This is truly a milestone achievement, y’all. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we could not have done it without our amazing listeners, guests, fans, and supporters. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share these interviews and show the world that Black designers, developers, artists, and digital creatives are thriving and creating a better world for us all.
So this week, it’s just you and me. I’m pulling back the curtain and telling the story of Revision Path from the very beginning. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned over the years, the ups and down, and the unknown history that’s being made fully public for the first time. Plus, find out what’s coming up in the near future for Revision Path! (Wait, was that a hint?)
Thank you all for 10 years of Revision Path!
- Music provided by Lofi Girl
- Amess – A place above heaven
- Music provided by Chillhop Music
- Lindécis – Playtime
- Leavv – Tales of a Flowing Forest
- Music provided by Artzie Music
- Jarrad Cleofé – join me
Hello everybody, and welcome to Revision Path. Thank you so much for tuning in. I’m your host, Maurice Cherry. Usually I’d have sponsor messages here, but today we celebrate a milestone achievement as Revision Path turns 10 years old. It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since we honestly first embarked on this path, and I am thrilled to have reached this point. Over the years, our podcast has become a source of inspiration, education, and entertainment for millions of listeners around the world. It’s taught in schools, it’s even in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’m so grateful to our loyal fans and listeners who have followed us on this incredible journey and have made it all possible.
Throughout the years, our vision path has evolved and grown adapting to changes in the world around us. We’ve covered a vast array of topics, we’ve interviewed fascinating guests, shared personal stories, and delve deep into the most pressing issues in our industry and in the world. I’m just so proud of the impact that Revision Path has had on our listeners, and I’m looking forward to many more years of insightful conversations, thought-provoking ideas, and of course showcasing and celebrating Black designers. So today’s episode, it’s not an interview, it’s a look back. Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning or you’re new to the show, I’m going to talk about the history of Revision Path, the ups, the downs, and everything in between. There’s a lot to cover, because it’s 10 years, so grab a drink, grab a snack, and let’s start the show.
THE BEGINNING: 2005-2014
So to go through 10 years of Revision Path, I first have to talk about the first big project that I put on for the web called The Black Weblog Awards. I started those in 2005, and the internet, as well as design on the internet was just in its really super early stages. We’re talking pre-CSS. People were still doing websites with tables and stuff like that. And I created the Black Weblog Awards because there were other online awards events that celebrated bloggers, but I never saw any Black nominees, I never saw any Black winners, and I wanted to do something to celebrate us, because I was a part of that scene, and I knew bloggers, I knew video bloggers, I knew audio bloggers, which we now call podcasters, I knew they were doing some great stuff out there, and nobody was recognizing them. And so I felt like we needed to be recognized for what we were doing online, and I wanted to put an event together that sort of celebrated that.
The first year was a really big success, so much so that in the second year that I did it in 2006, I greatly expanded the whole scope of it, including a bunch of new categories. And one of the new categories I created was called Best Blog Design. And that was my way of showcasing Black designers who I knew were making these really fantastic creative blog layouts with movable type, with B2, which we now know as WordPress, just some really great work, blog spot blogs, et cetera. And again, no recognition from the greater design community, not in design media or anything. And so that category was really where the seeds for Revision Path started way back in 2006. I remember that year the finalists were Concrete Loop. Shout out to Angel Laws who created Concrete Loop, Ummah Park, and Zilla Says. That’s going to be a little bit important in a bit.
So the Black Weblog Awards was really picking up. And when I said I did this category back in 2006, I wanted to do something around Black designers then, but I just didn’t have time. I was working full-time, I was in graduate school full-time, and I was doing the Black Weblog Awards kind of on the side during the summer, but then that grew to become something I needed to work on all year round. And the Black Weblog Awards really, really, really took off. It got national attention from outlets like NPR, The Washington Post, and this was also right around the time that Obama was running for president. And all that sort of inspiration about Black excellence and all that stuff really inspired me, so in 2008, I quit my job, I started my studio, which back then was called 3eighteen media. Now it’s called Lunch.
And basically what I wanted to do with my studio was just focus on building a business and having a roster of reliable clients. And so again, I’m doing this while I’m doing the Black Weblog Awards. I eventually sold the Black Weblog Awards back in 2011. I sold it to Gina McCauley of What About our Daughter’s Fame. She also is the person who created the Blogging While Brown Conference. Sold it to her, she kept it running, I think till 2017, I want to say, but because I was in my studio and I was really trying to establish myself for having my business, I didn’t really even think about wanting to start up something like Revision Path until roughly about five years later, and that was in 2013. So again, the seed for it was planted back in 2006 with that category in the Black Weblog Awards, and it just silently grew for seven years until I started Revision Path.
Now, the funny thing is, I actually intended to start Revision Path with another Black designer. Remember I mentioned Zilla Says is the person who had won that category back in 2006. He’s a Black designer named Kevin Hite. So Kevin and I were going to start Revision Path, the both of us. I had told him about the idea in late 2012, and we were going to start it together, but he kind of dropped out of the project at the last minute. I didn’t hear from him. And at this point, I had already bought a domain, we had come up with a name for it, and I just went ahead and launched it solo. Now, the name Revision Path, that was meant to relate to both design and technology. So if you think of a path in design like an illustrator, that’s where I wanted to get that from.
And then of course we know about design revisions. If you’ve used Subversion or any kind of version control software, you know about revisions. And then it also relates to tech, because paths are part of a directory on a server or something like that. So I wanted to have it kind of play off of both of those concepts. I also purposefully called it Revision Path because of what I went through with the Black Weblog Awards. Now, keep in mind I started that in 2005, it ran to 2011, and if you were around during that time and you knew what the discourse was around race relations, especially with a Black man running for president, there was a lot of post-racial stuff, there was a lot of talk about Blackness in these very odd, weird ways to the point where if I mentioned the Black Weblog Awards, people just wouldn’t even look at it, think about it, consider it. No matter what the scope of it was, just because it had Black in the name, they would not be interested.
And so I purposefully did not want to saddle Revision Path with that. I wanted it to sort of have a bit of a clean slate. You could look at Revision Path and see that this is about Black people. I’m a Black host, there’s Black folks on the show. You know that. I just didn’t want it to be that super obvious, at least not at that time, because I had saw what the reception was for it. I wanted to give the project a shot, and so that’s why I kind of named it Revision Path. So February 28th, 2013, that was when I launched it. I used a super basic template from Themeforest. I made some slight customizations to it. And initially, Revision Path was actually intended to be an online magazine. It was not intended to be a podcast. I was inspired by sites like Clutch Magazine from my friend, Dede Sutton, The Great Discontent, et cetera, and I wanted to do something similar like that and focus on Black designers that I knew were making great work.
Revision Path as a platform has always been about two things, celebration and recognition, point blank. And now those early days of Revision Path were super rough, absolutely positively rough. Even though I knew a lot of Black designers then, some of them even were friends of mine, when I asked them if they wanted to be a part of this, if I could interview them for Revision Path, every single one of them said no. Every single one of them did not want to do it. To them, I was doing something controversial and they didn’t want to be a part of it. Some people thought that I was causing trouble, perhaps causing more trouble, because they saw the sort of harassment that I received when I did the Black Weblog Awards, and the hate campaigns that I would get because of the Black Weblog Awards, and they just didn’t want to be associated with it.
And so I asked them, they said, no, and to this day, none of them have ever been on Revision Path. Now, that’s not me holding a grudge, although I could see it being misconstrued in that way. I don’t twist anyone’s arm to come on the show. If I ask, and you say no, I’m I’m going to leave it at that. And I got a lot of that in the early days. In the early days, I got a lot of negative comparisons to BET. I remember some people saying that I was doing a BET version of a design publication or something like that. Just weird, oddly racist stuff from other Black people, from other Black designers too, which was a bit disheartening, but it didn’t kill my focus on still wanting to celebrate and recognize, because I was inspired by these people, I was a working Black designer, I had my own firm, I wanted to showcase the work that we were doing.
And so I just started reaching out to strangers, since my friends said no. Most of these people aren’t my friends anymore, but I started reaching out to strangers, and that’s kind of what the first few people that had come on Revision Path been. These were people I did not know. I reached out completely blindly. They had no idea who I was. I was nobody. Just saying, hey, would you like to do this? Can I interview you for this website that I have, or I’m trying to celebrate Black designers. And I did that for a few months when I started, and then someone reached out to me in, I want to say it was May or June of 2013. Someone reached out to me.
Her name was Raquel Rodriguez. She was a queer Afro-Latin designer from Chicago. She wanted to be on Revision Path, and she told me that she was going to be down in Atlanta and wanted to record our interview as a podcast, because she was a podcaster. She had a podcast that she did in Chicago. And I was like, yeah, sure, we could do that. Now, I didn’t have any podcast gear. I didn’t have a mic, I didn’t have anything, but I did have a mobile phone with a microphone and an audio recorder. It was the first Google phone, the one from T-Mobile with the little track ball and the flip up screen. And that’s how the first episode of Revision Path was recorded. We went to One Eared Stag in Inman Park and sat in one of the back booths and recorded it. Now, I still keep that audio up, even though the quality is terrible.
I have tried to salvage it over the years. It’s a lost cause. But I keep it up to show that you don’t have to start from perfect. Start where you are and just build and iterate from there. And speaking of not starting from perfect, I have to talk about one of the interviews that I managed to land, which was with Emory Douglas. Emory Douglas is the former minister of culture for the Black Panther Party. He’s also an AIGA medalist. And I saw his designs. I was just browsing the web. His designs, I saw they were being licensed on skateboard decks from a skate shop in Oakland, and I reached out to them, I asked if they could put me in contact with him, and it turns out that the guy who ran the skate shop was a family member of his, and so he put me in touch with him.
And then on a Sunday afternoon, we had a phone call, I recorded the interview using Google Voice, and the rest was history. So when I started recording interviews with guests, I was giving them the option to either do an email interview or to record. Keep in mind, 2013, I would say the general public did not know about podcasting or what is podcasting in the way that they are doing now. Even access to the gear like microphones and such just wasn’t really as commonplace as it is now. And most people were still choosing to do email interviews, although a couple would want to record. And so when that happened, I would record those interviews, I would publish those interviews. But I didn’t do it as a submitted podcast. You basically still had to go to Revision Path and just see it on the website.
There was no way you could really subscribe to it, because I wasn’t even calling it a podcast back then. And I wanted to do other things with Revision Path to bring more of that magazine feel to the platform. And so there were two things that I started to do in 2013. One was the holiday gift guide, which I do every year. And that’s just a list of products, some of them are from Black designers, some of them are just cool things that I liked, that I think other people would like, and I would kind of put that list together every year. Also, most of those things are affiliate links, so it was kind of a way to bring in some revenue for hosting costs and stuff. I also created a series of social media graphics around the seven principles of Kwanzaa, but I was tying those principles to current modern day things.
So I remember the first year for Ujamaa, which is collective economics, there was a picture of Oprah, but Ujamaa was rendered like the Supreme logo. Kuumba, which means creativity, that was stylized Beyoncé’s self-titled album that came out that year. Nia, which means purpose, was associated with Nelson Mandela who passed away that year. So I always tried to tie it into what was going on in the zeitgeist with these graphics. 2014 came along, and with Revision Paths starting to get some attention, I launched a new project connected to it which was a sister site called 28 Days of the Web. Now, 28 Days of the Web features a different web designer, graphic designer or web developer every day for the month of February in conjunction with and celebration of Black History Month. And for leap years, I’d add an additional person. And so I wanted to do this, one, because the first year that I started Revision Path, I started it at the end of February.
So I didn’t really do anything for Black History Month when I started Revision Path, because it started during Black History Month. And so because of that, when I would tell people about it, they thought it was a glorified Black history project, or at least that’s how they would treat it, that’s how they would talk about it. But what I also really wanted to show was that, if I could find 28 Black designers, 14 men, 14 women, showcase them alongside Revision Path and really give a bit of a middle finger to design media specifically, that if I can do this as one person, then why can’t you do it with your mastheads full of staff writers and things of that nature? How am I able to do it as one person, and you can’t do it as a team of ten or twenty?
So that’s kind of a little bit of the reasoning behind why I wanted to do 28 Days of the Web. And it’s taken off. We just had our 10th installment of 28 Days of the Web this year. We’ve showcased well over 200 people. All of the information that I use to put those together is publicly available. There’s their photo, they’re social media and everything. All of that is all provided by them. So none of it is stuff that I’m creating. So that’s an even better part about it. Also in 2014, I redesigned the site. The site got a much-needed redesign, and we started to do more international interviews. In 2013, I think I only did one international interview. That was episode six with Mokokoma Mokhonoana was his name. But I was able to interview some other international folks. I remember that year I interviewed Kevin Karanja, who was episode 24, who’s a designer out of Nairobi, Kenya.
And also speaking of which, March of 2014 is technically when the podcast began. And when I launched it, I had 15 episodes that I had already recorded. Again, when I was asking guests if they wanted to do email or record, some would record, so I kept those as episodes, and so when I launched officially in March of 2014, we launched with 15 episodes. Episode 16, which kicked off the weekly cadence, is with Alicia Randolph. And so that’s kind of where the podcast was born from. 2014 was also when we got our first major sponsor, MailChimp. I had been working with MailChimp in a professional capacity through my design studio probably since about 2010, I think. And they were just known here in Atlanta. They were the hometown hero of startup tech companies. I knew a lot of people who worked there.
I had been to MailChimp. I had MailChimp swag in my apartments. So when I told them about what I was trying to do, they were really enthusiastic about it and they became our first sponsor. 2014 was also the year that I brought on an editor to Revision Path, who is RJ Basilio. He’s probably edited well over 400 episodes of the show. He has been extremely integral to the show’s success. So shout out to him. And I acquired a site during all this somehow. Episode 27 is with Siedah Mitchum, and Siedah Mitchum had a site site called Inspiring Black Designers, and she was doing a similar thing to what Revision Path was. She was interviewing Black designers, showcasing the work that they were doing. Her and I connected, I told her about what I was doing with Revision Path, we had some conversations, and she wanted me to acquire her site.
And then she came on as the first Revision Path staff member after RJ, but someone that was actually creating content. So we had an “Ask Siedah” advice column for designers that we did for a couple of years. She also wrote a couple of pieces for the site, because we had a blog. We were also trying to do basically long form pieces between the podcast episodes. And with that, I was able to also bring on some interns to help out with that. I brought on Eric, Rashida, and Stefanie as my interns. They helped out with marketing, they helped out with writing, they helped out with publicity. And Revision Path really started to gain steam once I had a little crew working with me. And so in the spirit of community, I started to do outreach to the rest of the design.
I would say the design media community like podcasts, websites, et cetera, I reached out to them to try to see if there was a way that they could either profile Revision Path or I could talk about it, or I could even introduce some of the people that I was profiling on their platforms. And so I reached out to Podcast networks. I remember specifically reaching out to Dan Benjamin of Five by five and just getting the silent treatment, never getting a response from him. I tried to get guest spots on other design podcast. I would pitch myself. Like I said, I would pitch guests that I had on the show, and many of them never responded. The ones that did respond usually did so negatively, telling me that they don’t talk about race, or that what I was doing was racist. I remember specifically Dorm Room Tycoon was a site that was pretty popular. I don’t know if it’s still popular, but it was popular back then.
And I had reached out to them about, again, a possible guest spot or interviews or something like that, and the guy who runs it is a Black designer, his name is William Channer, this Black British guy, and I remember reaching out to him and telling him about what I was doing, we had a Skype call about it, and he explicitly told me, “We don’t do that race shit. We don’t touch that. We don’t do that race shit. If you want to do that racial shit, that’s fine. We don’t do that.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And I never reached out again about that, because that was kind of jarring, especially hearing it from another Black person doing something very similar to what I was doing. It was kind of like, wow, it’s like that. Okay.
I would get harassing emails. I would get harassing tweets. People would tweet about how Revision Path is a racist project. I would get calls to my business to try to get me fired, which is weird, because I own my own business, so you want me to fire myself. These are not smart people. So 2014 was a bit of a wild year. All of that set the stage for some major shifts with Revision Path and me beginning in 2015.
THE RISE: 2015-2018
So 2015 really kicked things off for Revision Path in some interesting ways. First off, a lot of that outreach that I was doing the year before to design media and to other design podcasts and stuff like that started getting noticed by design organizations, one of them being AIGA who reached out to me to join their diversity and inclusion task force.
Now, I joined after interviewing Antoinette Carroll, who was one of the co-chairs of the diversity and inclusion taskforce at the time. And I had been skittish about AIGA. I had my own run-ins with the local AIGA Atlanta chapter, and just didn’t really feel that positive about the organization as a whole because of how exclusionary they were. But after talking to Antionette and telling me about what they were trying to accomplish, I said, “You know what? This might actually be good for me, especially with Revision Path. This could be a good thing.” And so I joined the task force to try to really help advocate for people of color in the design community. And through the task force, I pitched a talk for SXSW based on a question that I was hearing from a lot of companies and agencies and things that were writing to Revision Path, and that question was, where are the Black designers?
I got a whole lot of people asking that question, and so I figured, why not make a talk about this so I could answer the question, because to me, the question is obvious. If you look at Revision Path, clearly the Black designers have always been here, you just haven’t seen them. The you of course being the people that are asking that question. And if you know anything about SXSW, the way that the whole process goes, it’s a hot ticket to get to speak there. Especially if you pitch your own panel, it means you have to get people to vote for it, and then the internal group at SXSW has to decide if it goes along with the programming. And then because it’s such a hot ticket, getting a plane ticket there is expensive, getting a hotel is expensive.
The actual registration is covered if you do the panel, but it’s not a paid speaking gig. If anything, you pay a lot of money to go there and speak. And so I was doing this through AIGA, and Where Are the Black Designers was included in the last mention of panels that they were going to do for the event in January of 2015. SXSW normally takes place two weeks in March, and so I knew by that time that it was going to be really hard to even get there, because I was like, I’m not making that much money through my studio to just pick up and go for a week to do this.
And so I created a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise money. I raised $2,000 to go to SXSW. AIGA did pay for half of that, and I went and I gave my talk. And now another thing about SXSW, if you’ve been, the way that they do all of the diversity programming, they put it in the furthest highest room in the Austin Convention Center, which is 9abc. They may have changed this, but at the time, that’s where all of the “diversity” talks were. And so my talk was all the way back there. It was later in the day. I remember it was on a Friday, and it was not very well attended. The room next to me, there was a keynote speaker, I think it was Jimmy Kimmel, and of course his thing was standing room only because he’s a celebrity, he’s on late night television, et cetera.
I’m just me. And so my room was almost like a bit of an overflow room. There were people who ducked in just so they could charge their phone. There were people that were asleep in the crowd or whatever. And I say crowd, there were roughly maybe about 15 or 20 people in a room that would normally fit about 250 folks. So not a lot of people, very sparsely attending when I first gave this talk. But of the people that were there, one of them being Forrest Young, who I’ve had on the show before. Forrest is… I forget his title, but he works at Rivian, the e-vehicle company. He used to be the former global creative director at Wolf Olins. There were some other folks there I don’t remember. I know there was someone from Pinterest, someone from Dell, someone from Facebook. And Facebook actually invited me to their house that they had there for SXSW.
I got to meet some Facebook people. Facebook at that time, again, 2015, was really excited about the work that I was doing. The Facebook Design oranization that they had that at the time was headed up by Jon Lax, they really were excited about what I was doing and wanted to try to find a way to support what I was doing. And so I left SXSW kind of feeling pretty good that the message of what I was doing with Revision Path was really getting out there. After SXSW, it felt like a light switch turned on, because people finally started to see Revision Path, and see the work that I was doing, and see the people who were being recognized. We picked up some more sponsors that year. We picked up Hover, Creative Market, Joopell, which is this company created by Ryan Carter and Porter Braswell, I believe are their names.
Ryan’s been on the show before actually. We started a Patreon community, and this was in Patreon’s super early days. The platform did not have a lot of podcasters or content creators. Well, it had content creators, mostly video folks, but not a lot of podcasters, not a lot of people of color, I would say overall. But we wanted to do this as a way to kind of bring in revenue, but also with the added benefits of building a community and providing them with exclusive content, merch, things like that. If you followed Revision Path from those early days, Patreon was maybe the third platform that we had tried to do this sort of thing with. We did it with Tugboat Yards back in 2014, I think, and then they got acquired by Facebook, and then we did it with another company called Slice, I think, and then they pivoted to gaming mods, and then Patreon was the third thing that we tried to do.
We hit 100 episodes that year. I was able to interview one of my all-time favorite designers who was such a huge, huge inspiration to me, Sarah Huny Young. We received an unexpected windfall of donations from an organization called Fund Club. Each month Fund Club picks a project or an initiative or something that’s supporting social justice and tech, and each member of Fund Club gives $100 to it. So the more that people join every month, the bigger the donation is. And so we received over $8,000 in donations from Fund Club, which was amazing. I was really excited about the fact that we were having this kind of buzz in the design community, and so I tried to expand the show to do two episodes a week. We did episodes on Mondays and Thursdays.
That didn’t last long. It was a fun experiment, but I don’t think that the episodes really got a chance to breathe because of that. So if you go back to November and December of 2015 where there’s two a weeks, go back and listen to those episodes. I know I talked to Gus Granger, Erica Joy, some other folks, Darhil Crooks who now is a creative director at Apple. Go back and listen to those episodes, because I don’t know if they really got a lot of love when they first came out, because I was trying to do two a week. Revision Path also won its first award that year, which was the Most Inspiring Design Podcast award, and that came from Creative Markets. And we beat out some massive shows for that award. We beat out 99% Invisible, we beat out Design Matters with Debbie Millman, we beat out Adventures in Design.
So that was really something. They messed up the logo in their little announcement, but it was pretty cool to get that. They even sent me a 3D printed medal which I have. It’s in my trophy case in the living room, but I thought that was pretty cool to get. 2016 was big. I started with the capital and the recognition from 2015, and I really made some big additions to Revision Path. I always wanted to have articles that published between podcast episodes. Again, this is sort of hearkening back to the online magazine days of Revision Path. And so I brought on a staff of five writers, Thelma Boamah, Veve Jaffa, AJ Springer, Charlie Jones, and Tammy Danan. So they came on and wrote some just really great articles. And the thing about the articles is that they really added more context to Revision Path between the interviews.
So I could actually handle and talk about topical subjects between these profiles every week. We did a piece about Black celebrities being creative directors. We did this series called Student Perspectives where we talked to Black design students at institutions of higher learning. We would ask questions like, are HBCUs preparing the next generation of Black designers? We’d ask, is it possible for Black designers to be weird and do weird and crazy stunts and still be taken seriously? And that was in the vein of a Stephen Sagmeister or a Jessica Walsh or something. Could a Black designer pull those kinds of stunts and still be taken seriously? We talked about using design to promote activism in the wake of the murders of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown.
We did a three-part series on tech in Africa, which focused on Sudan, Algeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We tackled the absence of Black glamour in merchandising like makeup or other lifestyle brands. We did some really great pieces that year starting off. I was super proud of Revision Path, because we were still doing the interviews, but then we were also doing these just really great long form pieces that I wish… In the future, I want to find a way to really give those a lot more shine, but we did some great work back then in 2016. I also presented the Where are the Black Designers presentation again in 2016. I did it at HOW Design Live, which happened to be in Atlanta for that year. And that was a bit of a full circle moment, because it was that same venue where the conference was at that I started my professional design career in 2005.
So it was this really great full circle moment. Also got to see some old coworkers who were still there who are now looking at me crazy because they treated me one way when I worked there, and now I am a guest and a speaker, so they have to treat me another way. That was fun. 2016 is also when we launched our job boards. Our job board’s been around for seven years. A lot of companies had kept contacting Revision Path, telling us about listings that were available, and if they could share them with our network, and I was like, I could do a job board, and then turn those requests into revenue for the site, which is really what’s helped keep the site going over the past few years. We launched a Slack community. The Slack community even had events, like we had these Ask Me Anything events where you could talk to former guests, ask them more questions, et cetera.
We hit 150 episodes that year, and I got to interview Ashleigh Axios, who was the creative director for the Obama White House. And remember Facebook Design had sort of hit us up back in 2015, they then kind of took their support and really codified it by becoming a sponsor then. So they were our biggest sponsor to date through massive financial support behind the show. They even flew me out to their headquarters in Menlo Park. I got to record some interviews while I was out there. I met Mark Zuckerberg. I even closed out their design lecture series for the year with a talk called Black Design Matters. We started getting more shoutouts on social media like on Twitter and Instagram. We expanded our merch, which initially was only available through our Patreon community. We sort of opened up our merch shop so people could buy shirts and stuff.
We kept going with our Kwanzaa graphics, which if you remember 2016, that was a very contentious time with the Olympics, Prince died that year, that was also the year of that very contentious presidential election where Trump got elected. So our graphics back then really reflected the state of what was going on in the country then. So once we had our big sponsors on deck, Revision Path started expanding even more in 2017. Apple Podcasts included Revision Path in their Black History Month podcast campaign that was called The Black Experience.
We hit 200 episodes. I brought Sarah Huny Young back on the show and interviewed her again. And with Facebook as our sponsor, we threw our first event with them. So we did it here in Atlanta. We had a panel, Karla Cole and Tory Hargro, who had both been on the show before, were on that panel. Ian Spalter was on that panel, who’s the head of Instagram, Japan. Facebook brought the swag, they catered it, and it was great for what it was. People still ask me if we’re going to do another event in Atlanta. The bad thing about that event, and I’ll be completely honest, that was really just a Facebook event. It was not a Revision Path event. It was a Facebook event with Revision Path’s logo kind of slapped on the poster.
Facebook really tightly controlled the guest list. You had to — and I didn’t like this at all — you had to submit your resume in order to be considered to be invited. So I couldn’t even invite people that I had on the show, because Facebook wanted to see their resume to see if they were hireable by Facebook in order to come to this event. They were treating it as a recruitment event. I was treating it as my first podcast event, and those two things just did not mesh well, which was very unfortunate. That was the first and last event that we did with Facebook Design, because I was not satisfied with how that whole thing went. We did end up attracting more sponsors.
We attracted SiteGround, Google came on as a sponsor, which was really big. We also attracted the attention of a New York City based startup called Glitch, and by the end of the year I was working at Glitch. They extended an offer to me, which at the time the company was called Fog Creek Software. They became Glitch in 2018. But that was a very interesting time, because now my work was not only being recognized by these companies, but it was actually changing my livelihood. So 2018 was another growth year for Revision Path. We expanded onto two major platforms that year, Spotify and iHeartRadio. Spotify used to be invite only for their podcasts back then, now I think anybody with a Spotify account can create a podcast and it’s listed there. But it was a big deal to be on Spotify back in 2018. Apple Podcasts had included us again in their Black History Month campaign. I got a chance to talk about Revision Path in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Design Network Summit.
That was pretty interesting back in March of 2018. And in April of 2018, I received a personal honor, but I really attribute it to Revision Path. I don’t think I would’ve gotten this if I would not have done Revision Path. But in 2018, AIGA awarded me the Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary, making me the first Black person to win it, and the only Black male so far to achieve the honor. So you got to put that out there. And what it says on the award is “for being a renaissance talent who works seamlessly across cultural domains, editorial lines, and multiple forms of media, for being the definitive leader in bringing Black designers to the public, earning you a permanent place in the history of design, design equity and social justice.” Huge, huge honor. I got to meet Steven Heller himself, as well as many other famous designers.
That was really something, going to the AIGA Awards Gala. I rented a tux. It was a great night. It was a really great night. I reached 250 episodes that year. We interviewed Julian Alexander for that episode. We worked with Adobe for World Interaction Design Day, and I brought on three more writers to help keep the blog going. We brought on Dwight Hill, Katie Sneed Jensen and Sela Lewis, who has also been on the podcast. They wrote some really great pieces, including a tribute to the late Dr. Samella Lewis, who’s the first Black woman to receive a PhD in art history. And we also did this really great oral history piece on the organization of Black designers.
A lot of the work that I do in Revision Path, and I would say a lot of diversity and inclusion work particularly done by Black people in design, is really built on the work that the Organization of Black Designers put forth years and years and years ago. So I really wanted to pay homage to them and give an oral history about the organization. Because I don’t think a lot of Black designers now even know about it, and so I felt like it was a good idea to really shine a light on that. And also by the end of that year, we joined a podcast network.
THE FALL: 2019-2022
So remember I had joined Glitch, I was working at Glitch, they decided they wanted to create a media network and they wanted Revision Path to be the first show on that network to sort of headline it.
And so if you look at any episodes, I want to say through all of 2019, you’ll hear Glitch mentioned, or you’ll see a little Glitch fish, these two pink and green fish somewhere in the show notes or something like that. That was part of not my condition to work there, but I thought this would be a big extension of the brand. Turns out that was not the case. 2019 brought some of Revision Path’s biggest honors to date. We hit 300 episodes, and I had a chance to interview production designer, Hannah Beachler, who did production design on both Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She also did production design work for Beyonce, also worked with Ryan Coogler in Creed as well. It’s really a big get to have Hannah on the show. I’ve been an admirer of her work for a very long time, and for her to be our 300th episode was great.
Along with 300 episodes, we threw a live event. This one was in New York City at the Green Space, which is a famous institution in podcasting and public radio. And with that event, we had Gail Anderson and Catt Small as panelists. We were supposed to have Eddie Opara. He got sick, and so he couldn’t make it. And that was really a lovely event on the surface. So joining the Glitch Media Network was a bad idea. I can say this in hindsight now. It was a bad idea for a few reasons. One, it tied the success of the show unfortunately to my employer. Now granted, I put a licensing agreement in place whereby Glitch only licensed the episodes from me. They didn’t own them, they owned no sort of intellectual property or anything like that.
And I made sure having went over with the lawyer and everything, they only licensed the show. What ended up happening though was, because I was using company resources with the show, that meant the team that I had in place with RJ, the website that I had been doing since 2013, all of this now had to come under Glitch. So we had to change up the format of the website and put it under Glitch’s domain. I think it was glitch.com/revisionpath. We had a redirect, so all of the revisionpath.com stuff wouldn’t break, but we had to use their design. The design was not great. It was using this old version of Ghost, and so we couldn’t do the same types of just basic design stuff that we would do with WordPress.
I couldn’t do it on Ghost. I did have to hire a team, and I have to say, shout out to my team, TK Dutes, Deanna Testa, Margarita Noriega and Brittani Brown. I hired all of them as my team, three women of color, and Deanna, she’s white. But hired these four women, and they really held me down and held Revision Path down for the roughly about year and a half that they were working on the actual podcast. If you listen to any of those episodes around the, I’d say 290 to 320 mark, you’ll hear Glitch Media Network, you’ll hear Deanna Testa, you’ll hear Brittani Brown. TK was doing a bunch of stuff behind the scenes.
But yeah, we had to basically shift all of the production stuff internally along with what I was doing for my job. I was now doing the podcast as part of my 9-to-5 job, and it just killed the momentum that we had built, that I had built really over the past six years leading up to it to join this network that unfortunately was not helping us. One of the other things that was really bad is that, when we joined Glitch and hitched our wagon to them, unfortunately members of Glitch, other people that work there like the finance director, the chief operating officer, et cetera, started to tie the show’s success to the company’s success. And so things that we did for the show all of a sudden now had to have some sort of net positive benefits for the company, for the company’s user base, et cetera, which was not part of the licensing agreement.
You all are just licensing the show as part of your network. And we were developing other shows, we were developing videos, et cetera. None of those panned out, but we were doing other stuff, and the problem that happened was that the company just kept kind of shooting everything down. They kept making excuses for why certain things couldn’t get done. Even for the event that we did, it went off without a hitch, but me and Deanna and TK and Brit were the main ones that had to pull it off. If you’re in New York City — snd I don’t know if the Trader Joe’s is still open — but there’s a Trader Joe’s I think in Union Square or near Union Square that sells wine and alcohol. Me and TK and Brit crossing four lanes of traffic, getting wine for the event, and stuff like that.
We had to basically run all of that ourselves. Deanna and Brit I think both did principal photography and video for that night. So on the surface, everything looked great. Behind the scenes, it was a huge mess. And then all of a sudden I’m getting emails about why are we spending thousands of dollars on an event like this, and it’s not translating to users of Glitch and all this sort of stuff. And it was really taking a toll on the brand value that I had built up with Revision Path, one, because we had hit our wagon to Glitch, but then two, because we had changed things visually so drastically that the audience did not respond to it well. We had some good things that came from it, and I think just the increased awareness throughout the tech community was a good thing, but there were some other things that happened later on in the year with Glitch that inevitably made me want to take my ball and go home. And you’ll see what I mean when I say that a little bit later.
So even though these things were going on, Revision Path still continued to grow. We expanded onto Pandora, we became part of their podcast offerings. Fresh off of the high of me winning the Steven Heller Award, I started a project called RECOGNIZE, which is a design anthology that featured essays and commentary from indigenous people and people of color who I was calling the next generation of emerging design voices. I really wanted to capitalize off of that Steven Heller Prize win, following his footsteps of discovering new design voices, and we received a grant from InVision’s Future Forward Fund to launch the anthology, and Envision published the first volume of articles on Inside Design, which was their kind of online publication that reaches I think millions of designers every month.
Glitch was not happy about that. Glitch was wondering, why isn’t this being published on Glitch? And I’m like, well, this has nothing to do with the podcast. This is something different. This is a different project. But they felt like it should have been under a Glitch Media imprint, and I was not thinking about that at all. It was a totally separate project from Revision Path. So with Glitch, that was strike two. Strike one was the event and them being mad that the 300th episode event didn’t bring in users, and then strike two was, oh, you’re doing this literary anthology, why doesn’t it have to do with Glitch? Glitch is a software tool for software developers to make software. What does design commentary have to do with that? And I understand at the time, because I was on the marketing team, Glitch really wanted to be part of that sort of maker culture. I get that, but this had nothing to do with Revision Path. The name Revision Path was nowhere in RECOGNIZE. It was something completely different.
So later in the year, which happened to be strike three from Glitch, was when the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture added a selection of eleven Revision Path episodes to their permanent collection, making Revision Path the first podcast ever to receive that honor. And I was excited. It came out in FastCompany, a few outlets picked it up. No Black outlets picked it up, I should mention. I was working with a PR company at the time, and we pitched EBONY, we pitched Essence, we pitched The Root. The only Black outlet that picked it up was Blavity, and they picked it up from MSN, which is who we also pitched. That’s a whole other story about Black media.
But the next day at work, Glitch’s chief operating officer at the time gave me just the most unprofessional dressing down that I had ever gotten in my career. This is the day after I got this huge honor, which not only further, I think, sabotaged Revision Path in the eyes of Glitch, but also further sabotaged my job at the company. He said this, and I’ll never forget this. He said, “You just want to celebrate you and your own, don’t you? You just want to take your ball and go home?” And so once I saw the game that Glitch was playing, I decided to do just that, take my ball, take my show, and put it back under my control 100%, because Glitch had licensed the show for me. We had a licensing agreement signed in place. Their legal counsel looked over it, my lawyer looked over it, but they were using Revision Path’s accolade and my hard work to prop up their brand, and meanwhile I’m getting the shaft.
And worst still because of the show’s then association with Glitch, we lost pretty much every major sponsor we had. Google was out. Facebook was out. Facebook was out because the CEO was talking a lot of smack about Mark Zuckerberg, and as you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with them wanting to give us any money. So you can’t be badmouthing your sponsors and think they’re still going to pay you. So we lost pretty much every major sponsor we had. Glitch wanted to turn that sponsorship money into revenue for the company, because we had a sponsorship business development team, but they were not getting sponsors for the show. Nobody wanted to sponsor the show. And so the revenue that was keeping Revision Path going was basically my fucking salary. And at this point, it’s the third strike at the company, because the other thing that happened after the Smithsonian thing, my title gets stripped at Glitch. I’m sort of titleless for a few months. My team gets dissolved, so they’re wondering what’s going on, I’m wondering what’s going on, and then they bring in a new VP of marketing, and then the company tries to pit the VP of marketing against myself like we’re enemies, and I’m like, I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me. We ended up being very good friends. Shout out to Alexa [Scordato]. It was just a weird environment. And I don’t know how I ended up in this place, but I had to get out.
So 2020 came, and the main thing that I did that year was get my lawyer to get us out of this contract. This is not working out. I thought this was going to be a good thing. This is not working out, and I want out. And so I had to get legal counsel involved to help extricate Glitch from Revision Path, because now this association was seriously tarnishing the brand of the platform.
It took a while to happen. It took some back and forth. We did make it happen. We ended up pulling everything from Glitch and putting it back under the revisionpath.com domain. Some of those episodes still need to be cleaned up, because I think they still have some of the Glitch name and all that stuff under it, but we had to pull everything, we had to do redirects, all bunch of stuff. One thing that I wanted to do to set it apart was change the brand, so I did a redesign of the logo, I did a refresh of the website. And since I was still working at Glitch, and it’s a tech startup, tech startups have generous unlimited time off, I said, look, let me me use this unlimited PTO and take Revision Path on the road and go on tour. And so I had talked to a couple of people in some cities with AIGA chapters about programming.
If I could come to their city, do a night with a live recording, if they would be up for it. And a lot of cities were up for it. So we at the beginning of 2020 had planned to do a seven city tour, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Missouri, Chicago, D.C. and New York. You’ll notice I skipped Atlanta. Fuck AIGA Atlanta, but that’s a whole other story. But we planned on doing a seven city tour, and the first stop was in Los Angeles. We did our first show there in February, 2020. Shout out to AIGA Los Angeles. We did it as part of their LA River series. We did it in Leimert Park on February 10th, and it was a standing room only event. I remember after that I had dinner with Laci Jordan, Jacinda Walker, and Dave Hall, all who have been on show before.
It was great. It was great. So we had the first city out of the way, I was all set to continue the tour, and then coronavirus. Coronavirus came in what…March of 2020? And brought the tour to a screeching halt. So doing any of the other cities just wasn’t in the cards in terms of trying to get on a plane or anything. I didn’t want to do virtual events, because also I was trying to figure out how this was going to work with my job. Even though Glitch was remote first, that just threw a whole lot of plans out of order, because we had planned to go to SXSW in August. We didn’t know if SXSW was going to cancel their event. If you remember those first few months of the pandemic from March to May or June of 2020, pandemonium. You didn’t know what was going on.
And then just a few months after the pandemic had started, Glitch dropped the hammer and laid me off, and they laid off my whole media production team. So I’m out of a job, TKs out of a job, Deanna’s out of a job, Britt’s out of a job, Margarita’s out of a job, most of the marketing team’s out of a job. And so all this is happening, and I just had to try to find a way to still keep the show going. So if you listen to the show in 2020 during that time, I don’t know if you could tell how… I don’t even know what the feeling is that I had during that time. It was confusion, it was anger, it was sadness. It wasn’t my first time being laid off, so it wasn’t that. It was just like, I still got to keep the show going, and now that I’ve pulled everything away from Glitch, I almost felt like I had to start over.
2020 was a year of me trying to really start things over, because we now had to try to get more sponsors again. I had to get RJ back, which thank God he came back. He came back. I was very, very, very grateful for that. But we kind of had to start over. And by this time in 2020, everybody’s got a podcast. So it’s not even the same landscape as when I started in 2013. Not only does everybody have a podcast, there’s other Black design podcasts out there that have come up after Revision Path, and so sponsors always want to sponsor the new thing, not the old thing. It was just a lot in 2020. And also keep in mind, summer of 2020, June in particular is when a lot of people got out in the streets protesting because of the murder of George Floyd.
It was just a very charged time, and the thing that kept me together was focusing on the podcast. So as the saying goes, the show must go on. So we celebrated our 350th episode that year, as well as our 375th episode. I managed to get Bennie F. [Johnson], who was the former executive director of AIGA, the first Black person to hold the title in AIGA’s 100 plus year history, managed to get him on the podcast. I kind of feel like AIGA owed that to me after the years I put in with them volunteering, but that’s a whole other story. I published a second volume of RECOGNIZE. This time we did it with A List Apart. It was a bit rough with trying to get writers then, because again, pandemic people trying to just figure out what in the world is going on.
So we didn’t get the same amount of feedback. Plus InVision had kind of pulled their support after the first year, and so I really had to kind of try to do it out of my own pocket. 2020 really just overall left me shellshocked. And 2021 came, and then that’s another big loss, because the main thing of 2021 that was really something was that we had to end RECOGNIZE. By this time, things were not getting better in terms of participation in the project from people. The pandemic just affected, I think, the quality of the submissions, as well as the number of submissions that we received. And I just had to make a hard choice to say, you know what? We’re going to pull it. I still want to bring it back one day, but I just didn’t have the financial support, and I think really the community support, to be honest, to really keep it going.
I do want to bring it back one day. I don’t know when that will be. Some time in the future, but that was sort of what started off 2021. Nevertheless, I persevered. Revision Path reached a milestone 400 episodes. We did our 400th episode with Brent Rollins, and that brings us to last year, 2022, which really has been a year of building and rebuilding. I think the major thing is that we were kind of starting to come out of the pandemic a little bit, and so at this point, companies I think were starting to come around. We brought on a major sponsor last year with American Express. We celebrated 450 episodes back in May of last year. That was with Anthony D. Mays. And I partnered up with Omari Souza of the State of Black Design, and we created this new initiative called The Tenth Collective, which you’ve heard about on the show. It’s a combination job board and talent collective. We started that roughly about a year ago in, I think May or June of last year. We did a great bonus episode on Wakanda Forever, and it was really great to do that, because our first Black Panther episode is actually one of the ones that’s in the Smithsonian, so I really wanted to follow up with that.
And yeah, that’s how 2022 really went, was just trying to get our groove back, which leads us up to today.
THE FUTURE: 2023-????
So of course, as you know, this is February. We’re wrapping up Black History Month. We’re wrapping up our anniversary month of Revision Path. And the great thing about February is 28 Days of the Web. This is our 10th installment of doing 28 Days of the Web. We’ve been able to profile over 200 Black designers and developers.
Some of them have even gone on to be guests on the show, which has been a really great thing. Our 500th episode is going to be dropping on April 24th. I’m going to be talking with the one and only AIGA medalist, overall design historian and legend, Dr. Cheryl D. Miller. Make sure you tune in for that. That’s going to be a really great conversation. Also, I am working on a book project. I am working on a book with the venerable Gail Anderson and the just design godmother herself, Michele Washington.
We are writing a book together for Princeton Architectural Press. We’re calling it, I Didn’t Know They Were Black. Really excited about it. I’ll be able to talk more about what the book is about in the coming months, but it’s essentially going to be an expansive history of Black folks in design from the 1900s to now. I’m really excited about it. It’s a lot of work. We’ve actually been kind of working on the project on and off for several years now, but it’s finally got some steam behind it. And Gail has mentioned the book, Michele has mentioned the book, I’ve mentioned the book. I actually first mentioned it back in October when I spoke at Design Thinkers in Toronto. So we are working on the book. It should be coming out… You know what? I’m not going to say when it’s coming out, because we’re still working on it.
It’ll come out in the future, most likely 2025, I would imagine. Don’t hold me to that, but I just want you to know we are working on a book. And what I’m really excited about, super excited about this, in the coming months, you can be on the lookout for our new subscription service Revision Path+. Super excited about this. This is going to be a way for you to get early access to episodes, exclusive bonus content, discounts on design goods and services, exclusive giveaways. Super excited about this. I’ll have more information about that in the coming months, but really excited to get that out there for you all to really find a way to support Revision Path, while also just getting more out of the platform. And for the future after that, who knows? We’ve been doing this now for 10 years. Who knows what the future will be?
I’ll tell you what the future is not going to bring. It’s not going to bring me joining another network. I can tell you that. But I have to say, 10 years of doing Revision Path has taught me a lot. For Black people, merely celebrating ourselves is an act of defiance. Whether it’s getting shunned by designing peers, whether it’s getting sabotaged by partners, et cetera, Revision Path has had to fight every step of the way every year just to exist. And the thing about doing stuff like this, and I think anyone that does a project of this magnitude, it’s like everyone wants to take credit for your success. Everybody wants to take credit for that. Not a single person wants to take responsibility for your scars. So that’s something I’ve just picked up over the years from doing this.
I think social media in general has made it easy for a lot of people to ridicule and rubberneck and point out problems without offering solutions. And in my case, it had to do with seeing a gap in the market, recognizing Black designers, and then putting my own thing out there as a solution. So being a part of the solution and not just an observer of the problem is something that I have also learned over the years. And if you wait to start a project, the only thing that happens is that you get older. I had the idea for Revision Path when I did the Black Weblog Awards in 2006. I was 25 years old then. I launched Revision Path in 2013. I was 32 then. Now we’re coming up on 10 years. I’ll be turning 42 next month. Don’t wait to start. Soon you’ll be too old to do it. So if you have an idea, work and try to get it out there, and just keep going with it. Don’t sit and wait on the idea.
And so much of Revision Path behind the scenes with guests and with my team, it is a intricate lattice work of systems. I systemize things, I outsource, I time shift as much stuff as I can. And the reason that I do this is that it allows me to keep a tight production schedule, while also giving myself and my team plenty of time for breaks, for self-care, for just the other things in life that we all have to handle. Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, because you have to have undeniable faith in your mission. I don’t want to say blind faith, because you definitely need to sort of defy the naysayers and the haters and the critics and all that sort of stuff. There’s a saying about eating the meat and spitting out the bones. You really have to be the biggest cheerleader for your mission to the dying end. When people see that, I promise you, they will see something special.
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