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. 

What I Learned: HOW Design Live 2013

Last week, I went to the HOW Design Live conference in San Francisco for the first time ever. Going into it, I had this grand idea in my head that I was going to learn life-changing things, have career-changing experiences, and generally have it All Figured Out by the end of it. I was going to come back to Seattle with notebooks full of inspiration and information, and I was going to dive into my freelance business with a renewed sense of drive and purpose.

None of that happened.