“A past that embraced slavery and racism”: One designer’s goal to redesign the American flag

Steven puts his racial identity at the forefront of his creative work, despite a wide range of design interests. For example, whilst at Nike, he designed the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month warm-up T-shirt. “Sharing my perspective as a Black designer has been a common theme over my first few years of being a designer,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Steven’s graphic design journey started just a few years ago, as a self-taught graphic designer. As it turns out, he taught himself pretty well. After moving to Oregon in 2018, he landed an internship and contract with the Nike design department. “My time there helped me to polish my design skills and understand more about the design process.” Now, he’s expanding his graphic design skills as a junior designer at Apple.
“The American flag has become a symbol of division,” states Steven Horton Jr. “It is a symbol of the past. A past that embraced slavery and racism.” These words introduce us to a flag that newly symbolises a Black America.
This year saw Steven begin a summer internship at The New Company where he was tasked with creating a piece of work that was unique and personal to him. Cue his latest project, the Black Justice flag, created in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s death. “As a Black American, I felt I could express my thoughts, pain, and hope through design. I was inspired by Marcus Garvey’s Pan-African Flag and David Hammond’s African American flag.” Not only acting as a stunning and provocative artwork, the piece is practical too: “I thought to create a flag that protestors could wave, symbolising the demand for justice and equality for Black Americans.”
A flag that is often waved and brandished in staunch patriotism, the American flag has come to be perceived by ethnic minorities in the US and around the world as a symbol of the darker side of American nationalism. As a Black man in America, Steven feels the American flag is often used to look backwards, rather than forwards. Steven thought it was very telling that the American flag was not used during the Black Lives Matter protests of last year. The flag evidently is not used by all Americans as a proud or positive representation of how they experience America. With this in mind, he’s been working to create a new symbol, one that shows a path forward for freedom, equality and justice. Inspired by the Black Liberation Flag created by Marcus Garvey, he hopes to introduce a new flag for a modern movement.