represented?

First of all, we can only create more inclusive design when we ourselves understand the levels and depths of discrimination in design. This means we have to constantly educate ourselfes about the negative impacts that design caused on our community in order to work against them. Only this way we can create design that is truly uplifting and inclusive. We also have to make sure that not only black, straight, cis, christian people are represented, but also Black LGBTQAI+, black people with physical and mental disabilities, non-christian or even religious ones, Fat Black People, and black People with chronical deseases.

We have to represent ALL of us and therefore have to fight for those who are also discriminated against within the black community. Therefore the aim should be to stop using discriminatory laguage in our designs, also show/suggest to the agency different types of love, characters and genders in our advertisment campaigns, talk against discrimination within your workplace and start with the impact that you can have.

If we show, that we respect everyone of us, we can ensure that our work represents us correctly and in its whole spectrum.

The last thing I have to suggest is doing it ourselves. Instead of waiting for someone else on showing us more or a book/ website / magazine to be more inclusive, we should try on creating our own. Or collaborate more with the already existing ones. We can invest and the people that are already trying to create space for us. I have experienced myself that it can work and even get proper recognition, which leads to more than only personal benefit. It starts turning you to the representation that you were looking for in the first place and inspires people within your reach. As long as you even impacted one more person, you changed something.

In general… How can we make more equity or equality for us?

I personally think we as Black designers need more networking spaces, where we can exchange our experiences and knowledge. Someone of us might know a hack or two on how to navigate yourself through the industry, while facing similar experiences from which we can benefit. It would also help a lot if we gain more knowledge about the way goverment fundings work, so we can provide financial stability for future projects that even pay every participant.

I see so many black people, especially black women in the design industry having amazing ideas for projects, products or networks and funding them out of their own pockets, leaving them not only burned out and stressed, but also financially instable. Having a way to connect to ressources, even outside of the design field would benefit everyone of us. That means, we don’t only need connections to designers, but also to black people in finance, people in scholarship centers, maybe museum directors, curators, educators and many more.

Someone always has a cousin who knows somebody that knows somebody. I think if we could be able to create such a network, equity and equality will rise up on us, since it will be impossible to lower us. We are totally capable of creating our own form of equality.

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