Reece Quiñones

If you’re in the know about the DC design scene, then this week’s guest probably needs no introduction. Reece Quiñones is a force for good when it comes to design, whether it’s in her role at The Hatcher Group as executive VP and creative director, or by teaching the next generation of designers as an adjunct professor at George Mason University. And she doesn’t stop there!

Reece talked to me about an average day for her at The Hatcher Group, and talked about growing up in DC and being exposed to architecture and art at a young age. She also spoke on her work experiences before The Hatcher Group, and gave some great perspective about being a long-time design educator, including what she feels design students want from the design industry these days. As a designer, you can never stop learning, and Reece Quiñones is a prime example of how you can use your skills to give back to your community!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Reece Quiñones:
Hello. My name is Reece Quiñones, and I’m the Executive Vice President and Senior Creative Director for Hatcher, a PR marketing and design firm in the DC area. I’m also an Adjunct Professor of Design at George Mason University located in Fairfax, Virginia.

Maurice Cherry:
How has 2022 been going for you so far?

Reece Quiñones:
It’s been great. Very, very busy. We ended 2021 with a bang, and I can’t believe it’s almost the end of January already. It just seems like it’s flying by, but it’s been very good.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. You and I talked about this before recording, but it seems like the year started and there was no kind of ramping up into anything. Everyone just kind of got to work, which usually I don’t mind that, but it has been a very busy month so far.

Reece Quiñones:
Yes, it has. It has been busy, and I think we’ve been two years into the pandemic, so there’s a lot of fatigue out there too. So with everything, with the work continuing to ramp up, with everyone feeling really comfortable with this telework, it just seems there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of pressure to still perform as companies are starting to think about how they’re going to return back to the office. I think a lot of people are really trying to say, “Hey, I’m good here.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, we’re at this, I think really interesting shift in, I want to say it’s uniquely American, but it’s really something that’s happening worldwide. But I mean, we’re in America, you and I. So I think it affects Americans differently because we have such a symbiotic relationship with work. So the fact that there are going to see these large structures around capitalism and work that have been upended because of the pandemic, companies are trying to see if hybrid is a good deal, if they should still stay remote. They’re selling office spaces, they’re buy more office spaces. Companies are really trying to figure out what’s next, and I think it’s difficult for them. But then also with workers, we’re realizing in general that the work is always going to be there, that we have more power as workers than we thought, and so we can advocate for greater, better work experiences. So this is a really transformative time overall.

Reece Quiñones:
I think so too. I think Hatcher has done a really great job. They just went flexible first. Meaning if you want to work from home, you can. If you want to work in the office, you can. And if you want to do both, you can. And just really looking at that, I think has been really something that has kept people in the office and just really just love the culture that we’ve created there. So I’m just happy that we were able to move forward with that.

Maurice Cherry:
Right now, are you able to go back into the office or you’re still kind of doing things remotely?

Reece Quiñones:
We can if we want to, but most people are remote, and it’s great.

Maurice Cherry:
What does a average day look like?

Reece Quiñones:
It’s busy. One of the things that we really worked on during the pandemic when we just immediately switched over to working from home just one day to the next… I was telling you a little bit earlier, I was the only holdout. I thought for some reason that it would only last a week and then I realized like, “Oh, wait, I don’t think this is going to last a week.” I went back to the office to get my chair, to get my desktop computer and all the things that I needed. But one of the things that we really worked on is communication. So work at Hatcher is really just this wonderful realm. My team in the morning, we always jump on chat. We say, good morning like you would if you just came in the office. This morning, one of my designers saved a dog that was kind of limping in the street and we were hearing about it. The play by play, but that’s the wonderful thing about it. So we have kept a wonderful relationship. That’s always really good.

Reece Quiñones:
It’s really busy. The way I form my team is really in a way that everybody can grow in the way they want to grow. So as a part of their goals, they say, “Hey, I’m more interested in DesignOps. Can I move in that role?” Or, “I’m really interested in becoming an art director? Can I move in that role?” So I try to ensure that all of my designers have the ability to learn from each other and to learn different types of design. So if I have somebody that’s mostly print that wants to learn UX, they can do that.

Reece Quiñones:
Yeah, just a really busy day. We have a great team of production that just keeps the trains moving. I have three art directors that help to ensure that the work looks great. In my senior creative role, I can normally formulate the strategy and just look at high-level creative. But it’s a busy day full of meetings, but it’s also one that’s really exciting and we’re able to really do some amazing things with amazing clients.

Maurice Cherry:
I think that’s really great that people are able to be flexible on the team like that. If there’s other things that they want to get into, they can do that, particularly I think within an agency kind of framework. I’ve worked largely with startups over the past five years and with those, it can be easy to just bounce from thing to thing because they maybe haven’t built out a robust network of people that work there yet. It’s mostly engineers, they may not have that much on creative. So if you want to jump into doing something else, you can just say, “I want to do something else,” and you can do it. With firms, it seems like it’s a bit more regimented because you’ve got creative directors and art directors and production designers, et cetera. But it sounds like it’s pretty flexible at Hatcher.

Reece Quiñones:
It is. It’s really important to me because I realized as I was coming up, the integration of design was really important. I know you remember a day that when there was a job description, they wanted everything like, “Oh, are you a website designer? Can you do print? Can you do this? Can you do that?” And we’re all looking at each other like, “Come on, really? What do you want?” So I did. I learned all those things. So over the years, I did UX, I did product design, I’ve done marketing communications design, advertising, environmental design, digital. So you’ve done all of it, and I realized that it really encapsulates the importance of design. That the foundational thing that you need to always know about design is basically that good design can transcend whatever medium.

Reece Quiñones:
So you need to understand how to design well, how to communicate that, how to understand your user, no matter if it’s a brochure or you’re working on a product. It’s still the same. You still have a user that’s going to use it that you need to consider. So that’s how I formulate my team and really pushing them to learn, “Hey, you want to do motion? Okay, let’s do motion. Let’s grab you, and let’s have you work on this project.” It just really grows the team so quickly and allows us to have more people that can do a certain type of task.

Maurice Cherry:
So given that, how do you approach a new project if seems like designers can be that flexible to bounce between disciplines like that?

Reece Quiñones:
My production team have learned… Again, we still have kid designers that might be really good at motion, or really good at long-form reports or annual reports, et cetera. Then we also know what designers want. I might have a designer who have asked, “Hey, I really want to work on an infographic,” and so we’re like, “Great.” Depending on the project, depending on the level that’s needed for that project, sometimes I do need a senior designer to work on a project. Sometimes I need an art director to work on the project. Sometimes it’s a team. We gather together, we look at all the projects and we assign them based on who can best deliver that project. Then if we have somebody that wants to learn, then they are also put on the team as well. And then from there, we schedule out and have a meeting, a launch, and the work gets done, and it’s always at a high quality. That’s something that I’ve been known for, for my students as well, as well as my staff, that quality is important.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look at your work, what would you say is the hardest part about what you do?

Reece Quiñones:
I love design so much. It’s really a hobby as well when I’m in my off hours. So as I’m looking over what the hardest part is, is just making sure that… I think it’s more on the client side. So it’s just making sure that they understand our process and they understand the whys in the decision making that we have. The world is so much more design savvy because of media, because of video, social media. They’re seeing good design on an every basis. Several times a day, they’re just seeing good design come to them.

Reece Quiñones:
So a lot of clients will come with preconceived notions on what they think will be appropriate for their project, and sometimes it’s not. Understanding the user, understanding the metrics, understanding the goals and the KPIs they have on the project. So sometimes I have to sit and kind of explain why we came up with a certain direction for them to understand why it works. I will say, even though that is the difficult part, it 99.999% of the time works because when you use design, when you use the foundations of design, the theories of design, and you explain it back to the client, then they’re like, “Oh, I get it. Great.” Because that’s why they’re hiring a firm for. So I think it’s the hardest part, but it’s also really rewarding as well.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s so interesting now, because clients, like you said, they’re exposed to more or we’re just all exposed to more through television or streaming or whatever. They’ll come with these very elaborate ideas and oftentimes it’s like a therapy session in a way where you’re trying to get to what the actual thing is that they’re trying to do so they don’t get so caught up in the visuals or the presentation. Or just letting them know that maybe the visuals and the presentation you’re looking for, maybe you can’t get that on your budget, but if there’s a certain feeling you’re trying to evoke, then maybe we can get there by doing these other things. And so it is very much this kind of push-pull process with clients sometimes.

Reece Quiñones:
Yeah. Always. Always. But you know what? It’s a rewarding thing. Our firm really is mission forward. We focus on education and opportunity and environment. So for us and just so much more, education is one of our large areas as well. With every single client, even though there’s that push-pull, there’s always this satisfaction because everything we’re doing is really to help them with their mission. At the end of the day, no matter how hard it is, you go home happy or rather you shut off your computer happy since we’re at home now. But yeah, it’s just a wonderful place to work.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s switch gears here a little bit. I know you’re a native of the DC metro area. I’d love to kind of learn more about what it was like growing up there for you.

Reece Quiñones:
Yeah, absolutely. Actually I was born in Puerto Rico. My family’s from there. Have no accent because we came when I was two, and we moved to Silver Spring and throughout the years I’ve moved to several areas in Silver Spring. But I’m still here, and I love it.

Reece Quiñones:
The DC area is really a melting pot. I think out of the top 10, there are two cities, maybe three cities that are the most diverse in the country within the DC area. So it was really different. When you grow up in the ’70s, you’re in school and you have 63 countries represented in your school. That was the school I went to. 63 countries. We had 63 flags in our school. Yes, it was very different. It was very different. The older I got and the more I traveled, the more I realized that the DC area is so special. It is so special. I haven’t found a place that feels like it where you can have friends that look completely different from you, speak a different language, and nobody looks at you twice. No one. Like no one. They just don’t look at you twice, because that’s normal.

Reece Quiñones:
Of course being in the DC area, there’s also almost like a different economy as well too, because you have the government here. And this is one thing that I think people who grow up in the DC area need to realize as designers and just people, that when hardships happen around the country, they’re not quite as hard here because you have the government here and the government can’t shut down. So when 2008 happened, just traveling around the country, you could see so many areas with malls closed and strip malls closed and in the DC area, there were still open. The malls aren’t doing it quite as well now, but… So it’s always important for designers and creatives to just always learn and always see outside themselves. Just don’t live in a bubble, but always look outside of your area. See how other people are living and experiencing the same things you are because it’ll just make you a better strategic designer in terms of how you can deliver to the audiences you need to reach.

Maurice Cherry:
So growing up around all this diversity and this extremely multicultural school. I mean, 63 countries in one school, growing up is a lot. Were the arts and design kind of a big part of your childhood? Were you exposed to that a lot?

Reece Quiñones:
I was exposed to art in terms of drawing, and that was really nice. Our school had a really wonderful art program as well as high school. I was introduced to photography. I would make posters and I would draw, but I actually never heard the term graphic designer at all. I went to college first for architecture, and I got into one school, but decided that architecture wasn’t quite for me. So I graduated Maryland with an art degree because at that time, I found out later their design program was closed. But I had an art degree out of Maryland, and I still didn’t know the term graphic designer. So I decided to go back to school. I went to Montgomery College just to get a two-year degree in multimedia and design. So that’s the first time I heard design with multimedia and I was like, “Okay, this is cool. Let me take it.” And I just happened to take an elective called Quark.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Reece Quiñones:
Yeah. I just happened to take it because I had electives to take and I was like, “Quark. Hmm. I wonder what this Quark is.” And that’s the first time I saw graphic design because it was graphic design, I think like 120, and it was like Quark 101.

Reece Quiñones:
I took Quark and I was in the class and I remember just having such a good time. I mean, I was going for it. I was making newsletters. I mean, it was fun. Our screens were only like 15 inches and that was like state-of-the-art back then, because computers had just come in the scene just about three or four years earlier. They kind of became mainstream. And so I was in class and the professor, I will never forget him. Professor [inaudible 00:20:48], he looked at my work one day and he’s like, “You’re really good at this.” And I was like, “Good at what?” And he’s like, “Ah, good at this.” And I was like, “What is this?” I was like, “What is this? I’m just making a newsletter.” And he’s like, “Oh dear God.” He’s like, “Can somebody tell this child what class she’s in?” And somebody’s like, “Graphic design.” And I was like, “Graphic design?” And he’s like, “Yes, you can do this for a living.” And I said, “Wait, what?”

Reece Quiñones:
And at that moment I knew everything was going to be okay. I had found my passion. I really knew that it was going to be okay. I took every single graphic design class I could from him especially, and I graduated and I got my first job as a graphic designer with the Gazette newspapers, which was owned by The Washington Post at that time. And that’s how I got my start.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m curious about Quark. I want to go back to that because that’s a very… You said that and my mind immediately went to like… I don’t know if this is probably the right timeframe. I’m guessing this is like mid ’90s probably?

Reece Quiñones:
You are exactly right. You’re exactly right.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reece Quiñones:
It was ’94.

Maurice Cherry:
I’d have to research. I don’t even know if Quark is still like a thing now, but I remember first getting into Quark. I was in… Let’s see, ’94 I’d probably just got into high school. So yeah. I remember using Quark and Adobe PageMaker because I designed my high school’s newspaper or redesign my high school’s newspaper. Because before that we were using or they were using… And this is because I grew up in the sticks, but also I think just because publishing hadn’t reached digital fully yet everywhere, but we were still doing mimeographs.

Reece Quiñones:
Oh wow, yeah. Yep. No, no. You laugh, but my first job, we were waxing down the pages of the newspaper on flats. So it really was the turn of graphic design becoming more digital to it being more mechanical. So using Exacto knives when we needed to change a word.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reece Quiñones:
But it was such good experience. So I love it.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s so interesting because you’re… I mean, you’re learning the tool and you’re learning how to do this. There’s no real examples that you can look at. When I think about what designers can do now and how much is out there in terms of education, they can go on YouTube. They could do LinkedIn Learning or they could do Skillshare or whatever. Like there’s so much out there. We were really winging it back then like just-

Reece Quiñones:
Oh my God.

Maurice Cherry:
… trying to figure it out.

Reece Quiñones:
We were. We were winging it and that’s why I love that class Quark, because the professor had a saying, he’s like, “Welcome to my class. Number one, do you know the Mac, or have you ever used a Mac?” And I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. Some people raised their hand and he’s like, “Okay, more importantly, have you never used the Mac?” And I was about to raise my hand and the person next to me took my hand and said, “Do not raise your hand or he will kick you up.” And he kicked out two people.

Maurice Cherry:
Ooh. Wow.

Reece Quiñones:
So I would’ve never known, I should have been a graphic designer. But the one thing he said is, I’m going to teach you everything about this application, every dropdown, popup menu. And it’s up to you to create something that visually communicates an idea.” And he did. He taught us every single part of that. It was almost like a YouTube in the class. I think the way he taught really did inspire me to teach as well, but you’re right, we had nothing. We had absolutely zero. We were just going into it like, “Okay, here’s a blank page. Let’s go.”

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And really trying to figure it out and just see how these tools work. You could read the instruction manual, but the instruction manuals were like these big thick Bibles. It was hard to get your creativity around it when the instruction manuals were just… Well, I guess that’s the other thing. There were instruction manuals. There were like printed books that you had to go through and try to figure this stuff out. So it was… Wow, what a time.

Reece Quiñones:
They were called Bibles.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. What a time.

Reece Quiñones:
Like what Bible?

Maurice Cherry:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Reece Quiñones:
The illustrator Bible, I remember, I remember. I know back in the day.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your early career after you graduated. Did you stay around in the DC metro area?

Reece Quiñones:
I did. I stayed around in the DC metro area and I worked for the Gazette newspapers. And I just remember just saying, “Hey, oh, I wish I could do more in design.” I just think that people are just put around you and you need to listen to their advice. And there was a coworker named Marie. She was awesome. And she was like, “Reece, you’re really talented. I don’t think you should be stuck here.” And I was like, “I don’t know,” this and the other. And she’s like, “You know what, I don’t want to hear you complaining unless you’re applying.” And I said, “What?” She’s like, “Well, don’t complain to me about that you want more, unless you’re applying for another job.” And I was like, “There’s no way I can get a job. I’m just one year out of school.” And she’s just like, “Well, I don’t want to hear it.” And she was serious. She wouldn’t let me here until I started applying. I applied and I got my first firm job at HR communications in the DC area. And when I told her, she’s like, “There you go.” She’s like, “I’m glad it worked.” And I was like, “What?” And that’s just how she was.

Reece Quiñones:
And so I never complained about a job ever again, unless I was doing something about right. That was really good advice. And from HR communications, I went to an in-house marketing firm, which was great, because it was marketing communications and I really learned a lot about marketing. Went to focus groups, helped conduct them. And that was just wonderful experience to learn how your work is really resonating with your audiences. And I think for first time, and this was still the ’90s, I realized that it’s not what I wanted. It’s what the customer needed that I needed to deliver. Design early on, was about your skill and how you could deliver it. But when I worked in that marketing group, I really learned that I need to listen to that audience and that was really eyeopening for me and just a wonderful experience there.

Reece Quiñones:
And then from there I went to another firm, and that firm was, I think the change in the quality of my work. This firm was called [inaudible 00:27:03]. And again, they were another marketing communications firm, but their designers hailed from around the world. They had a designer from Spain, a designer from Korea, and one from the Philippines and all over. And what was amazing was this being the ’90s, I thought I knew all the programs. They’re the ones that taught me that, “Hey, oh my goodness, your program can actually merge with other programs.” And that’s when I learned that you could actually merge your files, and get this, from Illustrator into Photoshop. You could merge your layer files into… And that was way back in the day. It just changed the way I could design because now I could make montages that you could only see in magazines where you’re just like, “How’d they do that.” I’m like, “I don’t know how they do that.”

Reece Quiñones:
And so they taught me all these really deep tricks and tips about the actual programs that I think really changed the quality of my design. And again, just really an amazing group of very talented designers. I remember when I got that job, I interviewed for it three times. And the first time I went, the owner was like, “You’re good, but you’re just not what we need. It’s not quite what we need.” And I was like, “Okay.” I was like, “Can you tell me about my work? What is it that you like, what is it that you don’t like? I don’t have an ego. Let me know how I can improve.” He told me, he’s like, “I like this, but our quality has more depth. It has more layering.” I was like, “Okay, that sounds great.”

Reece Quiñones:
So I went back and I kept designing, adding more things into my portfolio. About three months later they called me in. And at that time I told them, “Well, I have a new job. I’m not going to come in.” And they’re like, “Just come in. Let’s just have a chat.” And I was like, “Okay, I’ll just have a chat.” So I went and showed them a couple more pieces and he’s like, “Oh wow, you listened.” I was like, “Well, of course.” I was like, “I love your work.” I was like, “Of course I listened.” And he’s like, “Hmm. All right. Hmm.”

Reece Quiñones:
So he had me come back to talk to the art director and I realized at that time they were trying to have me leave the job that I had just started. And I wrote a list why I should stay at the job where I was or why I should go. And I realized that even if I stayed in this new firm for six months, the level of work that would come out of it would be so much more than I could ever get at the firm that I had gone to. So I decided to go. The only job that I have ever been in less than a year, but it was life changing. It was honestly life changing.

Maurice Cherry:
Now after that, is that when you ended up joining ASCD?

Reece Quiñones:
That is correct. That is correct. That firm hit the dotcom era. The early 2000s where all the dotcoms kind of lost their funding. And that was 90% of our work. So the firm shut its doors and I was left without a job. And I was like, “All right.” I was like, “Okay, what are we going to do here?” And I told myself, “Because now you have eight designers looking for work that each have the level of quality you have…” So I started looking for work and there were jobs that had a little bit more technical motion, people were getting into flashback then. And so I would just refer other designers and they would be like, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much,” because the job wasn’t right for me.

Reece Quiñones:
But I also told myself, “I’m going to look for any job. It doesn’t matter.” And I applied to a role for an in-house designer with an in-house agency. They called themselves an in-house agency. And that was kind of in the early 2000s. And that was rare to have a team of designers that would call themselves an in-house agency. So I went, I tried and I looked.

Reece Quiñones:
And the work, I was like, “Oh my gosh, what are you guys doing here?” I realized that they were a midsize publisher for educational book and products. And I was like, “This is amazing work. I’ve never done a book before.” So I showed my portfolio and I got the job. It was such an incredible experience, designing books and just growing within that environment, that I stayed. I also had a wonderful manager. And it’s true, you stay at a job where you have a great leader. And so he saw leadership potential within myself and would give me opportunities to lead projects. And then I started leading web projects, and then I started to lead applications. So product manage. It’s a wonderful experience where I was able to do everything from… Could design applications, as well as apps towards the end of the 15 years. Could design websites, online store, hundreds of books, just everything, run the gamut, including their large annual conference. So I would do the branding around the entire annual conference. And then through the years, I got promoted four times.

Reece Quiñones:
So it was just a wonderful opportunity to grow. And I was on vacation when that was a thing, when you left the… I got a call from a recruiter at LinkedIn for a position and I remember it just wasn’t right. I was happy where I was. And I said thank you and the recruiter said, “Well, just take a look at our job description online.” And I said, “Sure, sure. I’ll go ahead and do that.” And so I clicked the link and here I am in France and I’m scrolling down, I’m scrolling down. I was like, “Yeah, I don’t think this is right.”

Reece Quiñones:
And then there was in LinkedIn, at least back then, there was a title: Other jobs like these. And I was like, “Okay, so another job like this.” So I started looking at those jobs and there was one job there and it was The Hatcher Group. And I was like, “Huh, let me just read it.” And I was like, “Oh, they’re looking for a senior VP of design. Hmm. All right. Let’s take a look at what this looks like.” And it looked good. It was everything I was doing now. And I was like, “This is good,” but they really wanted to grow what they had as a design team. So they only had one designer and an intern and they were mostly a communications firm, QPR firm at that time, and they really wanted to grow it into more.

Reece Quiñones:
And so I’m reading the description and there’s one line and that line stuck out to me. And that line was, “Above all, we’re looking for someone who is kind.” And I was like, “Whoa.”

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Reece Quiñones:
I was like, “Whoa.” Yes, “Wow. Who looks for somebody who is kind? This is awesome.”

Maurice Cherry:
Especially at an agency.

Reece Quiñones:
Especially at an agency. I was like, “Well, if I’m going to go somewhere, let me go to a place where they want somebody who’s kind. I think I’m kind, but I know they’re kind because they’re looking for someone who is like them.” So I knew that just from the job description. And so I applied and I got the job. And so that was four years ago and we’ve grown from one designer and one intern to a team of 16. So we’re doing some great things and I have an amazing team.

Reece Quiñones:
I focus on hiring diverse designers. I think it’s important. I think a lot of firms run into trouble when they don’t hire diverse designers because we can check with each other and say, “Hey, does this work for this audience?” Because you don’t have that lived experience. And that is very critical for me, but what it does too, is it teaches the other designers how to have a critical, but worldwide view of work that we’re doing, especially because we’re working with very sensitive topics as well in terms of education and the environment and equity within those spaces. It’s just really important to understand how the images that you use, the icons that you use, even the way it’s placed, how that reads to your intended audience and if it portrays them fairly. That’s actually something that we focus on.

Maurice Cherry:
I want to go back briefly to ASCD. I mean, that was such a large part of your career. You were there for 15 years.

Reece Quiñones:
I was.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at that time, is there anything that really stands out to you that you remember the most?

Reece Quiñones:
Oh, absolutely. We had a wonderful team. It’s where I learned how to manage. It’s where my boss gave me the opportunity to take his job as he was promoted into a larger role. And it’s also where I learned to ensure that your designers can grow in the way that they want to grow. Instead of keeping people siloed into one area, I learned that it works well. It works so well for that team. We were so productive and people grew exactly where they wanted to and they became designers first, and then they learned the mediums second. So that’s where I learned that.

Reece Quiñones:
Quality was actually something that was so key to that team and to my boss. And I learned that quality is actually something that happens when the whole team works together as a unit, when everybody helps each other. And so I also hire people that don’t have egos, because we really do critique each other and help each other grow and ensure that everything that comes out of our shop has the quality that the customer expects, the client expects. But most important, I learned how to manage. I learned that if you treat your people like you’re equal, like people, you’re not their parent and you shouldn’t be, but you treat them like you’re equal. And if you’re having a problem with someone, just have a conversation and say, “Hey, what’s going on? Is everything okay? How can I help you? You tell me how I can help you.” Then you have a team that will come to you first. If anything goes wrong, my team just comes to me and say, “Hey, here’s what went down.” And then I’m like, “Okay. So how did you fix it?”

Reece Quiñones:
So we work through the solutions and we grow people. And I think that that is such a wonderful quality that I loved during the 15 years. I loved being able to go to my boss and say, “Here’s how I screwed up. Here’s how I think we should fix it. Do you agree?” And nine times out of 10 he did, “Oh yeah, that’s a great call. And you know what? It’s okay. We all screwed up sometimes.” And so I managed the same way and I think it’s really important that folks feel free to grow and to make those mistakes because that’s how you get exceptional designers. And I have exceptional designers. So I’m a very lucky person.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, definitely sounds like to be able to have that level of openness among the team like that, that really takes really, I think depthful but also very skillful kind of just management. And with being at ASCD as long as you have, being able to really learn that in that environment has definitely helped out with what you’re doing at Hatcher.

Reece Quiñones:
Absolutely. Absolutely. 100%.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you also are a design educator. We’ve had several design educators here on Revision Path. You’re an adjunct professor at George Mason University where you’ve been since 2008. Tell me about your time teaching there. I’m curious, what are you teaching now?

Reece Quiñones:
Actually now, I start next week. I am teaching UX design as well as design principles and theory. So methods and principles, which is really the theory of design. It’s their first studio class where they learn how to design. And it’s one of my favorite classes. I’ve taught it since 2008 and I love it. I love it. I love it so much. And I love the outcome of not only the program and the students. About a fourth of my staff are my former students.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh really?

Reece Quiñones:
Oh absolutely. Oh absolutely. I snag them when I can. Absolutely. I kind of fell into teaching…

Reece Quiñones:
One of the wonderful parts of working with the in-house firms is that they have lots of benefits. ASCD had tuition reimbursement, so I was like, “Hey, why don’t I get my M.F.A. in design?” And I found a program that had most of their classes at night in the University of Baltimore. I applied and got in, and I went through that there. I learned and worked with the head of the design program at George Mason, and one day I was just sitting around and he said, “You know, I think you would be a really good professor.” And I said, “Oh no, not me. There’s no way,” because I grew up with a stutter. Just learning how to speak fluently was just really hard for me. And even now, even though I now have lived a little bit more than half my life without the stutter, I still can hear the struggle. So I just doubted myself so much and he just left it alone.

Reece Quiñones:
Years later, he called me and he said, “Hey, how about that teaching gig that I talked to you about?” I was like, “Oh, it would be wonderful, but… I don’t know.” He’s like, “I really need you.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t know.” He’s like, “Why don’t you call me tomorrow? Think about it.” I said, “Okay.”

Reece Quiñones:
The next day, I called him. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was so nervous about teaching. I just couldn’t sleep. And so I said, “You know what, I know it’s a good opportunity. It’s hard to get in, but I just don’t think I can do it.” And I left him a message and he didn’t answer me back. So I kept texting. The day after, he called me and said, “Hey, I got your message. I’m sorry I got it late. I already put your name in and I can’t change it.” And come to find out, he could have changed it. But I thank him every day. His name is Don Star. I thank him every single day for tricking me into a teaching job because the first night I taught, I realized, “I love this. This is so amazing.” And you just get this vibe when you teach.

Reece Quiñones:
My mom was a teacher and she told me, she’s like, “When one of your students learns how to read, your whole body gets this shiver. You just get this vibe that, ‘Wow. What I’m doing is making a difference.'” And she’s right. I got that same vibe when I had a student who really understood a concept, understood a theory and was able to apply it and created something that looked so beautiful. And I was like, yes. And I got hooked. I got to teaching.

Reece Quiñones:
So I just got hooked to teaching. And with that first class, which was the design methods and theories class, I just had a great time. I kept teaching. There’s other classes I teach as well. I’ve taught typography, infographic design, motion graphics, and I just have a blast with it all. Like I said, I think that teaching is so important and learning how to teach those foundational skills are the critical part that I think is missing in some programs as well. Because I also interview and hire and look at hundreds of portfolios all the time, and just those little things that you can see throughout is what I teach. The things that people don’t get, or they don’t understand how to really put their work together or how to continually improve their work. So I just have a great time with it.

Maurice Cherry:
How would you say things have changed since you started teaching there? Have you grown as an educator?

Reece Quiñones:
I have. I don’t like grades, though I have to grade folks, but I love projects. And so my projects have gotten more complex. They also have introduced a digital aspect to them because everything now has a digital aspect. Even if you do a report, we’re asked to do social media or a little motion graphic video that will help to launch that report. So I think I use what I see at work as a part of how to improve the way I teach. So when I see shifts in the industry or in the way clients are asking for work, I also change how I teach to mirror that, to ensure where that my students are ready for hire as soon as they graduate

Maurice Cherry:
From your perspective, and again, you’ve been teaching since 2008 and you’ve mentioned these changes, what do design students, and I guess design graduates also, what do they want from the design industry?

Reece Quiñones:
That’s actually a good question. I’ve had a couple students, especially during the pandemic really kind of reached out for co-mentoring because we haven’t been in person for two years. So they want to be ready. They want to be ready to get a job. They want to ensure that they’re not looked over. They really want to understand how their work applies in the real world. And that’s actually something that I do. As a part of every single class, I also take one class period to teach them salaries. What are you worth? What are you worth when you go out? Here’s the salary range. Here’s how you can adapt it for the DC area. Or let’s say you were going to New York, here’s how you adapt it. Let’s say you were going to Chicago, or let’s say we’re going to Alabama or to Mississippi. Here’s how you can change and see what you’re worth and how much you can ask for.

Reece Quiñones:
I also go over portfolios. I’m like, “These portfolios work and here’s why.” I go over resumes. “These resumes work and here’s why.” And I explain to them how to get ready for the real world. Why it’s important that their work is good. How they can self-edit to ensure that you don’t have one piece that looks really bad with work that looks really good, because I see that all the time. When I’m looking at the students’ portfolios, I’m like, “Why did you add that invitation?” And they’re like, “Well, because I don’t have an invitation.” I’m like, “But do you think it looks good?” They’re like, “No, it’s not my best work.” I’m like, “Well, I’m going to judge you on that.” And they’re like, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, as a creative director, if I look at this, I’m going to say somebody helped you with everything else. And the one that looks bad is the one you did on your own.”

Maurice Cherry:
Hmm.

Reece Quiñones:
And they’re like, “Oh.” I said, “Mm-hmm (affirmative).” I was like, “Take that.”

Reece Quiñones:
So I help them learn how to edit their work because as you’re coming up, you always have a couple of duds in there where you’re… They’re not horrible, but they’re just not the level of quality as some of your other work. So learn how to edit because your portfolio is the way that someone’s going to hire you. I really help them with that. And I think that’s what they’re really looking for. They’re looking for help to ensure that they can get a job, because we all know how it feels when you graduate and then you have to like make it on your own.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reece Quiñones:
That intense feeling of fear like, “Oh dear God, I’ve got to pay for everything myself.” And back then it was harder because you literally left home. Nowadays you can come back, things are changing a little bit. But back then, they were just like, “Okay, you’re gone. Bye college. You’re gone.” But kids still feel that. They still feel that fear. So just helping them know that these things can help them. And then I also do mock interviews and I do them in class so that people can see how I answer questions. I tell them, “Just ask me anything.” And I’ve gotten some really tough questions for them to see how I answer that so that they can really have a leg up when they go to their first interview.

Reece Quiñones:
And even afterwards I will help students. I give them my email address. I’m like, “Hey, you want a mock interview? Let’s do it. You want me to look at your portfolio? Let’s do it.” Just the other day, I had a student who was so nervous about an interview that they had, catchy with Deloitte, and they were just so nervous. And so they just wanted me to go over again… They just wanted to practice and they wanted to go over it one on one. So I took some time to help that student and they reached out and said that they got the job and I was so excited because there’s another level that’s hard here to the pandemic. Right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reece Quiñones:
So they just have that nervousness going out. I take the time for that too, because I think it’s important and I wish I had that when I was first coming out. And so I make sure that I’m there for them so that they don’t have to feel like they’re going out alone.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I think what you’re doing with reviewing their portfolio and resumes and talking about salaries and doing mock interviews, that stuff is so, so, so important for designers just to get out there and know what it is that they have to do to try to compete in the marketplace, but also to position themselves in the best possible light.

Reece Quiñones:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve done some work in the past with the art institutes, particularly the Art Institute of Atlanta here in Atlanta. They sort of do this thing every year where they bring in people from the local design community and they have a dinner at the school. And what they’re doing with that is one, just trying to meet practitioners out in the city, but also to get a sense of like, “What do we need to be teaching students? What out there are you seeing in the market that we need to inform them of?” Whether that’s about upcoming technologies or certain-

Reece Quiñones:
I love it.

Maurice Cherry:
… design trends or things like that, to try to stay current and keep up on top of things. It’s funny, you’re talking about your adjunct experience and I’m thinking about, I taught adjunct… Oh, this was 2012 I think. Like 2011, 2012, I was teaching like a principles of web design course-

Reece Quiñones:
Oh, love it.

Maurice Cherry:
… as an adjunct. And what I tell you, it was so dated… Well, first of all, it was a BIS course. It was a business information systems kind of major. So it already wasn’t like technically really designed. You were just teaching business students enough design to sort of get by, I guess. But the curriculum was so old.

Reece Quiñones:
Oh.

Maurice Cherry:
Like when I started, they had students learning how to design web pages using tables. And I’m like, this is 2011, 2012, sometime around that.

Reece Quiñones:
I learned tables in the ’90s.

Maurice Cherry:
Me too. I learned tables in the ’90s too. And I’m like you have to teach because this was in that period where CSS layout design of course was the norm at that point. I remember working at AT&T in 2007-ish and we made the switch from tables to CSS. I mean, you want to talk about seeing grown people cry at work?

Reece Quiñones:
I know. I remember that switch. It was emotional for many.

Maurice Cherry:
In this teaching thing, I remember going to the Dean and like petitioning to rewrite the curriculum because I’m like, “You’re setting these students up to fail-”

Reece Quiñones:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
“… if you’re teaching them how to design in tables and then they go out there in the world trying to get some design jobs to say they have some HTML experience and it’s this dated. We’re not setting them up in the best light.” Eventually they did let me rewrite the curriculum. So I did teach them basic CSS and stuff, but I’m thinking like, “What if I didn’t?” Or what if another educator was just like, “Oh, this is what I’m teaching? Okay.” And just went with it. So the fact that you’re extending that out, you’re doing way more than usual. I mean, I certainly commend you for that.

Reece Quiñones:
Oh thank you. But now, what I was going to say is that that’s really important and that’s one of the things that I love about George Mason. Is that with the curriculum that I’m able to continually update it. So every single semester I update everything to ensure… Including my samples, because I want to make sure that the students have the latest and the greatest of how you can incorporate design into all this new technology. And it’s just really important to be able to do that because it’s true. Just like you said, if you don’t do that, you are setting them up to fail from the beginning and school’s not cheap, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reece Quiñones:
Let’s make sure they have all the right tools so that they can go out and live their best life.

Maurice Cherry:
What is the design community like for you at this stage in your career?

Reece Quiñones:
Oh, it’s awesome. The DC area, as well as the Baltimore area, because I’m still connected through school, they have such a strong design community that they overlap as well at times, but it’s really strong. I’m a part of AIGA, I volunteer. I am on The Continuum Fund, which is a scholarship fund for underserved designers, and it’s just wonderful. It’s great to grow with designers and also bring up new designers and seeing them grow in leadership roles as well. It’s actually something that’s important because no matter how large your city is, the design community is actually small. And that’s the thing that I think that people need to understand. Like I’m connected with so many people around the city and know when they’re looking for someone, I can refer other people. And that’s why it’s important to always get connected to the community where you are, because it’s a great way to help you find jobs or just to grow and design or just to give back, to mentor or to help an upcoming student or designer that joins a group. So I encourage everybody to do that if they can.

Maurice Cherry:
And you’re a recent DC design fellow. Congratulations on that.

Reece Quiñones:
Thank you so much. I was shocked and honored to be named an AIGA Fellow. It’s something that’s given to just a few people and not every year. And for me to be chosen, I was very humbled and just very gracious. It just makes me want to triple my efforts in terms of what I’m doing and teaching and mentoring, because I realize now that it’s made a difference. The power of just winning that award is just realizing that you can make a difference. You can help your community just by giving back. It was a really fun experience.

Maurice Cherry:
Who are some of your influencers? Who inspires you?

Reece Quiñones:
It’s actually everyone around me, but including, and I think the most important are my students. I am the creative director I am today, I am the leader I am today because of them. They inspire me to push further. They inspire me and grow… They just have just great ideas that they use on their projects, that they come forward, that they ask, “Hey, can I do this?” And I’m like, “Hmm, I don’t see why not. Let’s have a go.” And so they keep me always growing, learning and searching for new ways to apply design. And they inspire me every day. I think that’s why I’m hooked to learning and I’m hooked to teaching because basically I learn from them. As much as they learn from me, I learn from them.

Maurice Cherry:
What are you the most excited about at the moment?

Reece Quiñones:
I think I am the most excited about how technology is informing design, how we can apply design to new things. For example, augmented reality. So AR, VR and how I can apply that within my teaching, as well as within my own firm. I love how the industry and how design has to continually change. I think that that keeps us fresh. It keeps us learning. It keeps us growing. And that’s important. I mean, I think creativity really requires the pursuit of experiencing learning and observing as much as you can. One of the things I always say is you cannot design what you don’t know. So you have to continually be curious and open-minded and just always be a student. And just continuing to learn, not only in your field, but what’s around it, and be ready for it so that you can continue to visually communicate ideas to your clients.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I mean, with what you’ve got going on with teaching, as well as your work at The Hatcher Group, it sounds like you’ve got a very, very bright future in terms of what you want to.

Reece Quiñones:
I’m always living in the present. Right now, I am so excited with the work I’m doing at The Hatcher Group. I recently got promoted to executive vice president, which actually allows me to do a lot more business development, not only with the firm, but with our clients. So it’s a wonderful place for me to be. In five years, I can tell you, as long as they’ll have me, I will still be teaching. That I do know. I love it. It’s how I actually relax after a long day, is I teach. And the moment I go in and I say, “Hi class, how are you doing?” Like all the stress leaves. And we just have a great time and we laugh and just learn together.

Reece Quiñones:
In terms of what I do, I hope that I’m always going to be tied to design in some way, the next five years for me, just really… It incorporates me continuing to learn. I’m always looking at the next program. I know it’s weird, but I am looking at a doctor’s program. So I think it’s important for me to continue just growing and learning within my own field, and right now just doing what I do at Hatcher.

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

Reece Quiñones:
Well, they can go to thehatchergroup.com as well as my own personal website, 09creative.com. And I am also on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/reecequinones

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Reece Quiñones, I want to thank you so, so much for coming on the show. I mean, just going through everything that you are doing with The Hatcher Group and with education and your background and everything. I mean, you’re someone that I think a lot of people in design industry can look up to. It’s so interesting before we recorded, you were talking about how you don’t know, or you didn’t know why you received the DC fellow award. And I’m like, I don’t see how you didn’t know considering how much you’ve been, not just a practitioner in design for a very long time, but also how much you’re giving back to the next generation of design through teaching-

Reece Quiñones:
Oh, thank you so much.

Maurice Cherry:
… and everything. So I am so glad to have had you on the show and to share your story and I look forward to seeing what comes next. Thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Reece Quiñones:
Thank you so much. I had an awesome time.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

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

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

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

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

Sponsored by The State of Black Design Conference

The State of Black Design

Texas State University’s Communication Design Program is excited to announce The State of Black Design Conference, a three day virtual event March 4-6, 2022.

This year’s theme is “family reunion”, and there will be over 50 amazing speakers, including author and educator Jelani Cobb, and world-renowned poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni.

This year debuts the State of Black Design’s Resume Book initiative, so if you’re a Black design student, or you’re a Black designer looking for your next role, then listen up!

You will be able to submit your resume and your portfolio to the Resume Book, along with your institution of study and major if you’re a student, and recruiters and employers will have access to it before the event. If you’re interested and you want to be included in the Resume Book, send your info to blackdesign@txstate.edu with the subject line “Resume Book”. You have until March 3, 2022 to submit.

The State of Black Design Conference is brought to you with the support of the University of Texas at Austin, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Microsoft, General Motors, Design for America, Civilla, IDSA, AIGA, and Revision Path.

Visit The State of Black Design Conference website for tickets. Hope to see you there!

It’s time for Revision Path’s annual audience survey! Give us your feedback on the podcast, and you could win a $250 Amazon.com gift card from us! Head over to revisionpath.com/survey today. The survey closes on May 31, 2020. Thank you!
Samuel Adaramola

“Blackness is multifaceted.” When Samuel Adaramola told me that before we started recording, I knew we were going to have a great conversation. Samuel is a talented multimedia creative, who most recently used his skills as a media producer on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. We talked a good bit about what it’s like to work on a political campaign of that magnitude, how he first got involved, and how he worked to get the campaign’s message out during this time of physical/social distancing.

Samuel also spoke on growing up in the USA and attending school, spoke on how journalism impacts his creative process, and gave me a peek into his visual storytelling process. Samuel’s energy and drive really come through in this interview, so I hope you take a listen and get inspired!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right, let’s start the show. All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Samuel Adaramola:
Hi, my name is Samuel Adaramola. I am a multimedia professional currently working as a media producer for the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign.

Maurice Cherry:
What is a regular day like for you on the campaign? And I’m asking this considering for people that are listening, we’re recording this on April 2nd. We are in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak. As much as that has impacted nearly every industry in every sector, I’m just curious, what’s it like working on the campaign right now?

Samuel Adaramola:
Well, let me start by answering what it was like before the unfortunate pandemic. And yesterday made it a year since I’ve been in a campaign, and this is my first time working on a presidential campaign.

Samuel Adaramola:
And every day is different, and what we’re trying to do in the campaign and what we’re able to accomplish somewhat was, do everything internally in terms of our production, all of our design is in-house, all of our ads that we do on video and all of our social media videos was done in-house.

Samuel Adaramola:
So it’s a constant churning of production, and this means that we have to put on multiple hats. We have to be producers, we have to be editors, we have to be filmmakers as well. So every day kind of brought something different.

Samuel Adaramola:
So sometimes it’ll kind of give you a newsroom vibe where we meet regularly and try to determine what ideas do we have for today or this week based on certain policies that have been released or certain things that are in a new cycle. We want to meet regularly to determine what that is.

Samuel Adaramola:
And sometimes these ideas are short term, like quick turnarounds based on new cycles, and other times they are long form projects. If we want to go to a certain community and for example, I had the privilege and honor of going to North Carolina, Durham, North Carolina to McDougald Terrace, which is a public housing facility that was unfortunately been neglected. And as a result, the tenants there have been living in inhumane conditions.

Samuel Adaramola:
So finding stories like that or having those stories come our way where we will have to fly out to certain locations and do some location scoutings and set up interviews and things like that. So it really depends. But I would, it’ll be most likely kind of like a newsroom setting where we’re just meeting together and trying to figure out what’s the best idea to put out there.

Samuel Adaramola:
And I’m part of the digital team and we would, this is comprised of film editors, graphic designers, the social media team as well. So we will just come together and kind of discuss different ideas.

Samuel Adaramola:
Now in the face of this pandemic, we have had to pivot like most people in America, and the world right now. We’ve had to pivot to a fully remote operation and we’ve tried to and what we’ve done and shout out to our team, we have kind of pivoted to focusing a live stream and doing content that way.

Samuel Adaramola:
But, however we have regular meetings online and we are coming together kind of keep that vibe to brainstorm ideas of how we can do it in the midst of this pandemic. One idea I wanted, I pitched in the middle of producing is, how does this pandemic exacerbate the disparities that exist in Black communities and low income communities?

Samuel Adaramola:
So I was able to reach out to some doctors who serve low income and Black communities and do a Skype or a Zoom call and have it recorded and conduct interviews that way.

Samuel Adaramola:
So I think you know this Maurice, and I’m sure your listeners do know this as well, it’s like creativity really comes when there’s constraint and I think right now, we are in a deep constraint where we are forced to kind of think outside the box and try to find ways to really get our messaging out there.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How did you first get involved with the campaign? You’ve been there now for a year. That’s a long time in a political campaign. I don’t know if people that are listening really realize that, but given the intensity and the frequency of work that you have to do, a year is a long time.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah. A year is a long time and how I did get involved in the campaign was prior to joining the campaign, I was working as a multimedia specialist for Our Revolution, which is a nonprofit that came out of the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign.

Samuel Adaramola:
I wasn’t involved in the 2016 campaign. Honestly, I wasn’t really, I wouldn’t call myself a very politically active person, but I think that the opportunity came at a time. I was a freelancer prior to that and it came at a time where I was kind of, for lack of better words, fed up with the working on projects and doing things that I didn’t really care for.

Samuel Adaramola:
I call myself an idealist, I believe in a better world and I wanted to work in that capacity. Use my creativity for good and this opportunity came as sheer luck, saw it online and applied and I was liked enough to be asked to join.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah. I was there for three years. Initially started as the lead designer there and we weren’t doing any type of video production and anybody will tell you, the landscape of social media, you kind of want to be producing videos, whether it be short term or long term. And I saw it as an opportunity to kind of pitch that idea of hey, we should do videos.

Samuel Adaramola:
I have a little bit of a background in it. I minored in film in my undergrad at Towson University, so I was comfortable doing it and also did a little bit of video work while I was freelancing as well.

Samuel Adaramola:
So I pitched it, put up a budget of what it would cost to get all the gear and shout out to Senator Nina Turner, who’s also a part of the Bernie campaign. But when she came into be the president of Our Revolution, she sat all the staff down one-on-one and one of the things that we talked about in my one-on-one with her was that it is my desire to kind of rebrand the campaign.

Samuel Adaramola:
And she gave me that opportunity and I was able to do that as the lead designer. This was before I switched roles, but I just wanted to kind of throw that out there as that being an experience that really allowed me to kind of flex my muscles a bit in a creative capacity and actually take on the task of rebranding of an organization.

Samuel Adaramola:
Since Our Revolution was so closely tied to Senator Sanders, it was kind of a no brainer that people who are involved in Our Revolution take on the opportunity to join the campaign. So it was just like an easy transition, and Senator Turner who was the president of Our Revolution, joined the campaign and we were given the opportunity to join the campaign as well.

Samuel Adaramola:
And that’s how it happened. Luck being at the right place at the right time and rising to the occasion and stepping up to those opportunities.

Maurice Cherry:
Sounds like it’s a little more than luck though. I mean you put in the work too.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah. I want to maintain humility here, but I definitely worked hard. Being in Our Revolution, which was a new organization and we were always trying to, as the term goes, we were always trying to build the plane while flying it. And I’m very proud of the work we were able to do there. And a lot of people who were part of Our Revolution are on the campaign currently and we’re still doing great work.

Samuel Adaramola:
And it was kind of like we graduated college together and we all started the same job together because it was such an experience that, how can I say this, that constituted growth and being on a campaign allowed us to grow even further in our respective areas.

Samuel Adaramola:
I can speak for myself that joining the campaign as a media producing, producing some of these social media videos and being a part of some, creating some ads. I did some voiceover work for one ad, but just being a part of that process and kind of see how things that have been made in my year definitely allowed me to grow in my creative capacity.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean it sounds like you have the opportunity to involve yourself in a lot of different projects within the campaign. Like you just said, there’s a little film, there’s some voiceover, you’re doing design work and for those who don’t know, I mean I’ve mentioned this on the show before. I used to work in a campaign, not a presidential campaign. I want to be clear about that. That was a mayoral campaign.

Maurice Cherry:
So I at least understand to a degree the level of intensity that has to go into it. Of course, running for mayor and running for president are two entirely different things in terms of scope and scale and everything, but I know what it’s like, like being in the campaign office. Late hours, everyone’s working together. It’s such a, it becomes a very tight knit group of people and you’ve all went through this experience together.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s interesting, like even from past administrations. How you hear like say the Obama administration, you hear about people that are working together or they’ve partnered up with someone else who worked with the campaign or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Going through that kind of crucible of an experience, it does spark growth because there’s just so much that’s, it’s a really like a microcosm almost of what it’s like to work for a business or to run a business. There’s so many different things you have to do.

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely. I would say that it does kind of feel like a startup. I do want to backtrack. I didn’t do, or I haven’t done much design work if at all during the campaign. My task was mainly video production, so that’s where my lane was.

Samuel Adaramola:
But some of the designers who came from Our Revolution are the designers in the campaign and I’m able to collaborate with them with certain pieces and see what they’re working on and put our heads together for creating dope content.

Samuel Adaramola:
But yeah, you’re absolutely right. It is a microcosm, so to speak. You don’t know how much you’ve grown until you sit and look back. And with my one year being yesterday, I’m like wow. I don’t think I would have created this many videos or pushed myself this far. Some things that I was kind of a little apprehensive about doing initially, April 2019. I have no fears in doing that right now.

Samuel Adaramola:
So definitely appreciative of this experience and how grueling it is. I mean, I have no reference. I mean you’ve worked in a gubernatorial campaign and I had no prior campaign experience. So it’s funny because a colleague who was at Our Revolution who didn’t want to join the campaign, she had her experiences in campaign. She’s like, my experience is enough.

Maurice Cherry:
I think that’s one thing about campaigns. You either will only do it once or it’s the only thing you will ever do.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah, and I haven’t…

Maurice Cherry:
Or it’s the only thing you will ever do.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah. I haven’t done it at all, so I said, “Let me see what this is about, at least.” I believe, and again, like I mentioned before, I’m an idealist. I believe in a better world. That’s part of why I support Senator Sanders and have been a part of his network of policy and social change. Because, in him, what initially drew me to him, because I’ve never seen someone run for president who is a documented, I guess, activist for the civil rights movement. I’m referring to the picture of him getting arrested for protesting housing segregation in Chicago. Seeing that picture and be like, “Huh, he’s running for president?” And knowing that he wasn’t aware that that picture even existed. You know what they say that, show me who you are when nobody’s looking? That’s your true stuff, so that’s why I’ve taken a liking to him so much initially and just grown to believing in equitable world for everybody. That’s why I’m here and that’s why I want to continue to fight.

Maurice Cherry:
When I worked with campaigns, it’s funny you mentioned that about the point of reference. There was no point of reference when I did it either because I was working on the first set of municipal races after Obama got elected for his first term. Obama’s first term, that team did so much around design and social media and getting the word out that was really unprecedented for-

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
… not even just a political campaign for president, but any type of campaign like that.

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
Those first sets of municipal races afterwards, I will tell you every politician that I spoke with wanted to copy that Obama playbook. They were like, “How do we get votes through social media? How can we do what Obama did? I’m trying to get some of that Obama magic.” It’s like, “Hire someone from Obama’s team?” I don’t know, but it was a lot of trial and error and at the time when I was working in the campaign, I mean, I had my own studio. I had just started actually my own studio in late 2008 after Obama got elected.

Samuel Adaramola:
Okay.

Maurice Cherry:
The first big client I had was the political campaign that I worked on, and so it was a lot to come up to speed with what they were trying to do and the message they were trying to get out. I mean, it was a totally … Now that I think about it, that was over 10 years ago. It was a totally different landscape. We had a MySpace page.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh wow. That’s a throwback.

Maurice Cherry:
We had a customized MySpace page. We had a Flickr page. We had a Meetup page. Twitter was around. We had Twitter. We had Facebook. We had LinkedIn, most of the big social media places that are out now was there. But we legit had a MySpace page. It seems like ages ago, but that was over 10 years ago. I’m curious because technology has continued to change since then, I would say most notably how much more people are using smartphones. There’s a lot of push towards mobile, a lot more things going on mobile. I’m curious from your standpoint, how do you plan for mobile given that more people are used to receiving text messages and doing stuff with apps and things than they were, I’d say, even four years ago in 2016?

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah. I mean, some things that I observed whether directly or indirectly played a part of during the time of the campaign is that our ground game is strong in terms of our organizing efforts and our fundraising efforts. One of the ways we prepared for mobile is we actually developed an app for mobile. This app, you can see all of the policies there. You can see some of the graphics that our design team has created. You could see some of the videos that pertain to some of the policies that we’ve created all on the app. Not only that, we’ve made it an engaging experience where people can sign people up to help register people to vote. If you have a network as friends, you could share all the videos and share all the graphics and stuff.

Samuel Adaramola:
That’s something we definitely kept in mind. Like I mentioned, we did everything in-house. We had an in-house product team that developed the technology and the apps to create it, so that’s definitely something we’ve always kept in mind. Even on the video sense is, we always create our videos to be optimized for a mobile experience. So we’re cutting things in square. We’re making sure that captions are always present and legible, so whether you have a disability or not or whether you just don’t have the volume of your phone on, we want to make sure that people are able to see or at least read what the video is about. These are things that we’ve always kept in mind when we’re constantly creating, whether it’s something that is as direct as having an app created or in the way we create videos and create content.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you have to do any internationalization, because just given the coalition of people that you’re trying to reach as a president, I’m wondering if you have to do a lot of translation or things of that-

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
… nature too. Yeah.

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely. I think one of the things that we started to do was we started to translate all of our graphics to several languages; Spanish, Arabic, a slew of others, where we started to have that in mind. With our videos as well, we will always do Spanish translations, especially if it’s a video that pertain to a specific policy or issue that affected that community. That’s always something that we kept in mind, and I’m proud to say that we did a pretty good job with it, especially on the graphic side.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you end up reaching supporters or voters who are probably not traditionally online in like this current pandemic climate we’re in right now?

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah. I mean, one of the ways we did it, and I guess pre-pandemic is that we had a lot of volunteers who would make calls. That was probably one of our largest efforts in organizing. We made millions and millions of calls to organize people to vote or volunteer or get active in this political campaign. Again, going back to the app, the app was like a device that is used for you to go out and talk to people and engage with people and share what you’re seeing and share why you support the campaign. Those are the little ways that we attempted to reach people who aren’t online.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So the app then I guess has talking points, you are able to use that almost as a guide to talk-

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
… to the other folks that aren’t online. Okay.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Now, you’re working in media, you’re a media producer, as you know, and as I’m sure our audience knows, between 2016 and now we have seen a proliferation of, what’s the best way to call it? Can I call it the smear campaign? I don’t know. But we’ve seen this proliferation of “fake news” and distrust in the media and we’ve seen lots of altered media, whether it’s Photoshopped images or even deep fake videos and stuff like that. What are your thoughts on the challenges of truth and veracity and media when it relates to that sort of stuff? With the public service sector because, I mean, now we see social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, trying to fight those kind of claims of misinformation. How does that stuff work in a campaign?

Samuel Adaramola:
I mean, fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with deep fakes of Senator Sanders out there. I think the onus is on people to be as media literate as possible. I think we can’t only rely on big social media companies, Twitter or Facebook or what have you, to take it upon themselves to do it. I mean, they should do it, absolutely, but we also have to make sure that we are as media literate as possible. Having the ability to identify a deep fake or to question and to evaluate and analyze the content that we’re consuming. But that’s a tall task, honestly, because as human beings we’re just predisposed to do what’s easiest and most convenient. And so, I think as in the campaign, I’m not sure how it manifests itself, but I think what we try to keep in mind is that we, to the best of our abilities, are sourcing material and sourcing facts. We constantly cross-reference with our policy team to make sure that everything that we are using and putting out is legitimate.

Samuel Adaramola:
I think that’s part of the process of tackling the misinformation. I think if we have presidential candidates running, that should be something that is constantly at a top of mind, just making sure that they’re not falling victim to these false claims and false facts that we see online. Hopefully, in the future, and I think we’re not too far away from this is, in future presidential campaigns that there are platforms, specific things that deal with disinformation and fake news, for lack of a better word. Because it’s been abundantly clear, like you mentioned, since 2016 that facts and reality is being under attack. Journalistic institutes are being under attack, so I think it’s something that we do need a leader with a vision to fully understand that, “Hey, these places, at least some of these sources, are our friends. Their job is to inform the public in a true manner.” So yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Before we started recording, you asked me how I found out about you.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And so, I said I was going to wait till we got on the show before I mentioned this. Last year in September, which seems like 20 years ago at this point, just to be hones with you. It was like late September last year. I will tell the story. I was on Twitter under the Revision Path handle and I asked, “Are there any black designers or developers on any of the campaigns of the current candidates running to become the next U.S. president from either party? If this is you, let us know.” Because I was like, we’re going into January, 2020. I want to be able to talk to some black creatives that are on these individual staffs. I mean, September 2019, there were like 30 people running. It was like a bingo card on the Democratic side.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
There was a ton of folks that were running, and so I was like, I reached out to every candidate multiple times or the candidate’s campaigns at least, reached out multiple times and we heard back from only one campaign. It wasn’t Bernie, I’m just going to be honest with you.

Samuel Adaramola:
Okay.

Maurice Cherry:
It was Beto O’Rourke. We heard back from Beto O’Rourke’s campaign and he was like, “Oh yeah, we’ll pass it on to the team.” Other than that, I couldn’t find anyone. And so, I said, “Well, let me just go on LinkedIn and just start searching for designer with the candidates name.” And so, I’m doing that for all of the … Had a spreadsheet, doing it for all the candidates. The only one, the only person I found was you with the Sanders campaign. This was back in September of 2019 when I said there were a lot of people running on both parties. That’s how I found out about you.

Samuel Adaramola:
Well, all right.

Maurice Cherry:
I say that to lead into my next question though. What is it like for you being a black creative working in politics with progressive organizations?

Samuel Adaramola:
I’m not the only one, fortunately, in the Bernie Sanders campaign. As far as the black creatives go, on my team in the videos, is a talented motion graphics designer. Her name is Bria, she’s on the team. A young black lady. There’s another on the design team, her name is Laura as well. There’s also Chris and [Sumarias 00:12:09]. We’re represented within the Bernie Sanders campaign in terms of black creatives. But as far as what it’s like to be a creative on the campaign, honestly I would say it’s like any other job but my more intense and a lot more is on the line. But, obviously, we are privileged in a sense to be there and serve as a voice to our communities. All black people aren’t the same, but when you have representation even from the top on down, it’s very important because it allows you to voice your opinion and perspectives that may not have been considered or of thought of before.

Samuel Adaramola:
So as it relates to what I’ve been doing on the campaign is that, when I am thinking of a video idea or creating some work in whatever capacity, I’m always thinking about, “Okay, how does this affect my community, black community and the black immigrant community too. Because I’m a first-generation Nigerian American, so I’m always thinking of these things in this way. How I create and how I birth ideas always has that frame of reference. I’m fortunate that there hasn’t been a lot of hurdles for me to be able to voice my ideas and my opinions and they have always been met with respect and consideration, so there isn’t really anything I could point to that’s much different from what anybody else would experience.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you mentioned being first-generation. Where did you grow up?

Samuel Adaramola:
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and was immigrated to America when I was two, so I was basically raised in America. But I was undocumented all of my life. Well, most of my adult life too. So I’ve been raised as American as Apple pies, people say, but not having documentation until I graduated from undergrad. So a lot of my time in America was living in the shadows, not really getting the opportunities that one would normally get as a citizen of the country. So yeah, it was particularly difficult. That’s how I actually got to becoming a designer. I’ve always had an interest in being creative. In high school and even middle school I would like … It’s funny when I think about this, I had a head start in creating for a political campaign because one of my best friends in elementary school ran for student president. I drew his campaign posters and I would always draw on clothing with fabric paint and I developed an affinity for creating. I didn’t find out my undocumented status until I was-

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh, I didn’t find out my undocumented status until I was graduating high school and wanted to go to college, but I didn’t have a social security number and I didn’t find out until I was applying. That’s how my world got flipped, turned upside down: not to quote Fresh Prince.

Samuel Adaramola:
But I was still able to go to school undergrad because of two things. One, my late mother, who was a permanent resident and she was on disability at the time, she was giving me some of her disability checks to go towards paying tuition. I’m not saying it like it was a lot, but it meant a lot to her because it was her only source of income. But I was taxed of doing is completing the rest of it and I did that with a group of my friends.

Samuel Adaramola:
I was deejaying in college and we would throw parties and one of my friends, he made a flyer for one of our first parties that we were going to go to throw, and it looked like something that came out of Coral Paint. It was just a terrible looking flyer. And I knew, like I mentioned, I was creative up to that point and I just knew I had a taste of what looked good and what didn’t. And literally, when I saw him do the flyer, I was like, “Nah, we could do better than this.” I went in our school library and I looked at YouTube tutorials of how to make flyers in Photoshop and nine hours later I had a Halloween party flyer that I was really proud of and stuck with it. That morphed into figuring out how to make logos and figuring out how to create different brand assets. I just hacked my way into learning design.

Samuel Adaramola:
When I graduated, because I got my undergrad in mass communications with a concentration in advertising and public relations, I graduated college without a portfolio like somebody who would have traditionally gone to school for design. But I had a portfolio of several party flyers and some logos that I made for student body organizations, so I thought I had a little something. I thought I was working with something. You couldn’t tell me nothing back then, but then you get humbled when you apply for jobs and you’re like, “Oh, so that’s what real design looks like.”

Samuel Adaramola:
But I eventually ended up working at an advertising agency in DC and my role wasn’t designed. My role wasn’t digital, my role was being a digital producer for the social media department. That’s just basically someone who project manages different projects for different clients. What that enabled me to discover was the process of creating with multiple creatives. Got to work with developers. I got to work with other designers. I got to work with copywriters. And I got to be someone who was tasked with managing the resources and the billable hours for everyone who was working on a specific client project.

Samuel Adaramola:
So, being able to sit in their room and meet with clients and have the ideation process of what they seek and desire, and actually see it through fruition by observing the creatives on the team there, it opened my eyes to, “Okay, I know I was doing all this stuff, making party flyers and doing all this knockoff stuff, but I’m in a room with people who have gone to school and did this stuff and super talented.” I knew then that, “Okay, I didn’t want to be the project manager of this stuff, I actually wanted to create. I wanted to be a designer.” There was only a few black people there at the time. Maybe still is, who knows? But it was myself and I think one other person. But the person that I want to bring up, her name is Kim Williams.

Samuel Adaramola:
I bring her up because she gave me the opportunity to go for it. I remember one day I came into work and she pulled me aside. We went into the room and she was like, “Hey, I noticed that you don’t seem like yourself or something slacking. What’s going on? There’s not too many black people here and I just want to make sure that we are holding each other up and doing what we can do to survive here.” I just opened up to her and said, “Hey Kim, I want to do what you’re doing.” She was the art director there at the time. I said, “I want to design. I want to be a part of the producing this creative stuff.” She said, “Then why don’t you do it?” And I was like, “Huh. I can, right?” But she was like, “You can do this. You can really do this. I have books. I have stuff that I can give you. You can just dedicate your time to learning this stuff and being creative and you can find yourself doing this work.” She bought me a Wacom tablet-

Maurice Cherry:
Wow!

Samuel Adaramola:
And she gave me some books and she just patted me on the back and sent me on my way. And I was like, “Wow!” And to this day, I can’t talk to anybody without mentioning her because that put me in a trajectory of where I am today. If I did not have that conversation with her, if she did not pull me aside as have that, “Come to Jesus black person to black person conversation,” I wouldn’t be here speaking with you right now and my career to that conversation and I appreciate her wisdom back then.

Samuel Adaramola:
So, I ended up leaving because of personal reasons that I had with my family, but I worked part-time at a nonprofit organization and then a dedicated the rest of my time to going ham with designing and figuring it out, taking on freelance gigs here and there just to get better. As a result, the portfolio I was able to put together from that time was what landed me at Our Revolution and being at Our Revolution is what landed me at being a part of a presidential campaign.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Samuel Adaramola:
So yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s quite a path.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah, it is.

Maurice Cherry:
You mentioned Kim Williams, you were at Ogilvy when this happened, right?

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I think we’ve had that same Kim Williams on the show. She for a while was design director at Indeed?

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah, she was.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah! We had Kim on the show last year. Look at that, small world.

Samuel Adaramola:
Small world, big world.

Maurice Cherry:
Small world.

Maurice Cherry:
Was your family supportive of you going into this creative route? I can only imagine first-generation, they want you to go into something that’s more lucrative and more secure.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah, absolutely. I’m blessed because my parents were… My dad is a hippie, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Samuel Adaramola:
I call him a Nigerian hippie because he’s traditional. He’s a traditional patriarchy type of figurehead, but he’s also into meditation and juicing and metaphysical stuff. He’s not your typical Nigerian man. I think for some immigrants, their experience are different. I think some people come in here with the idea of I’m coming to America to be the best XYZ. Other people say, “I’m coming to America to survive.” So, my parents were the survivors, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Samuel Adaramola:
My dad had many odd jobs. He was an ice-cream man at one point. He was an insurance salesman. He was a taxi driver. He was everything. So, his idea of success wasn’t really tied to being a doctor or a lawyer or engineer, which is what the stereotypical expectation is of a black immigrant child. His idea was just being happy. My mother, on the other hand, she was just more or less the same, just the idea of being happy.

Samuel Adaramola:
When I was in elementary school and in high school drawing on shirts and ruining my clothes and making new clothes out of old clothes, my mother says, “Yo, this looks good. Can you write some Bible scriptures on the shirt for me?” So they’ve been supportive in that sense. And I think because of… Another thing is that some people come to America with the understanding of how to navigate the immigration system and other people don’t because they’re just on survival mode. Again, my parents were under survival mode and that, unfortunately and somewhat fortunately, resulted in me being undocumented for most of my life. So, I don’t think my parents quite had time to worry about what I’m going to do with my life, but they always made sure that they provided for me.

Samuel Adaramola:
I always felt like I was a good kid. I knew I wanted to be creative or do something in some creative capacity, but I think I am a product of my environment. So having relatives and friends who belong to the black immigrant community and seeing that most people are in those traditional doctor, lawyer, engineer paths because of what their parents want for them, you do find that quite often. I do feel, at an earlier point in my life, felt pressured to fall in line. At one point I thought I was going to be an entertainment lawyer because that was my way of working in media and still having a respectable position. But I think what most immigrant parents and elders who come here, they just aren’t educated on how lucrative some of these careers can be.

Samuel Adaramola:
They may not know that you’re a developer or they may not know that you’re a designer or a media producer. They’re just not accustomed to it because all they know is that being a doctor is distinguishable and can earn you a high income. But also, somebody, even if it’s a doctor, someone had to design the tools that they’re using, somebody had to create the software that they’re inputting their patient information in. These positions are very valuable and I think it just takes people like me and other people who are in similar career paths or those untraditional paths to educate them on that. I think some people are coming around to that now.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, well said, man. First of all, it’s great to know that your parents were really supportive of you being behind it. But I feel like that’s something that… and I’ve had hundreds of black designers on the show… I don’t think this is unique to black designers. But I think it is unique probably to people of color that are going into a creative field, is that unless there’s an example that they can see their parents or guardians can see of some type of financial success, then they’re like, “Okay, I’m good with this.” Because our parents grew up in a totally different environment, totally different.

Samuel Adaramola:
Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
They had to go through a lot more struggles than we had to and they sacrificed to make sure that our generation wouldn’t have to have those sacrifices. And so, maybe being seen as going into a creative field like that, because they don’t see examples of success, they probably think the opposite right off the bat. Like, “Oh, you’re just going to be spray painting, airbrushing shirts at the fair,” or something like that. You know?

Samuel Adaramola:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
I see how that could turn into something much more… necessarily say much more lucrative, but that you can take that creative skill and use it in a number of different applications.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah, everybody’s needed. I think everybody can’t be a doctor. Everybody can’t be a lawyer. Everybody can’t be an engineer, but I think what you said is exactly right. I think when they have a hard time seeing the success of those untraditional paths, so it is like a trial by fire where you just got to do what you want until you just are successful and you’re like, “Hey mom and dad, I did it.” If you watch that Netflix movie Uncorked, it has that same feeling to it.

Maurice Cherry:
Don’t ruin it for me because I haven’t seen it yet.

Samuel Adaramola:
It’s really good.

Maurice Cherry:
I do want to see it.

Samuel Adaramola:
You got to watch it.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m going to watch it. I’m going to watch it.

Samuel Adaramola:
That’s also what I wanted to talk about, the dualities of the black identity. I think sometimes the black immigrants and black Americans or descendants of slaves were sometimes pitted against each other. And I think we can realize that we have similar experiences and we can learn to celebrate our differences, and that’s all I want to do with my life.

Samuel Adaramola:
Being raised in America and just being an immigrant, I always felt like I’m not quite American enough, but I’m also not quite Nigerian enough, so I’m just in this little box. And I’m like, “But I experience both things,” and I just wanted to mention that. It’s good to share our stories and be able to celebrate each other, whether it be a creative pursuit or not. It’s just good to know that we exist. I think our communities and the black community in general is that much better by having our stories told.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, absolutely. So later on you mentioned going to Twoson? Am I saying that right?

Samuel Adaramola:
Towson, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Towson. Sorry. I’m looking at it like, “Is it Towson?” Okay, no. So, you mentioned going to Towson for undergrad, but then later on you went to Syracuse and you got your Master’s Degree in Communication and in Journalism. How does your journalism experience impact your design process?

Samuel Adaramola:
Well that…it’s new. I only graduated last fall.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Samuel Adaramola:
But in saying that is, I wanted to go to Syracuse and to do that program in particular to be a better storyteller. I think what my experience there has taught me is just how important it is to do your research right and to consider other things, like how data comes into play with how you tell your story, or how different technology and the media landscape changing can affect how you’re telling a story, and thoroughly understanding media law will affect how you tell your story.

Samuel Adaramola:
So unfortunately, I haven’t experienced enough in my current career that can inform what I do with my creative path. But I do, in going through the course and finishing it, it did open my eyes to just how deep storytelling can go, especially when you’re creating from a journalistic landscape. Because a fun project I did during my master’s was looking at the data of the black filmmakers, black directors, and black casting, looking at how they fared the last 30 years in terms of reaching the top 10 status. And how, although it may seem that we are represented in terms of the film industry, we are still having quite far some ways to go, especially with the fact that there has not been a female director who is black, who has reached top 10 highest grossing films. And there’s only…

Samuel Adaramola:
10 highest grossing films, and there’s only been one black filmmaker to do that, which was Ryan Coogler with Black Panther. So I think doing those projects, they helped me be curious about where are we now as a community and how much further do we have to go. As I think about projects and things that I want to do in the future, I know that having this education at Syracuse has given me a solid foundation in terms of understanding and learning how to navigate storytelling better in any aspects of creativity, whether it’s a film or or creating different designs or developing a website.

Maurice Cherry:
So when it comes to the visual storytelling, where do you typically try to begin the story?>

Samuel Adaramola:
I’m trying to pull from my experience at the campaign. For me is understanding the issues that are affecting the community. And I want to pull this North Carolina video again as an example because it’s probably one of the videos that I’m most proudest of that I was able to do in terms of visual storytelling. When I found out that this was what this community was going through, the first thing you want to do is research. And when you research it allows you to think of some pointed questions that you can ask the subject you’re interviewing. And that’s just the set up, because when you are going to film and interview someone, what they say could be completely different from what you expected. What you go in there thinking it’s going to be, the story ends up being something completely different. You may experience this doing the podcast, but I think when you are able to have all those elements come together, your research, the questions and the interview and the response, and you’re able to transcribe that and find a story, you can then find supplemental materials there. So I think it all begins with just doing enough research on the issue that you have at hand, and I think doing enough research, whether it’s even a video or a design, can steadily inform which way you go about creating.

Maurice Cherry:
So you’re in the DC area, you mentioned being in Silver Springs, Maryland, but in the DMV area, outside of the work you’re doing with the campaign, what is the design scene or the creative scene like there for you?

Samuel Adaramola:
For me it’s everybody’s… I think DC is unsung, man. DC doesn’t get the love that it should. It’s a very, very creative town, a creative city, this DMV area, especially within the black community. I think people, if you go on IG, there is a sense of community. There is a sense of people actively creating. And this is another thing and I wanted to bring that up as it related to the conversation about career paths and what’s distinguished and what isn’t. You still find that people who are engineers, their side hustle is that they paint or that they bake cookies or that day design shoes or have a fashion brand and you find a lot of that in the DMV area, especially within the black community that they have.

Samuel Adaramola:
It’s like they live a double life. They have their nine to five, I’m going to clock in and clock out at my engineer job. But as soon as they’re out, they’re out being creative and hustling and bustling. So I think you do find a lot of that in DC where people have that dual identity in terms of being a creative and being someone who’s has, I guess, a distinguished career in engineering or so. And you also have like… I think me being here, this is a very rich African immigrant community, and being raised in that environment, I’ve always felt comfortable being around here and… From churches to little grocery shops to even now venues and clubs that are owned by Africans. You see that community also as well.

Maurice Cherry:
What keeps you motivated and inspired these days? These are some interesting times that we’re in right now. You’re also working for a political campaign, which is always full of ups and downs in the campaign. I don’t care where you’re at in terms of rankings or whatnot. What keeps you inspired, motivated these days?

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh man, it’s tough these days, man. Things just seem so dreary and we don’t see a way out right now, but I just look back at my past and the nature of how I got to this country and how I am able to be where I am now despite the obstacles that faced me with my immigration status or what have you. And I look at my father and my late mother and the things that they were able to do to provide for me with the little that they have. What keeps me inspired is knowing that I have the opportunity to build generational wealth, and I’m not just talking about wealth financially. I’m talking about wealth with knowledge, the first one with my Adaramola last name, to have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. So that is legacy. That is wealth to me.

Samuel Adaramola:
And when I think about the future that I want to have for my future kids and my future wife, I think about that and to be able to say, “Hey, I’ve had these experiences while taking a path that wasn’t traditional or or easy,” is what keeps me motivated. I want to do so much and I’m grateful to have this experience in the campaign because I’ve learned so much and what I’m going to be able to take in the future is exciting and what I want to build for my legacy and the community for black people in general, to share the stories and to have more people, to be able to say, “Hey, that’s somebody that looks like me that’s representing a different sector or telling stories that are nuanced in a way that haven’t been told enough because people think all black people are the same.”

Samuel Adaramola:
So when I think about all of those things together, my history, my path, and what I want to create for the community, that definitely keeps me motivated, especially in these down times where everyone’s just sitting at home and it just seems it’s Groundhog’s Day, the movie, where you’re just repeating the day over and over and over and over and over again. I look at the books on my bookshelf and say, “Hey, I haven’t read that book. Maybe I can learn something about it.” You know what I’m saying? And have that experience of reading the book inform how I want to create in the future. So little things like that will keep me motivated. And just honestly, people like you, Maurice, people who are out there creating and seeking out the stories even when people weren’t trying to tell you what black designers are in the campaign, you went and saw it yourself.

Samuel Adaramola:
I mean honestly just knowing that people are creating their own platforms. And when I see people who are doing things that I want to do or are somewhat adjacent, I don’t get jealous. I get inspired. Man, that was tight. Let me see if I can do it better. So just the creative community, the black creative community as a whole just always motivates me, and I just want to always see us win no matter if you’re a black immigrant or you’re born and raised in the South or wherever you’re from. I think black people, when we learn that we can create more and create together, I think it’ll be a phenomenal thing and definitely something to keep me motivated and inspired.

Maurice Cherry:
Amen to that. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? It’s 2025, hopefully all of his pandemic mess is a faint memory behind us, but what kind of work do you see yourself doing in the next five years?

Samuel Adaramola:
Honestly, man, I’m working towards this right now, I want to have my own media company and I want to be able to use that media company to tell black stories in new and unique ways that are informed by my experiences of being raised in America as a black immigrant and bridging the gap between black identities. I want to do that work, whether it’s through video or audio storytelling with podcasts, but just continue to contribute to the zeitgeist of black creatives and continue to offer something new and to create more room at the table for different kinds of black creativity. So in the next five years, I want to spread that good juju to the world and be working for myself and employing other black creatives, other creatives of color to lead that legacy of telling unique nuanced stories of the black community.

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

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah, I’m fairly active on Twitter. My handle is samoriginals, one word, S-A-M-O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L-S, and it’s the same with Instagram. I’m not as active on Instagram, but you’ll see me there, and you know my website, samadaramola.com. Just look out, I’m working on some things in the future and yeah, if you are politically activated, vote, make sure you vote, make sure your voice is heard and make sure you’re registered because we don’t want another pandemic that is mishandled.

Maurice Cherry:
Listen, I know this is a design podcast and I don’t mean to get political, but for y’all that are listening, if the last three months have not shown you how important it is to get out and have your voice heard in terms of the future of this country, I don’t know what will. I don’t know what celebrity needs to dance a jig in the streets or whatever to get you to get out there and vote, but it is necessary. Just look at what the last three months have been like in this country, and you should go vote. That’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying.

Samuel Adaramola:
Not just in 2020, too. Every two years you got to put that in action. Just vote, be active in your communities. The situations have always been worse for for black people even before the pandemic, and this pandemic is just going to further exasperate the disparities that we have in this country. So get active. Like Bernie says, never lose your sense of outrage. Don’t lose it. All we have is our life on the line, so just get active, get informed. Still create, but don’t lose your sense of outrage.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Well Samuel Adaramola, thank you so much for coming on the show. Again, I know we are recording this during very trying times right now that we’re all going through in this country, but I think just your message and your drive and really just your enthusiasm for making sure that you’re telling stories is something that we need now more than ever, whether it’s on a political campaign or not, just people that are out there that can show, not just how different we are, but also how we’re very much the same in many ways is really important, and I’m really going to be excited to see what you do next. I feel this is just the start for you, for whatever next is going to be coming big.

Samuel Adaramola:
Oh man, thanks so much.

Maurice Cherry:
Thank you so much. Thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Samuel Adaramola:
Yeah. Thank you for having me, Maurice, and I look forward to hearing myself. All right, take care.

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When I was a kid growing up in rural Alabama, magazines were my gateway to the world. But these days, Internet and social media have become that gateway, so where does that leave magazines for kids? My search led me to Shannon Boone, creative director for Sesi Magazine, a quarterly print magazine dedicated to celebrating Black teen girls.

We talked about how Shannon first got involved at Sesi, and from there we talked about how she helps put Sesi together, how she became interested in magazine design, and what inspired her to continue in design after a number of setbacks. I really love how Shannon’s positive attitude and outlook on her career, and I think she brings that to every issue of Sesi as well!


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Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
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The DMV area is brimming with Black design talent, and Antoine Thomas is no exception. As the founder of West 7th Design Studio, Antoine and his team create beautiful and functional designs for small businesses, government agencies, and more.

We talked about his time at Howard University, and he gave a sneak peek into their design program, which is where he got the idea to to start his studio. He also shared his visions for engaging the next generation of Black designers, and told how he manages both his studio and his new apparel line PRNT while holding down a full-time job. Impressive! Learn more about Antoine in this week’s interview!


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Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
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Revision Path is also sponsored by Hover. Visit hover.com/revisionpath and save 10% off your first purchase! Big thanks to Hover!
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