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As a Black professional, you may know that feeling of being “the only one”. It’s a space many of The Talented Tenth occupy, especially as they continue on in their careers. Some of them try to break out of that feeling by banding together towards a common good, such as supporting social impact initiatives or meeting with companies and institutions to address systemic inequities. Historically, Black communities have thrived around these shared interests, and in turn, have produced some of the country’s first Black major media companies, HBCUs, progressive political movements and politicians, and even its first Black president.

A young Barack and Michelle Obama in their Chicago home.
Source: ©Mariana Cook 1996
A young Barack and Michelle Obama in their Chicago home.
Source: ©Mariana Cook 1996

But when it’s time for Black designers and tech professionals to be included, we become an afterthought — a means to an end when they need a logo or a flyer or something simple done on the Web. And when it comes to being seen as social peers for important initiatives, we are instead regarded as non-factors in the conversation. We’ve seen this when former NAACP head Ben Jealous speaks at Twitter HQ and no Black employees are invited. We’ve seen this when Black lawmakers breathlessly call for more diversity in Silicon Valley yet ignore existing initiatives that are already making progress.

There appears to be a gap between Black design and tech professionals versus Black professionals in other fields. How did this happen, and what can we do to get out of it and bridge the divide?

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At 94 years old, Dr. Samella Sanders Lewis’ long, rich life holds many accomplishments: four degrees, five films, seven books, and countless works of art in many mediums. She is the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in fine art and art history, which was groundbreaking for many who aspired for higher education. She has taught in several universities, and her art has inspired generations.

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A good personal brand is key to setting yourself apart from the crowd. It should reflect your talents and personality, while also showing what you can bring to the table. Many times, a first impression will come through your brand, so it’s important to make it as strong as you can. I’ve been working on refreshing my personal brand, and wanted to share the following tips that have been the most meaningful for me.

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As the summer draws to a close and the fiscal year begins for many agencies, job and business opportunities abound. For creative types, seizing these opportunities will rely, at least in part, on having a strong portfolio to show potential employers and clients.

In nearly 10 years of working for the government, for agencies, and as a freelancer, I’ve evaluated hundreds of portfolios. Unfortunately, there are more than a few designers I’ve seen who lack either the knowledge or the desire to market themselves effectively through their body of work. Attracting success doesn’t have to be a difficult prospect, though. Here are some steps you can take to put together your best portfolio.

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Q: What are some resources for self-taught designers to improve our craft? What tools are the best for starting a freelance business?

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