Talk submissions for black ignite 2021 are now closed.

Thank you!

Join the collective of Black Ignite speakers who’ve come together since 2020 to share stories of black joy, career, transitions, successes and the journey of becoming.

What qualifies me?

Be a Black designer working/living in the US. That’s it. The intent is to curate a diverse lineup of designers from all backgrounds. There is no concern about what you practice, seniority or where you are in your career. You could be a student, new to the field, or 20 years into your practice. Please do not let this stop you from applying.

The Theme

Identity: The Journey.

Becoming who you are; Designing as all of you. Your journey is everything.

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.

When we share our stories we go deeper with ourselves and with each other. When we can express wholly as we are, we empower our roots and amplify our purpose as individuals.

You are a Black Creative with unique gifts. We invite you to reflect on your journey and speak on it. Celebrate Your Excellence! Share your power on the virtual stage by submitting a talk that represents who and what You are about.

The Format / Talk expectations

Each designer gets 5 minutes to talk. 

The idea is to showcase YOU, YOUR amazing work, and YOUR unique story. This format will spark insightful commentary, inspire the audience, and be a source of inspiration for many others.

Your talk must consist of 20 slides, and they must advance every 15 seconds.

It’s like a TED talk, just as insightful—but at a faster pace. We want to make this fun for you and the audience. (For those new to the format, check out the 30+ examples of Black Ignite talks on YouTube! (Here’s the #BlackIgnite2020 Transitions playlist)

You will know the lineup order about a week before the event

You’ll actually get to pick it with your fellow designers.

We are here for you! We will schedule several Meet & Greet sessions beforehand!

Our community of OG speakers and organizers are here for you up till show day!

The submission process

• Submissions are due by Thursday, July 22nd at midnight (your time).

• Part of the application is sending in a 30-60 second video. Don’t fret on this, be you and just tell us more about what you’re about and why you wanna do this talk.

• Your black selection committee will be choosing talks over the weekend and getting back to speakers by Monday July 25th or 26th.

• By July 28th selected speakers must commit/confirm they can speak on Sunday, August 22nd.

• You will have 3-4 weeks to design your ignite talk, and our team of founding speakers will be here to help!

• We will be posting your speaker bio, quotes from your submission and updates on Instagram

• We hope you’ll share with your network and hype up the event all summer so we can sellout and reach 1,000 audience members (that’s $1K per speaker!)


Meet your 2021 host, Steffi Reyes-Thomas!

We are thrilled to have our 2020 Speaker and Founding Member Steffi back on the Black Ignite stage. She is our event MC of the night!

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.

Meet your 2021 keynote speaker, Omari Souza!

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
Character Designer – Creator

Meet your opening speaker, Joshua Leonard!

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
Presence of Colour Founder

Meet your opening speaker, Ash Level!

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 /