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Matese Fields

When did you fall in love with design? While some people have always been able to tap into that creative spark, for others it might take some time trying different things until you find your way into design. Such is the case with this week’s guest, independent brand designer Matese Fields. His explorations have taken him all over the country, and now he’s living and working in the creative hub of Portland, Oregon.

Matese told me a bit about some of his latest projects, and then he shared what inspired him to get into design. He also spoke about how his background in marketing helps him in his current work, and gave some great advice and resources for any budding brand designers out there. Matese has been able to make a living and build a life by following his passions, which is something we can all get inspired by!

Interview Transcript

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

Matese Fields:
I am Matese Fields, and I am an independent brand and product designer in Portland, Oregon.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. How has 2023 been going for you so far?

Matese Fields:
2023 has been fantastic. I had a pretty rough 2022. Honestly, one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. So I think when I came in 2023, I kind of came into this mindset like, “That’s not happening again.” And it hasn’t. So far it’s been great. I feel like for the first time in a long time, I’m kind of firing on all cylinders, so it feels good.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, that’s good. That’s a good turnaround. I mean, I think 2022 was a rough year for a lot of people. Particularly if you were working in tech, or design, or something because of a bunch of layoffs and stuff. COVID is still around. A lot of people had a rough year. I had a rough year last year too, so I completely a hundred percent understand where you’re coming from.

Matese Fields:
Definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
I saw on Instagram you just finished up a branding campaign last month. Can you talk to me about that?

Matese Fields:
Yeah, that was one of the high points of my 2022. I got to work with a company called Black Campaign School. And so I kind of partnered with this group called Three Point Strategies, and helped them reboot what Black Campaign School is. And so they’ve been around I think since 2016. We kind of came in with the goal of differentiating it from some of that kind of DC vibe. Super political, red, white, and blue theme that they had originally had. So yeah, I came in, worked with them on the branding side of determining what Black Campaign School is, sort of redoing that logo, a lot of their brand identity. And then we built out a lot of stuff for their reboot of the actual physical school, which was really cool. I got to do a lot of physical stuff for the camp, which is located at Haley Farm in Tennessee. It’s a really cool, historically Black farm in Tennessee. So yeah, it was great.

Maurice Cherry:
You said red, white, and blue. Was it a political advocacy group or something?

Matese Fields:
Yeah. So basically the goal of Black Campaign School is to teach people who are really involved with campaigning and that organizing for social justice and stuff like that. It’s kind of a school to teach them how to use that and take that to politics, and run for office, or boost that up a little bit.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting, okay. Yeah, because I was looking through the branding. It’s only as you mentioned it now that I was like, “This is political,” because the branding does not at all scream politics. Which I think is good. I mean, I’ve worked on a political campaign. So I feel like every campaign from California to Florida uses red, white, and blue in some iteration. So when you said that and you mentioned it, I was like, “Is that what it is?” But yeah, and I’ll put a link to it and everything so people can check out what the brand looks like, but I definitely did not get politics from it.

Matese Fields:
That’s great. We accomplished the goal for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Matese Fields:
Currently, no. So I kind of knew that January was going to be more of a slow month for me. So a lot of January was me just trying to get my stuff in order. So updating my portfolio. I’m kind of in the midst of getting my LLC. So doing a lot of work with that. Doing a lot of promoting on social media, just trying to get my work out there.

But I am starting a new project on Monday, which is exciting. It’s a small little contract gig with Breville, which they make tabletop coffee makers and stuff like that. So that’ll be fun. And then on another fun side, I started a Euchre club. I’m not sure if you’re familiar what Euchre is,

Maurice Cherry:
Spades, right?

Matese Fields:
Similar to Spades, but not quite. It’s like a game of tricks, but it has a little different nuanced than Spades. But I’m from the Midwest originally, so it’s a big, Midwest thing for us. So I started a club with a group of 14 of my friends. And I was like, “Well, I don’t have that much to do. Why not just kind of act like this is a project?” So I made a logo for it, got swag made for it, and stuff. So it’s been kind of a fun thing to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. I have not heard Euchre since, and I’m dating myself here. I haven’t heard Euchre since Yahoo Games. I think Yahoo Games had Euchre. I think they also had Spades too, but they had Hearts of course, Literati, stuff like that. What drew you to Euchre? Is it a distinctly Midwest game?

Matese Fields:
I think it is. It’s fun when you have a group of a few people. And I feel like every time we’d be hanging out at somebody’s house, all my friends in Portland are from the Midwest in some capacity. So it’s like whenever we’d hang out, we’d be like, “Let’s play Euchre.”

And so we actually had this party back in end of last year, and it was called the Midwest Fest. My friend put it on. Basically it was a party, and everyone brought casseroles, and everything was themed Midwest. There was corn hole, and there was a bonfire, and everything you do in the country of the Midwest. And so we ended up playing Euchre there, and there was so many people interested. We were like, “Why not just start a club?” So yeah, it kind of started from there.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. Urban Dictionary defines Euchre as a four-person trump-based, not the president, trump-based card game primarily played on Midwestern college campuses involving a 24 card deck and many beers. Is that accurate?

Matese Fields:
That is insanely accurate. Lot of beers are had. Yes. I started playing in college. That is so accurate.

Maurice Cherry:
What inspired you to become a brand designer?

Matese Fields:
I honestly never saw this for myself. I think if you would’ve talked to me five, 10 years ago, I’d have been like, “No.” But I don’t know. I’ve always been creative in a sense. It hasn’t always been in the design or art sense. But I’ve always kind of had an eye for creativity.

And so when I first started my career, I was very UX/UI heavy, which I love. But it wasn’t quite fulfilling me. And so I kind of always knew that eventually there would be more transition to a more creative side of design. And I tried a lot of different things. I was like, “I’m going to be an illustrator.” And I started doing that. I’m like, “Maybe I’m not going to be an illustrator.” And then I really was into type design for a little bit and I was like, “I’m going to be a type designer.” It wasn’t my time for that either. And so I think just as my career went on, I kind of started forming myself to be more of a brand designer, and then just jumping in and trying to get those opportunities. So yeah, I think that’s it. There’s no straightforward answer for it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I think it’s good that you were able to explore these different facets of design before you landed on something that worked for you. That’s a good thing.

Matese Fields:
Definitely. I think my entire life has been try everything you can. That was kind of what my whole college career was. I think that’s just the way that works best for me it I want to try as much stuff as I can. And then when it sticks, it sticks.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How would you describe your design process, when you get a new project? What goes through your mind as you’re putting everything together?

Matese Fields:
The minute I get a proposal, or an inquiry or email, thoughts are already running my head. My brain is just going at a thousand miles a minute at all times. So when I first get an email, I kind of already am thinking through what could be. So that’s one part.

I think the biggest part for me when it comes to working on a project, especially independently, is really getting close with the client. So really determining what is right for them. So with that comes a lot of questions. I like to sit down and just dig deep, and know everything that I can about this client, and why this project is happening, and what they want to get out of it, and the origin behind the company, and the name, and everything. So that’s definitely a big part of the process.

And then I would say, this is something I kind of learned from my time at Work & Co, but I like to show often. I’m not a huge wire frame or sketch things out type of guy. I like to just get in and get dirty super quick. And with that comes a lot of bad things quite, frankly. But I think part of my process is being really consistent with showing how I’m getting to the point that I’m getting to.

So at Work & Co, we should work every day. And it wasn’t always the greatest work, and sometimes it didn’t make sense. But it really helps to form that story around how you get to that final product.

I think one part of my process is definitely just showing a lot of work. Even if I don’t think it’s great or could be tweaked, just showing that process and being super transparent about that. So yeah, that’s the early stages of the process, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
So it’s a lot of information gathering at first, it sounds like.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, definitely. I want to know everything that I can. And Dropbox Paper is my best friend. I just have things jotted down everywhere.

Maurice Cherry:
So do you start off digital, or do you start off analog?

Matese Fields:
Usually digital, honestly. Yeah, I’ve never been a sketcher or anything like that. So yeah, definitely digitally.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. What do you think are the most important elements of a successful brand design?

Matese Fields:
I think honestly, the storytelling forming the story around what the brand is. And that will kind of seep into ultimately, what the look of the brand is going to be. So I’ve always kind of worked I guess, in between a lot of the strategy sides and design sides. So I think the storytelling is definitely the biggest part of the brand. Just a strong idea of what this brand is. And then that will easily flow into what is the actual part of the visual side of it.

Maurice Cherry:
Is it easy to get the client online with that? To let them know that yeah, we are talking about brand. But actually, we’re going to dive more into what story is being told? Because I feel like sometimes, clients just want to see something. They want to see something visual so they can either accept it or reject it. Most likely reject it, but they kind of want to see something.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, for sure. I do think it is sometimes a little difficult getting them on board with that. But I think I’m a big part of, “This is what I did on X project, and this is how I can work with you to get you to that point.” And it might start super dry, and you might not see anything for a little bit. But once we nail it down, it’s going to be really easy to get to that point where the visuals are going to be. And I think that definitely helps with that conversation for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Has there ever been a time where you’ve kind of started out in that beginning process, and then by the time you got to the finished product, it was something completely different?

Matese Fields:
Yeah, I’m trying to think of a specific time. But I think that honestly, it kind of happened a little bit with the Black Campaign School. We kind of knew what it was that we wanted to do and wanted to accomplish. But I think the vision of the end goal was a lot different or the vision of the visuals at the end were a lot different. We ended in this more regal, dark, purple, really showcasing the people and the what behind Black Campaign School. And I think the original was we wanted to be happy, and flowing, and pastels, and stuff like that. Yeah, I mean I think there’s been definitely been a lot of times when that’s happened for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
So I want to learn more about you and you. You’ve alluded a bit already since we were talking about Euchre, about your origins in the Midwest. So let’s go back there. Tell me about where you grew up.

Matese Fields:
Yeah. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio. I grew up in the city up through seventh grade. Went to Columbus City Schools. And then when I was in seventh grade, we moved to the country of Columbus. We moved to this little town called Lithopolis, which is 30 minutes south of Columbus. And I went to a really tiny high school called Bloom-Carroll, which was in the middle of a cornfield basically. Went from a middle school of 1,500 kids to a high school of 380. That was a huge change in my life. And then I went there all through high school.

And then after high school, went to a small college called Capital University, which is about five minutes from Ohio State. Small, kind of private liberal arts college. And then was there all throughout college and a couple years after college, and then kind of moved around the Midwest. I lived in Chicago for a little bit. I lived in Detroit for a little bit. And yeah, now I’m in Portland. Rainy Portland, Oregon.

Maurice Cherry:
Growing up, were you really creative? Were you drawing and sketching a lot, or something like that?

Matese Fields:
No, I was honestly the complete opposite. I’ve always been really creative, but it was more in the music form. Art was my least favorite class. Yeah, it’s really crazy.

But I always kind of had this weird affinity, now that I think about it, for design. I was really meticulous about how my handwriting looked, how my signature looked, and how my notes were organized. So I always had that sense of, I guess design in a sense, but I just didn’t really know it back then.

I was a big music kid. I started playing violin in elementary school. My parents had me in piano lessons when I was really young. And then when I got to middle school and high school, I switched to playing the clarinet. And I played the bass clarinet all through high school, ended up being really good at it. Had a lot of different musical honors and stuff like that in high school. And then actually went to college for music originally. Back then, I just knew I wanted to be a music teacher. I thought I was going to be this really great musical director, and work in colleges, and universities, and stuff like that. And quickly found out that was not what I wanted to do. But I’ve been really musical my whole life, but I haven’t been into art and design my entire life.

Maurice Cherry:
What turned you off from doing music?

Matese Fields:
I love playing music. That was my therapy when I was a kid. I think there was a couple things. When it came to me learning the intricacies, I wasn’t that interested. I just really wanted to play. I didn’t really want to do all the music theory, and learning piano, and all that.
So I think that was part of it. I think another part was I was not focused in college at all. Honestly, probably should have taken time off after high school before going to college, but my head just wasn’t there. It just kind of was like, “Okay, this is not for you. You can keep playing, but a career in music probably isn’t the best thing.”

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I’m thinking if you were playing bass clarinet, I’m trying to think what you would… You almost have to go into a symphony, I guess. When I think of house bands and stuff like that… I played trombone all through middle school, high school, college throughout my twenties. Every band kind of wants a trombone player, especially if you’re talking a club or something like that. But yeah, I would guess if you’re doing bass clarinet, that kind of limits options and venues for you to play, unless you go completely pro or something.

Matese Fields:
Definitely. And I think it’s actually probably one of the easier… If you’re really good at bass clarinet, I think it’s one of the easier instruments to get a gig with, because there aren’t a lot of people that play that instrument. And so I did during college and a little bit after college, I would play in different symphonic bands and stuff.

It was really fun. My piano teacher in college was a bass clarinet major. And so I think she eventually moved out of Ohio. And when she moved she was like, “I’m going to refer you for all these gigs for bass clarinet.” And so for a while, I did that where I get a call, we have a concert coming up. I’d go to the concert an hour before, run through all the music one time, and then play the concert. It was so much fun. And that was great. Being a teacher just wasn’t going to happen.

Maurice Cherry:
So when you were at Capital University, you majored in marketing. Tell me about what your time was like there.

Matese Fields:
Kind of going back to the idea of me trying everything and seeing if it sticks, that was kind of my entire college career. I originally came in as a music major. Music education major. Did that for I think a year, and half of my sophomore year. And then I was like, “Okay, that’s not working. But also, I don’t know what I want to do. And so I did everything.” I was like, “I’m going to be an accountant.” So I was an accounting major for a little while and then I was like, “I really don’t like math.” And then I was like, “I’m going to do psychology.” And then I was like, “Maybe I want to get into real estate.” I thought about transferring to Ohio State because they had a real estate program. And then eventually I was just like, “All right, just do marketing. It’s easy. I don’t know what I want to do in marketing, but it was easy.”

And so picked up a marketing major, stuck with it. And also like I was saying earlier, I just wasn’t really focused in college and didn’t really necessarily care about the schoolwork. But what I did know I enjoyed was working and doing internships.
So once I got that marketing major, I started doing internship after internship. My friends would always make fun of me because they’re like, “You’re onto the next internship.” And I did, I think 12 in college. All different companies, and just seeing where I fit in at marketing.

And then eventually, I started interning with a company called OhioHealth, which is a healthcare system in Ohio. And I was doing digital marketing there. And the team was basically just me and my boss. So I got to do a lot of different stuff. And for a while, I was really focused on analytics and the web side of things, but on a marketing perspective. So SEO and stuff like that. Yeah.
So then eventually I was there, and this kind of segues of how I got into design. I was working at the internship, been there for probably about a year and a half. And they came to me, my boss came to me and was like, “Hey, we need this webpage redesign.” And I was like, “Okay. I don’t really know what that means, but sure.”

And so took on that project, and it was really cool. I kind of got the lead up all the strategy behind it and how we are doing copy and stuff like that. And we didn’t even have design software, so I did wireframes and PowerPoint.
But it was just a really cool process. And then from there I was like, “Okay, I think this is what I want to do. I really like UX, and the web, and stuff like that.” So that’s how I got into design.

But long story short, didn’t do really well in school. But kind of picked up that marketing major and then found my way through internships rather than school. My goal for school is just get through it. Graduate so your parents are happy. But yeah, just get through it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I think that speaks to what you alluded to earlier with you were always trying a bunch of new things. And honestly, college is the place to do that. College is all about trying new stuff. There’s all sorts of clubs, and majors, and things like that. So it sounds like that really helped inform all of this, I don’t want to say trial and error. Because I don’t like the misconception that just because something maybe didn’t work out, that you didn’t learn something from it. So each of these explorations moved you closer to where you ultimately are now.

Matese Fields:
For sure. Definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you feel like your marketing knowledge, how does that help you as a designer now?

Matese Fields:
I kind of think about this often, because I always joke, I’m like, “I’ve never used my degree.” But I definitely think it helps with my thought process behind how I approach design. So definitely from that strategy side of things, a lot of stuff we learned in college was around the strategy, and how you get to a point of determining what the [inaudible 00:28:46] is, and building a business plan, and SWOT analysis, and stuff like that. So I think my time at capital in the marketing side of things definitely helps with that aspect of how I approach and think through design. And I’ve always really been interested in the strategy side of things. And I think it’s because of that background that I have.

Maurice Cherry:
So it sounds like it’s not just about making it look pretty. Of course you want it to look pretty, but you also have the know-how behind like, “This is what people are going to gravitate towards. This is what it’s going to be something that catches someone’s eye.”

Matese Fields:
Yep, for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now you were at StockX for almost two years. What do you remember from that time? What did that time there teach you?

Matese Fields:
Yes, StockX was great. Yeah, it was a really great place to work at for the time I did. When I first started there, I was pretty young in my career. That was my second full-time job that I had. And so it was really cool because the team, when I first started, it was three of us. My boss Jim Renaud, and then Evan Ames who was the senior designer on the team, and then me.

And it was really cool because I think from the moment I got there, they kind of just trusted me to do what I thought was best, which I was kind of looking for at that point in my career. And so yeah, StockX was really great. It was also just a large team. Our creative team, we had in-house photographers, in-house videographers, art directors that are great, still some of my best friends to this day. And so we just got to do a lot of stuff and got to throw a lot of things at the wall and just be like, “This is what StockX could be.”

So yeah, it was really cool. It taught me a lot about just how to build up that story around a design. We had a lot of ideas on what we wanted to do and how StockX could be better. But most of the job was proving that to the higher ups. So we had to do a lot of work around, “Okay, this is how we’re going to present this to the CMO and this is how we’re going to break out these projects.” And so it was really cool, and I think we got a lot accomplished there.

I worked on a team that was in charge of a lot of the front facing parts of StockX. So the homepage, and the product page, and the searching. And that team, I worked with a couple really great project managers, Leah and Lilly. And it was really cool. We just determined the next five years of StockX, and it was really great working together with them.

Maurice Cherry:
And now you also worked for some agencies as well. Earlier, you mentioned Work & Co, which I said this before we recorded, that Work & Co and Revision Path have a interesting relationship. It goes back a few years. I first became acquainted with them in 2018. I met one of their project managers at XOXO. How long have you been in Portland, by the way?

Matese Fields:
It’ll be two years on Sunday actually.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So you were there I think after XOXO stopped having live events, because they sort of stopped during the pandemic. But XOXO is like this, I guess the best way I could call it is an internet festival. Even saying it like that sounds weird when you think about the internet now. But it’s makers, and designers, and developers, and artists. The year that I went, Lizzo performed. It’s a pretty nice event. I hope they bring it back one day because it’s actually a lot of fun. But that’s how I first got acquainted with Work & Co, learned about they have all these international offices. They’ve even done some pro bono work for the show before. They’ve been a sponsor before.

Not really sure what’s happening with Work & Co. I know they’ve got an office here in Atlanta, which they did ask me to head up. And then that vanished in the thin air, but that’s a whole other story. I’m curious for you though, you’ve worked at Work & Co, you’ve worked at some other agencies. How were those experiences? Because I would imagine that’s probably different from a place like StockX, which I guess is more of an e-commerce startup in a way.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, definitely way different from StockX. The first agency I worked at was called Truth Labs. It was in Chicago. And that agency also is extremely different from how Work & Co works. That place, we kind of worked in silos. So one person owned a project, and we were kind of the project manager in a sense, and also the designer. It was a really great experience. My boss Tyson there was amazing, taught me a lot stuff.

But Work & Co is very different from any place I’ve really worked at. Their whole thing is collaboration, which is something that I hadn’t had a ton of in my career until I got there. So it was really interesting when I got there. I remember when I first started, the first three or four months, I was like, “I have no clue what I’m doing.” My head was in a whirlwind. And I remember I’d be working on stuff. It’s a little challenging when you first start because you do share work every day. So you’re like, “I want to share the best stuff every day.” And then you just kind of get in your head, and things never really turn out the way you want them to.

I remember working on a project and my boss Alex was like, “We need to talk. What is happening?” And I was just, “I don’t really know what’s happening here. I don’t know what’s going on,” blah, blah, blah. And it wasn’t because of the company, it was just so different. We just had a really long chat and she was just kind of like, “We’re not expecting you to be perfect every day. You just got to kind of show up on your own pace. Obviously we want you to do the work. Don’t feel that pressure to have to be perfect, and everything has to be whatever.”

So it was just like I really had to change my thought process around design. And I think for me, my brain is always going. And so that kind of translates into how I think about my work, and how it first comes on a paper. It’s just once again, me throwing things out there, and seeing what sticks. And working at Work & Co, I really had to simplify my thought process to fit into their mold of how they work, which is interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay, you got to unpack that interesting now. You got to unpack that a little bit.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, I mean Work & Co does fantastic work. Everyone I work there with is so talented and literally every day I’d be like, “How are you doing this?” They work how they work, and that is it. There is no changing their process. You just have to assimilate into that process. And I think that’s where some of the friction comes from.

It works really well, and they do really great stuff. So I guess in a sense it’s like, who am I to change that? So I fell into that, and it was great. I did one of the biggest and best projects in my career there for the PGA TOUR. But yeah, it’s just really different. You just got to fall in and trust the process there. And for me that was hard to do, and I think is what led me to moving towards being independent.

Maurice Cherry:
Are all agencies like that? I can’t say all because you haven’t worked for all agencies, but you’ve worked for different types of agencies. Is this an agency thing, this opinionated way of working? Or was that just unique to them?

Matese Fields:
Honestly, I would say it’s somewhat unique to them. I do think when I was at Truth Labs, there was a lot more flexibility in how we wanted to structure the project. We worked in weekly sprints, but it was kind of up to you to determine what would be in that sprint, and how you would go about it, and how you present it to the client. Whereas Work & Co’s like, “Okay, we’re meeting every day. You’re sharing work every day.” You’re not sharing work to the client every day, but you’re sharing work to the overall team every day. Your reviews what the clients are on this day, this day. We are showing these three directions only. The way we’re presenting them is very structured. I think it’s fairly unique to them. I’ve freelanced for a lot of agencies also, and I think I’ve always had a little bit more flexibility in how to structure things.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s very interesting that you said that’s what pushed you to becoming independent. Sometimes you have to be in a, we’ll say less than ideal work situation. We’ll say that. Sometimes, you have to be in that situation to know what you don’t want.

And this also plays into what you’ve mentioned earlier with trying new things. This was another new thing that you tried. Wasn’t necessarily for you. But it’s again, pushing you closer to the ideal experience that you want to have, which I’m guessing right now is you being independent.

Matese Fields:
Definitely. I really enjoy my time at Work & Co, and I think it was definitely necessary for my career. I learned so much in the year and a half I was there. Honestly crazy. The process does work, if you’re really willing to adapt to that and fall into that. It’ll work great.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s different. Not for you.

Matese Fields:
And they are very product heavy too. And while I love product work, I definitely did want to focus more on brand. That was also part of it for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Got you. Speaking of brands, what trends in brand design do you think are going to be important in the coming years? I feel like we have so much with technology, and AI, and machine learning, and all this stuff. That it seems like creativity in a way, is pushing to be automated. So from your perspective, what do you think the future of brand design’s going to look like?

Matese Fields:
It’s crazy. It’s hard to keep up with all this stuff. I don’t know. I’m not falling into the automation craze yet. I mean, you’ve seen the pictures where it’s like, “The generated AI photos,” and everyone has six and seven fingers on a hand. There’s work to be done to push us out.

I think Gen Z is going to define a lot of what we see in the future. It seems like they’re kind of running the world right now, with influencing, and TikTok, and all that stuff. So I think a lot of brands are going to have to pivot to fall in line with that. Obviously, it depends on the brand if you’re doing B2B stuff that it doesn’t necessarily matter as much. But I think that’s going to be definitely big. You’ve already kind of seen it. Somebody was telling me about, they got rid of Sierra Mist and changed it to some brand. I don’t even remember what the name is, but-

Maurice Cherry:
Starry.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, Starry. To make it more popular for Gen Z. I think that’s a big thing. I think minimalism. It’s already kind of coming back, or it’s already prevalent a lot. But I think minimalism and really being direct with your brand is going to be really big. And I think a lot of that is rooted in typography, which I love. So yeah, I think that’s going to be big. But yeah, I think as we move forward, it’s definitely going to be a lot around how you position yourself in how your brand is showing up to the world. And it kind of goes back into the strategy, and the copy, and the brand voice. That’s going to be really big.

Maurice Cherry:
I think we’re going to start seeing less virtual experiences, and more in-person experiences. And when I say that, I mean of course, I’d say over the past two years or so, companies were starting to dip their toe into the metaverse. And they’re like, “We’re making these virtual campuses and all,” all this stuff that nobody was going to. Because it costs $300 to get Meta Quest 2 to join this thing, and you don’t have any legs, and there’s only 12 people in here. No one was really going for that.

But I saw brands, I know Taco Bell did this. Where they had a Taco Bell room, a hotel room. And you could I guess spend the night in the room, and it would be all decked out in… It’s like a 360 brand experience where Taco Bell’s everywhere. You get Taco Bell room service. All this sort of stuff.

I see that sort of stuff I think coming more and more. I mean I think that kind of plays to social media and brands and influencers because they’d probably be the ones that would like all that kind of gaudy stuff. But I see brands starting to create more of these in-person things, especially as folks start to get back out into the world more. These past few years, we’ve all been in the house, on Zoom, on Teams, on Google Meet, etc. Now people want to get out, but they want to still, I think, be able to do it safely. And I think companies will start to figure out maybe how they can have these sorts of 360 type of experiences that people will gravitate towards.

Matese Fields:
Definitely. I totally agree with that. You’re definitely seeing it everywhere. I know in Columbus, it’s been there for a while. But there’s a brewery BrewDog in Columbus. And they have a hotel like that too. It’s like you can take a bath in beer.

Maurice Cherry:
What?!

Matese Fields:
Just a bunch of crazy stuff. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I know the hotel room is very geared towards people who are very heavily into brewing, and the process of beer, and stuff like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, bath and beer, that doesn’t sound good. But I see why people would do it for the novelty.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, who knows. Might be good for your skin or something.

Maurice Cherry:
It could be. It could be. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start out in brand design? What would you tell them? Resources or anything like that?

Matese Fields:
I think throw as much as you can out there and just see what happens. I definitely think it’s easy to get caught up finding inspiration through other brands and media forms. Like Dribbble, or Pinterest, or whatever. But I think a big part of design is getting out into the world, and finding inspiration by things that are off your screen. So I think that’s definitely a big thing.

I would say read a lot. I have so much to learn from an art history perspective, because I never had that design school education. So I’ve been really just trying to learn more about that. So definitely, learning more about the roots and the origins. I think those would be my biggest things.

I never really had a dedicated mentor. But I think that finding someone who you can come back to, and who will be honest with you, and really keep it real with you is definitely important as well. And learn typography. I think that’s huge. Really learn how to use type. It’s big.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you make time for joy these days?

Matese Fields:
I love sports. I play a lot of basketball. I have been getting back into weightlifting, so I’ve been doing that a lot recently. I’ve been getting back into playing golf. I used to play with my dad a lot when I was younger. So trying to get back into that. I love reality TV, because it is easy to watch, and you don’t have to be invested in it. So I watch a lot of reality TV. I’ve always watched a ton of reality TV.

I have a ton of plants. Really big into plant life, taking care of plants. And I am really big into things. Anyone who knows me knows I just have a bunch of stuff. My mom, when I was a kid, she would always make fun of me. She’s like, “You’re a pack rat. You don’t throw anything out. You just keep everything.”

And so I have a lot of things. I like to go vintage and antique shopping a lot. So I’m constantly rearranging the house or rearranging my room, and just trying to find ways to use all these things that I have. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest. Play a lot of video games, play a lot of Euchre. I’m always busy. I just try to stay busy at all times.

Maurice Cherry:
What video games are you playing?

Matese Fields:
Recently, I just been playing Call of Duty and 2K, which I know is kind of boring. But I grew up, I really loved RPGs and those open world games when I was younger. So sometimes I’ll fall deep into that.

I’ve been playing Horizon Forbidden West a little bit. I’ve played Uncharted for probably 10 times. It’s like my favorite game ever. I used to be really big in Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption, stuff like that. I’ve been trying to get back into Last of Us, but that game makes me mad. It frustrates me. I might just have to watch the show and not-

Maurice Cherry:
I was going to say, I feel like that’s popular right now because of the show. People are trying to get back into the game.

Matese Fields:
Yeah. So yeah, I played halfway through and then I was just like, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Maurice Cherry:
So earlier you said when you were giving your advice for people that wanted to get into brand design, you said that they should seek motivation in other things. So what are the things that keep you motivated and inspired?

Matese Fields:
Honestly, it sounds cliché. But everything, honestly. My mind is always going. I’m always thinking about something. Whether it’s something I’m working on or something that could be. So I’ll get random inspiration from anything. The other day, I was driving through Portland, and I saw street sign. It sparked something for the Euchre league that I was doing.

So I definitely draw inspiration from being out in the world. But I would say to get more specific, I get a lot of inspiration from music artists and musicians. I’ve really been into street wear lately. So a lot of different street wear designers. Mainly Joe Freshgoods. He’s such a huge inspiration to me, mainly because he does whatever he wants. But there’s always this story behind why he’s doing something, which I think is super inspirational. He just does great stuff, and it’s always for the community and for other people.

So he’s a big inspiration. I would say I get a lot of inspiration from people who just build things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be design related. But Mike Smith from Smith & Diction, everything he does is incredible. The way he talks about his work is really great. People from Lichen. They’re a company in New York, and they do a lot of stuff with furniture and physical items. I think their story is super great.

My friend Alex Tan, he started a studio called Mouthwash. I’ve actually known Alex. We haven’t talked in a while, but I’ve known him since middle school. But he’s doing really great stuff. He’s always been super… I remember in college, we went to the same college. We went to the same church in high school. I remember in college we’d just be talking and everything he’d say, I’m like, “You don’t need to be here. Go do your own thing.” He’s just so smart.

So I think he’s doing really great stuff. Ryan Putnam also. He’s a really great fine artist. I think his story’s really cool of how he does things independently, on his own schedule. So yeah, I mean anything and everyone for sure, I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
Keeping it real Midwest with Joe Freshgoods.

Matese Fields:
Yeah. For my Chicago Days.

Maurice Cherry:
And Black. Well, I guess people know he’s a Black designer. I don’t know if that’s totally evident from the name, but yeah.

Matese Fields:
Definitely. Like the Lichen, they’re both Black designers. Definitely pulling inspiration from everything Black too, I would say, for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you have a dream project that you’d love to do one day?

Matese Fields:
Yeah. So I think in the future, I want to do more things. More physical and more designing spaces. That’s kind of where I see my career going. So I would love to do an exhibit at a museum. I think that would be awesome. Somewhere where I could do digital design, but also design the space and the physical aspects around it too.

I’ve always had a weird affinity for doing a large wayfinding project. It sounds boring when you say it. But I think there’s something beautiful in directions, and telling people where to go, and helping people find their way. So sounds weird, but definitely something like that too. That would be really cool.

Maurice Cherry:
That doesn’t sound weird. I mean, our icon is a wayfinding sign. So it doesn’t sound weird at all.

Matese Fields:
For sure.

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

Matese Fields:
This is what I think about every day now, I feel like. So part of the reason 2022 was a really rough year is because I felt I had lost myself a little bit. I didn’t really know.

I guess I put a lot of purpose of my life into my work. So when I got laid off from my job, I was kind of like, “What do I do now?” For a while I was like, “Maybe I shouldn’t do design.” I felt like I was just there. There was nothing really pushing me. 2022 was a big year of self-reflection, and what I really want to do. And when I finally took the leap and was like, “Okay, I’m going to be independent. We’re going to make this work.” I think that’s when this, “What is the future going to be?” Became a little bit more real.

In the future, I see myself doing less design actually. I think the goal is to make design a part-time type of thing, where I can be really specific about projects I want to take on, and just really specific about what I do, and how I do it, and what I want to do.

And then the other half of that being, I have this vision of making a space. And with that, I haven’t thought of a name. I haven’t thought of any of that. But combined with my love of people, I just love being around people. I love helping people. I love bringing people together. So there’s a love for that. There’s a love for collecting and having things. I do have a lot of things, but everything kind of has a story behind it of why I love it, and why it’s in my collection. So there’s the love for people. There’s a love for things. And then there’s also a love for education.

And so I didn’t do well in college, and I think it was just because I didn’t have meaning behind why I was in school. I was just there, because I felt like it was something I should do, and I was making my parents proud and stuff like that.

But there’s non-traditional ways to learn what you want to do and who you want to be. And specifically in design, I think I was saying before we got on, us as Black people aren’t really taught that you can be successful in the arts, or in design, even in music, unless you’re a huge artist. So I think part of that is me teaching Black people that you can make money doing whatever you want, and you can specifically make money, be successful, be fulfilled in design.

So with all that said, I would love to create a space that could one part be my studio, where I’m doing that part-time design work, and then the other half being a maker space/art gallery/vintage shop/gathering space. And then it’d all be centered around blackness, and education, and storytelling, and community. It is a lot, but that’s sort of where my head is at currently.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I think that’s super aspirational to make a center for all that positive blackness. I don’t know how it would go in Portland, but I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea to have something like that.

Matese Fields:
I’ve had the same thought. At first I was like, “I need to move back to Detroit to do this.” And I think Detroit would be a great city for something to happen. I was kind of having these ideas when I was in Detroit. But I’ve been talking to a lot of people in Portland. I think it would actually be something that would be positive for the Black culture in Portland. It’s very white here. Everyone knows it. And when I first moved here, I was very thrown back. And even to me as someone who was the only Black person in my high school, I was like, “What is happening?” And I remember talking to people and being like, “I don’t know if I’m loving it here. I just moved from the Blackest city in America to here.” Everyone I was talking to, they were like, “Well, if you move, then it is going to continue being the whitest city.” So it’s like I think there’s a need for that space to be in Portland.

I think Portland’s a great city. They embrace art, and they embrace design and community. But you go to all these different spaces, and the same person is everything looks the same. The people who own it are the same. That’s not a slight to anyone, but the music is the same. And so I think it’s something that could definitely be beneficial for Portland. We’ll see. I’m pretty nomadic though. I like to move around, so I’m like…

Maurice Cherry:
I mean look, another city something like that could do really good in, Atlanta.

Matese Fields:
I need to go to Atlanta more honestly. When I first kind of started my career, the first year of my career was also freelancing. And I was doing a project for a company in Atlanta called Liaison Technologies, and they’re based in Alpharetta. So I would go to Atlanta every so often, but I haven’t been since probably 2016. So yeah, I would love to go back, for sure.

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

Matese Fields:
Yeah. The best place would probably be my Instagram. It’s @tesecreates. T-E-S-E creates. There, you can find the link to my portfolio. And I post most of my design stuff on there. My website’s a little bit of a mess right now, but that’s also tesecreates.com. So yeah, those would probably be the two best ways.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Matese Fields, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I think the one thing that I got from your story that I think people listening should take with them is that it’s okay to try a lot of different things. I mean, design is a very vast field. It’s okay to try different things until you find what it is that works for you.

I mean, when I got into design 20 something years ago, there weren’t that many paths that you could go. And now, I think even with all the different places you can go, people still just funnel into, “I’m only going to do UX. I’m only going to do product.” And there’s so much more out there. And I think what your story really illustrates is that it’s possible to make a living as a designer, and that you just have to try different things until you find what it is that works for you. Which it sounds like you definitely have made happen. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Matese Fields:
Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s been great chatting with you for sure.

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