Goodbye, NFL.

Some of you may not know this, but I wasn’t always a sports fan. I grew up a nerd, pretty much-comic books, video games, even dabbled in D&D every so often. Like every good Ohioan, I watched the Buckeyes on Saturday, but that was about it-and I didn’t really understand what I was watching. It wasn’t until we moved to Minnesota, and my parents tossed me onto a football field that I ever really learned anything about football-or sports in general. 

And I loved it. I immediately adopted the Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins, and North Stars-setting me up for a lifetime of disappointment-but I loved the Vikings. I loved going to the Metrodome, I loved rooting for (former Buckeye) Robert Smith, faithfully defended Randy Moss’ antics, and boasted about how I lived next door to John Randle. I was all in. 

And as I got older, I became part of the problem. I hand waved away domestic abuse issues and problematic treatment of women, and cheered for the barbaric “JACKED UP!” segments on ESPN. I dumped thousands of dollars I didn’t necessarily have into NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions. Spent way more time than was probably healthy raging against Seahawks fans for not being “true” fans. 

And then Trayvon Martin happened. And Mike Brown. Walter Scott. Freddy Gray. Samuel Debose. And Colin Kaepernick sat down. And everything changed. 

Whatever you may think of Colin Kaepernick’s protest for black lives, it is undeniable that the NFL, it’s teams and it’s fans see it as a nuisance. They are more upset at his kneeling than they are at why he kneeled. They say, “protest the right way” when there is violence, but as soon as a man quietly protests on the sideline, they say, “nope, not that way, either.” It is that apathy from the fanbase that has led to Kaepernick being blackballed from his league.  It is telling that a man convicted of racketeering and dog fighting and a man who obstructed justice in two murders get to be the ones to explain why Colin Kaepernick is not on a roster in this league.

The NFL does not care about black lives-of their players or their fans. They don’t care at women either, unless they’re selling them pink t-shirts. The whole enterprise is toxic, and I can’t support it anymore.

I also realize that the NFL is America’s pastime now, and I’ve  already learned it’s impossible to love sports and avoid the NFL.  So I know I’ll still see highlights on ESPN, and grumble about Seahawks fans. And I won’t ask you to give up your fantasy leagues, and I won’t crap on your NFL Facebook posts, nor will I lambast you for not following me down this path. I’ll just go about my life doing other things on Sundays. Like reading up on the upcoming NBA season. Or bitching on Facebook about Ohio State and ESPN’s SEC bias. Some things ain’t gonna change. 

But I will stop investing time and money into an league that could not care less if I lived or died at the hands of a police officer. A league that is more upset about Michael Bennett’s Twitter post than they are about the actions in that Twitter post. A league that will shake down the military for hundreds of millions of dollars to wrap itself in the flag, then cast out a player that chooses to not partake in for-profit patriotism. I’m done. 

Kap kneeled for me. So I'll stand by him.

Goodbye, NFL. 

Back in Black.

A little rusty, but I can still go.

A little rusty, but I can still go.

“You’re going to have to change it,” my career coach sniffed at me through her glasses. 

I looked up from my notes. “Change what?”

“The name of your website. It’s too divisive.” 

Back in 2010, I started a blog. At the time, I was trying to get into advertising, and had just returned to Seattle after trying to make a career move to Minneapolis. I wanted to document my experiences as I started this journey. The blog wasn’t very good, and I didn’t do it often, but it was for me. It was my outlet, and it was so vital at the time. 

If there were any good black art directors in Seattle, I’d have their books in front of me.

I was taking classes at the School of Visual Concepts, working on my book, writing sporadically about all of it, and I started to notice a severe lack of people in the ad industry that looked like me. I actually brought the lack of diversity up to one of my SVC professors at the time, who was a creative director for an agency that you’d probably know. He said, and I quote, “If there were any good black art directors in Seattle, I’d have their books in front of me.” 

Welp. 

I recanted this story over lunch with my friend, Jessica Hagy, a few weeks later, as I was struggling with the focus in my writing, and contemplating a new name for my blog. When I got to that point, she interrupted me. 

“That it,” she said. “That’s the name. Black Art Director. Because at least now they can’t say they don’t know of any.” 

In hindsight, it was probably a risky decision to go with that name. I was a nobody. An unemployed nobody. An unemployed nobody with a shitty portfolio. There’s no reason it should have worked. But I kept going on interviews, and working on my book, and writing when I had the time. 

And then I wrote this.

The response from that piece was surprising. I got emails from around the country, from students and teachers alike. I heard stories of struggle, and messages encouraging to keep fighting. But that piece confirmed to me that I wasn’t the only creative out there struggling with this. I wasn’t the only one that felt invisible, that they were trying to love an industry that didn’t love them back. I remember around the time I wrote this, reading an article that suggested a lot of black creatives give up on the ad business and start freelancing or moving into another field of design, which is why the field isn’t very diverse. That wasn’t going to be me. I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to keep learning, and writing, and putting out great work, and it would eventually all work out. 

It didn’t work out. I needed a job, and so I hired a career coach, and after lots of back and forth, she convinced me to change the name of the blog. 

“You don’t want the name of your blog to turn off a potential employer, do you?” she asked. 

“I’m not so sure I’d want to work for a company that would disqualify me based on the title of my blog,” I replied. 

“That’s fine,” she shrugged. “Do you want to have your pride or pay your bills?” 

Welp.

Eventually, I moved into the startup world, transitioned into user experience design, and it’s been the best career move I have ever made. I’ve got a dream job I never would have even imagined six years ago, doing work I absolutely love. I’m in a completely different field than I expected when I started my career. I’m very much living my best life right now.

But I still get the emails about that blog post from five years ago. I still get the questions. And the tech world isn’t any more diverse than the ad world. And there’s still work to do. So I'm bringing the name back.

This year, at HOW Design Live in Atlanta, I met with Maurice Cherry, founder of Revision Path, a podcast that showcases Black designers, and Jacinda Walker, who is doing great work at Ohio State in exposing Black and Latino youth to design careers. We talked at length about the hurdles, the successes, and the challenges of getting more designers of color into our business, and the importance of not just having a voice, but sharing that voice. And they both challenged me to do more. 

This is step one. Welcome (back) to Black Art Director.

My first ADDY award. For Art Direction. In Seattle. Just saying.

My first ADDY award. For Art Direction. In Seattle. Just saying.

Walking a Fine Line.

I am not a professional writer. I write this blog mainly for me, and on a normal day, I get upwards of twenty or so viewers to this website, and half of those are usually family. On the rare occasion, this blog will have a crazy spike of traffic from somewhere around the world, but mainly, it's just me. I write this blog to document my professional journey and experiences as a designer; I'm using the term "web log" as literally as you can possibly use it. 

Studio Battle 2013: Year in Review

As I entered 2013, I found myself struggling with my career path. I had begun to take positive steps toward a career plan instead of hopping around from job to job. I laid out a career plan for the next two years, and part of that plan was writing out goals for 2013. As I open 2014 in a much better place, I thought I’d revisit those goals, and take a look at some other highlights from 2013:

Kids Launch the Darnedest Companies

Last year at a Startup Weekend, I was introduced to the most amazing six-year-old entrepreneur, Ashwin. We worked together on his product, Gap Tooth Stickers. After I wrote about it here on the blog, the story blew up, and Ashwin became a bit of a celebrity-news appearances, and calls from Shark Tank and national talk shows. Personally, I got emails from folks inside of Google, all the way to entrepreneurs from the UK and China. It was pretty incredible.

So when Ashwin's mother reached out to ask me to be a mentor at the first-ever Startup Weekend: Youth Edition, I jumped at the chance.

On Saturday, I headed down to City Hall, not really knowing what to expect. Circumstances had kept me from catching up with the organizers of the event, so I was going in blind. I had a rough idea of the day's format, but I figured my job was to show up, drink some coffee, and watch some kids bounce around some wacky ideas for a few hours.

Boy, was I wrong.

Future Endeavored.

My employment with Substantial lasted exactly 57 days.  

I've been fired before. But this is the first time that I've been fired that I was actually at peace with the decision. Saturday night, I had a very vivid dream that I was going to be let go from my job, and I was actually okay with the decision. I came home, told my wife, brushed myself off, and kept on moving. When I woke up, I felt this weird calm come over me, as if I knew everything was going to be okay.