Our second annual Black Designers Ignite is on Sunday, August 22! For this year’s theme: Identity, The Journey, we’ll hear 30 ignite talks from Black Creatives all over the U.S. exploring their own journeys in identity, creativity and community.

Keep scrolling for the lineup / list of talk titles.

Identity: The Journey. Becoming who you are; Designing as all of you.

This year’s theme reflects on our individual growth and how we choose to identify ourselves at home, at work, in the streets, and online… that journey is worth talking about. Even with our own individual and cultural experiences this is still a shared journey. You are not alone. We get to navigate this journey together.

With talk submissions from over 17 US States, we are reminded again how Black Creatives each bring their own unique gifts to every space they show up in. We invite you to share in this moment on August 22nd as each speaker shares and reflects on their identities and their journeys as Black Designers in America.


2021 SPECIAL GUESTS

Black Designers Ignite kicks off with a live discussion with these guest speakers from the community.


Steffi Reyes-Thomas
is your MC!

Steffi believes that a truly sustainable approach to design must contribute to the evolution of human consciousness. She creates original spaces that are deeply personal. Her expertise lies in combining the best aspects of sustainability, wellness, aesthetic and functionality within the built environment.

Steffi Reyes-Thomas, Founder & Chief, was an early adopter of the  International WELL Building Institute as a WELL AP. She is a Black-Chicana Woman who has been practicing sustainable interior architecture both here in San Diego and in Chicago. She seeks to make Holistic Design accessible to a diverse clientele with the utmost respect to delicate environmental and ecological factors.

**Steffi-Reyes Thomas gave a Black Ignite talk on Transitions in 2020, check it out here!

Omari Souza
is your Keynote Speaker!

Omari Souza is an assistant professor in the Communication Design program at Texas State University. He is the organizer of the State of Black Design Conference (online, April 2021). He previously organized and hosted an multi-panel event titled “The State of Black Design” (online, Sept. 2020), which drew a live audience of 2,071 — the second-largest livestream audience for an academic event in Texas State’s history.

Omari is a first-generation American of Jamaican descent, raised in the Bronx, New York. Before arriving at Texas State, he gained work experience with companies and institutions such as VIBE magazine, the Buffalo News, CBS Radio, and Case Western Reserve University. He earned a BFA in Digital Media from Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA in Design from Kent State University. Omari’s research explores the idea of perceptions and how visual narratives influence culture — how we view ourselves and others around us.

Joshua Leonard
is your Opening Speaker!

Character Designer – Creator Joshua Leonard was born in Miami, Florida to a Military family. His passion for drawing was first noticed and evident at a very young age. His artistic abilities and skills, were head turning as early as grade school. Now currently at Baobab Studios, he always had a love and appreciation for animation. It inspired him to pursue his passion, graduating with a college degree in Animation. The accomplishment was not an easy undertaking, he went from being a homeless, hurricane Katrina victim, to graduating at the top of his class maintaining a 4.0 GPA, all while working full time and going to school full time. He currently resides in Atlanta, GA, and plans to create compelling characters that are diverse, inclusive, and that drive the story.

He’s the creator of the highly anticipated cartoon, Team Supreme. The cartoon puts kids who have a special need, andor disability in the forefront, as their so-called disability doubles as their super power. “My goal is to normalize what society calls a disability, while also being inclusive and diverse as possible. He continues to expand his knowledge, skills, and abilities; and has created and developed character designs for: Sony Immersive Studios, Netflix Animation, Nickelodeon, Baobab Studios, Drake, BearBack, Dymelyfe, Black Skullz, and more. Whenever he has time, he works out at his local gym. A former four sport athlete who had scholarships to play at D-1 schools, staying healthy, and spending time with his daughter is very important to him.

Ash Level
is your Opening Speaker + Juror!

CEO, Founder of Presence of Colour & Ash Academy

Founding member of Black Designers Ignite

Creative director with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Inspired by the creative journey, community, and building relationships.

Recognized by TIME Magazine for photography + D&AD for creative leadership.

Mentor for ADWEEK’s Yardcon, Campaign coach for Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) fellowship and Co-Producer for D&AD’s SHIFT NYC program helping non-traditional creatives without a college degree gain access to the Advertising world & employment.


Presence of Colour: Our focus is short-form storytelling. Through visuals, real copy and passion we’ll bring the voices of our authentic communities to the forefront of the conversation to inspire continuous action in creating the new normal. Our goal is to partner with corporations, non-profits, ad agencies and forward thinking businesses that want to make true change, especially in the black community.

Ash Academy: Donation-based hands-on design education platform for the community by the community, where highly-regarded creatives share their stories & design secrets with creatives who don’t have access to design courses or industry professionals. Ash believes that we cannot rely on a non-inclusive, performative ad industry for change. We must build and invest in eachother to create lasting change. Open for funding, partnerships, and resources to build Presence to its full potential with the goal to create a workplace that embodies the world we want to live in, instead of replicating this one. Learn more at Ashlevel.com / PresenceofColour.com

**Ash Level gave a Black Ignite talk on Transitions in 2020, check it out here!


THE 8/22 LINEUP!