Watch Designing for Inclusion with Black Panther Production Designer Hannah Beachler
Above is a video of a recent Design Talk that took place at Google Headquarters with Black Panther production designer Hannah Beachler where she and host John Maeda discuss the need for inclusion in design and how that affects audiences.
I fell in love with Black Panther. As did almost everyone who saw it. Why? It felt fresh and genuine. Certainly from a production design perspective I felt I was finally seeing something authentic and unique in a superhero film. It was beautiful to behold.
I have thought a lot in the past as to why we don’t see more diversity in the field of production design. Hannah’s mention of the great production designer Wynn Thomas really stood out for me because it wasn’t until I was doing some research for this site that I realised Wynn Thomas was the only black production designer I knew at that time.
I was so relieved when Hannah Beachler came onto the scene like a powerhouse with Fruitvale Station, Creed, Beyonce’s Lemonade, and Moonlight but what does that say when you can count on less than one hand the number of African American production designers? So many films I’ve seen could have benefited from the authenticity that comes from someone who knows a culture or place from the inside out because they live it day in and day out.
Even when well-intentioned filmmakers try to be inclusive in their crewing there just aren’t enough diverse production designers at a certain level to go around. So how do we change that? We need to change that as a community.
Part of me thinks it is the studios fault for a conscious or unconscious bias against diverse key crew even if this does seem to be changing. Part of me also feels the field of architecture has been historically dominated by white males and many production designers start their careers in architecture so diversity has not followed. It may be time to add more mentorship programs and training processes for young designers to find their way into production design and create a solid skillset no matter where they come from.
Most of all though, I agree with Hannah that we need to get faces like hers and Wynn Thomas’ and art director, Toni Barton’s into the limelight because seeing is believing.
Secondary Interview with Black Panther Production Designer Hannah Beachler
Do you agree with John Maeda and Hannah Beachler’s thoughts on inclusion in design? Is simply seeing diverse people behind the camera enough? What more can we do to include previously unheard and untold stories and points of view in film and design? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Rose Lagacé | @artdepartmental