Matshoshi Matsafu

November ends with a fantastic conversation with Matshoshi Matsafu, and let me tell you…she has lived. Lived, I tell ya! She currently works as a senior UX designer at Microsoft on their Flipgrid product, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what she does and what she’s experienced.

Matshoshi talked about growing up in South Africa and attending college in Johannesburg, relocating to South Korea to teach for a few years, and about her most recent move to Minneapolis and how life has unfolded in the years since then. She also spoke about being a Black creative in flux (and how to embrace it), the joys of embracing being a generalist, and shared what keeps her motivated and inspired as a creative. According to Matshoshi, being a Black creative is a myriad of things. So why not explore them all?

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So my name is Matshoshi Kholofelo Matsafu. I am originally from South Africa. I’ve been based in the US for almost five years, six months and a couple of days. I am currently working as a Senior UX Designer for Flipgrid, which is a subsidiary of Microsoft. Essentially it is like a video exchange software where it became really popular during this pandemic because it was really useful in the education field. Yeah, I work in tech. I create digital artwork from time to time. I illustrate, and I’m into music, into a lot of things that just like equal creativity. I guess that would be the sum of me. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. I was going to ask you about Flipgrid because I had not heard of it before. So I’m guessing this is a company that Microsoft acquired. And you work on the team?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yes, yes. So it was acquired actually not too long ago. Essentially we make a really robust video editing camera and software that’s available online predominantly for students and educators now, but it’s expanding. What I love about it is that I get to work directly with real educators. We’ll get into this a little bit later, but I spend some time doing ESL teaching myself. There was always a need for tools to help students that aren’t necessarily comfortable speaking out loud in front of a classroom forever, or giving them prompts and creative ways to elicit a response. This is one of the things that I get to build on a day to day. That’s what really is exciting.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I could see how something like that would be really useful, especially with so many classrooms over the past, God, two years now, geez. Like adapting because of the pandemic and things like that. But also not just schools. We’ve done some work in the past with the Smithsonian,. I know that do or they tend to have curriculum for schools like summer programs and things like that. I could see where they could even use something like that because especially in terms of curriculum, a lot of schools will look to museums and such for field trips and things like that. But when you can’t travel to the museum for a field trip, then how are you supposed to get that same I guess, cultural exchange? So I could see how Flipgrid might be super useful for something like that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It certainly is. I’m really glad that you went into that because looking at some of the very surprising use cases that have come about, it’s exactly that. It’s families connecting with each other when being divided because of COVID, sending each other video messages on a private secure platform. It’s teachers obviously connecting with their students. It’s book clubs and choirs and auditions for plays that are happening on this platform because it’s a way to be able to ruminate about what you want to create, but not have so much pressure to have it be completely perfect and still be able to express your creativity. So I think that’s kind of why I love it.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So how has 2021 overall been for you?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I can say there’s a definite shift in terms of my feeling of not being tossed into the wild like 2020 was.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I think the acclimation that has happened, whether it be from a mental health perspective or from an understanding how I work and what works and what doesn’t. Like a lot of people, the introspection helped a lot. It has definitely been a year of revelation for me as to what’s important. How do I want to spend my time? What do I think is worthy of my attention and what relationships do I need to foster? How do I hold myself not so much accountable, but how do I grow in a non pressurized and from a perspective of love standpoint?

Maurice Cherry:
You’re located in Minneapolis, which last year was such a nexus point for so many things happening just in this country around police brutality and protests and things of that nature. How was it being in the city during that time?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was incredibly wild because little bit of history, I grew up in the dredges, like the end or not quite end of Apartheid date in South Africa. So when I saw the tanks patrolling the streets, it just drew me right back to memories of growing up in a policed state.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Where white people were trying to kill us. They were holding AK-47s. There were tanks patrolling the areas that we were essentially forced to live in. We call them townships. If you speak to a lot of South Africans, kind of like if you speak to a lot of indigenous and black people here, there’s been a a reclamation of areas that we were sent to die, essentially. By calling them townships or the hood and not actually calling them what they are, which was essentially a concentration camp.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
We are a resilient people. All I remember is seeing those riots and understanding what is driving people is not about actually the incident that occurred, that was just the tipping point. This iceberg has been building. Like everywhere else in the world, I was really in turmoil about the conversations that were being had and the ones that were being avoided. There was so much focus on the masses of people, black and brown bodies showing up and demanding to be heard.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
But there was very little talk about what would lead to folks to be so desperate, and so disenfranchised, and so broken to have to break up our own resources. It doesn’t just come from nowhere. Thinking about, looking at … We need to talk about colonization, we need to talk about settlement. We need to talk about the remnants of capitalism. We need to talk about all of these things that show up in these ways.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It’s incredible to me that a lot of those things were not being talked about. So it was hard for me because I had a little bit of PTSD, not a little, a lot. I was afraid to go outside some days because I couldn’t reconcile seeing tanks and young kids, younger than me in uniforms holding rifles, ready to do what.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. I can only imagine how much of an eerie parallel that had to be to see that as an adult, and then to remember how that was in a totally different country as a child, like, oh my god.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right. The only thing that’s different in the world is that some regions, things got given names. Ours was called Apartheid. In Europe, they called it the Holocaust. Here, it’s loosely called slavery. But the remnants of all of that are ever present. That was the most sobering thought.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
But on the flip side of that though, because I always try not to dwindle in the maelstrom, is that whenever there’s destruction, creativity booms. So walking through a ghost town where things are boarded up, but people have reclaimed those boards and created some of the most incredible public art that I’ve seen in all the places that I’ve lived.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
That was a wild experience, people expressing pain through art, like visceral, tangible arts and the dichotomy of emotion that comes as you’re walking through a street, knowing that at any point, a crowd could come rushing through, breaking windows. But then immediately after, folks will be boarding up and painting. Those are such extremes.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Goodness. Geez. It almost feels weird to try to pivot back to talking about what you do for work after focusing on that. But I mean, I think what you bring up and certainly from your unique vantage point of, like you said, having lived through a very similar type of situation as a child, one thing that really struck me during the pandemic last year was how many people I talked with for this show.

Maurice Cherry:
Us, Even in these conversations like you and I are having, trying to reconcile what it is to be black and work during this sort of time and have to compartmentalize the issues that are happening in our society, and what’s going on outside of our windows, while also expecting to show up to our and be productive, and still hit your numbers or whatever you have to do for work. Oh goodness.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was wild. In as much as it feels like it was a total alien experience, I think every single person who was just really in tune, it felt like you’re having an outer body experience because you are looking at the world going up in turmoil. But at the same time you’re facing yourself, like truly having the time alone with yourself to really figure some things out.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
One of those things is reclaiming your time even from work, which I think I saw a lot of evidence of, being black and creatives really standing up for, “You know what, you’re not entitled to have 18 hours of my day. You’re entitled to have this many hours of my day, and I’m entitled to have this many hours. I’m going to pour love into myself,” however that looks like that was certainly something that came up a lot.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I was appreciative of seeing that too because you just don’t know how many of us are functioning on empty. We never take time off. We always have to work harder than everybody else. We have to explain things and be the cultural competency solution in most of our jobs. Having to do all of that labor without getting paid for it, even though most of us do have a so-called equity, diversity and inclusion department in our workforces or workplaces, they don’t infiltrate the every day. The day to day, when you get on a call immediately after the Floyd incident, and somebody makes a joke about murder as a icebreaker. Like how? Navigating those and having to have that conversation with your manager and having to not teach all of these white people that that’s not the right thing to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. So I guess I’ll try in some way to pivot this back to work, but not in a complete way. But what do you do to separate yourself from work when that sort of stuff happens?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Well, black Twitter has been very helpful. The reason is that without black creatives, all of the social media platforms would’ve been dry. The amount of effort that people have put into creating humor out of nothing or making really think pieces just an equipped, like one tweet that makes you really reevaluate things or laugh so much that you can forget for a little bit of time has been helpful.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Also because of building new language and ways to talk about things that are quite heavy, but there’s a lightheartedness to it, right? The memes that keep coming up across the board, that has been one way to help. Of course, other things include being very intentional about mental health practices, simple things, taking breaks, going for walks, engaging with people that I love, my friends, my family, and also pouring time into things that make me happy. They may not necessarily be hobbies per se, but just things that make me happy. That’s it really.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I try to keep it as simple as possible because sometimes also trying too hard is trying too hard, you know?

Maurice Cherry:
No, that’s very true.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It’s very stressful.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Around that time last year, I was actually unemployed. I had gotten laid off from my job right before Memorial day. I was feeling this sort of a different kind of tension because at that time, I’d say the summer, at least June through August was really the first time in my professional career that I had any sort of a break. That I didn’t have to feel I needed to rush out and get a job or something like that. Like you have down periods between jobs and stuff like that. I would always feel like, “Oh, I got to go find something else.” But I was fortunate that I got enough of a severance and had enough savings that when I got laid off, I was like, “Oh, I’m good for about like four or five months. So I’m just not going to do anything.”

Maurice Cherry:
For me, it was so odd to reconcile this time of rest with this huge time of unrest happening out in the world, and in a way almost feeling guilt for taking a break and not getting out in the streets and what have you. I don’t want to say I rationalized it, but I don’t know. Have you seen the Tony Morrison documentary, The Pieces I Am? I think that’s what it’s called.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry:
She has a part in the documentary where she talks about her role or what she felt her role was in the Civil Rights Movement. She was saying that I can’t go out and be on the streets. I can’t do that, go out and march and things.

Maurice Cherry:
She’s like, “But what I can do is like publish a writing to get it to a bigger audience. I can support the writers and the poets. I can help fight in a different way.” So I guess even in a small way through this podcast, I felt like, “Oh well, as long as I’m sharing this out still with people, then I won’t feel so guilty or guilty at all about …” I don’t want to say taking up arms because it sounds like I’m joining a militia. But I wouldn’t feel like, “Oh, I’m not out there, you know, marching the streets with a sign or anything.” It was such a weird, weird time because really, I mean, I’ve been a working professional for so long. But I’ve never really had that time where I could just have a break for several months and not worry about what the next thing was that was coming.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah. That whole existence was some of the most trying. Because for myself personally, I had the added layer of being an immigrant in this country. So I was having such a push and pull in my mind. It was like, “Oh, when my country was going through its liberation, similar things happened.” People on the streets, other countries came and stood up. People were in the crowds, and bodies were out there. But what it means for a black body to be out there is a whole different thing here.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
When I was talking to different types, different groups of folks, those who were adamant about physically being present and also sometimes that came with judgment too, right? That if you’re not in the streets, then you’re not really participating. You’re not really standing for anything. I think that needs to be to, Tony Morrison’s point, that needs to be taken to question because we all have our different roles to play.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right? So I think we need to really talk about expanding what resistance looks like from a more holistic view. From yes, we have bodies in the forefront. Yes, we have intellectuals that kind of theorize. Yes, we have business people that are like, “Okay, how do we change these structures?” Yes, we have money people even like, okay, so capitalism is not working. How do we think about something different? How do we build equitable society? Not just in the moment, but what happens after that?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
That’s where I think design comes in. That’s why I’m excited to be a designer because even in the smallest things that I’m building, those things play a part.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, absolutely. I want to go more into your background. I know you mentioned earlier being from South Africa. Tell me about what it was like growing up there. I mean, you mentioned the apartheid. But what do you really remember from your childhood aside from that?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I mean, my gosh. It’s kind of a Willy Wonka experience. Right? There’s moments of extreme insurmountable joy and awe because of the creativity of black people, the music and art expressed. I think the first time I encountered design was in the township. Most people grew up in what are called like Shanty houses, which are made out of tin, aluminum bars or even asbestos at some point. It’s one room, there’s no electricity, toilets outside, everything.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
But the creativity to make one room feel like a home, that is invention. I remember there was a neighbor that I used to visit who took the covering of of a can, just like a can of … There was a brand called Lucky Star. It’s Sardines essentially. But the graphic art on the label was so striking because we were in that era of just poster designs, so really bright colors and just beautiful typography.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
They spent however long gathering those labels and made wallpaper out of them. When you look at that, and I look at that, and I look at what is called, so-called modern design. I can see that that could easily be in a pop art museum because that’s the kind of art that it was. Or it could be likened to mid-century modern repetition wallpaper too. So I feel design came through just because of necessity. Design is the answer to anguish and pain. Design and art and creativity is the answer. So it was everywhere. I was lucky enough to notice.

Maurice Cherry:
Now being around it as much as you have, when did you decide that this was what you wanted to study? This is what you wanted to go to school for?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I initially wanted to be a fine artist. I remember in high school, one of my memories is my mom made the decision to send me to what we then called multiracial schools, which meant there was a handful of black kids in a white school, which was interesting. But I really loved my high school because it was in the middle of a forest. I was in boarding school. It was designed like a little European village, I suppose. The classrooms had a lot of natural light, which is not common here. All of the classrooms look like prison industrial complexes.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
One thing I remember is painting. I would paint for hours. I would be covered in paint from 7:00 AM in the morning until 6:00 PM when I had to go back to the hostel. Eventually, when I was head of hostel I had the keys to the hostel. I don’t know why I was lucky enough to be in a really nurturing environment. My teachers believed in me. I would be painting well into the night, and they trusted me.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
That’s odd. It’s unheard of. As a black girl in a white school painting these massive three-by-six pieces, and being free to do so, that’s one of my best memories. From then, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to pursue a career in fine art.” But reality hit when I left school and things were not good. I got accepted into one of the biggest, best art institutions in South Africa, but I couldn’t afford to go. So I found a design school down the road from me. I literally took all of my paintings, my huge portfolio in public transport, and walked up a hill or two, and arrived at the administrator’s office with my ill-fitting clothes and a hat over my head, and sweating, and being like, “I do arts. I think I can do design too, if you give me a chance.”

Maurice Cherry:
Now this school, that was Vega School, is that correct?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yes. Yes. I spoke directly to the head of department at the time. His name is Gordon Cook. He’s an eccentric white man, not typical, very much future thinking. He saw me, I’m sure when he saw me, he was like, “Oh my goodness. What? What is this?” I was disheveled and I had this big portfolio case of art pieces. He looked at my stuff. He was like, “Okay, we’re going to give you an entrance exam.” I wrote the paper.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
The last question I answered, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, they’re never going to accept me. I don’t know what I’m trying.” Then they accepted to me. So I ended up doing design and multimedia at the time, which was the introduction to digital, which is interesting, like user interface design, and also animation, and of course communications, and just graphic design. So that’s how I started. I haven’t looked back since.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
So once you graduated from there, what was your early career like in Johannesburg? Did you feel like the school had really prepared you to go out there in the working world?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
In a sense, yes, because when I was working, there was definitely a push to have more black creatives. So I found myself in a network of just really great black creatives. We all grew up in similar ways. But some of course more extreme than others. It was just really great. Because you’ve got to remember that my country has multiple, I’m going to use the word “tribes” loosely, but multiple cultures too.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Because of the separations, some of them were just melded all together. So if you can imagine being in a brainstorming session with people from multiple cultures, but we’re all in the same country, all speaking different languages, and just throwing all of ourselves into it. The texture of what came out of those years is amazing. Sometimes I look at that work and I’m like, “Wow. South, Africa’s just a incredible place in terms of creativity, because it’s such a vibrant with different cultures.” So yeah, that’s kind of what stood out. My first job, I was making those really, really terrible user interfaces for phone recharge cards. I don’t know if you all ever had that service here where you prepay for like $30 worth of money to put on your phone so you can call people.

Maurice Cherry:
I remember though. Oh my god, this was back in … I’m showing my age here. This was like back in the early, like late 90s, early two 2000s, I remember those. Because I got my first cell phone in 1999. God. I’m really dating myself here. I got my first cell phone in 1999. I remember having to buy cards to put minutes on it. It was from a-

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Exactly. Yes.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It was from a provider. It was from Powertel, which is now out T-Mobile. But I had to buy cards and then put like 500 minutes on it or something like that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yes. So those little machines that you would buy your minutes from. The buttons were all embossed and made in Photoshop. Terrible. Like minute fills. Yep, that was me.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, somebody had to do that. Somebody had to do that work.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was terrible. Then, I mean, the cell phone companies were coming up. So I’d be making little animated banners on the sites that would just live there. Then I worked for a production, like digital print production, which it wasn’t creative work, but I think it just taught me the basics in how to work quickly, print stuff and B2B stuff.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Then I worked in a network BBDO, subsidiary of like the larger network agency, the global agency. That was really, really fun. I was paired with a copywriter. We were one of the few fully black creative teams, like all women creative teams. We got to work on some really fun campaigns, local ones, but also some international brands. Yeah. Then I remember the turning point when I decided to leave advertising. I loved the advertising world. I learned a lot. I was in charge of people who had been in the industry for so many years. I was like, “I’m making ads and you’re older than me? But you have to listen to what I have to say? Oh my god, this is so scary.”

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was just so fun. Very exhilarating. Then I decided to leave home because of a number of things, but also primarily because I felt like the advertising industry back home, this is hard, was kind of masquerading as being for black people, as in using black imagery and our colloquialism, like our style, our dress, our lingo, our music, and selling us these things. But in real life, it wasn’t really reflected for most people. One of the so-called marketing research sessions we did was with a group of aunties. I would call them aunties. Most of them, single mothers and caring for multiple people in the household because our culture is as such, is that you’re not an island.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So they’d be caring for multiple kids. So why it disturbed me is that the company I was working for wanted us to encourage this demographic to use what would’ve been their 12th check in December, which they would usually use to stock up on supplies for the following year because people aren’t rich. You buy extra bags of flour, and you send them out to the village or to the neighboring family. You share, and that’s the way we were all able to survive. So we were trying to encourage these aunties to spend that money on a cellphone contract. I was like, “No. I’m not doing this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned that about advertising. So I live in Atlanta. The part of Atlanta I live in is, I want to say it’s the black part of town, but like most of Atlanta’s the black part of town. But the neighborhood that I’m in the west end, is I’ll say one of the lower income areas of the city. It’s a historic neighborhood. Morehouse College is here, Spelman College. Like it’s well known in terms of just black history and whatnot.

Maurice Cherry:
But I do see a lot of the advertising that’s done around here, and it’s always for like prepaid cell phones and things of that nature. For things that don’t really better the community in any sort of way, it’s just like, “Hey, you just got paid. Give us your money.”

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Not even for well-meaning whole things. It’s like, give us your money so you can buy some shoes. Give us some money so you can buy a combo meal or something like that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It felt sickening at some point to know that we’re putting things out there that actually catch people’s souls because that’s what we are meant, what we’re trained to do as communicators, as media makers, as creatives is find a nugget that makes people feel that connectivity to being human and exploit, use, expound upon, whichever one you want to use and sell them a product. That felt really disgusting to me. So I left.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I also just kind of wanted to experience life. I originally wanted to go to Korea to go in … No. I originally wanted to go to Japan, to apprentice with a calligraphy master and eventually become the second black samurai. That’s what I wanted to do. Okay. Because Yasuke is one of my heroes. I was like, “Okay, well, I’m 24. I don’t really have any reason to just stay in one place. I really love of Japan and Japanese culture.”

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I consume Manga and Manhwa and everything. So I wanted to go there. But I applied in Korea as well. Korea got back quicker. I knew that I didn’t have the resources to just travel. I knew that I’d have to work. Teaching English felt like an easy way because I’m really good with languages too. Then I didn’t mind kids. So I was like, “All right. So if I teach English, I can save up money. I can travel. I can build some character, learn about different things. Maybe I’ll still figure out how to be a samurai.”

Maurice Cherry:
I mean. Matshoshi, the samurai, it has a nice ring to it.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right? That’s what I thought. I thought. Everything. I was going to have my braids. It was going to be so cool.

Maurice Cherry:
So you decide to leave Johannesburg, leave South Africa, go to South Korea. I’m sure it was a big culture shock. But what ways did I guess … So many questions. One, how was it a culture shock for you? Two, like when you think back to that time, what really sticks out to you the most?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
The funny thing is that I think moving here was more of a culture shock for me than moving to Korea.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yes. The reason being is culturally, I think indigenous cultures, we tend to have similar social structures in the sense that you never address your elders by their first name. You defer. There’s a different type of way of speaking, which is more formal or informal. That was familiar to me. There were things like gestures to show reverence for older people. You don’t just hand somebody something without supporting your arm. It was universal.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
All of these things were apparent even before I learned the language. So those things felt familiar. Also our families tend to stay together. Your grandparents raise you or have a part in raising you. You grow up not just as a nuclear family. The idea of all for one, one for all, we share resources. There’s even a word in Korean called chong, which is the direct and same meaning as a word in one of my language called Ubuntu. Ubuntu and chong, loosely translated, mean the spirit of humanity. That we are beholden to as humans and should respect and impart upon each other. That’s powerful to me.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting that moving from South Africa to Korea was not that big a shock, but moving … Yeah. I could see how moving to the us would be a big, it’s definitely a huge change for that especially depending on the part of the country that you’re in. Because even what you’re describing in terms of that familial structure, I’m from the like deep south, from Alabama. In a way, it’s sort of similar to that.

Maurice Cherry:
The town I grew up in, Selma, is a very insular town. So even as you’re describing that family structure and reverence of elders and things like that, that’s still very much a thing. Now, it might be different in other parts of the country. Actually I know it’s different in other parts of the country. But yeah, even depending on where you would move here and settle in, it is totally, totally different.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I mean, there were the obvious things, right? There were reactions to my skin color, obviously. We’ll get into the not so nice things about that. There were reactions to my hair. There were to my perfume because when I had moved there, black people, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t use Cocoa butter or Shea butter. That’s just what it is. There at the time, it was difficult to find things that we were accustomed to, like lotion that doesn’t have whitening agent in it, or deodorant. I had to import some stuff because it was just not commonly used. So there were so many reactions, reactions to my hair obviously.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I remember one day standing at a bus stop. I felt something tugging at the back of my braids. I was like, “What the hell is going on?” I turn around, and there’s these two really small grannies, and their faces are all wrinkled, like crinkle paper. They’re playing with my hair. Then I have this moment of, “Don’t touch my hair.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
At the same time, I’m looking at their expressions. I had learned a little bit of Korean then. I understood what they were saying. They were saying A, that my hair was beautiful and that it looked so familiar to a style that their ancient Koreans used to do as well because they also used to braid hair. Right? Braids were something that royalty used to have. So they were talking about that. I decided to focus on that aspect of the conversation.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Even though it was a teaching moment, like, “Next time, please ask.” It was also a humbling moment for me to have grannies that are 70, 80 years old being fascinated with my hair, and not from a judgemental perspective. That’s the beauty I drew from those moments. But when there was full out racism, oh man. Whoo. I had direct jobs declined because I’m black. People were not shy to say.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Very clearly, “We need you to speak in an American accent in order to have this job.” We had to send photos in with our resume. The moment they got my photos, they would just say, “No, sorry. You’re not what the school wants to represent itself by.” In other words, you’re not blonde, white haired and blue eyed. Yeah. There were some serious racial offenses. But as you know, those are all over the world, if you’re walking around in a black body.

Maurice Cherry:
This is true. But I would imagine, even more so in such a homogenous country like South Korea or in Japan or something like that. It’s definitely a lot worse because what it does … I mean, it’s one thing for it to be racism, but similar to how it is. Well, maybe not so similar to how it is in the United States. It just impedes how far you can go in society. It keeps you, the racism keeps you down literally at a level where it’s preventing employment and any like social rise in that way.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right. But at the same time, it was a balance of, yes, I’m being racially profiled, and these things are happening. I’m not able to make a living in some. There were some spots where it was really bad. I was like, “Oh my gosh, if I don’t get another contract, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” But then at the same time, because teaching wasn’t the only thing I was doing there, I was performing music. I was doing like graphic design and design stuff, freelance and production assistant on some films, and things like that, because I never stopped being a creative. In those areas, because of what I looked like. I had so many opportunities. I was a wedding singer.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Because everybody had this idea of a black soul woman in a red dress, just like belting out these love songs from the fifties and jazz. I was like, all right, I’ll play that role. Sure.

Maurice Cherry:
That is amazing.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Oh my gosh. There was aspects of living in Korea that was so fun. I got perform on stages. I got to do weddings. I got to be in a couple of movies and ads. I got to sing in K-pop songs. It was the truth, and purely because of being black and because of the consumption of black culture. So I have to sit with myself and reconcile some of the really negative feelings around that. But for the most part, I was just like, “Okay. At least in the granded scheme of my life, I can say I once did this.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, those are the kind of memories you keep with you for a lifetime, just great stories too, to tell, to get to know people and things like that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
So in 2016 you ended up relocating here to the United States, in Minneapolis. How was it, making that change?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was brutal. It was brutal. I wasn’t even based in Minneapolis first. I was based in Duluth College. Duluth, it’s a college town, but it’s also an old town. So not a lot of people around my age. It was in the middle of winter. I’d never experienced a winter here.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow. You went to one of the coldest parts of the country in the winter. My goodness.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It was brutal, but it was I think a character building exercise for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more homesick than in those years. Especially considering the political climate too, being in a small town in an almost reddish state, and being highly aware of how many or how few black people there were in the vicinity was very jarring for me.

Maurice Cherry:
Did it ever get that cold in Korea?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Oh yeah. I mean, it did get cold. I think the Minnesota cold hits different though because of all the other things. Right? Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. No, I feel you. Yeah, totally. Also you came, because if you came in the winter of 2016, I mean, that was just such a contentious time in this country because we had the change in leadership from Obama to the president whose name I shall not mention. All of that combined, did you feel like at the time, that you had made the wrong choice?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Absolutely. I had so many moments of … I was like, “Why would I choose this? Why, why, why?” But I also know that life has peaks and valleys. If anybody grew up the way that we grew up with all the things that we’ve seen, this is nothing. In the grander scheme of things, there’s growth to be had here. That’s why I think I’m still in the city, is that I feel like the city is a place for treading water and refining, refining.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
This is a place where I refined. Okay. I want to work in tech. But what do I actually want to do in terms of my career? Is my career serving my purpose, innate purpose or is it something that I do for money? Do I feel like the surroundings or the circumstance determine my happiness? I’ve had to be very, very, very active and intentional about answering those questions for myself because it would’ve been really, a much harder time, if not. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How has the Minneapolis like creative community been for you? I mean, it sounds like wherever you’ve managed to go or wherever you’ve managed to be, you’ve tapped into some creative community, whether it’s in Johannesburg. In Korea, you mentioned being a wedding singer and all this stuff. Have you found like similar creative opportunities or communities like that in Minneapolis?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
When I’m being intentional about it, yes. This is except for the past two years.

Maurice Cherry:
Right, right. Because of the pandemic. Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right. The thing that I appreciate about here is that even though it was very difficult to find black, brown communities, there are things that show up, like events. If you’re active, you can figure it out. I mean, I had, at some point been planning my month’s activities in advance to go to book launches or independent films or live sketch, anything that would put me in proximity to creativity and art ,like visiting galleries or talks or going to photographer’s exhibition, something, anything. When you do that, then it is very possible to find a bunch of creative people. Right now, I’ve been attending a lot of virtual things and slowly getting into communities. There’s pockets of really interesting things that are happening in the city because oddly enough, there’s tons of funding for the arts, like tons of funding for the arts.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So when you really go out there, you realize that it may not necessarily be completely futurist yet. But there’s an underbelly of building here that’s really exciting. Black people owning co-ops, black people owning artist collectives and exhibition spaces, black people putting on shows and music and theater and everything. You’re just like, “Wow, this is actually really great. I never expected it here.” I would always be going to Chicago and New York, around LA to find those. But more and more, I think people are actually staying in Minneapolis and deciding to build it here rather than seek it elsewhere.

Maurice Cherry:
We just had on the show a few weeks back, someone that’s in Minnesota. Terresa Moses, she’s an educator at the University of Minnesota. She also has a design studio called Blackbird Revoke. I’ve had other folks on the show, I think in the past, that have been in and around Minnesota. Of course, as I mentioned to you, I know some people there just personally. So I’ve always heard like great things about the community there. I’m glad you were able to really sort of tap into that, to hopefully make it feel … I don’t want to say like home, but at least feel like it’s a place where you can be.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah, absolutely. I actually know Terresa.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh really? Okay. All right. Nice. Tell her I said hello.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Oh yeah. I will go tell.

Maurice Cherry:
You mentioned to me that you wanted to talk about how to embrace being a black creative influx. I’m sure that a lot of folks in our audience want to know how to embrace that, especially during the midst of this very uncertain, weird time that we’ve been now in for about two years. Can you like expand on that?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So when I think about that, it’s essentially how in this time of what it means to be a black body working in corporate world, especially in a creative profession, our creativity is very closely linked to our identity. Now you’re working with your identity, and your identity is now your work. So you have to really think about like, how do I separate? How do I accept that my emotions, my state of being, my home life, all of these things, the fact that I’m in a black body is going to influence my work, whether I like it or not? The expectations that are put on us to be at the forefront of creating new isms, and memes, and things, and media can, I think, lead to a little bit of an identity crisis.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I’m saying this out loud because I’ve certainly felt that way sometimes, and embracing the fact that A, you don’t have to be one thing. That’s been the biggest thing for me is that yes, the messaging around find your passion, gear your emotion and your focus and your work towards that passion. Then it’ll turn around for you. Hopefully, be equitable.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yes. But also we are multifaceted intersectional beings. Right? Half of the time, all of the way that we are around working and being productive and showing that we are worth anything is very Western. Being in one lane is a very, very just constrictive way of being. Part of me kind of realigning myself with my cultural learnings and what feels true to myself has been this, having grace for myself to say, “Okay. So I’m an illustrator, but I’m also a singer, but I’m also a writer, but I’m also a great arter. I’m also a really great technologist.I am also a great philosopher.” These are all the things that I am and more, and I can be good at all of them. I can be good at all of them. I don’t need to be good at all of them at the same rate at all, all the time. But I can certainly not squeeze myself into one lane feeling like that’s it; and if I don’t do that, then I’m not worth anything.

Maurice Cherry:
So what is it that sort of keeps you motivated and inspired these days, like knowing that?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
The funny thing is I inadvertently surround myself, maybe not even physically, but I somehow manage to find people that when we connect, we remind each other of our natural frequency of joy. Whether that be just a conversation or exchanging a message or something, just to reset and remind and inspire. Right? That’s what keeps me going. I have a friend of mine that like a ton of my friends, we don’t maybe not even speak to each other for six months at a time. But when we do speak, it was just like, “Oh, I remember what it feels like to be really happy existing in this time right now.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
That’s it. Then on a more practical sense is not stopping the things you know bring you joy on a practical day to day level. Things like journaling doodling without purpose, not thinking of the final product, whatever it may be taking pictures, cooking, doing something that removes you from being in front of the screen all day. Right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Don’t stop doing those things and don’t stop documenting because when you feel like there’s absolutely nothing left, then you have a whole archive of things to remind yourself that you are more than your work. You are more than productivity, and that you are an actual massive being.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I feel like that a collective thing that a lot of people have started to really discover within themselves this year. We hear all this talk in the news about the great resignation and people casting away. Casting away the jobs that they may have once had under pre pandemic life and doing their own thing. I know so many people over the past two years that have ditched their jobs just to become quote-unquote “content creators”.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a very broad term, but they’re doing stuff on YouTube. They’re doing stuff on TikTok. They’re podcasting. They’re doing any number of things that are not what they were doing beforehand because they realized as society shut down and things got stripped away, they realized what’s really important. For many of them, it was not the jobs they were doing. So they had to tap into who they were and find out how they could become more of that authentic self and really lean into that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right. Then also balancing the pressure of even if it’s okay to be multiple things, it’s also okay to be one thing. I think we have this pendulum swing that keeps the happening where it’s like stick in your lane or be a complete hustler and have five different, six different hustles going on at the same time. But some people aren’t built that way. The true thing is to really take the time to know yourself and understand how you built and go with that. It doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s thing.

Maurice Cherry:
Absolutely. Do you feel like you’re living your life’s purpose now or do you think you’re still searching for that?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I think that’s a constant search. I the think if I ever assumed that I know or that I have found, then my ignorance is really set in deep, personally. If I don’t continue searching, refining, pivoting, learning, becoming new, then I personally feel that I’m denying the very nature of existence. Our cells change on a daily basis. You’re not the same yesterday as you are today. Our personalities, our minds are constantly evolving. So for me, that means that everything should be constantly moving. Will I find some lanes that I’m comfortable in? Sure. But to say that it’s found, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Maurice Cherry:
I remember, I think this probably went around a couple of years ago about how the body cells replace themselves every seven to 10 years. So in many ways, you’re literally physical not the same person that you were because your body is always in a state of change.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
To that end, and I mentioned this because you had touched on this a little bit before we started recording. But where do you see yourself in the next five years? Is it staying in Minneapolis? What do you want to do or where do you want to be in the next five years?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I know for a fact that I’m building my life to be as such that I don’t need to call one place home. I want to be three months in one country, three months in another country, in another city and another, and be comfortable in all those places because I know that that’s what I need, to be a structured nomad, I suppose. Because that’s fun for me. I love learning. I love being immersed in different cultures. I love languages. I love building and designing from that perspective of having multiple sources of influx. That makes me excited.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So that’s one of the things I’m building my life as such to make that easy for me, whether that means also delving into real estate and understanding how that works, so that I can have another passive income that’s actively happening. So I can facilitate my being able to move around, whether that’s increasing my technical knowledge and skill. I mean, I can definitely work from home from anywhere in the world. But the more proficient I become in my particular field right now or the things that I’m able to do, whether it be the illustration or the UX or design, getting even better at that. So that it’s easy for me to move around, and I’m not encumbered by one contract.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I think I also definitely want to pursue some business aspirations that I’ve had that have been lurking around. Yeah. So that’s it. I want to be in a state where I can live anywhere in the world for three months at a time, unencumbered, be working whichever way it is. Whether it’s through my own business or through contracts, and to be exploring and learning about different cultures, and also being able to spend a lot more time with my family because I don’t like this, what’s been happening for the past two years and not being able to hold my mom. I need to be able to give my mom a hug, and my brothers. It’s intense. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I just got to see my mom this summer back in July. I mean, it came unfortunately at a tragic time because my grandmother had passed away suddenly. That was the first time I got to hug her was after that happened. Oh my god. Yeah. I know exactly what you mean. I know because I live in Atlanta. My folks live in Alabama. People will ask me like, “Oh, why don’t you do what you do in New York or in San Francisco,” or da, da, da, or whatever. I’m like, “Look, I got to be close to home.” Even if it’s just a state over, that’s close enough. I can’t go too far out like that. I would love to, maybe one day, but yeah. Sorry. That brought up something that was not … I was not expected to go there. Oh my god. No, no, no.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
It’s real though. It’s real.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s real though. Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
When you feel it in your chest and in your throat, and you realize that such a simple thing … Right now, there’s not even any words for it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Yeah. I mean I want to travel with my mom. That’s the next thing I want to … This is strange. I don’t know why old people like cruise ships, but it’s fine.

Maurice Cherry:
Look, oh my god. My mom, my mom wants to go on an Alaskan whaling cruise or something like that.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
Exactly. Oh my goodness.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m like, “You’ll be by yourself, lady. I’m not doing that.”

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I’m so shook. I’m like, “What? Okay. That’s what we’re going to do.” So yeah. Yeah. I want to build a life where I can fully take care of myself and my mom, and my family. Just be like, “All right, we’re going to be on a cruise ship for the next couple of months.” Because that’s what you want to do. Let’s do it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work and everything online?

Matshoshi Matsafu:
So everything is under my first name Matshoshi on the Grams and Twitter. That’s M-A-T-S-H-O-S-H-I. Also my website is Matshoshi.com. You can see all of my design work, and my forays into creative experiments there. So yeah, that’s where I am. Sometimes I’m vocal online, but most times I’m not because I live in the moment. That’s just the way I function. So if you catch an illustration or a thought here and there, cool. But I mean, I’m there.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Matshoshi Matsafu, thank you so much for coming on the show. One, really for just sharing your perspective of working in the world and creativity in different countries and stuff. But just sharing your story, sharing the deep thought that you have behind your work and around, your artistic practices and everything.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I’m kind of getting a little tongue tied. This was such a really good interview because we didn’t really talk about your work that much. But I’m glad that you were able to really just talk about who you were and showing how being a black, creative is not just the work that you do. It encompasses so many different things. I really feel you embody that. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Matshoshi Matsafu:
I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

Terell Cobb

Back in the day, the path to becoming a designer might have meant attending an expensive art school, interning at a design studio or an ad agency, and then working your way up the corporate ladder. But this week’s guest, Terell Cobb, illustrates how you can become a successful designer by carving your own path!

Our conversation begins with a look at Terell’s work at Microsoft, and he talks about his day-to-day schedule, working with his team of designers and researchers, and gives a peek into Black Designers of Microsoft and how they work as a group. Terell also spoke about how his athletic career as a football player taught him about design, and shared with me some mentors who have helped him become the designer he is today. With his drive and ambition, Terell Cobb is definitely someone to keep your eye on for the future!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Terell Cobb:
My name is Terrell Cobb. I am a design lead over at Microsoft as part of the Digital Transformation Studios.

Maurice Cherry:
Digital Transformation Studios, that sounds super lofty. And I’m sure we’re going to get into that. But before we do, how has 2021 been for you so far? How have things been going?

Terell Cobb:
2021 has been a great ride for me. I believe that last year during the pandemic, it was learning how to be more self-sufficient at home and also taking care of a fam all while taking care of myself as well. And I think within 2021, I’ve gained the appreciation of changing states and moving, and then also starting to center life around just taking care of me and also taking care of the family. It’s been a good ride so far.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Also you moved to Texas this year then.

Terell Cobb:
When Microsoft had the opportunity for flex work, I took advantage of that and got an opportunity to come back to the Dallas area and get to some familiarity and also just enjoy the atmosphere that we’re in right now. Sorry to rub that into Pacific Northwest folks.

Maurice Cherry:
I was going to ask what’s changed for you last year, but clearly location’s been a big part of that.

Terell Cobb:
Yeah. And the sun, and being able to see the sun.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Being a design lead at Microsoft over the platform that you mentioned, can you tell me about that? What all does that entail?

Terell Cobb:
The Digital Transformation Studios is conglomerate of several spaces within that Microsoft. One of those spaces in which I work in is the business applications group. Business applications group are the parts of the business that actually build applications for large enterprise customers. And being able to sit in that part of the arena of Microsoft, it allows me to see how businesses are, specifically using supply chain and provide certain intelligent solutions to that supply chain space.

Maurice Cherry:
What does your team make up look like?

Terell Cobb:
My team today is made up of a couple of designers and also a researcher. However, one of the things that we kind of anchor to within Microsoft is being able to go with an A1 Microsoft mindset. So I also consider my engineers and PMs as part of my tetra or my team as well. I have an amazing group of people that I get to build amazing things with on a daily basis.

Maurice Cherry:
I feel like that’s been a fairly new development within companies to have a researcher on the design team, as it relates to what you’re doing, how does that work?

Terell Cobb:
I appreciate research so much. I believe I’m one of the biggest advocates for research and also content design. But specifically research, I believe that they’re the silver lining of experiences and if we don’t have their heartbeat of what the experience should be, we’re building in the wrong direction and that could be expensive over time.

Maurice Cherry:
I can see how certainly if you feel like you’re going in one direction and internally, you might think that’s a good a thing and then your users are using it and it’s something completely different. They’re not responsive to it or receptive to it like you want to and you have to go back to the drawing board.

Terell Cobb:
Exactly. I think just being southern and being from the south, you hear those proverbs like it’s wrong to run 100 miles per hour in the wrong way. You would want to go in the right way so that you’re not making further mistakes. Start of the project, they’re essential to the midpoint of the project and they’re essential to the delivery part of the project.

Maurice Cherry:
Walk me through what a typical day looks like for you.

Terell Cobb:
A typical day for me these days are just a bunch of new negotiating. It’s either negotiating confidence of how much confidence a user is going to be exposed to by the options or things that we’re building. It’s also the negotiation of time of how much should the team be leveraged against a certain initiative? What are we talking about six months from now? What are we planning for a year from now? How do we engage the team itself? And I think recently, really taking a step back away from just design as a delivery, as a process, to more of enjoying the process of actually designing and the delivery will get there, but actually taking the time to enjoy the process of discovery, going into definition, going into actually defining from the research and actually delivering something that’s powerful.

Maurice Cherry:
And I’d imagine in that process, you’re also working in sprints and making sure everyone’s up to speed in other parts of the company or maybe other parts of your team, because you mentioned engineers as well that you’re working with.

Terell Cobb:
Indeed. It’s a healthy balance of speed and quality. And I know not a lot of other designers out there have to deal with most of that. But being at a large enterprise company like Microsoft, there’s nothing new under the sun and you have to bring in your best pudding on what that solution could be next, if that makes any sense.

Maurice Cherry:
No, that makes a lot of sense. Now, also at Microsoft, you’re the co-founder of an employee resource group there called Black Designers At Microsoft, which is for black designers at Microsoft. Tell me how that whole thing came about.

Terell Cobb:
Yeah. So the amazing story behind that is that I came into Microsoft and previously started other groups like Dallas Black UX. And also while I was at Capital One, worked with a couple of folks to kind of co-found the Black and Design Employee Resource Group there. When I got to Microsoft, it was more of, hey, I’m just going to focus on my career and a climb. I’m going to leave the Employee Resource Group to the side. I’m going to just stay focused and do this. First day walking in, I meet another black designer and she basically says to me, [Cherryanne 00:09:37] Porter from Houston basically says to me that, “Hey, I’ve never worked with a black designer before you are my first black designer that I’ve ever worked with before.”

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Terell Cobb:
And that was the inkling of, okay, here we go. We’re about to do it again.

Maurice Cherry:
You’re like the Grand Theft Auto meme , you’re like, “Oh, shit here we go again.”

Terell Cobb:
Here we go. It then intensified by both of us being on the same team and actually going to orientation. And when we went to orientation, we saw on the screen another black designer that was a part of the studio. We were like, “Wait a second, where is she?” And this is Zoe and she’s been inside of the studio, but pretty much could not find her. And then low and behold, the next all hands we meet with each other and we’re like, “Huh, okay. There has to be more of us. Where are we?” I think along with that and just how big the company is, along with some of the understanding of designers being disenfranchised from not even being inside of the world of design from a black designer standpoint, we took that as an opportunity to build something ourselves inside of Microsoft and grow the talent that’s internal but then also attract talent that’s external to the company as well.

Maurice Cherry:
That sort of feeds into what I was going to ask. What sorts of things is the group doing internally and in the larger community, but recruitment sounds like a big part at least of that external, I guess, outreach of the group. Is that right?

Terell Cobb:
Indeed. I think if we look at just some of the general grounding of the group itself, it’s based in on not just looking at one form of design. That’s one of the biggest differences there. It’s not just a UX designer and you’re a part of the group. It’s more so of design with the capital D as it’s reference from our fearless leader, Jonah Sterling, it is design, it’s research, it’s producers, it’s data science, motion designers, audio designers, front end development, illustration. All of these people are a part of the group and the key points there is getting into the intentional community to influence diversity. Influencing diversity internal to therefore make it external, just creating that ripple so that we can continue to build from the inside out and doing that, it was growing the community itself by creating teams channel in safe places along with the opportunity to do share outs, hackathons right now anybody in the group can kind of spin up a opportunity for someone to have a quick review and they can basically get started and you’ll have multiple people join in to give them feedback.

Terell Cobb:
And it’s different because you’re getting feedback from friends in that sense. I could tell you, “No, bro, that’s not going to make it. That may not make it bro, or I like that, that’s going to be amazing.” And it’ll be a little bit different because it feels that it’s coming from that place that we get most of our things from that feels safe for us. Continuing to drive that type of community was important to us and doing it internally through the community piece, but then also reaching out to external to the community and going after middle schools and high schools and also HBCUs. Last year we had a couple of events where we actually partnered with some of the HBCUs out there to kind of expose the craft of design to them.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. When I was in an HBCU some twenties years ago, one of the first company, one of the first tech companies I interviewed with was Microsoft. And actually, I mean, I think I’ve told this story on the podcast before I’m well outside of college now, so I can sort of tell the story, how I scan my way in there. But essentially I was a math major in college and my whole thing was I was part of this program that was sponsored by NASA, my scholarship and everything. And so the goal was like, oh, well, when you graduate college, you’re going to work for one of these NASA facilities. I had interned at two NASA facilities. So in my mind, I’m thinking, boom career set when I graduate NASA. 911 happens.

Maurice Cherry:
And when that happened, the funding for my program got pulled and it went towards Homeland Security. And so this whole guarantee of, oh, well you’re going to work for NASA when you graduate completely gone. I’m like, damn, I got to find a way to … I don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate because I was working at the high museum selling tickets for $8.70, not making real kind of money and really had no prospects of career stuff. But I had sort of gotten in really good with the computer science department, with the secretary there, shout out to Mrs. Banks. I don’t know if she is even still there or not, but got in really good with her, started hanging out in the computer lab and stuff, started hanging out in her office and that got me access to this interview book.

Maurice Cherry:
And the interview book was basically juniors and seniors that were interviewing with all these companies and all you had to do was just kind of slip your resume in, put your name down. And I was like, “I’m just going to slip my resume in there and write my name in it.” And I interviewed with real player to show you how long ago that was, that went nowhere.

Maurice Cherry:
And then I interviewed with Microsoft and I remember, God, I don’t remember the woman’s name, who I interviewed with, but it was a black woman interview with her and she gave me one interview question. She was like, design an alarm clock for a blind person. And she slid over a sheet of paper and a pen. And I was like, just walk me through your process. And I’m like, “Oh, okay.” So I was talking through, oh, we should do this. And it should vibrate and maybe have sound and all this kind of … She was like, okay, all right, great. And she took it and she put it in a folder, shook my hand. And that was it. That was the interview. I was like, “That’s it.” Apparently it was good enough because they flew me out to Seattle to do an interview with Microsoft and they had it in this sort of almost an elimination style.

Maurice Cherry:
I don’t know if the interviews are like this now, but you do the first interview and if you pass the first one, you go to the second one. If you pass the second one, you go to the third one. And this was all day for an internship. I remember because this started at maybe 8:00 AM and it was getting until around maybe 7:00 PM. I was tired. And I forget what the question was, it was something about notepad and right to left text or something. And I think it was at that point that they realized, oh, wait a minute, you’re not a computer science major are you? Because it was some programming stuff and I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know how to do this and I didn’t get the internship, but I remember vividly being on the campus and everything and when I think of companies that have sort of given me a chance in college, like Microsoft was that one company.

Maurice Cherry:
The fact that you all are still doing HBCU research now some 20 something years later is a testament to the fact that you all have put skin in the game and that it’s not just, oh, we need to look for a diversity. Where should we look? Why do I look at black colleges? You all have been doing this now for a long time.

Terell Cobb:
Indeed. It’s incredibly rewarding not just to win by yourself, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see others win and see that spark in a high school as I, that, wait a second, I can become a designer. I could be a researcher, I can work at Microsoft is like, yeah. Actually, one of the previous workshops with CodeHouse, shout out to CodeHouse in Atlanta who brought in 29 students from Morehouse and Spelman at the time. And we ran through just roughly about a six hour to seven hour workshop with design. And you can kind of see the amazing minds that are there and applying design thinking to those amazing minds, our leaders coming behind us are going to be crazy good. And I think that is the reward that most of us get from that because there’s a great chance that, hey, we will be working with these leaders later on in life. It’s extremely rewarding.

Maurice Cherry:
And I would say the fact that you mentioned high schoolers and middle schoolers, you’re going past just reaching them while they’re in college. You’re getting them at a really pivotal age when they can make a decision on where do I want to go in terms of, I want to say my career, I really think it’s unfair to sort of burden an 18 year old with that anyway. But the fact that you’re showing them that this is an option because now social media and technology is ubiquitous. When I was a teenager in the nineties, there was Game Boy, there was Tomagotchi, there were Super Nintendo. It was all consumer electronic sort of stuff. Certainly no smartphones or anything like that. But now you can show them you can be more than just a consumer or a user. You can be a creator. You can be someone that makes this stuff and to show them that at such a pivotal young age, at middle school and high school is really something.

Terell Cobb:
That is so key. I mean, and even if they choose not to become a designer, we still win because we just taught them design thinking. So now from that point on, they have that emotional intelligence or that critical thinking mass to take with them to the next adventure. And I think that’s part of the reward back to us as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Absolutely. Now, let’s kind of switch gears here a little bit. You mentioned being in Texas, is that where you also grew up?

Terell Cobb:
No, actually I grew up in South Florida in a small town called Boynton Beach, which is roughly about 40 minutes north of Miami.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Growing up there, were you exposed a lot to design and everything?

Terell Cobb:
Not at all. I like to tell the story this way, that growing up in Boynton and also just South Florida in general, you’re growing up in a football arena. And there’s not much else to do outside of football. You got the notoriety that you had from football. There’s countless of times of pretty much kids starting playing football at four years old. And you could see those kids training and practicing with parachutes at four or five, just trying to get faster and trying to get better there. It’s still to this day, I believe the, South Florida is leading in the most NFL prospects within the country. And it’s not by chance. It’s just simply because of the arena of how important football is in those areas. Because of that, that had gave me an opportunity to be exposed to being a football player, but just doing it a little differently.

Terell Cobb:
I still had some of the tenacity of being on the D line and knowing how to use my hands and knowing how to be fast and running 707s with different people. But I also found a unique ability of me actually setting up the field. I love the aspect of walking each five yards and putting a cone or a shoe or a hat down to say that this was a first down or this was a yard marker. Or this was going to be the goal line, even down to cones. I’ll never look at orange cones the same ever in my life, because I would take these orange cones and you would create different patterns a pentagon, a triangle, a square, a circle, depending on the pattern that’s on the ground, that’s where your feet or your toes would interact with in order to beat the drill.

Terell Cobb:
I got really good at setting up these cones. I really started to understand well, wait a second, I’m good at this. I can also draw a little bit, where is this leading me? I just said no, don’t worry about it. I’m good. I’m going to just put that to the side and continue all with life as is. But the opportunity presented itself when I got into college once leaving the Boynton area. But I appreciate the hardships of Boynton because it taught me the lessons that were needed to be a champion on the things that came to me afterwards.

Maurice Cherry:
I know what you mean about sort of growing up in that crucible of football. I mean, I’m from South Alabama, well, South central, Alabama, and it’s either Alabama or Auburn. One of the two. I know what it is about … And I remember, there were like those Pop Warner football leagues and stuff like that. And I wanted to be, and my mom was like, “No, you’re not doing that.” But I remember there would be six-year-old, seven-year-olds in pads tackling. I remember that vividly exactly about growing up that whole thing about just really getting into football.

Terell Cobb:
Exactly. I mean, that’s exactly it, but I think this is how I attribute back how football taught me design because being one of those four-year-olds out there with the helmet that can’t hardly hold myself up, but making tackles, it’s not just the football field, it’s the people, it’s the cars around the football field. It’s the atmosphere of the lights being on at a certain time. It’s the concession stands as part of food trucks before food trucks were food trucks. It was all of that atmosphere that kind of gave me a sense of how not knowing at that time, but how designed was working or things were designed around me.

Maurice Cherry:
I was in the margin band too in middle school and high school. Every Friday night, it’s a whole production. It’s a whole production. The whole thing. Absolutely. Given that football kind of taught you design in that way, that’s also why you ended up studying it I would imagine in college and you went to Washburn University.

Terell Cobb:
Well, the interesting thing, I went to Washburn University but I think prior to Washburn University, I like to tell the story this way that I earned my way to the middle of Kansas at a junior college called Butler County Community College by not getting great grades in high school. That also earned me the opportunity to see a deer for the first time, see a cow for the first time, didn’t know turkeys could fly found that out.

Maurice Cherry:
And they’re mean, they’re very mean bird, probably because we eat them every year.

Terell Cobb:
It was so interesting to have that culture shock from being from the city and brick and hardship and going into country immediately. The school itself was a college, a cemetery, a Walmart and an oil field. The rest was just the school. It was a stark reality of, hey, if you want to excel in life, there are some things that you will have to do. And that stark reality basically helped me understand what the direction I wanted to go into next. And so as part of the Juco experience, you get an opportunity for teams from across the country to come in and actually draft you or actually pick you up or recruit you from that location. It’s actually high school part two. And during that process, the school Washburn drove about maybe three to four hours down the road in Kansas and actually picked me up and took me to the campus.

Terell Cobb:
And it was one of those moments where you step in and look around like, man, this is nice. I think I could do this. And it was slow and it feel like academia that you saw in the movies for my aspect. And I think that’s what drew me to it because I saw a calmness or a piece around it. And I think heading there starting out, it wasn’t immediately designed. It was jumping directly into psychology. And I thought for sure that I was going to be a psychologist actually getting up to somewhat of my senior year in psychology classes and actually stopping and actually working as security as part of the design as part of the work study football job, making sure that people log off the Mac lab, I guess, I got the opportunity to play on the computers from every once in a while. And the classes that were more of the later classes were the illustrator, the photoshop. I’m going to date myself now, flash multimedia or SWiSH Max classes.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh my God. SWiSH. Oh my God, you took it back. You really took it back with SWiSH.

Terell Cobb:
Being able to see those classes actually happen gave me an opportunity to be like, “Wait a second, they’re doing what I was doing, but drawing, but they’re making stuff move. They’re making their drawings move.” How is that happening though? Wait a second, and think after talking with the professor that night, I actually went in the next day and changed my major to art and then started to go down this path of being the football player, leaving practice with an easel, running across the football field with an easel and all of my art materials and running into the art lab and of course sitting in the corner because pretty much I’m just leaving football practice and fresh hour, but still just leaving football practice, four hours of practice.

Terell Cobb:
I dealt with that dynamic for two more years and it was incredibly beneficial for me just simply because it started to introduce me into graphic design. I was always exposed to graphic design on via bubble letters, airbrush tees, just drawing certain things for certain people, but just didn’t know that it was actual profession behind it. And being able to make that correlation there kind of sparked my career into the design world.

Maurice Cherry:
Getting that exposure to it, knowing that this is something it’s an option that you can take because prior to that design was something that you just sort of consumed, like you mentioned in these sort of bubble letters and stuff like that. But now knowing, oh wait, I can do that too. I can make that. I mean, even that whole setup about leaving football practice and going to our class with a easel, sounds like a feel good holiday movie or something. I mean, if you ever want to transcribe that to a story, I bet Hallmark can pick it up. That sounds pretty dope.

Terell Cobb:
I may have to do that. That’s a good idea. I receive that.

Maurice Cherry:
What were those early days post-college in terms of your career, you’ve graduated now, you were majoring in graphic design. What was next after that?

Terell Cobb:
It was the real world posting its first challenge to me. I think that first challenge to me was getting into an internship. Well, as a football player, you’re spending 40 hours a week on football. So you’re not able to kind of go and market yourself to other agencies and say, hey, I’m a designer. I could do these things. It just wasn’t acceptable or it wasn’t available for you. But in my case, the real world slap that was put in front of me was in order to work my internship, which I finally got at a local ad agencies, Joan Youths And Partners there in Topeka, Kansas, I was only able to do that into on Fridays from roughly 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. In order to be able to do that, I’m finished with school, but of course I have to make money somehow.

Terell Cobb:
I hustled my way into talking to a Topeka Youth Project, a local small school that taught kids that were 15 to 21 jobs and life skill readiness. It was my job to go out to the local fast food restaurants, the local libraries, anybody who had a job for 18 and actually become a business representative and pitch the school to that company to say, hey, I know you manager, and I know this kid that I just taught this class, you guys sound like you’ll be a great match. You should probably hire this kid. Getting the kid hired, that was the first indication of negotiation and stakeholder agreements. Knowing how to actually have those conversations. While doing that, I was only able to work. I believe it was 28 hours a week or 25 hours a week with that company. In order to do that as a business representative, I bargain to say, hey, let me help you with your website and your logo as well.

Terell Cobb:
I’ll do your website and your logo, and I’ll also be your business representative. I was doing that. A normal day for me post college, and this is how bad I really wanted to be in this world of design. I worked from 8:00 AM to roughly about 3:00 PM, Monday through Wednesday at the Topeka Youth Project. On Tuesday through Thursday, I was working overnight shift at FedEx, unloading trucks. Pretty much from roughly about 3:00 AM to 7:00 AM. And then in between the Thursday to Friday, I was also unloading packages to Target and basically being a Target shelf, stocker. All so that I can get the internship completed and also get the first level of experience out of the way.

Terell Cobb:
Now, I’m not saying that most design now coming out of college, don’t have to worry about those types of stories and those types of hustles but it was just a slightly different for me being in a small town and just wanting to make this work so bad and not wanting to go back home and say hey, I didn’t do it, I didn’t make it. That was the start of hard work makes something out of you. But then also hard work creates the character that you need as you continue to progress.

Maurice Cherry:
You were hustling.

Terell Cobb:
It had to happen.

Maurice Cherry:
That reminds me a lot of, there’s another guest we had on the show several, several years ago, his name is Ben [Lindo 00:32:19]. He’s a industrial engineer out of, I think he’s out of Philly or Pittsburgh, one of the two, but he was mentioning how he would do design school. He was doing design school and it was UPS driver at the same time. And would come to class in his UPS uniform and the teacher would always have something to say and that kind of thing but he made it work. I mean, when you’re out there on your own, you have to hustle to make that happen. You have to make those sacrifices, those compromises. And it sounds like you really, really hustled to make that happen. Props to you.

Terell Cobb:
Exactly. And I think it benefited me a lot just because I was exposed to so many different conversations, so many levels of small talk. Many levels of strategy. I knew that I can unload a semi truck of boxes from FedEx in under 56 minutes, holding that record doing that. But I also do the pattern of, if I unload the boxes too fast on the belt it could stop the belt and then pretty much that makes the day longer for other people that are behind me. It’s just so many lessons that are there through that first year out of college.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, it really teaches you the value of hard work too. I mean, I think it’s one thing, if you’re going to school and you manage to land that super cushy gig right out of school, and it’s not too hard, but not too easy. It’s kind of Goldilocks kind of situation but I mean, it’s another thing when you get out and you really have to hustle to carve your way into a position or to get to a point where you’re going to be you hopefully setting yourself up for the future in a good way.

Terell Cobb:
Exactly. I think, just being the first of the family to go to college, first of the family to graduate college, you knew and understood you are your help. It wasn’t something else that you can wait on, you were your help. You were ascending this next avenue in arena so that you can then help your family on the back end of it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Like you said, it’s that thing where you don’t want to go back home defeated. You don’t want to go back home like, oh, I couldn’t make it. That also pushes you and drives you to succeed as well, that feeling.

Terell Cobb:
Yes.

Maurice Cherry:
So you worked for a number of companies between being in Kansas, being in Florida, being in Texas, worked for a lot of places. When you look back at your career, now that you’re at Microsoft, do you feel like there was a particular moment or a particular job or anything where you felt like you had leveled up?

Terell Cobb:
I think it was the first opportunity to leave South Florida in working in the banking industry down there at the credit union where I started to see the shift from design as more so as a graphic or tangible color or button style to design as a product experience element moving forward. And I think that was the transition from working in South Florida at the credit union to getting a first big break at working for Barclays Bank here in the Dallas, Texas area. One of the mentors that I had at the local ad agency who saw the drive of what I was doing actually called me up from the South Florida area like, “Hey, you want to try this out?” It’s like, “Well, no, I’m pretty good. I’m building websites. I’m doing club flyers. I’m good.” I’m around my family, but not too close because I don’t want them to get on my nerves, but pretty much I’m close enough so I can go hug them and come back.

Terell Cobb:
But it really was at that point in which I saw the level kind of change because it went from me being just a single designer/webmaster slash business representative at that local credit union, continuing that trend to not just being a slash, but being a focused disciplined designer. And that was coming into that first level of product design at Barclays there with that company.

Maurice Cherry:
Now also prior to Microsoft, you worked for two other pretty large companies, you worked at Capital One, you also worked at FedEx. Was it a big sort of culture shift going from those two companies? One’s logistics, one’s banking. Going from that to a strict tech company? Was that a big shift?

Terell Cobb:
I mean, the amazing part of my pathway is that each one of those companies had a different element that I’m using today in firms of my leadership and moving forward. Within Capital One in the FinTech arena, you’re constantly thinking about how could you do things as a group? It’s all about innovation, how to be … And I greatly appreciate just being there in that arena because Capital One didn’t consider itself to be a bank. It happened to be, as they say, a tech company that so happens to be a bank. And that opportunity of being with instant innovation all the time and blue sky thinking and being able to stop projects from releasing and saying like, “Hey, wait a second. Was that innovative enough? Are we really proud of this thing.” To the introduction of service design and the introduction of critical thinking and the folks from Adio coming in and merging into that as well.

Terell Cobb:
Capital one taught me somewhat of the college of product thinking and design external to school, external to that other layer of just design as a button color or movement. Capital One gave me the piece of grounding then moving into FedEx it was like, “Wait a second, I’ve learned all these things. I can put these things to use. Do you want to see them?” And they’re like, “Now we’re a little bit more safe here.”

Terell Cobb:
We’re just a bit more safe. But I think the logistics side of FedEx taught me the technical aspect of what an engineer actually has to do in order for packages to arrive at a certain time. Understanding, and I’ll never forget this quote, from one of the engineers he basically said to me, “Terrell, how do you build a tank?” And I was like, “What do you mean? Military builds, tanks? Send a request to the military, they build a tank.” And he was like, “No, if you had to build a tank yourself, how would you start?” And then I think this is similar to your clock challenge here, where an engineer thinking about a tank is going to be the larger items first and then start going into the cogs of the tank and building the cogs to get back out to the larger things, having a base building in, and then starting building out the shell of the tank and the color of the tank, none of that matters to them.

Terell Cobb:
And that gave me the perspective of how an engineer thinks versus a PM thinks versus a designer thinks. Wrapping all of that around and kind of turning the corner here and going back to where I’m at at Microsoft, it was the critical thinking and also being able to take chances at Capital One, also along with the technical understanding and saying, “Hey, I can’t go build this tank without these particular cogs. They’re important to somebody they’re important to the experience. And then they’re also important to the team that’s building it.” So how do I become a technical designer/team player and then entering into one of the largest tech companies in the world, it’s how do you mash up all of that experience into something and make sure that you can speak the engineering language, you can speak the PM language and you also provide the quality and also the confidence within a customer using this product moving forward. Hopefully I’m answering that question in the best way.

Maurice Cherry:
No, that makes a lot of sense. I mean I think that you always want to think about how you can transfer skills when you’re going from one really big, I think, type of company to another one. And granted all of these do have tech sort of at their core in some way, you’re just using that tech to solve different problems.

Terell Cobb:
I think doing that and also keeping the duality of going back to football, no man left behind or no person left behind and going back and sitting having lunch with the engineers, sitting next to them and saying, “Hey, show me what you did because that was kind of dope. How did you do that.” Spending the time to get to know your teammates, getting the time to actually make this analogy football there’s 93 plays to a game. How many times have you talked to your coworkers in a week? How could you start to understand what they’re going through? How could you start to extend to your team and actually give them the same type of comradery that they’re looking for because you are spending a lot of time with that person. Just anchoring back those principles inside of the duality of also having the technical chops to talk workshop, if you needed to.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And one other interesting thing, and you sort of talked about this, I think a little bit at the top of the interview was that you’ve also, maybe not at each of these companies, but certainly you did this at Capital One and now Microsoft, you started these black ERGs. Was it important for you to sort of build that community as you started? How did that manifest itself?

Terell Cobb:
It was incredibly important to see other people like me within the design world. I think like most designers starting out, you’re constantly looking for mentorship and sometimes you have to be the mentor as you rising yourself and you’re providing advice to people, however, you are looking for some advice yourself. And I think within the different groups, it was the opportunity to not only see people that look like you doing amazing things and being able to connect with them and saying or resonating against saying, “Hey, I’ve gone through that as well or I have had this conversation as well,” to more of just that comradery of, have you had an ethics conversation about this design? What did they say about this ethics conversation and being able to just talk shop with them in that way? I think the pleasure that I have within all of these groups is they’re all unique and all based on just different stories of how they got started.

Terell Cobb:
I think within the Capital One space, there were roughly about six of us that stood up at an all hands and were like, hey, I see you. I see you. And it was like, “Well, maybe we should stay in touch.” And then it went from, maybe we should stay in touch to maybe we should have meetings to maybe we should influence more recruiting and to maybe we should have somewhat of a council or somewhat of a type of event. And then with the Capital One piece, it was then like, how do I extend that outside of the company because I can’t just do it from Capital One. How do I also extend inside of the Dallas area? So then it was working with the Bobby Lloyds, the Michael [Tingling 00:44:03], the Labora Willis, the Adrian [inaudible 00:44:06] to kind of expand just create a ripple here in the Dallas area but then also move around to the Houston area.

Terell Cobb:
Just trying our best to create events and also create community for us here. And I think that just followed me just going into the Black Designer space at, at Microsoft because it was so welcomed by other people in that community too. And also the aspect of being able to create something that you know 20 years from now will still be there is something that I get chills over just simply thinking like, hey, that group is going to be amazing because we set it up in that way and they have their heart in the right place.

Maurice Cherry:
When you think back throughout your career, you mentioned mentorship. Who have been some of the mentors that have really helped you out in your career?

Terell Cobb:
Oh, wow. I think there’s some really awesome people out there. I say, some folks like Ty Griffin comes to mind, then there’s, people who were helping that didn’t even know that they were helping, that were just more friendships, right? Like the Tim Allens out there, the Danley Davis is out there. The folks like Dr. [Oco 00:45:30] who was pretty much the person who kind of helped me shift from saying I’m just going to work in a hospital to, hey, I’m going to go to college. I’d say those people along with the Pastor Hicks in Topeka Kansas, the Lisa Carters that are out there and all the football coaches associated with it. Those are some of the people that kind of gave me the drive, but also instilled that I cannot just keep this to myself. I have to also throw the rope back for somebody else or leave a breadcrumb for somebody else behind me so that how I can help them would be beneficial to the future.

Maurice Cherry:
In recent years, what would you say has been, and the biggest lesson that you’ve learned about yourself?

Terell Cobb:
I would say that I’ve learned that I am incredibly a nerd when it comes to setting things up and being deeply in process. I read some of the similar books throughout the week. I have my coffee and sit on the stoop and actually bask in the sun, but also just that appreciation of designing the little things. And I think this recent trip that I just took to Denmark for a designed workshop there kind of reminded me as I saw enabled person, actually leave the train with with a wand who was basically visually impaired, actually get off the train, stumble on the little ground stubbles and pretty much make their way like a boss to the escalator without any help. It was a reminder to me of, somebody thought in process of this person leaving the train in this way, somebody thought about the doorknobs that’s in front of me. Somebody thought about the angles that in front of me, what are the processes that I’m creating for people behind me as well.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you define success now?

Terell Cobb:
I define success a little differently from other people. And I say that just to say that I look at success as an opportunity to succeed. As long as you have that opportunity, I don’t believe that you fail. I believe that you learn. And if you have that opportunity, you started in part of that success you’ve already … To start is success.

Maurice Cherry:
I like that. Because oftentimes really, it’s just that first step that you have to make.

Terell Cobb:
Exactly. You have the thought and you have a couple of seconds to go about that thought or a couple of minutes or that first step. I think we’re a little bit hard on ourselves sometimes and I think just to start in itself is success.

Maurice Cherry:
What would you like the next chapter of your story to be?

Terell Cobb:
I have this grand dream of creating pillars of design practices across the country and their anchor inside of some of the experiences that I’ve had over in the past of the different tech companies or the different businesses that I worked for. But I think mostly the desire to have those communities or those practices is kind of related back to just one in the lead break grounds. My desire is to work on the next 20 years now. There’s an amazing book out there Called What The Forecast. And I look at it almost every week because it kind of puts these brain like exercises in front of you that says it’s five years from now. I am doing this, I’m driving this. I am living here. And it goes from five years to 15 years to 20 years. And I’m constantly thinking about those 20 years just because if you don’t start on it, it’ll just sneak up on you.

Terell Cobb:
That’s my next step here. Just continuing on that path of thinking about those next 20 years. And I have breakfast with some amazing guys, almost every other weekend. And we joke and say, well, we’re talking about our 85 year old self and what our 85 year old self is eating. What could we do now to help our 85 year old self? Are we at 85 and we’re riding motorcycles to eat for breakfast? Are we pulling up in our wheelchairs? Do we have scooters? How mobile do we want to be when we get to that age? I’m constantly thinking about the future in normal yet intriguing terms of life now.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you and about your work and everything online?

Terell Cobb:
Yeah. So if anyone wants to find me on LinkedIn, definitely reach out to me. If I can’t get back to you, I promise you, I will find somebody that can get back to you. Terrell Cobb, T-E-R-E-L-L C-O-B-B on LinkedIn. If you want to follow me on Instagram, it’s a vintage_424. I’m always there. And those are some of the main channels right now where people can find me.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Terrell Cobb, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. One for just giving a peak behind the curtain as to what it is that you do at Microsoft and even how you’ve helped to create community not just inside of Microsoft or designers there, black designers there, but also the help out in the community as well, but really sort of showing the fact that perseverance really the way. There’s so many paths into design, there’s so many ways to be a success or to do anything really in this industry. And I think what your story really illustrates is that there’s no one single way to do things. There’s no one way to be a success. And so hopefully people will get a chance to hear your story and we’ll take that to heart. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Terell Cobb:
This was incredible. Thank you so much, Maurice, I really appreciate it.

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Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

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Roneka Patterson

These past two years have been stressful for all of us in a lot of ways, but this week’s guest is proof that you can find a way to redirect those feelings into something positive. Meet Roneka Patterson, an associate creative director at Hawkeye in Dallas, Texas, and the co-creator of The Unwritten Rules.

Roneka and I talked about adjusting to work from home life, and she shared a bit about her process and what it’s like to be a creative director. From there, we discussed The Unwritten Rules, including how the project was launched last summer with other Black creatives, and she shared how she got Hawkeye on board with amplifying its message. Roneka also spoke about mentorship and how she’s helping local high schoolers discover their creativity as well. Roneka’s motto — “keep going” — is one I think we can all adopt as we move forward and chart our own paths to success in this industry!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Roneka Patterson:
I’m Roneka Patterson. I’m an associate creative director with an art director background. I work at Hawkeye, which is an agency, an ad agency in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been at Hawkeye for about four and a half years, and I work on the Capital One account. So we do just basically a little bit of everything for Capital One, but a lot of CRM and direct mail, email messaging for them.

Maurice Cherry:
Now we’ve had quite a few advertising folks on the show, probably since the beginning of Revision Path, but certainly over the past year or so. How has it been adjusting to the work from home life?

Roneka Patterson:
It’s had its ups and downs. I think when we first started last year, there was definitely a lot of anxiety for me. I’m kind of an introvert and so I really relished having my time at my home with my family away from work. I think there was just a lot of nervousness on our team when we first went home. I was just getting pinged all night, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 at night through our messaging apps. Finally had to like, “Guys, we still need to have some boundaries here even though we’re at home.” So that stuff has kind of leveled out, but there’s still I’ve three year old daughter and so there’s times when she’s at home trying to work and my wife and I are juggling who’s got her now. It’s been a challenge.

Roneka Patterson:
I’ll say that from a creative standpoint, I don’t feel like the work for our team has dipped any. I feel like we’ve actually been a little bit more creative working from home. I don’t know. I think there’s a freedom of being able to work at your own pace with things, whereas if you’re in an office there’s a little bit more like, “Okay, how are things coming,” you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roneka Patterson:
But this has definitely been my most creative year in a while in terms of just the types of ideas that I’ve had, the thinking I’ve been able to do. I’m grateful for that. It’s been ups and downs, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
How long did it take for you to get into a groove where you’re like, “Okay, I can do this day to day.”

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, man. I think maybe over the summer. Maybe the fall of last year, of 2020, I think that’s when things kind of started to level out. So it was a good six months of it just being very chaotic. Not chaotic in the sense like, “Oh, I wish we could go back to the office,” but just this is just a lot. And I know that it’s a lot more than it would be if we were in the office. I think that fall is pretty much when it started to feel like okay, I feel like I’ve got the handle of this and it just wasn’t as intense.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your work at Hawkeye. You mentioned you’re an associate creative director. Is the Capital One account the only project you’re working on or do you work with other clients?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, I work with a couple of other clients just on project by project basis. I’m dedicated to Capital One. Our team that I work on, there’s about 30 of us. I think we’re one of the larger accounts in the agency and so we work pretty much primarily on them. But there are little things that come in the door that we can help out with for other clients. So I’ll say it’s about a 90/10 split.

Maurice Cherry:
So let’s say a new project comes in. Talk to me about that process. Where do you come in? How do you work with the particular client? How does that work?

Roneka Patterson:
So as an associate creative director, I’m a half manager, half hands kind of person, I think moving a little bit more towards manager. So basically when a project comes in, I’m helping staff the job. So it’s like, “Okay, we think this project is going to need two art directors and a writer, or two art directors and two writers.” I’ll help with that and then I’ll just be providing oversight and guidance as those projects happen. So I’m helping out with brainstorming, helping check files to make sure that they’re built correctly per the standards of the client. Basically just oversight.

Roneka Patterson:
Occasionally I’ll still get in there and do some design work. If we’re a little understaffed and we’ve got some people out on PTO, I can definitely help out in those cases. But generally just providing oversight and guidance based on the experience that I’ve had working on the account.

Maurice Cherry:
And so how long did it take you to get to that point within Hawkeye? Because I would imagine coming in you have to work your way up to that, right?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So I’ve been an associate creative director for a year and a half now. I think it’ll be two years in January. So prior to that I was a senior art director, and so a lot of what I was doing was the associate creative director level of things where I’m having to lead presentations and oversight on jobs. It hasn’t changed much, but yeah, a lot of it was just getting familiar with the company, getting familiar with the team, establishing a name for myself on the team. And then again, just starting to do that next level of work that finally they’re like, “Okay, yeah, you should definitely be doing this job because you should be getting paid for this because that’s the job that you’ve been doing.”

Maurice Cherry:
What’s a typical day for you working at Hawkeye?

Roneka Patterson:
So a typical day for me now, a lot of meetings. Whether it’s kickoff calls, like we’re kicking off new jobs, status calls just to see what everyone on the team is working with and help allot resources for the different projects. We do a lot of check-ins. Our account is very agile, so they love to meet. They’d much rather over communicate than things get dropped. And so we’ll do a lot of check-ins internally with our creative folks, like this is how the work is coming along. We’ll give feedback, we’ll do check-ins.

Roneka Patterson:
Capital One has their own robust creative department, so we’ll do check-ins with them to make sure that the work that we’re creating meets the brand needs. And then we’ll do check-ins with the client, the business managers who’ve actually requested the work. So a lot of meetings. In between there is time for brainstorms and occasional sketching, but a lot of it is just making sure that things are moving properly, that creative folks have the help they need so if they’re stuck on something or if they need an extra set of eyes on something, providing that support. But that’s pretty much how my days go nowadays.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s something that you think people underestimate about your role?

Roneka Patterson:
So when you’re at a CD level, and this may be me making assumption about that level, there’s a lot more strictly oversight. It’s understood that your job is to lead and to direct. With an associate creative director, you’re kind of in this in between area where there’s an expectation that if we get in a jam, you’re going to have to help out designing something or laying out something. Because of that, even though my workload, it may look like Roneka is only designing on a couple of things, I’m actually overseeing seven or eight things. So I think sometimes there’s the assumption that because you don’t see me doing the art direction stuff, that I’m not doing direction.

Roneka Patterson:
It’s one of those things, it’s not like a woe is me type of thing, but it’s something that I didn’t realize about the role before I got into it was just that there’s a lot of oversight takes time, to make sure to check in projects, to be able to switch on a dime to remembering, where are we at with this one? What kind of feedback can I give here that would be helpful? Presenting to clients, just being able to manage if something goes wrong and how do you talk to that? How do you speak to that in the moment? There’s just a lot of that kind of stuff that I think I wasn’t cognizant of before I got into the role.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve heard that from other folks that are in advertising as well, so what you’re saying definitely lines up with that. I want to go more into your background. I know you’re at Hawkeye, which is located in Dallas. Are you originally from Dallas?

Roneka Patterson:
So I’m from Austin, which is about three hours south of Dallas, so I didn’t go very far. Yeah, most of my family is from the Dallas Fort Worth area and my parents just kind of branched down to Austin and had me. I just stuck down there while I grew up and then I ended up moving back to Fort Worth for school.

Maurice Cherry:
Did you know early on that you were into design and advertising and all of that?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, so I always loved art. I love to paint, I love to draw, I love sculptures. Always had a passion for that. I mean, I can do think back to grade school and just being super into that kind of stuff. So I didn’t necessarily understand how to make a career out of that in terms of what design was, what advertising, art direction, all that kind of stuff. But I knew that I was really passionate about that.

Roneka Patterson:
Funny, actually, when I was in middle school, I used to run track. Pretty good at it. We were city champions my eighth grade year, which was a highlight for me. When I got to high school, it’s a different ball game when you’re changing sports in high school. There was a lot of practice for running track in high school. And I remember going home with my mom one day and I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I was like, “I want to just focus on my art.” And my mom was like, “Well, whatever you do, just make sure you go a 100%.” So she let me get out of track and I really started focusing on art.

Roneka Patterson:
I was taking art classes. I got some AP credit in art that I was able to take to college with me. I loved to create, to draw. I used to joke that my favorite class in high school other than art was history class because it allowed me time to just draw. I’d sit in my seat and just draw during the class and I loved that. But that’s where that love started to really strengthen. From there I was like, “Okay, I want to go to school, to college, and I don’t know how to do this.” So I was able to find TCU had a really good graphic design program, so I was able to get into that and the rest was history.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Let’s talk about that. Tell me what your time was like at TCU.

Roneka Patterson:
It was good. It’s a small private school and there’s a lot of money that gets poured into that school. They’ve got a pretty good football program. The Black community there is pretty tight knit because I think there’s only like 8% Black students there out of the entire school. So created some camaraderie that was nice.

Roneka Patterson:
In terms of the design program there, I think I was the only Black woman in my coursework, but there were other Black folks in the fine arts, studio arts degree path. So I was able to make some connections with them. Some of them I still speak to to this day.

Roneka Patterson:
So I think that overall, with all of the creatives that I’ve met through my career, I do feel like it was a really solid education, a really solid foundation. It taught me design fundamentals, an understanding of conceptual advertising thinking. I’ve met some folks that didn’t have one or the other, who went to an ad school or a design school. I just feel like TCU gave me a really good balance of the two things.

Roneka Patterson:
I’ll say that that’s where I had my first design job. I had a professor who pulled me this side one day and he was like, “Roneka, the dining hall is hiring.” And I’m like, “Excuse me? What’s that have to do with me?” He was like, “No, no, no.” He was like, “They have a marketing department and they’re hiring. They’re looking for a designer and so I think you should check that out. I think it might be a good fit for you.” It was great. I got to design posters and little logos for advertising around the dining hall. I got a free meal every day, which was amazing. And so that was my first design job was at TCU.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. In a way they really did prepare you for getting out there, working as a designer because you got a job working for the college while you were there.

Roneka Patterson:
Yep. Yeah, it was awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. So when you graduated, what was your early career like? I see you worked for an agency called Sonus. Tell me about that experience.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So that was a privately owned small boutique marketing agency. And so I think when I got hired, there was one other designer there and then I think she left within a year so I was the sole designer there. We had an account person and me. It gave me a good foundation of these are all the things that are entailed with marketing, kind of had to do it all. I learned how to present to clients because I was the person that had to present. I did the work and I had to present the work. Timelines, budgeting, all that kind of stuff. I think I learned more in that experience than I think I would’ve learned just being dropped into an agency environment or a larger agency because there just wasn’t enough hands. I had to do a lot of it.

Roneka Patterson:
I left there to work at an ad agency, and I worked there for six or seven years. It was at Moroch in Dallas. That experience, high highs and low lows. I think that I got to work on a bunch of different clients. I got to do a lot of different types of projects. The range of work that I got to do there really was amazing. It was the aughts, the mid-aughts, the late-aughts, so there was a lot of… I don’t know, the reckoning that’s happened in advertising over the last year or so, that was not a thing back then. So there was a lot of just political, cultural things that just really just wore me down.

Roneka Patterson:
There’s too many things to name. Just random things that happened that I think if you talk to any Black person who’s worked in corporate America, they could probably be like, “Yeah, yeah. That sounds about right.” After the time that I spent there, I left that agency and I said that I was never going to work in advertising again. I don’t care where I work. I’ll be a postal worker, I’ll work at the art museum. I don’t care. I can’t do this anymore and I don’t want to go back. This isn’t for me.

Roneka Patterson:
So I ended up at a greeting card company. So we did basically the B2B greeting cards, the type of cards that corporations send out during the holidays. So I worked in the marketing department there and got to lead and also just to see how things go from the business side because that’s another thing that you don’t really get to see when you’re working in an agency is just the business side of things. How are some of those decisions made? How are our agencies received? Because we worked with some freelance agencies, some of our projects and just sitting on the other side of the table, how are those things received?

Roneka Patterson:
So I did that for a little while and then I started to get the itch about potentially moving back into an agency environment. I’d said for myself it needed to be the right agency. It needed to be the right environment. I needed to feel safe. I don’t mean safe in the sense of boring, but safe as a Black queer woman, am I going to be safe in that environment? Am I going to have opportunities in that environment? So that’s how I ended up at Hawkeye. Actually, I got interviewed by two women who were creative directors and immediately I was like, “Okay, this may be it.” I’d never actually worked with a female creative director before in my entire career. So that was a very big reason why I wanted to work there. There are a bunch of other women creative directors at Hawkeye, which was really, really comforting for me.

Maurice Cherry:
What is it that appealed to you about going back to work at an agency?

Roneka Patterson:
I missed the creative department. I missed having a team of other creatives that you could bounce ideas off of, that could help push you and help push your work. I missed that. I missed having writers that could help me generate ideas and say it in a way, a lot more concisely than I could say it. I missed all of that. I missed the direction and just opportunities to just solve different types of business problems for people. I missed all that.

Roneka Patterson:
I didn’t realize it when I left that first agency, but I was like, “Yeah, I definitely miss…” When you don’t have it, that’s when you realize, yeah, there’s some value in having people around you that are super smart and super talented and they can just help make your work better. Also, they get it. You’re not having to explain and reexplain why creative is valuable and why it’s important.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s good that you had that break after working for two agencies for a long time. You can sort of separate yourself a bit from it. There’s that saying that hindsight is 2020. So you’re able to then look back and say, “All right, well, these are things I liked and this is why I want to have more of these things and maybe less of something else.”

Roneka Patterson:
Yep. You got it.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you talk about encountering a female creative director and that’s sort of what made you decide to work with Hawkeye, but did you encounter a lot of Black creatives in advertising throughout your career?

Roneka Patterson:
A handful, Maurice, a handful. when I was at Moroch I think there was about maybe five of us total Black creatives there. Traditionally in advertising, I met more Black strategists, account folks, relationship management folks. We had a few of those there. But creative, it was just few and far between really, and it was very discouraging.

Roneka Patterson:
I never saw anyone that outranked me. It was either a peer or someone that was a junior level. It gets in your head a little bit because you’re like, “Okay, maybe this is not thing that women can do. Maybe this is not a thing that Black women can do to be leaders, to be creative leaders.” I know logically that’s not true. I keep an eye on the industry, I know that that’s a thing that happens outside of where I’m at right now. But when you’re young coming up, you just don’t know. I was like, “Maybe I have to move account side or move into strategy and that will allow me to grow, have advancement.” But yeah, it messes with your head a little bit.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you found now that you’re more into your career in terms of tenure that you’ve encountered more Black creatives?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, definitely, definitely. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and confident with networking. Like I said earlier, there is a camaraderie that we have, those of us in this business, even if we don’t know each other. There’s just a little like, “Oh, yep, yep, yep.” You know you’re probably fighting some of the same battles and trying to champion some of the same causes. And so yeah, I definitely, any time I’m out and about, whether it’s an industry thing, an industry event or a conference or something, I’m definitely connecting with folks because you just never know.

Roneka Patterson:
You never know when you’ll run into those folks again, there may be an opportunity that you can provide someone or vice versa. I see a lot more now and I’m able to connect with a lot more now, which is really, really nice.

Maurice Cherry:
You created a project called The Unwritten Rules, which you did in conjunction with a former Revision Path guest we had on the show before, Alex Pierce, along with some other Black creatives. Talk to me about that. How did this come about?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, so this came about last summer. Obviously we had just a period of months of just… It was like a drumbeat of violence against Black people. Shootings and police violence and intimidation and gaslighting. Obviously a lot of that, the feelings of that culminated with George Floyd’s passing, murder rather.

Roneka Patterson:
So Alex reached out to me and he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to get some folks together to see if there’s just something that we can do or create just to get some of our feelings out about what’s happening.” And so I’m like, “Yep, just invite me to the meeting. I’ll be there.” There was about 20 of us, and so mostly creatives, couple of strategy folks. And Hawkeye, like most agencies, it’s a predominantly white agency, but the Black creatives there, we all have a side group chat and we keep in contact with each other, check in with each other. It was Alex and myself and Adam Johnson who’s a Black copywriter formerly, at Hawkeye. He was at Hawkeye at the time. Couple of other creatives.

Roneka Patterson:
We just talked, the Black folks on the team, we just kind of talked. We were like, “What are we feeling? What message can we say? What can we create? What can we do?” We did some brainstorming, we just did some really just brainstorming. What could we do? What could we create? We settled in this idea about these rules, these unwritten rules that Black folks all know that the larger population may not be cognizant of. In the conversation, it was just a little bit like, “What if we came up with an encyclopedia or just a foundry of these different rules?”

Roneka Patterson:
We talked a lot about tone because part of the thing last year that happened with a lot of agencies, immediately there was a lot of like, “Things are bad and here’s your black square and we need to do better. And we will.” Okay, great. It was like the universal we need to do better. Okay. We’ve been telling you that for a while, but okay. I’m glad you caught up. Tonally, we were like, “These rules are not melodramatic, trauma porny kind of stuff.” As a Black person, they don’t make me feel anything other than, yeah, this is just the way we have to… These are the things we have to know to stay safe and to avoid craziness.

Roneka Patterson:
It was very similar, in a lot of ways, to we’re doing some research on The Green Book If you read The Green Book, or any of The Green Books, there is a very matter of fact tone about the fact that this magazine needed to be created to keep Black people safe. It wasn’t like a so and so got lynched yesterday. It was very much like, “Hey, if you’re going to be driving to El Paso, here’s a body shop that you can go and get your car serviced. They won’t hassle you.” Very matter of fact. That kind of tone resonated with us. It made sense to us as Black folks. Again, these are rules that we just have to know, and we thought it would be a great matter of fact way to present these rules.

Roneka Patterson:
One of the main things that we really wanted to do with it was not just to say, “Hey, these are rules that Black people need to know.” But the so what. So what is here’s some data that backs up why this rule is a thing. Here are some things that you, person who’s reading this rule, can do to help make this situation better. For all of the rules that we have that we outlined, we came up with some different resources that we thought would help pay off. You read this rule, here’s something if you want to get involved, here’s a thing that you can do that can hopefully help make this rule not be a thing anymore, to erase that rule.

Roneka Patterson:
And so once we solidified this idea, we did some design exploration. There’s a designer at our agency. Her name is Rosie Ulloa, I always mispronounce her name. But she helped create the visual, the color scheme, the fonts, the visual direction for this. And from there, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to build a website. We’re going to do a social media campaign. We’re going to start creating some things with this.” And so from there, we started developing the website and we had an interactive designer, a web developer rather, from the company who was able to donate his time to help us build this thing. From there, it was once we had the look established we started working on our social calendar, because we did want to do an entire social media campaign that’s tied to this website to help promote the website. We wanted to do some user generated content. We want people to write in about rules that they’ve experienced that we may not have covered.

Roneka Patterson:
The website ended up being pretty robust just from a researching standpoint. We did the audio, we did audio narration of all the rules so you’ll hear my voice on the website in some spots. We really wanted to do a full audio visual kind of multidimensional thing.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, that’s kind of the origin of it. We did this on our own time. I do think the pandemic helped make this a thing. I think had we been in the office it would’ve been a little bit more challenging to, “Hey, we’re meeting on the fourth floor at four,” kind of thing. It’s a lot easier to just, here’s a Zoom link. Let’s link up. Just a lot of nights and weekends and some holidays just turning on it and refining it and getting the content, the writing.

Roneka Patterson:
We had some great writers that have helped flesh things out. Oversight is what I was talking about earlier, making sure that the tone is right and making sure that we’re not saying things that are improper. Yeah, it was a big thing. At a certain point we had to tell our agency, “Hey, this is the thing that we built.” And they were super supportive. It was really just a passion project that’s still going, still reviewing social posts once a week. But yeah, it was a side of desk thing that took a lot of love and heart and we wanted to do it for Black people so that when Black folks see it they’ll know we got you. You’re being heard. You’re not alone in that experience. And then we wanted to do it for the broader population so that they see in writing that these are things that Black folks have to be aware of and why.

Maurice Cherry:
You said something interesting in there I want to, I guess, learn more about. You said at some point you had to let Hawkeye know that this was something that you were doing. Why is that?

Roneka Patterson:
Well, we needed some support. I think part of it, we needed some legal counsel with some of the user generated content stuff, ideas that we were thinking about. We wanted to be clear with Hawkeye that, while we are all representatives of Hawkeye in our day to day, this was a separate thing. We don’t want this to be The Unwritten Rules courtesy of Hawkeye. Our CEO, Joe DeMiero, he’s a great guy. He was very much from the get go like, “Whatever you guys need, let me know. I will help provide it. We are here to support. So whatever you guys want to do.” They’ve been very, very, just the right kind of support.

Roneka Patterson:
We did want to do some promoting. [inaudible 00:30:53] has 70,000 employees globally. It’s like, “Hey, can we get this on some of our inner agency communications?” They were more than willing to do that. So we got some articles in our inner agency ecosystem. Hawkeye social promoted it and they basically were providing some promotional support, which was really, really, really appreciated on our part. But yeah, that was the extent.

Roneka Patterson:
One other thing that we definitely said we wanted to do from the get go is we don’t want to really submit this for awards. This is not just a how to fix racism from an ad agency. We just so happen to work at an ad agency and we’re going to use the talents that we have just because we work in advertising to do this. But this isn’t awards bait. This isn’t a play to get advertisers to care about this cause. We wanted it to be bigger than that. We wanted it to be for the general public to experience and react to. Yeah, that’s kind of how we ended up where we are now.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see this project going from here?

Roneka Patterson:
So we have some things in the works. I’m not going to say specifically, but I probably should just to make sure we name it, claim it. Our social media calendar, we’ve got that planned out through next summer. And our social media, we’re basically taking the idea of the encyclopedia and kind of expanding it a little bit. We have a rule breaker series. These people in history who’ve broken rules, broken some of those unwritten rules. We’re doing definitions like defining what do we mean when we say defund the police? What does that mean? Sometimes just putting it in writing for people, making a record of it. We’re not the first people to talk about the unwritten rules. We’re not the first people to try to define defund the police and why it matters. But those are the types of things that we feel like The Unwritten Rules should talk about. That’s the big thing that’s continuing to happen. And like I said, we’ve got a couple of other things that we’re working on down the line.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s been the feedback so far from the project?

Roneka Patterson:
It’s been positive. The best feedback I’ve gotten I think was from my family, who I’ve got Black Texans. Grew up in West Texas, East Texas, for them to be like, “This is amazing,” that says it. It says it in it’s beautiful. It says it in the right way. That’s been the best feedback for me. It’s been very, very positive, very, very affirmative. And it definitely does make the time and the love… There’s this moment when you send stuff out where you’re like, “I don’t know how this is going to be received. Is this going to work on Black Twitter?” Yeah, it’s been overwhelmingly positive and I think that’s part of why we’re like, “Okay, let’s keep going.”

Maurice Cherry:
That’s good. The reason I was asking that before about why get your employer involved, because it sounded like this was something you really were all doing as a labor of love. I’m not saying this to cast dispersions on Hawkeye specifically, but I could see how an agency, particularly during this sort of time, would look at a project like that and try to claim ownership over it in some kind of way, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. I’m sure there was probably a little twinge because there was some things that were presented to us where we had to turn it down. It’s like, “Hey, we have this newsletter.” It’s like, “No. It doesn’t really align with what we’re trying to do.” It was like, “Oh, we’re thinking we can create a training module that’s…” Like, “No, nope. It doesn’t really align with the time commitment that we have for this, for that.”

Roneka Patterson:
I know that if it had been a specifically Hawkeye driven project, I think definitely the rollout would’ve been different. And that’s just the nature of they’re in the business. They’re trying to get clients, they’re trying to show their clients that they’re a different type of agency than they are in a lot of ways, hence the support that we got for the project. I know it’s a fine balance, but they were all very, very respectful. Our executive leadership folks, they were very, very respectful and very grateful that we did this and just very supportive of whatever you guys need, we’re going to do it. We’re going to help you make it happen.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. That’s really great to hear, yeah.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, in your spare time, I noticed from going through on your website, you’re quite the photographer.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
When did you first get into photography?

Roneka Patterson:
I’ve always loved photography, even back to when I was in high school, picking up, figuring out what kind of art I wanted to create. I got my first camera in college. I’d had to take some photo classes to get my degree, and love it. I love being in the lightroom. I shoot all digital now so just love the ease of that.

Roneka Patterson:
But I really got more serious about taking portraits when I was working back at the first agency that I was working at. This business, it’s a grind. And so I don’t think you’ll meet a single person in advertising, creative, who doesn’t have some type of side hustle or is like, “Oh yeah, I do murals. I paint.” And so that just ended up being the side hustle that I really gravitated towards.

Roneka Patterson:
And so I started shooting with my friends and then that had started to lead to some actual work, some paid work. And it’s something that I love to do. It’s something that I’ve kept up with. I take classes and tutorials. I’m a part of the Black Women Photographers group. They have speakers speak to us about working photographers who talk about the business. So I’m always just soaking in all of that stuff. I hope, as I get older, that that’s something that I can retire into. I would love to do that full time in my golden years.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career, and even to where you are right now at the moment, talk to me about mentorship. Has mentorship been something that has really helped you out throughout your career? Is this something that, at the level you’re at now, you feel you have to give back? Talk to me about that.

Roneka Patterson:
So mentorship has always been valuable to me. I feel like I’ve only in the last maybe four or five years been able to adequately provide it to others. I had to get over my issues with advertising and be able to view it in a way to where I could actually impart words of wisdom or good vibes on someone who wants to make it in this industry. But I love it. I’ve worked with the Marcus Graham Project last summer to… I had a couple of guys that I was mentoring. Anytime I’ve been around Black creatives, I’m like, “Hey, let’s network, let’s talk. How can I connect you with something?” So it’s definitely something that I’ve pushed.

Roneka Patterson:
This year, my group at Hawkeye, the team that I work on, we started a mentorship program with Dallas ISD. So there’s a school here locally, a high school, it’s mostly predominantly Black and Brown. And we wanted to teach them about advertising. We basically figured out that part of two twofold issue that’s happening with Black and Brown folks in advertising, it’s recruitment and retention, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roneka Patterson:
Retention is how do we make this environment inhabitable for Black and Brown folks? Make them feel like they have a sense of community and safety. And then with recruiting, do kids know what advertising is? A lot of us backed into it. If you had asked me in high school if I wanted to work in advertising, I probably probably would’ve told you no because it sounded like, I don’t know. It sounds like suits and briefcases, you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Roneka Patterson:
I didn’t know that it was something that I could do and still have creativity and also pay the bills every month. So we partnered up with a high school in Dallas, and so we meet with them once a month and we just tell them about advertising. At the beginning of each meeting, we have rotating people that are hosting each meeting. They’ll explain how they got into the business.

Roneka Patterson:
Our session that we had the week before last, we used the Apples Shot On iPhone campaign to talk about all of the different roles in an agency that would help contribute to an idea like that, to help execute a campaign like that. It was really cool. We do quizzes with them to see what kind of things did they want to be? Do you want to be a strategist? Could you see yourself being an account person who manages relationships, client relationships? Could you see yourself creative or a production role?

Roneka Patterson:
And so it’s just an opportunity for us just to impart some knowledge and hopefully make some connection so that in a couple of years, when those kids are in college, they’ve got a connection with us and we can help link them up with someone. We do internships at Hawkeye, provide some opportunities for them. It’s something we’re really, really excited about. I love working with kids, so it’s just definitely fulfilling for me.

Roneka Patterson:
I just recently stepped down. I was the co-chair of my Delta… I’m a Delta. We have a group that we work with with middle school girls and I’d been doing that for 10 years. Finally I was like, “Okay, chapter president, I’m going to have to step down because I’m exhausted.” But picked this up just in time and so it’s just fun working with them and they’re open to learning. And hopefully we’re planting some seeds that will grow into an understanding of the business and hopefully some pathways for getting into this business.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. See, I think that’s awesome on multiple accounts. One, it goes back to that old adage of you can’t be what you don’t see. So the fact that you’re able to expose them to these career paths so early on gives them a sense of knowledge to know that this is a possibility for them to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, and I feel like also that’s the best way that you learn is by teaching. By showing other folks what it is that you know, and it can help you become more effective communicator and things of that nature. I think that’s awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
I talk with a lot of companies and they’re always like, “Well, we have to establish a pipeline and how do we do this pipeline and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I never liked the term pipeline because to me pipelines always strip resources away. It’s not about putting things back into the place where you have discovered them, it’s always about take, take, take, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s very kind of like Western paternalistic in some kind of way, doing that sort of thing. What you’re doing though is establishing this connection. It’s almost like you’re planting flowers in a way, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Because you’re not recruiting them directly from middle school or elementary school or whatever to come work for the agency, but you’re letting them know this is what I do in case you’ve never seen this as a position. This is the work that I do and if it sounds interesting to you, then this is how you can do it as well. That opportunity is what we’re really looking to give to the next generation.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. We took a vote. We were like, “Do we want to focus this on high schoolers or colleges?” Because we’ve got a couple of HBCUs in Texas. We could work with Paul Quinn over in Dallas. And we said there is something really nice about talking to high schoolers who are still trying to connect some of those dots, as you said, planting those flowers. Let’s say, okay, the goal of this is not to… You guys are going to be interned at Hawkeye sometime, but if we can figure out this framework, we can hand this to other agencies. Hey, you’re in Chicago. This is something you could set up with a local school in Chicago. I think we felt like there was a void. And not to say that there aren’t other people doing this elsewhere, but we knew that here in Dallas it wasn’t being done, or this way rather, because I’ve definitely worked with some other agencies before.

Roneka Patterson:
But is there something unique and special that we can do just to drop some knowledge? Because there’s a big push for STEM and business. That’s great, but we’re STEAM. That A, that art. What if people have the creative? There’s this little creative nugget. Black folks are hella creative, Brown folks are hella creative. If we can make that connect connection, you that are supremely awesome at editing TikToks, that’s a production role. You could make a lot of money doing that. If we could start to make some of those connections for kids, I think we felt like we will have done our part. Obviously we’re going to do more than that, but this is definitely how we wanted to start that kind conversation with them.

Maurice Cherry:
Speaking of that mentorship, who are some of the mentors that have helped you out in your career?

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, man. Honestly, I’m kind of on an Issa Rae thing where it’s been peers that have really helped me along the most. Fellow creatives who were in the trenches with me that gave me encouragement. I’ve had a couple of creative directors where it was just like, “Okay, this person is definitely…” I had a creative director when I was at Moroch that I still keep in touch with today. We’ll occasionally have lunch together. He was just super brilliant, creative and helped push me creatively.

Roneka Patterson:
But yeah, a lot of it has been peers. It’s been one of the writers that I work with on The Unwritten Rules. He’s helped inspire me and just a connector. He’s like, “Hey, there’s this thing that I found out about. You should try this out.” Or, “Let’s go to the museum. I heard about this thing that’s happening.” To me, that stuff, it encourages me because being around super talented people, it just helps raise you up a little bit. But just that friendship has been invaluable to me.

Roneka Patterson:
I don’t want to name drop anyone specific, but I’ll just say that it’s been a lot of people being in the trenches with me, peers that have helped push me and encourage me. And I do that for them too.

Maurice Cherry:
What are you obsessed with at the moment?

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, this is bad. In my personal life or my work life?

Maurice Cherry:
Personal life.

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, this is bad. So my wife and I have been watching The Haves and the Have Nots by Tyler Perry. It’s on Hulu. There’s eight seasons of it. There’s 30 episodes a season. It’s insane. We’ve been binging it. It’s a soap opera. I grew up watching soap operas. Me and my mom used to watch The Young and the Restless and my grandmother and I used to watch it together. So I kind of got out of that over the last maybe five or six years, because life just got too busy and I didn’t have time to be watching soaps every day. But yeah, we’ve gotten into it the last couple of weeks and it’s just been insane. It’s like an addiction. We just got to get one hit tonight and then we’ll… It’s crazy. But yeah, that’s probably the thing right now. It’s kind of crazy.

Maurice Cherry:
I think we’ve all got an escape show that we dive into every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially during this pandemic.

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, yeah. This is a judgment free zone here. [crosstalk 00:46:25].

Maurice Cherry:
Look, grab your creature comforts wherever you can. Absolutely.

Roneka Patterson:
I could turn my brain off and set it on the table and just zone out, you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Do you feel creatively satisfied at this point in your career?

Roneka Patterson:
I feel like the last year and a half have allowed me to do things creatively that were kind of passion projects, explorations, just the type of work that I’ve all always wanted to work on in my career. A lot of it was the pandemic and just having the freedom, the personal freedom to do those things, to explore those things. And so, yeah, I would say I am feeling creatively fulfilled.

Roneka Patterson:
I’m definitely thinking about the next five or 10 years. What is that going to look like? Leadership is great. Being able to lead teams. I’m definitely doing more of that now. But the downside is that you’re not getting to create as much. You’re giving feedback and helping push other creatives to come up with really brilliant, amazing ideas. And so I think there’s always a little bit of tension with that. Do I want to continue on this path where I’m just going to be pushing and challenging and supporting? Or do I want to be in a position where I can still roll my sleeves up and do some of the work? I kind of go back and forth on that.

Roneka Patterson:
But I will say, between my photography and just the personal projects that I’ve gotten to work on over the last couple of years, I do feel like I’m getting a lot of the stuff in my brain out into the world, which has been nice and fulfilling.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work do you hope to be working on?

Roneka Patterson:
I hope that I’m doing work that has positive impacts on the world. So whether that is more pro bono work, I’ve gotten to do a lot of that over the last couple of years and it’s super fulfilling for me. It’s merging the two things that I care about a lot, which is how can I help make things better out there and how can I create and express myself. So I think I would love to do more of that over the next five years.

Roneka Patterson:
As I said, I’m in a leadership role now, so I would like to continue that. I’m very much a let me pull some people up with me kind of person. So that’s a natural fit for a leadership. I’m trying to find opportunities for people. I’m trying to connect people, I’m trying to make sure that especially younger creatives don’t feel grinded up in this business the way I did. I don’t want anyone to feel like I got to quit because this isn’t… I got to quit this stuff because it’s not for me. I want to definitely encourage folks and get them to find that right balance to where they are getting their fulfillment, they’re safe and they’re allowed to grow. Any ways that I can help do that, that’s what I want to be doing over the next five years.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work and your projects and everything online?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So you can visit ronekapatterson.com. So it’s R-O-N-E-K-A, Patterson with two T’s, .com. I’ve got design work and photo work there. You can find me on the gram, @RonekaP. And you can find me on LinkedIn too. I think you just search Roneka Patterson, I’ll probably pop up.

Maurice Cherry:
And we’ll also make sure to put a link to The Unwritten Rules in the show notes as well so people can check that out.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, that’d be awesome. Would love that.

Maurice Cherry:
Awesome. Roneka Patterson, I want to thank you so, so much for coming on the show. One, of course, for telling us more about this project that I’ve heard about now probably for the better part of a year, in terms of it getting around in the world and getting around amongst other Black creatives. But also about just giving your own story and testimony about being a Black creative in this industry. And that even if there are setbacks, you can still find your way towards something that’s fulfilling, which I think we all need to hear that from time to time. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Roneka Patterson:
Thank you so much, Maurice. This has been great. I’m so glad to get to talk to you finally and just happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

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Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

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Gabe Gault

I’ve been getting into TikTok a lot lately — don’t judge! — and that’s where I stumbled across the work of this week’s guest: Gabe Gault! Gabe’s brilliant portraiture blends the work of the Renaissance masters with Black culture in a brilliant and beautiful way. Not only that, he painted the largest mural in the world — the Glass City River Wall in Toledo, Ohio. I mean…talk about impressive!

Gabe talked about how he landed this massive project, and talked about growing up an artist in a big sports family. We also discussed Black fine artists being exhibited through this new wave of Black-created media, lessons he’s learned throughout his creative journeys, and even talk a bit about NFTs and the metaverse. If you’re looking for a creative pep talk, just follow Gabe’s advice: “Go out there and create on any scale!”

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Gabe Gault:
Hi, my name is Gabe Gault, and I’m an artist from Los Angeles, California.

Maurice Cherry:
So Gabe, what’s on your mind? How’s the year been going for you so far?

Gabe Gault:
Oh, man, it’s been an amazing year. It’s kind of been ups and downs. Obviously COVID has happened and is here still. But on the bright side of things, I’ve been working on a pretty big project myself that’s been kind of keeping my morale up. But there’s been other pretty cool projects going on.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. What is kind of a typical day like for you as an artist in LA?

Gabe Gault:
So I wake up. I make sure I kind of get a good start in the morning if I’m heading to the studio. So I’ll wake up, I’ll make some breakfast. I’m trying to go on a smoothie kind of diet right now because I am getting married in about three weeks or so, four weeks.

Maurice Cherry:
Congratulations. So by the time this comes out, you’ll be a married man.

Gabe Gault:
I will be a married man. That’s a new life journey for me. Yeah. So it’s pretty simple, I feel like, my mornings. I usually get to the studio when it feels right, but it’s usually around 11AM. And I’ll have everything kind of prepped out and ready to go. I’ll get there and I’ll just have a jam session for the rest of the day until I feel like it’s time to leave really. But it’s kind of all flow for me, I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
So you kind of just get in the zone once you get to your studio and then see where the day takes you pretty much.

Gabe Gault:
Definitely. Besides that, I’m usually running errands about my manager. He lives on the west side of town. So sometimes we’ll drop off paintings or go to meetings and stuff. I try to keep it pretty relaxed. I don’t want to stress over my work anymore. That’s kind of been a big thing coming up as an artist, is there’s a lot of stress sometimes, only if you let it. But I feel like every day is a pretty good day because I get to wake up and do this.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, we talked about this a little bit before we started recording, but you’re one of several black artists that I discovered via TikTok.

Gabe Gault:
Dude, insane. It still blows my mind. When anybody tells me they found me through TikTok, I’m just like, “I wouldn’t imagine this a year ago.”

Maurice Cherry:
How does social media help out with what you do?

Gabe Gault:
Social media is a powerful tool for the better or for worse, and TikTok specifically is one of those things that really twisted my mind because it changed the way I thought about social media. I was on Instagram for a number of years. It took me a certain amount to get a certain amount of followers. Not that that’s like an end all be all. But that’s what I was kind of working up on there and getting a decent views on my work. And then I went to TikTok.

Gabe Gault:
And I think in the course of a couple months, I’m almost about to surpass my other social media platforms and all the hard work I put into those kind of seem irrelevant now compared to TikTok. It’s a great tool because you get to interact with people and you get to talk to people in a way you just couldn’t really do in real life. You get to show people a little bit of your life, or whatever you want to show them, really. It doesn’t have to be your real life, I guess, as most of you will know. Yeah, it’s an amazing, powerful tool. But it is, at the end of the day, just a tool you can use to better yourself.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, the interesting thing about TikTok, and I’ve been on there now for, I don’t know, maybe a few weeks now, just kind of casually observing, is one, it really has the spirit to me of like the old way of… I’ve been around on the internet for a long time. I remember the early web and how really just sort of wide open it was. You really could just go down these deep rabbit holes of information and find all kinds of weird things.

Maurice Cherry:
And I think what’s interesting with TikTok that platforms like say maybe Instagram or twitter don’t do is how they take your one piece of content that you make and it almost like splinters it out into these different ways that people can discover you. Of course, say you do a video. There’s the video that people can see if you come up on your ‘for you’ page. But the video also has audio. And the audio can be your own audio, or it can be like pre recorded audio that you select from their database or whatever.

Maurice Cherry:
And then as you type up the description on the video, you can have hashtags. all of that stuff is also its own like search portal in a way. People searching for that sound can now come across your video or people searching for that hashtag now come across your video. And so you get people discovering your work in all these kind of weird and interesting ways that maybe they wouldn’t before on another platform because it’s only funneled into one mode of discovery.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. And I feel like it’s just so different from everybody else’s. You can have a completely different TikTok from the person sitting right next to you, just like the algorithm and what videos you see. I’ll be sitting next to my fiancee and she’ll be like, “How have you never seen this video?” Her videos are all pumpkin, spice lattes and witches and astrology. I’m on the completely other side with people dabbing and doing art and doing murals. Everything is just completely different. Mine is like video games. It really makes you see how big the internet is just only on TikTok, but it’s an insane space and platform.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, and the creativity is just out of this world. I mean, of course, the tool itself has all these different kind of features that you can edit video and change the duration and the speed and all that sort of stuff. The trend that I’ve been seeing recently that is really dope is… And I don’t know if you’ve seen this. And it’s funny because by the time this comes out, it may have already passed.

Maurice Cherry:
But there is this trend now of like, you remember like fighting games like Tekken? There’s like the ‘you lose’ screen where the opponent talks smack. And so you’ve got all these different people doing these different versions of what that looks like, but to the same sound. If you search that sound, there’s like hundreds of videos of people. You’re the like vaguely weird character with the random move set or you’re the sleepy character with all the power. It’s crazy. It’s so wild.

Gabe Gault:
I love those so much. I’ll be on there for hours on end. It’s just unhealthy. But at the same time, it gives me so much joy, so I think it is healthy. But yeah, it’s a crazy platform. I think the Glass City River Wall video I did of my Ohio project, it did like 1.3 million views. But I remember shooting it and I was like, “Oh, I’ll just take a picture of this, just some random clips and put it together.”

Gabe Gault:
And then that was the biggest view count I had on that page. But it’s just crazy. You never know what’s going to hit or what’s not going to hit. I feel like you put together just something random and somebody is going to appreciate it. It’s just like putting that stuff out there.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, you mentioned this mural, the Glass City River Wall project. Talk to me about what it is and how you got involved with it.

Gabe Gault:
That’s a whole project that had a global call for artists. They had about 500 or so submissions. They narrowed it down and I was the artist chosen for it. It’s a giant grain silos in Toledo, Ohio. There’s about 28 silos in total and it’s about three football fields long and 134 feet high, I believe. So they’re pretty massive. By the end of the thing, it should be the largest mural in the nation.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. Please talk about it. What was that process even like?

Gabe Gault:
So it was a pretty lengthy process. This is where we had to put together all our resources we ever had and really figure out how to get this thing done. Because it’s one of those things where nobody has done anything on this scale. So you have to figure it out and get the right team. And luckily, what I love about Toledo, it’s this big, small city, and everybody’s just super hard working there.

Gabe Gault:
I had so many people reach out to me and offer their skill set for the project, whether it’s like donating coffee or juice or doing footage, drone footage. Actually, two of the guys who reached out, this guy, Nick, reached out, and he was a videographer. He shot documentaries and stuff. So he reached out. And another guy, we call him Dino, he also reached out, and he’s a local artist in Toledo.

Gabe Gault:
And it’s at the point where I couldn’t see this project going the way it’s going without those guys because they’re just such a huge asset to the project. So it’s like a little bit of knowing what to expect and then expecting the unexpected and taking whatever wins you can. But it’s a good project. I feel like we’ll be done by end of November, possibly.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. What is your creative process like when it comes to starting a new project? I mean, I’d imagine something as big as the Glass City River Wall project, that happens on a massive scale. But say it’s just a regular painting or something, what does that creative process look like?

Gabe Gault:
I always try to put some kind of meaning. I like coming up with conceptual concepts. I sometimes do a lot of portraits, which are pretty straightforward, depending on the subject. But sometimes I get to mess around and paint people who are inspiring to me. So that’s usually the subjects that I choose, are people who inspire me and so shape our way. I want to talk about the background as well.

Gabe Gault:
I do a camouflage background, which represents blending in and standing out. People who blend into your everyday life and stand out by doing something that impacted you in a positive way. And that’s usually how I like to choose my subjects, is somebody who has changed me forever.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I’ve seen some of the ones that you have on your website, and they kind of range. You’ve got Nipsey Hussle, but then you’ve also got Yayoi Kusama. You have a big range of portraits that you’ve done.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. I feel like there’s been a kind of gradual change as well throughout my whole, I guess, timeline of painting. Because I started out painting a lot of pop figures I looked up to or I liked or somebody I knew loved them. And now they’re changing slowly into pop figures and they change to people I would interact with daily, every week and learn something from them or learn a lesson or love their story and want to paint them.

Gabe Gault:
And now I’m kind of leaning into a conceptual phase of painting different… I’m working on this project called Afro-Rama, which is like African Rome. The first piece I did is Romulus and Remus, which is like twists on the foundation of Rome. Then I’m working on like a Medussa kind of piece and so on and so forth. But more to come from that.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, interesting. So kind of like a play on some Greek mythology kind of stuff.

Gabe Gault:
Exactly. Yeah, a play on that and some Renaissance age. It’s kind of like rebirth of the black Renaissance, really. You have a lot of black artists doing some amazing traditional pieces.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I want to go kind of more into your background. Like you mentioned, of course, you’re now in Los Angeles. Is that where you grew up also?

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. So I grew up in Venice Beach, California. And me and my family, we kind of migrated to the valley eventually. Now I’m in the valley. I’ve been here the past… Geez. I think I moved to the valley in 2006 or something like that. So it’s been a while. I mean, I love it here. It’s my home and it’s kind of like the central point for me to get anywhere to get downtown, to get to Los Angeles or Hollywood or the Palisades or Malibu.

Gabe Gault:
So it’s been a pretty nice run out here. It just gets like super hot. So that’s kind of a big problem. When it comes time to paint in the summertime, my studio is outdoor, so it kind of like limits me. But I can’t complain. It’s a great spot.

Maurice Cherry:
Growing up, did you have a lot of exposure to art and everything?

Gabe Gault:
I would say I did in some senses. I was actually inspired by… I remember this very clearly. When I was about four years old, I think my parents turned on the TV and Dragon Ball Z was on. And then I was just inspired by anime and manga and all that kind of culture. I feel like a lot of creators actually kind of came from that era of like early days of Toonami and anime and stuff back in the day.

Gabe Gault:
And that was later in high school, like translated to me just kind of drawing that stuff and getting more acquainted with that. And drawing portraits of friends, whether they were good or bad. I was a pretty big sports player. I come from a pretty big sports family. My dad played pro ball for the Super Bowl Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, hence why I moved out here or why I was born out here.

Gabe Gault:
So that was like a little bit of a conflict of interest, where it’s like, I was a artist, but my dad wanted me to play sports from time to time. Of course, at the moment, he’s super into me being an artist and he’s been one of my best supporters for the past years. And interesting journey, like going from high school, drawing, to getting more serious about it in college.

Gabe Gault:
And then I took SMC art course for about two years. I ended up dropping out. I did an internship with my mentor, Rob Pryor. We did that for about six or seven years. And from there, we were actually working on like a fully hand painted comic book. We did a bunch of cool jobs throughout those years of training. We did stuff for Heavy Metal magazine. He was like a part owner of that.

Gabe Gault:
So I did a lot of comic book stuff. I did a lot of concept art for video games and movies and all sorts of weird, odd jobs. And we were actually working out of this building in Burbank, where we ended up kind of getting laid off of the comic book job. I ended up pursuing ‘fine arts.’ That’s where I wasn’t making any money. Then I was breaking even. Then I was like, okay, I can do this for a living.

Maurice Cherry:
How did you get connected with Rob?

Gabe Gault:
He was a friend of my dad’s, actually. I don’t know how they met exactly. I think they met through like a photoshoot or something. Rob is a pretty strict guy. He doesn’t take any bull. He’s like a pretty heavy metal dude as well. So you get in there, it’s pretty extreme. He’s blasting music. He’s a hooligan, for sure. But he’s my hooligan. He’s a super talented guy, Rob Pryor on platforms. But he does stuff for all kinds of different music groups. He does conventions. He’s an interesting dude.

Maurice Cherry:
Just to go back briefly to what you said about your dad kind of wanting you to go into sports, and then you were kind of more artistic, was there a point where he finally saw you as an artist?

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. Actually, kind of leading into the internship, I think around the time I was doing that, that’s when he started to recognize that this is like a career choice and path. Maybe it wasn’t as smart as going into sports at the time, which they’re both kind of pipe dreams, to be honest. Yeah, I think that he got on board when he saw that I could make a living doing it.

Maurice Cherry:
That seems to be the case for parents, I think especially for black parents. Your artistic and they see that you do this, but it doesn’t really click that like, oh, this can be a profession. It’s kind of always just like a hobby. And it seems like there’s always this point where hopefully they finally sort of see you as like, okay, you’re an artist. This is work that you can do. And it usually comes around money.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. I think money is the revolving factor right there. There’s a lot of different jobs that have happened in the past 20 years that just weren’t available to us, I think as well. So before, they had no idea. I was like, “Dad, check out these guys. They’re making millions of dollars playing Call of Duty or video games or whatever.” He’s like, “What? Oh, my God. What is going on? What do you mean? You should have been playing that. What are you doing?”

Gabe Gault:
And it’s just like, “Dad, I couldn’t. There was no option.” There’s just different avenues that have popped up that blow my mind. It’s like, if I knew you can make money doing videos and YouTube and stuff like that before, I mean, I just wouldn’t have been so worrisome of like, what am I going to do? There are so many options nowadays, in my opinion.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s so interesting. My best friend, Chris, who’s been on the show before, if people want to check him out. I think he’s episode 40, Dr. Chris Stewart. But he’s got two daughters, and his oldest daughter kind of wants to be a YouTuber. I think she’s probably, I don’t know, maybe about eight or nine years old. She wants to be a YouTuber. And he’s sort of like adamantly against it, like, “No. Go to school and learn STEM stuff and all that sort of stuff.”

Maurice Cherry:
And I kind of had to tell him, you got to think about it. Back when we were kids, even working in computers and the internet was like an impossibility because it barely existed. What we do now back then made no sense. So if what she’s doing now doesn’t make sense, congratulations, you’re old. But also, this is where career trends are going. Things are going now towards doing things online and being a content creator.

Gabe Gault:
Exactly. I would say, kids, just stick to TikTok. There’s going to be some probably big money in it too if you want to turn that into a career. I would also recommend to artists starting out that have some kind of money income. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or anything, but it would have helped me, for sure. Doing this full time without some kind of like financial stability was pretty rough.

Gabe Gault:
My dad was pretty rough on me already financially growing up, which was good. I’m glad he was. But yeah, it’s rougher to just not have any kind of money coming in, and you got to worry about making a painting or whatever to sell it or to get some kind of comic book job. That stuff is pretty hard to do as a creative. Whatever creative job you’re doing, I would always say, if you can, have some kind of like financial support from yourself, if possible.

Maurice Cherry:
Right. You don’t want to fall into that like starving artists trope.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah, that’s the worst. I do not miss those days at all. That’s one thing that I would go back and change, is maybe I should just get a part time job or something right here and figure it out. But yeah, it’s all been good. Everything kind of works itself out at the end.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, back in 2017, you had your first solo exhibition. Take us back to that time. What was going on then?

Gabe Gault:
Oh, man. That was a huge, huge year for me. A couple things happened within that year and a half lifespan or timeframe. That was my first big show in 2017 at MRG Gallery. There was a guy, Michael, I met, and we’re still pretty good friends. I actually saw him pretty recently, like about a week ago. But that was my first gallery and solo show that I ever had. I had maybe about 15 pieces in there that I worked on throughout that year.

Gabe Gault:
I think I finished seven of them in the last month of that. So yeah, that was like a big turning point of how I thought about creating art and selling art and how to get people there, how to get people engaged, what kind of steps you should make, what people were gravitating towards, as well, what they liked. I remember correctly, we didn’t sell any pieces at this show, but I think we sold some following the show, which was pretty good, I guess, for my first show. I had no exposure in that world at all. That was a fun experience. It’s just one of those things that twist your brand and changes your life forever.

Maurice Cherry:
I can imagine it’s probably like the culmination of so many things. I mean, of course, you’re working to create this sort of singular body of work for this exhibition, but also it’s kind of like your aha moment in a way, like, “Oh, not only am I an artist, but I am in like capital A artists with like an exhibition and a gallery. I’m an artist.”

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. I think it was maybe the first time where I really had something centered around me. That was very important and that helped me move forward and get me used to people wanting to see my work and I’m an important person. I am who I make myself to be. And that kind of helped me move forward a little bit more in my career.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I asked this question to Dawn Okoro, who I had on the show a couple weeks ago. She’s another artist actually, I mentioned to you I discovered her on TikTok. We’re starting to see a lot more black fine artists and their work being just exhibited in general to the mainstream over the past probably 10 years or so. I mentioned the Dawn Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. I mentioned those two specifically because they did the Obama portraits, but also those portraits are now on tour in the country.

Maurice Cherry:
Now they’re going around to different cities, so everyone that maybe couldn’t make it to the National Portrait Gallery in DC can now see it in their city. But also we’re starting to see more black artists and their work being exhibited through black media, movies, television shows, etc. And you had even mentioned before we started recording that some of your work has been included in some media like that. What are your thoughts about that kind of exposure? Does that really help you out as an artist?

Gabe Gault:
I think it does and it doesn’t. I think if you’re on some of those… I was in a show, I think Big Trouble. I think I was in like a documentary on Netflix, somewhere on there. I’m sure somebody can find me somewhere. I feel like exposure wise, it does help kind of build your credit and credentials. But I think more importantly, it’s great because black shows and black media can pay black artists. And I think that’s an important part to move forward for any black artist because that can fuel their next six months or whatever.

Gabe Gault:
That kind of bit of breaking point where after that six months, they had to stop producing work, and then it kind of slows down. But all those little things are wins, in my opinion. Because every time you’re hiring a black artist or you buy from a black artist, it helps that kind of community grow and it helps that black renaissance movement that’s kind of happening right now with Kehinde and everybody. It’s all upgrade.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And certainly now, what I would love to see, because through this show, I’ve been very fortunate to talk to a lot of people and now see their work out in the world, my hope is that the black artists kind of get that same level of recognition as say like, I don’t know, Jordan Peele or Issa Rae, just in terms of like you are also someone that is also creating these visual representations of the world and they’re out there for people to see. People need to know that black contemporary artists exists, period.

Gabe Gault:
I a hundred percent couldn’t agree more. For me, personally, I’m an artist, and I want to branch out. I want to do in a similar fashion what Jordan Peele or Issa Rae do. They’re kind of entrepreneurs in general. Black entrepreneurship is very fresh and it’s popping right now and I feel like it’s a good time to be one and express different avenues of creativity. If you’re an artist and you want to get into fashion, I think people are now supporting that more than ever.

Gabe Gault:
If you’re into fashion and you want to get into making movies, there’s no stopping you, really. I feel like there’s Donald Glover’s of the world who want to just be an actor, be a comedy writer, be whatever they want to be. You can kind of make it all come together. I feel like you don’t have to necessarily be one thing anymore. It’s just like, how hard do you want to work?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Being the kind of black creative, multihyphen it. I don’t want to say it seems like it’s necessarily the norm, but I think we’re certainly starting to see it, or rather, I think it’s starting to be normalized. We’re mentioning Issa and Jordan. Of course, there are several others that fall into this camp that do multiple kinds of creative work, or they do multiple modes of creative work within one thing. Like Jordan, I think we know from comedy first, but then also is clearly this horror buff also that can really flourish in that realm also.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. I just saw Candyman, not super recently, but whenever it came out. But that was an amazing movie where it kind of reminded me of a black Blade Runner, like the shots of it. And then it had its horror elements. I love his stuff because you always forget that you’re watching a horror movie till something pops off and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, this is Candyman. I forgot what I was watching for a second.” Honestly, I just get inspired all the time by people like that and Issa Rae and everybody who’s doing something remarkable.

Maurice Cherry:
Where else do you pull inspiration from?

Gabe Gault:
Man, I pull inspiration from a little bit of… God, what do I pull inspiration from? I feel like I get inspiration from a little bit of everything. I’m into comic books, I’m into games, I’m into mythology. I feel like there’s bits and pieces that I’ll deep dive into and I’ll get on kicks of. I was kind of like going to Roman kick lately of the artwork over there and kind of wanting to replicate what was created back in those times of ancient Rome and what kind of stories were coming out of there.

Gabe Gault:
Then I also remember old stories, African stories that my mom used to tell me back in the day, and I’m starting to kind of research those in the past week. So it’s a little bit of whatever I’m feeling in the moment and I think makes sense and is close to me, or makes sense for me, then I’ll kind of draw inspiration from that.

Maurice Cherry:
Are there any other artists out there that you admire?

Gabe Gault:
There are a ton of artists, I feel like. Actually, to get my art style, I think I took my five favorite artists. And this is something I tell younger artists as well. Take your five favorite artists who are still living or dead. Take one element from each artist, mix them together, but making your own. And then you kind of have your style right there. And that’s something that I used personally and it kind of made up to figure out what was me and what did I like and what did I enjoy that I won’t get burned out on?

Gabe Gault:
But yeah, some of those artists I grabbed from were Shepard Fairey, Kehinde Wiley, Retna. Andy Warhol, of course. I feel like you got to at least give him some credit on some aspects of your life. There’s a couple of them that are pretty mainstream that I draw from that I really liked growing up. I’ll usually draw from one piece of theirs and then be like, okay, why do I really like this piece? What makes me want to create more pieces similar to this? What’s the element that is affecting me like that?

Maurice Cherry:
What is it that you kind of want people to see when they look at your work?

Gabe Gault:
I want them to like there’s a little bit of that person who I’m painting in them. There’s a piece I did, I think it was for We Rise show in downtown LA. They had those yearly. I think maybe the last one was Into Action. No, it was We Rise, and they do this other show, Into Action. But they do these amazing kind of museum pop ups that they were doing yearly. I think they took a break during COVID because of regulations and it’s pretty hard.

Gabe Gault:
But there is a couple pieces I did during that show. One was the first camouflage piece I did, which was a piece of Tupac and he was wearing a Kaepernick jersey. That was my first camo piece I did. That actually didn’t even make it on the wall. It was a funny story. That didn’t make it on the wall. That was put behind like a DJ booth almost. That was like a whole bummer. Everybody there is super cool.

Gabe Gault:
They really tried to make it work, but there were so many artists and very little space left on the walls. But that ended up being one of the biggest pieces of the show. Everybody kind of like went over there and they were like, “Oh, what’s that piece over there?” It kind of made it mysterious a little bit. I was just behind the DJ booth, which I thought was funny. But not on purpose or for any specific reason.

Gabe Gault:
But I think during that time, that was a big piece. I have people sending like paragraphs to me on Instagram how much that meant to them, how much they appreciated it. It was a big time because that was right after I think Kap took a knee for that. I think it was just impactful for a lot of people to see that. It almost meant, what would this person do today? Where would this person stand politically? So I had Tupac, I had MLK and Cesar Chavez all in Kaepernick jerseys.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, it’s amazing. Let’s just kind of talk about Tupac for a minute. I mean, he was 25 when he died. He was a kid.

Gabe Gault:
He was a baby. 25 is like a decade now.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s amazing because I would think of folks digging in Tupac and others, even MLK, as you mentioned. They were really young when they were killed. It is kind of part of just, I don’t know, creative imagination to think about, what would they have believed at this time? Who would they have been as artists or as activists or whomever?

Gabe Gault:
Yeah, it is crazy. I just wonder sometimes how our history would have changed if it wasn’t… What if they didn’t die? Would it be better? Would’ve anything changed? Would it be worse? It’s a crazy concept to think about what happened. If MLK was still here, would we have gone further? Did that happen for a reason? I don’t know. It’s just nuts.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, also, just what they managed to accomplish in just that short time. When I was 25, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I was just trying to make it. At 25, I was four years out of college. I think I had just got fired from a job. I remember vividly now. I just got fired. I was working at Autotrader and I got fired. I was answering phones or whatever. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

Maurice Cherry:
My mom was like, “You need to get it together. What are you going to do with your life.” I was always designing and doing websites and stuff on the side as like a hobby. Because this was like 2005, 2006. There wasn’t really a market for this really yet. And certainly it wasn’t something you could just like go to school and learn. And so I had just found a one ad in the back of our local weekly newspaper here in Atlanta and just applied on a whim. And that ended up being the start of my design career. But I can’t imagine like as a celebrity with that kind of cultural impact that you’ve had at that age. That’s amazing.

Gabe Gault:
You have to be making some moves back then, for sure. That’s also insane to think about just how, nowadays, you can jump on social media and just become an internet superstar, whatever. But back then you had to really be, I feel like, pushed by everybody. Everybody had to really know who you are, know your name or know your craft. Not that they don’t nowadays, but you know what I mean.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s a whole new ballgame.

Gabe Gault:
A whole new ball game.

Maurice Cherry:
And the internet has made it that way now, where you can really kind of make a name for yourself. And not to say you can make a name for yourself without any sort of discernible talent, although we have seen that. But the internet at least sort of I think in a way democratizes how people can become influencers because the barriers to get to that level of influence have kind of been flattened.

Gabe Gault:
Yes. It’s definitely more open to the public, for sure, as like who can be seen and who can be heard the loudest, in a sense. I feel like you could be a kid from nothing. I think that’s like my favorite part of the internet, is when you get somebody who really had no opportunities or no kind of way of getting out of a bad situation. And then they started to put themselves out there on the internet.

Gabe Gault:
And now they’re just like mega successful in their own right. So I think that’s kind of a better version of the area that I like to see the most. Obviously, you have all sorts of variables of that. They could be super crappy people and get that same situation. But that’s kind of how the game works.

Maurice Cherry:
In recent years, what would you say is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned about yourself?

Gabe Gault:
I feel like I need to trust my intuition more. That’s been helpful, trusting that people will accept me for who I am and what I want to create and make and paint and will support me. I think that’s been a huge, huge influence throughout the past couple years and it has really changed my life and impacted me because I didn’t always have that. I didn’t really always believe in myself to get this far or get where I am or get in the position I want to be in. So I think if I knew that a little bit earlier, it would have saved a lot of stress.

Maurice Cherry:
Who would you have been if you didn’t become an artist?

Gabe Gault:
I was never fit for like an office job. I would’ve either been a scientist or a bum. I don’t know. It’s either/or. It’s no middle ground. I feel like I always had to be an artist. I had no choice because I can’t really do anything else in whatever field I wanted to be in. I wasn’t too great at math growing up in high school and stuff. I was like, “Oh, I want to be a scientist.” But there’s all these equations and stuff. So screw that

Gabe Gault:
But funny enough, I think the true answer to that probably would have been like sports probably in some shape or form. And it’s just funny because I don’t keep up with sports at all nowadays. And that’s like kind of what I grew up off of. That’s like my dad’s bread and butter. But it probably would have been sports are something in video games, some kind of analyst or something. I don’t know. I really couldn’t answer, but something along those lines that is just completely different, I think, in some way.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, you kind of mentioned video games. You’ve mentioned that as kind of a through line throughout this interview. Is that like a dream project that you’d love to do one day?

Gabe Gault:
Yes, games will be a cool kind of way to be integrated into my current career. I’m actually creating NFT right now. I’m kind of getting into that whole space of digitally sold artwork. And I feel like it’s all kind of leading to that, in a sense, in some shape or form. If I never do that, that’s totally fine. And it’s not like a dream killer, because I feel like I’m living my dream right now just doing art and making a living off of that.

Gabe Gault:
But there are certain things that it’s kind of crazy when it happens and it comes full circle. I did a project for Madden, where I had to paint Aaron Donald for like the 99 club. And that was like weird and kind of full circle, because it’s like, with my pop’s background, it’s like, I never thought that it would kind of end up back at football in such a profound way. It’d be cool, I think, if that happened, for sure.

Gabe Gault:
There’s been a couple opportunities where I have gotten into like a video game world and worked with some pro gamers and stuff. But sometimes those are pretty weird deals to make happen with like fine art. I also have to stay on brand sometimes. I don’t want to do something completely out of pocket and go south of what’s me.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, I can see that. I mean, certainly when it comes to tips, and even that with video games, that’s another medium that has really grown and changed a lot, thanks to technology. I mean, the games back in the day really were pretty one node in terms of what they could be. And now, especially on the indie game kind of community, video games can look so many different ways, they can be so many different things.

Maurice Cherry:
I do wonder if that does afford more opportunities for artists to get involved in that way. There’s this one person in particular who I really want to try to get her on the show, but her name, she goes by Momo Pixel. She made this game. Goodness, I think she was working at Wieden+Kennedy at the time, but made this game called… Actually, I forget what the name of the game was called.

Maurice Cherry:
But the premise of it was this black woman going about her day and people trying to touch her hair. And you as the black woman had to like swat all the hands away. She’s on the plane, she’s in a taxi, she’s on the bus and people are trying to touch her hair. And you just swat all the hands away to get to like the end goal or whatever. I played it at XOXO, which is just internet conference that takes place in Portland.

Maurice Cherry:
I remember playing it there back in 2018 And being like, “This is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen.” There’s no way I would be playing this on Nintendo. But she just made the game. And it’s like, yeah, this sort of stuff is wild. I can imagine there are so many opportunities like that.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah, that’s no joke. I feel like I have a couple friends who’ve been in the indie game space. It’s no easy feat to just make that stuff. It’s kind of like years of understanding how to code and make the art in game design. It’s always something I’ve just been interested in throughout my whole life. So if you find a game, you got to send that to me.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah. I’m looking on that. It’s called Hair Nah, H-A-I-R N-A-H, and it’s at hairnah.com. She’s on Twitter at MomoUhOh. M-O-M-O U-H-O-H.

Gabe Gault:
Shout out.

Maurice Cherry:
She’s an artist, indie game developer, creator of Hair Nah. Final NFT in Origin Story drops soon. She’s even on the NFT route too. Interesting.

Gabe Gault:
Yeah. That’s another another crazy space that’s kind of popped up in the past year and a half on a bigger scale. I know it’s been around for a couple years now, six or seven years really. But that’s also an element of being an artist, that you have to adapt. There’s a lot of different things that come up over the decades and I feel like always shoot for what’s next. Have that open as an option.

Gabe Gault:
Because if you kind of look at artists of the past or yesteryear, they’ve always kind of adapted to what’s the newest trend or what’s the newest adaptation. Not that you always have to make something that’s trendy or whatever, but it’s always cool to keep an eye out for something to help yourself and your work.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Gabe Gault:
I feel like when there’s big projects like the Ohio project, yeah. There’s always, what’s the next big thing? Or, where do I go from here? And I think for me, there’s a couple of bucket list goals of art career choices that I want to kind of check off. So I feel like I’m never quite satisfied. I think the day that I am, I’ve hopefully kind of completed that bucket list.

Maurice Cherry:
So that ends. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work would you love to be doing?

Gabe Gault:
I mean, I guess a longer goal for me is hopefully in the next five years, my work is different. I wouldn’t say completely different. Hopefully, by the end of my career, it’s completely different. But hopefully, in five years, my work is different from it is now and there’s different platforms and different mediums that I’m working in.

Gabe Gault:
You can always kind of elevate yourself a little bit and I’m trying to branch out from just painting on canvas. I want to get into the sculptures. I want to get into painting cars, whatever it may be, doing more NFT stuff, doing some 3D work. So I think that’s where I see myself in five years is kind of completing all those goals and making a living doing it.

Maurice Cherry:
I feel like the big thing now that we’ve talked about NFT’s, but I’m starting to see platforms start to go towards the metaverse, which is… I mean, honestly, it sounds even weird for me to say it because that sounds like some shit that came on like a ’90s Power Rangers, VR Troopers, we’re going to the metaverse kind of thing. I’m starting to see platforms think about what it is to be in the metaverse, Facebook most specifically.

Maurice Cherry:
But there’s also artists that are starting to work in that medium or starting to do things in that whole medium. I know NFT’s are part of that like NFT’s, generative art, digital art, all that sort of plays into it. I mean, I think even Sotheby’s did like a virtual gallery in the metaverse.

Gabe Gault:
It’s insane. The metaverse is an interesting place where kind of anything goes. The whole crypto space is the wild west right now, and I think it’s going to be that way for a while. You can make anything, you can create anything you want to create. I wish I knew 3D better so I can kind of jump in there a little bit more. But there’s always opportunity, I think, for anybody.

Gabe Gault:
I have a friend who made like a metaverse thing, Frank Wilder. He’s on IG. But he did a whole metaverse kind of reality where he’s making cars and planes and get your NFT Lambo or Rolls Royce or whatever you want, making art and also in that space. So it’s a crazy thing that’s, I think, going to be pretty popping in the next 5 to 10 years. It’s going to be I think the future, really?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Well, just kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?

Gabe Gault:
You can find out more about me on TikTok, first and foremost, at Gabe Gault. I’m on Instagram at Gabe Gault and I also have gabegault.com. I’m sure I’m like on other platforms as well. I’m on Twitter and other things. But I think mostly you can get a good idea of my work on those.

Maurice Cherry:
Sounds good. Well, Gabe Gault, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. One, thank you for just sharing kind of the process about your work and really talking about some of the projects that you’ve done. But also I think it’s always great when you have an artist that’s really kind of doing these things that are, I don’t know, kind of a mix of classic imagery, like what you do with your portraits, but then also you’re putting your own kind of interesting twist on it.

Maurice Cherry:
I think the work that you’re doing is completely sublime. It’s really dope work. I can’t wait to see what stuff you’re doing the next few years, and hopefully more of the world will be able to see what you’ve done from this interview. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Gabe Gault:
No, thank you so much. That keeps me going. So I appreciate being on here.

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