When I travel both literally in the world and virtually on the internet for any number of reasons, I will (not always) but often look for where the Black people are. In some cases this is as easy as a google search for a profile picture or an inquiry with a reference. However many of our introductions to businesses especially online platforms, are not represented by faces but by logos and if you’ve never thought about the ways in which a logo can infer, embrace, promote, negate or deflect attention away from race, nationality, or culture, you should.
I’ve decided recently that it’s time for me to establish my presence online as a photographer (I began my journey as a photographer in 2007) and began creating a logo this week that I felt might not only state the name of my business but also send out a message to Black patrons that I am in fact also Black and a woman.
Personally, as a Black woman, I simple do not trust (and am trusting less and less) certain aspects of my life to service providers who are not either Black or of the Diaspora. I try to support Black owned online and offline businesses by buying jewelry, apparel, and hair care products (though I admit I could do better) made for and by actual Black people. How else can there ever be community and wealth building among us? And because we live in a white washed world, it is often the case that we assume most creators, artists and or owners behind logos which do not indicate otherwise are White until proven Black.
There have been a number of experiences where I have been drawn to a product or service that I perceived as indicating Blackness or Diasporic hands behind the scenes only to discover White appropriation pulling the strings. Because as you know, it’s really cool and trendy to be “Black-like” these days. But when I find a Black designer is actually the person behind a Black design I’m ecstatic! Because hopefully it’s more than just a ploy to be cool and trendy and is coming from someone who is truly connected to the culture represented in an authentic way. I seek Black businesses and services in my life, in all it’s broad manifestations, not to be merely a vacation spot for modern day colonizers and tourists but a staycation mind state for those of us who proudly claim Blackness and Africaness to revel, create, love, network, heal, educate and live in!
That being said, I am in no way suggesting that people of color who create products and run businesses should be required to identify their Diaspora Heritage to possible clients through their logos and advertisements. However, creating a logo with elements that reflect my pride is something that is important for me. Because contrary to the rampant and problematic color blindness of many White liberal progressives, nationalities of the Diaspora (which are relegated only to Race in America do not carry a common understanding and experience that translate outside of what is represented beyond the skin. America demonstrates this fact on a daily basis. In other words, the saying “This is a Black Thing. You wouldn’t Understand” that was made popular by certain Black owned accessory lines in the 90s is now becoming “It’s a Black thing and we don’t care whether you understand or not because we need to understand, support and love ourselves and one another first.” It is precisely because of the systematic racism of White supremacy that is has always been necessary for people of color to identify ourselves to each other symbolically if not literally as a way of creating community in a world that has attempted to decimate our connection with one another and our love of ourselves. Because Blackness has always been beautiful inside and out! In fact, it’s dope as shit!
That’s how I went from this:
The name Zanography is a combination of my online handle Zanalee (It’s the name of a Prince song that is very similar to my real name) with the word photography which if you didn’t know is latin for “writing or drawing with light.”
I’ve been fascinated for years with logo design, and it’s ability communicate a service as well as a subliminal representation of who is behind it to a particular audience. I’m nowhere near finished with my logo as yet but this is a good beginning for me with regard to incorporating a part of who I am into a symbol that will hopefully let my target audience feel welcomed, valued and appreciated.