Category Archives: The Business

News, updates happening within the design community.

Meet Ya’ In Arkansas!

aiga diversity and inclusion markAbout four weeks ago, I traveled to Bettonville, Arkansas to take part in the AIGA Diversity & Inclusion Task Force meet-up. This was to facilitate the face-to-face meeting of task force committee members with D&I chapter leaders. I am on the national AIGA D&I Task Force, again, and a member of AIGA with NYC being my home chapter. We meet from Friday to Sunday near the end of April to discuss how to bring the understanding of what diversity and inclusion is from the national view to the chapter level. It was an incredibly emotional, thought-provoking and freaking fun time.

Now I’ve been an official member of AIGA since 2004 but unofficially I’ve been messing with them since 1991. Side note: why is it every time I write the 90’s down, logically I know its a long time ago but emotionally it feels like yesterday. Always throws me for a loop. Really stumbled into it when they held the now infamous Why is Design 93% White conference at the HS of Art & Design here in NYC. I was a young designer just a few years out of Pratt and I was intrigued about what was going to happen there as I held the same sentiment myself as a student flipping through pages after pages of design mags and annuals and rarely coming across anyone of color or women. Long story short from then to now, I have been involved in some form of D&I development without realizing it.

The Northwest Arkansas chapter hosted this weekend event and were such great hosts making our time in Arkansas really fun and enterprising. Big ups to AIGA NWA! Our first night, Friday, we took a tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum where we saw their exhibit Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. This exhibition was a visual and historical treat seeing so many beautiful pieces that spoke about our community during a time of mass societal change. The tour guide encouraged us all to have conversations about the pieces but I don’t think he knew what he had encouraged. Our conversations were intense, probing but lengthy as several times the talks stalled the tour. What these talks did was to show how open this group was to having real conversations which came into full view the next day during our all day Saturday workshop.

The day’s track held your typical planning and strategy sessions but there was this one exercise we did called the Privilege Walk. Since it was a bright sunny day, we did the exercise outside. I’ve seen videos on Facebook and YouTube but to actually participate in one was entirely different. It works only if you are completely willing to be open in front of others. We all agreed to be and it was eye-opening to say the least. This walk was based on privilege, opportunity and experience and took many of us aback. The emotional toll of the walk came when we went back inside to discuss our feelings about the walk as an old segregation sign we passed around. It had a twist to it—it read Colored Only–No Whites Allowed. What transpired over the next hour was raw, cutting, insightful, self-realizing and cathartic. Truths were told that helped others see the world from that person’s eyes and vice versa. It made me realize my own truths that have existed only in my own head but now saying it out loud amongst folks I only met hours ago really had such an illuminating power.

After a much-needed break from the raw emotions expressed, we got back to business on sessions about engaging members, chapters and so on. We wrapped the day with dinner and drinks at one of the Mexican restaurants in the town having forged new friendships before we all headed back to our respective cities the next day.


There have been numerous occasions when I wondered about AIGA’s commitment to D&I (in all honesty, there are times I still do) but this weekend gave me strong optimism that this isn’t just good lip service but a real investment. The work many folks have put in over the decades and the stewardship of the current D&I chairperson, Jacinda Walker, have really blossomed into a good model for industries to follow. It lightens my heart to know that students of today and tomorrow will find/see design leaders like themselves easier and more frequently than I did as a young design student and professional. ♦


A Curious Turn of Events…

bldtr040035I’m always looking out for new design opportunities to learn and grow. That’s part of being a creative person—that need to continually learn and use it to help the group, business or client you’re working with. Recently, one such opportunity came up. It was as a creative director for an educational non-profit. It really piqued my curiosity. I had several meetings with them and one of the key messaging points was the aspect of diversity—marketing for and experiences in developing diversity.

Having had such experiences with AIGA chairing its Diversity Task force, my years of design experience along with my childhood background being very similar to the audience they serve (black and latino kids from underserved communities), I saw myself as an ideal candidate. The more I progressed through the meetings and learned about the group, the more I felt the connection. Through the last meeting before the final decision, I sweetened the pot by presenting a digital publishing app I created off the initial exercise they asked for in the beginning of our process. Along with this and the issue of diversity experiences being highlighted again, I felt extremely confident about this opportunity.

Continue reading A Curious Turn of Events…

A Long Held Plan Gone Awry…

Plans are great…until they get fucked up. That’s something you can never plan for. That’s where I happen to be at.

Since my days at Pratt, I had thought about operating my design studio. Working on the projects that interested me, selecting the kind of clients I wanted to work with and creating gorgeous, satisfying designs was what I thought running a studio was all about. That’s why when you’re young and full of zeal, you are thinking about all the other factors. Like your personal life—you might be married, you might be divorced, you might become widowed, you might have a kid or two, you might have health problems, you might have family problems or you might (just fill in the blank). When you’re young, thoughts like that don’t come to mind. It’s seen as a clear, easy road.

After almost five years of running my studio, it appears that I will have to let it go. At least in terms of a physical space. Why you might ask? Simple, the cost is draining, I miss the creative banter among other designers and I didn’t market myself like I should. Supporting my wife’s business, preparing for the birth of my daughter (and subsequent removal of my wife from the business fold), still running low on spiritual energy after my first wife’s untimely death (probably should’ve taken the time off instead of plowing through the beginning of a new job) and the enormous pressure of being the sole provider for an entire family took up a lot of my focus that I needed for my studio.. I’ve always been exceptionally strong but just didn’t think I’d run out of that strength. Boy, did I get a rude awakening. Continue reading A Long Held Plan Gone Awry…

Where Are All The Black People?

Several weeks ago I got this event notice on Facebook that really grabbed my attention. “Where Are All The Black People” was the title. How funny was that…as that’s been a mantra of mine since my early days at Pratt. This was to be a frank, no-holds-barred discussion about the lack of black people and others within the ad industry moderated by Jeff Goodby, co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners along with Jimmy Smith, Group Creative Director of TBWA\Chiat\Day/Los Angeles. The were three other panelists there: one was a black woman whose name was Cheeraz (like the wine) Gorman. She was a copywriter/planner. One was a British white woman whose first name was Danni, I believe. She’s a recruiter for agencies. Lastly was a young black man whose name I couldn’t hear. He is a soon to br graduate of Morehouse. Now I’m not an advertising man, matter of fact I hate it, but I thought it gave a diverse range of perspectives from the industry. The lack of color within the ad industry has been a raging topic since the ’60s. So we are talking over FORTY YEARS! It’s 2011 and still no real, tangible progression. I attended just to see just how frank it was going to be.

Continue reading Where Are All The Black People?

OBD DesigNation 7 in Detroit

This past October 28th through October 31, the Organization of Black Designers (OBD) held their 7th DesigNation conference in Detroit Michigan. The last OBD conference I attended was in 1996/7 in Philadelphia. I had only been in the industry for seven years working as an Art Director for Income Opportunities, a general market business magazine for the small business, home office owned by Essence Communications. Somehow I stumbled upon OBD and was amped to join because I had been searching for other black designers—hell, designers of color period. Since I knew Essence wasn’t going to pay for me to go (despite the hype, Essence really wasn’t all about black solidarity), I would go on my dime. Continue reading OBD DesigNation 7 in Detroit