Tag Archives: graphic

Is the age of fifty and over the end of a design career?

Recently, I got a save the date card from Pratt announcing a reunion for my graduating class of 1989. Reality sank in—it’s been 25 years since I graduated college. Holy fuck!

Andrew Bass Through the Years

I remember being that ambitious, bright-eyed design graduate looking to make my way into the design world with such energy and drive. My dream was to be an art director working at a big company, traveling for photo shoots, mingling at company parties, building a network of creative allies and maybe one day run my own studio all while doing something that I loved. Looking at the calendar, I’m reminded its around 20 days away from my 47th birthday. I’ve realized that many of the things I dreamt about as that young graduate have came true. But I also realize that some have yet to see the day of light. There’s still much I want to do and learn as a creative but there is an undercurrent that I am beginning to feel—it’s the age concern.

I AM APPROACHING 50.

In the past decade, I have seen the industry shift to a younger mindset for design leadership in all creative disciplines and discarding experienced creatives (i.e. older) as stagnant, out-of-touch and irrelevant. This weighs on my mind more recently now as I see the pages drop off the calendar. Reading Commarts.com, I came across a link talking about this same idea (click here). Ask yourself, at your place of work how many creatives are employed with you that are over 50? So many places value youth as being the only innovators, the only ones interested in new technologies, the only ones willing to learn or try new directions. That’s so short sighted as we turn into a country that is dismissing a large segment of our population.

At the story link points out, unless you are a studio owner or high-position creative, you don’t see many mid-level creative over a certain age given the same latitude and tools as a younger creative. Thanks to my parents’ genetics, most folks have no clue about my age and guess it at 10 to 12 years younger. I keep up-to-date with the latest trends and tech not because I need to but because I can’t exist without it. I equate it to air—you can’t breathe without it. Now add to the mix, the issue of race and gender. Fuck all you naysayers; this is a stone-cold hard fact of our society. If you are older, white and male, you will have it tough. If you are older and non-white (male or female), it just got unbelievably difficult.

Don’t believe me, can you name at least three designers over 50 who are white? Now, name three who are non-white, male or female and over 50? Bet you it’s easier to name three older white designers without much trouble but hit a wall the other way round. (Look at the gallery and see if you know their names.)

Three white over 50 designersThree non-white over 50 designers

Tony Gable (gable206.com), Crystal McKenzie (cminyc.com) and Archie Boston (archbosgd.com) all happen to run their own shops and have distinguished themselves in the industry although they don’t receive the same recognition as their counterparts above. How often do you hear their names in lectures and publications compared to Milton Glaser, Paula Scher and Kit Hinrichs? Be honest.

So, what are the options if you don’t run your own studio or a high-level creative? Going into academics in one possible avenue. Freelancing might be on the table but poses this question, if one won’t hire you as an older full-time employee why would they hire you as a freelancer? Changing career paths when older might be a consideration but that present a new series of obstacles that might bring you back to the original age problem. Many of us will face this dilemma in the coming years and I hope the tide strengthens for the value of experience when we do cross that road. You would tend to think, creativity has no age limit but sadly, business seems to have an expiration date on age.

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Closing The Digital Divide

Technology represents an industry where people of color can create some equality both from an economic and employment perspective. At least that’s the idea. The reality is there aren’t many people of color of either gender in the tech industry, especially black and latino folks. There are numerous reasons for this—some which are out of our control and some well within our control—but my focus here is to introduce you to a person who has taken control of the situation to make it better for others.

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Remember this name ANGELA BENTON. She is real a doer and is proving to be a force in the tech world. She’s a graphic designer who was working in both print and web but evolved more into the digital creative space. She founded a company called BlackWebMedia. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Angela in person, only on-line, but she has really impressed me. Her motivation, tenacity and drive is something I envy in a good way. She created an incubator program out in Silicon Valley called New Me Accelerator. Their mission is quote “…a 12 week immersive residential tech start-up accelerator for businesses that are led by under-represented minorities (African-Americans, Latinos & Women) in the technology industry.” Black Enterprise and CNN have prominently featured her and her program. There are folks who talk about leveling the playing field yet do nothing about it. Angela is not only doing something about it, she is making positive, tangible inroads in the technology sector. She is blazing a path for us to follow as this is the way our communities can get ahead of the game instead of just be bit players.

Pass the word and follow Angela’s example and pass forward the opportunities you have to someone else so they can make new ones. Kudos to Angela and looking forward to seeing more of what you do.

Ebony Finally Found Some Design Legs

I heard through the grapevine a few months back that Ebony was undergoing a major redesign. “Fantastic,” I thought to myself. It was long overdue and embarrassing what Ebony had become visually in the last two decades. Growing up, I remembered the huge tabloid issues of Ebony looking like the black LIFE. The beautiful images, the grandiose features and the gallery styled covers all made me want to work for a magazine one day. That dream came true for me but as time went by, many black magazines just didn’t invest in their design structure like their mainstream counterparts.

All I could do after seeing last month’s issue was shake my head. Looking like a broke-ass version of Essence (believe me Essence needs a refresh too), it kept using Helvetica in such uninspired arrangements. HELLO! There are other sans serifs beside Helvetica! Hundreds! The same went for the photos, except for the celebs, and the lackluster illustrations. There was a whole laundry list. Continue reading Ebony Finally Found Some Design Legs