Magnus Atom

With a name like Magnus Atom, I had a feeling I was going to be talking with someone extraordinary. This award-winning motion graphics designer and commercial artist has an impressive roster of clients, including Headspace, Viceland, Playboy, MTV, and Lil Uzi Vert. On top of that, he recently received a coveted Young Guns award! Very impressive!

I caught up with Magnus a few months after his win, and he talked about working as an animation director with Strange Beast and settling down in upstate New York after a recent stint in Miami. He also spoke about going to the “Fame” high school in NYC, how his father inspired him to be an artist, and what he’s got his sights set on for this year. With a name like Magnus Atom, I’ve got a feeling we’ll definitely hear more from him in the future!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Magnus Atom:
Hey, so yeah, my name is Magnus Atom. I’m an animation director and I work globally with brands and clients to bring their brands to life with motion graphics and design, illustration, and tying that all in with animation. So…

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

Magnus Atom:
It’s been interesting. I mean, it’s been as good as it could be, I guess, this year. I mean, it’s been another one. But yeah, I started off… My wife and I, we actually went down to Miami for New Year’s and I’d never been there. So that was an interesting start. I was 100% sure I was going to get COVID and then I didn’t. So I don’t know how I’ve… It seems like everyone has been getting it so far, but somehow my wife and I, we’ve dodged it. So it’s been good. I mean, I’ve been busy working. I just moved to a new place. So I’m actually living in upstate New York in this town called Saratoga Springs. And so it’s definitely a departure from what I’m used to because I grew up in New York City. So this is more country, a little bit suburby, kind of small town living.

Magnus Atom:
And so I’m sort of… We just moved into an actual house [inaudible 00:03:43] renting, but it’s definitely a departure from the New York City one bedroom, 600 square-foot apartment. So now it’s like, “Oh, we have a place with space and yard space.” So it’s been interesting adjusting to it. So yeah, it’s been really an interesting start. So living in a new place, I definitely… I don’t really know anybody, either. So it’s also acclimating to the fact that I’m far away from a lot of friends and family. So trying to start fresh, I guess, is… Yeah, 2022 has been year of starting fresh.

Maurice Cherry:
So being in upstate New York, is it still pretty easy to get back down into the city if you need to?

Magnus Atom:
We picked a place that was sort of close to the city. So actually, I’ve never lived in Saratoga Springs or even really been to it. I visited it like once before we moved here. But we visited it and it was like, “Oh, this is…” It has enough stuff going that we didn’t think it would be super boring. And also it was close enough to the city that I can still visit my parents and my parents can come visit us. But it’s about two hours on a train or like two and a half hours driving.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s not too bad.

Magnus Atom:
No, it’s not bad. But in the wintertime it’s… sometimes you’re just… And especially if it’s snowing or inclement weather, it can be a little… a trek, I guess.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about the work that you’re doing now. You’re the animation director at Strange Beast. Tell me a little bit about the studio and what a typical day is like for you.

Magnus Atom:
Sure. So I’m actually an animation director at Strange Beast. So the way Strange Beast works, it’s kind of unique. I don’t see a lot of this sort of setup in the States, but it’s a little bit more popular in Europe. So the way their setup works is, they have a bunch of animation directors that they’ve sort of signed and… kind of a year-by-year basis. And so if you visit their website, each animation director has a very specific sort of style and a distinct voice, I guess, that they… It’s very specific to them. And it’s a little different than what you might find in the States where some of the big animation houses like Buck or Giant Ant or some of these other names, the animation directors don’t get as much recognition.

Magnus Atom:
It’s more of like the studio takes the credit and people go to the studio to work with that studio name. Whereas with Strange Beast and some other studios like ours in Europe, people come to Strange Beast to work with a specific director. So whether that’s Caitlin McCarthy or Anna Ginsburg, they want to work with those specific animators and they have to go through Strange Beast to work with them. And so it’s a pretty cool setup because it gives you the flexibility where… I’m not full time, by any means. And I have a lot of flexibility whether I want to take on a project that they give me.

Magnus Atom:
So just to kind of give a mock scenario of how it would work, say a client wants to make a… I don’t know, a 30-second spot for TV. And they want an animation director from Strange Beast and they don’t really know which animation director they want to go with. So maybe they’ll pick out a few different animation directors. So maybe me and a couple other people on the Strange Beast roster. And then maybe they also want to look for some animation directors from other studios as well.

Magnus Atom:
They’ll probably… They’ll pick a bunch of people. And then we’ll all sort of pitch to… We’ll pitch for the project. And that usually involves creating style frames and written treatments and sort of a pitch deck and presenting it to the team. And all this is sort of… I don’t get paid for any of that stuff. So there is sort of a pros and cons of this kind of method where it’s… In this situation, I might have to do a bit of work to create some style frames and deck building. And if I don’t win the bid, then it’s like I didn’t get paid for it. But at the same time, it can be really an interesting process.

Magnus Atom:
And so another scenario would be, they would come to Strange Beast and they’re like, “Okay, I really want to work with Magnus Atom specifically.” And maybe I’m busy because I take on other freelance work outside of Strange Beast as well. So I can tell them, “Hey, sorry, I can’t work with you right now on this project.” And so they might go to another animation director or they’ll… Maybe the stars will align, which happens less often than I would hope… But sometimes the stars will align and I’ll be like, “Okay, I’m free and I’m ready.” And they’ll be like, “Awesome. We want to work with you.” There’s no pitching. “We just want to work with you.”

Magnus Atom:
And so from there, we’ll sort of… We have some producers that are full-time at Strange Beast and actually, lately, Strange Beast had a bit of a transition in terms of the heads. So actually, the woman who was running it, Kitty Turley, who’s amazing, she actually stepped aside for a little bit because she’s gone on maternity leave and there’s another producer who has come to sort of take her place. And so she sort of oversees everything at Strange Beast as like an executive producer. And then underneath her is a bunch of other producers who might be working on different projects. So they’ll be assigned to one project at a time. So yeah. So from that, we’ll sort of create a budget. They’ll tell us what the budget is and we’ll tell them, “Okay, this is what’s feasible. This is what can work.”

Magnus Atom:
And we’ll talk about timelines, the yada yada, all that… the more production-level stuff. I’m personally… I don’t really have to deal that much with it, which is really nice because the producers, they get to just handle that. They get to interface with the client in terms of all the numbers and stuff. And for me, I might start off a project by trying to create style frames. So I’m like, “Okay, what is the look of this project going to be?” So for example, I just did a piece… But one of the pieces I just did for them was for Headspace. And so they wanted to create a animation series where each animation episode was directed by a different animation director. So each animation had its own kind of unique style.

Magnus Atom:
And so obviously, there’s a constraint that you need to work within. So Headspace has brand colors. Headspace has sort of guidelines that they kind of need… You can’t do super-grotesque, raunchy, rated X stuff. This could be for children. This is going to be very calm, meditative animation. So from there, you sort of think about like, “Okay, what can we do within the parameters?” Maybe we’ll start designing some frames and start developing the look and feel. And alongside that, we might be developing the storyboards. How is that going to play out? Before we even touch anything animation, we’re just going all into the planning of getting all the style and concept down. And then once that’s approved, then we’ll move on to another layer where we’ll start working on the actual animation; the production.

Magnus Atom:
And from there… Strange Beast doesn’t have any permanent employees, really, except for the producers. But we work with a roster of freelancers, which they’re… We have freelancers that we love to work with because they’ve proven themselves. We get along. And so we’ll call up some animators and maybe we’ll need illustrators. And it’s kind of a cool process because it makes it so that each project, we’re not constrained by the resources that’s… we’re limited… Maybe a house that has in-house animators… We have to work with those animators or we have to work with those designers.

Magnus Atom:
I would have a project where maybe I need animation that’s a little bit more Disneyesque. I have animators who are very good at that sort of style and I can call on those. Or maybe I want someone who’s a little bit more free-flowing style and I have people that who would come to mind and I would want to reach out to to work on that kind of project. So it’s a very sort of organic process, each time we go into a project. But yeah, I guess that’s sort of the overall, I guess, methodology of Strange Beast.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. It sounds almost kind of like a collective setup where people come together for the work or people may have to sort of pitch themselves for the work. Just because something comes into the studio doesn’t necessarily mean the entire studio works on it.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah, definitely. And like I said, there’s many animation directors, so… I haven’t even met half of them. I’ve worked with a bunch of them and everyone’s been super awesome. And even when I was working at their studio in London, there wouldn’t always be overlap. So I would have a project and then it might… another animation director would have a project and we’d… might overlap for a couple days and we’d get to talking. But for the most part, it’s sort of a project-by-project basis and Strange Beast is good at giving you the resources when you need it.

Maurice Cherry:
Hmm. Okay. So I guess when new work does come in and, say, you put in for the project, you’ve made a little deck or you’ve made some slides or something for it and you do get the project, you win the project. What does that process look like once you’ve actually started on it?

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. So the process once we’ve actually won the bid, it’s kind of what I was saying where you need to create the look, the style frames and the storyboards, and really just fleshing out the entire project. So Headspace, that’s an example. For that, we needed to… Well, actually, so that was an interesting, unique project because it was actually me and one other animation director, just because it was like, we had to do 20 minutes of animation in like two months’ time period. And so that’s a lot of animation. And so they thought it would be better if we have two animation directors who can sort of tag team it and approach it. So yeah. So for a project like that, that was fun because I got to kind of bounce ideas back and forth.

Magnus Atom:
So I worked with this animation director, Yuval Haker, and it was an interesting project because we had to both come at it with kind of our own style. But we also had to develop a style that was very unique to the project. So I would sort of start by creating a style frame and then I would send it to him. He would take that and he would sort of make his own style frame sort of inspired by that and then he would send it to me. And it was a very back-and-forth process. We did this dozens and dozens of times before we finally came down with a style that we’re like, “Okay, this is going to work.” And then once we come up with the style, so in that example, we were just hand-drawing everything in Photoshop using just brush tools.

Magnus Atom:
So once we were sort of comfortable with the style, we sort of then send it off to the client and the client will then have a bunch of notes and be like, “Okay, well, we don’t like the way this character looks. Can you slim them down?” Or, “Can you give them…? Take off these brands,” or whatever. Stuff like that clients are supposed to say. Then we’ll have that sort of back-and-forth process with the client. Then that’ll happen several times. From there, we start to organically build a style that both we’re comfortable with and that I’m comfortable making and animating and that the client is comfortable with. And so once we sort of create those initial style frames, and then we’ll start creating the storyboards where we’ll start saying, “Okay, this is what’s going to happen here. When the voice actor says this, we’re going to have the sun rise over the sunset and the swans are going to fly out of the reeds.”

Magnus Atom:
You have to sort of build out that very minute detail of what you think is going to happen. Because as an animation director, a lot of the times, I’m not actually touching everything. So you’re sort of building out a roadmap. Yeah. You’re building out a roadmap for… Then you give it to other animators who don’t animate in that style. And they’re coming in with very little knowledge and they’re basically… You’re giving it to them and being like, “Okay, build this.” And so there has to be a lot of… very little lost in translation. So they need to be able to see the storyboards and be like, “Okay, this scene is going to have a sun and it’s going to be rising. And the rays are going to be turning like this and the reeds are going to be blowing.”

Magnus Atom:
And then they’ll have that style frame that I made of that exact scene. And so they’ll know, “Okay, this is what I need to animate and this is what the final style should look like.” We go through this process where we have the storyboards laid out for the entire… whether it’s 20-minute project or 30-second project. And we then create a style frame of what it should look like for each key moment, whether it’s a different landscape or a different character. And so that whole process is… It can be very time-consuming because obviously, there’s a lot of back-and-forth. You’re basically just creating the style and the playbook for the entire animation. So from there, once you’ve finally gotten that and you’ve got it approved, the client loves it, you like it, and then you can just go straight into the animation.

Magnus Atom:
And then that’s when you start reaching out to your animators; you’ll be like, “Come on board.” And designers, if you need background designers or illustrators. And then you just go on full-on production where you’re like, “Okay, these rough animators are…” And when I say “rough animators,” there’s several layers to the animation process if you’re doing this sort of illustrative style. So there would be the very rough, hand-drawn, loose animation where it’s not fully fleshed out, it’s not final line work, but it shows the movement. This is how the character is going to move. And this is the weight and this is how the waters are going to ripple. But just in terms of… Think of it like a rough sketch of a painting. Before you do the final painting, you probably want to do a bit of a rough sketch underneath. That’s what the rough animation is.

Magnus Atom:
So that’s a process. And then after you’ve gotten that down, then you’ll have another layer of animation and that’s what we’ll call cleanup animation. And then a lot of times, those two animators, the rough animator and the cleanup animator, won’t even be the same animator. So the rough animator has to create it in a certain… They have to create the rough animation in a certain way that any cleanup artist can come to it and be like, “Okay, all I have to do is trace over this rough animation in the final line work. Because now I’m trying to make it look final.” It’s basically… We’re just trying to get it from the rough animation to the final. And that’s actually even a longer process, surprisingly.

Magnus Atom:
But it’s kind of like building, I guess, a car. You don’t start by just building the car. You have to start by thinking it out. You have to think about the production, the budget… And then you have to think about the schematics and the layouts and the materials. And then it’s this iterative process that slowly over time, a bunch of different people with a bunch of different skills all are coming together to sort of build this final animation that has that sort of initial style frame and idea that you sort of created. Or, and when I say “you,” me as an animation director sort of created from the get-go. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
That is quite a process. I think it probably helps to have a client that really is tuned into working with creatives to be able to go through all of that with so many different steps and working with so many different people.

Magnus Atom:
For sure. I mean, it’s definitely not for the impatient. And yeah. Animation, it takes work. People think… There’s a running joke in the animation industry; it’s like, “Just press the animate button and bring your character to life.” And it’s like, no, it’s a process, for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I want to get more into really how you learned about animation. So let’s take it back into the past a little bit. I want to learn more about sort of your origin story now. You’re from NYC originally. Is that right?

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. So I actually… Well, I was born in Hawaii, but I grew up in New York City.

Maurice Cherry:
What was it like growing up there for you?

Magnus Atom:
Well, so I grew up in Brooklyn. And so I lived in… When my family first moved here from Hawaii, they didn’t buy a place. We were renting. So when we first moved here, we were actually living in Park Slope. And if you know New York City, you know Park Slope is a super-expensive, super-nice, ritzy neighborhood. To hear tell, it was not like that when we moved here. I actually hear it was quite dangerous when we first moved here. So I spent my early years, like in elementary school, in that area. But as rent started increasing, my family ended up having to move from Park Slope and we ended up moving to an area called Ditmas Park around Flatbush. And I didn’t spend a lot of time actually in Flatbush, per se. I went to middle school there and I had a lot of friends there, but when I started going to high school, my high school was actually in the city.

Magnus Atom:
So I actually spent a lot of my youth just in the city, whether it’s… was Midtown where my high school was, or… I spent a lot of time in Chinatown. And it’s funny because New York City, it’s kind of a place where you kind of need money to do a lot of things. And also when you’re a kid, there’s a lot of things that New York City offers to you that you just can’t have access to because you’re under 18 or you’re under 21. So a lot of my youth was spent hanging out in parks in Chinatown, playing sports; like playing handball and… That’s where a lot of my friends hung out.

Magnus Atom:
So in terms of living in New York City, to compare it to… I guess I can’t really compare it to anything else because I only had one childhood. But I would say that it was nice having such a diversity of people. It was something you didn’t think about. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, I’m the only person of color in this area.” I was surrounded by all different ethnicities, all different cultures. And so, I mean, it was funny, even at my lunch table in high school and middle school, it was like the UN. It was like… I literally… every ethnicity. It definitely gave me a lot of experiences in terms of the type of people I met. I had… I guess parents tried to take me to cultural events when they could afford it. But for the most part, it was good.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I mean, New York City sort of has that reputation of being a really big melting pot. So it sounds like that definitely was what your experience was like growing up. And you mentioned high school. I don’t want to gloss over… You went to a pretty well-known high school for those who might be of a certain age, like myself; the Fame school, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. What was it like going there, knowing that it had such a reputation?

Magnus Atom:
I never took school seriously until I finally got to college. But high school… I guess, to backtrack just a little bit… My dad always wanted to train me to be an artist. So I never really pushed myself in terms of art, but my dad was always the one who was on my ass about like, “You need to do this painting, you need to…” I don’t remember if it was every night, but it was definitely several times a week it was like, “Okay, get onto your corner and do your painting.” It’s like I didn’t have a choice. It was kind of, I guess, like a typical parent would tell you, “Go and hit the books.” My dad was like, “Go and paint.”

Magnus Atom:
When I was applying to high school, I think I already had an edge over the other people who applied because a lot of the other applicants, a lot of their body of work was maybe school assignments. And you can tell when something’s a school assignment or something’s done outside of school. And so I think that really helped propel me into it because I already had this sort of formal training from my dad growing up. So when I finally got into high school… You had to apply to get into it. You had to take an actual test; an art test. You had to show a portfolio to teacher and they would ask you about it. So it’s definitely… It was a lengthy process to get in. But when I actually got in, I didn’t take it all too seriously.

Magnus Atom:
So funny, my grades were actually terrible. In the first year, freshman year, I think I failed three classes and I had to do summer school for the first time. That wouldn’t be the last time. And I kind of goofed off a lot. But in terms of the people I met, it wasn’t your typical high school experience. And I think that was sort of the thing I took away from it the most was, the people I was surrounded by were musicians and other artists.

Magnus Atom:
And although maybe not every single person was passionate about art and wants to be an artist… I’ve never seen Fame, so… But [inaudible 00:26:48] I think I’ve seen clips and people are dancing on tables and singing in the hallways. There was singing in the hallways, but it wasn’t… People weren’t dancing on the tables and… But people genuinely… Talking to other people I’ve met outside of LaGuardia, in their high school experience, I’ve heard it’s very much cliques. Like you got the jocks and you got the cheerleaders and… At least this is what I’m kind of imagining other high schools to be like. Like the kids who wore Abercrombie and Fitch. And then you had the skater boys.

Maurice Cherry:
It was high school.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. It was high school. But for me, there was a little bit more emphasis on being unique, I guess. It wasn’t forced. No one was telling you, “Oh, you got to be unique.” It was more like people were proud to wear clothes that they just made themselves. Whether it was good-looking clothes or not, it wasn’t… It didn’t really matter. Cool, if you had started your own little fashion T-shirt brand in school and you wore your own jeans that you had messed up with paint. So that was sort of the vibe. I guess everyone had this unique sort of voice.

Magnus Atom:
And there was definitely a lot of talent. Looking back, the amount of talent at that school… You don’t realize it when you’re in the moment. As a kid, you don’t know what to compare it to. But looking back, I went to a performance… They do these concerts that the instrumental majors and the vocal majors and the drama majors will put on. And these are not like normal high school productions. I’ve been to many Broadway shows. These are on par with Broadway productions. These, they’re good. And it goes to show, because a lot of them end up working in that field afterwards. So yeah. I mean, that was my experience. I met a lot of really cool artists. Most of my friends, if not all of them, were just artists.

Magnus Atom:
So it was cool to bounce ideas off of. And I did a little bit of graffiti when I was of that age. And my first clothing company was with some of my best friends. We just decided to create a small clothing company. And so we’d create stickers and merchandise and we would sell it to our friends and other people. And we even dabbled in making music. It was a really creative, I guess, environment to grow up in.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. So we were talking before recording about like, “Oh, yeah,” I said, “the Fame high school.” You’re like, “Oh, yeah, it was a movie.” And I’m like, “Well, it was a TV show. It was a movie first, then a TV show. Then there was Fame LA and then another movie.”

Magnus Atom:
Wow. I didn’t know it was such a series. I literally just thought it was a movie and I feel kind of ashamed because so many people have been like, “Oh, you went to the Fame school?” And I’ve never even seen Fame.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, you should check it out. It’s a pretty good show. And a movie. I mean, I remember the first movie, but not the second one. The second one was in 2009 or something, I think.

Magnus Atom:
Oh. Oh, well, that’s funny, because I graduated in… Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I did remember that coming out. Sure. But yeah, I graduated 2008.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. I’m curious to see it. I don’t know if it’ll actually be like the real life experience.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, after graduating, you went to Parsons, which is a very well-known school in New York City for fashion and for design and everything. And we’ve had a few Parsons alum on the show as well. How was your time over there?

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. So definitely different than high school, because like I said, in high school, I completely slacked off. I barely graduated by the skin of my teeth. Yeah. Terrible grades. And I actually just got into Parsons by the skin of my teeth. But when I got into Parsons, I sort of… Well, my dad told me, he was like, “This is your last chance. If you fail, if you flunk, there’s no point in you doing this. You don’t need to be in school anymore.” And so I realized, I was like, “Oh, okay. This is like, it’s serious time.” And so I took it very seriously.

Magnus Atom:
So actually, funny enough, I guess it’s kind of serendipity, but when I was applying to Parsons, I hadn’t heard back from them for… Yeah. I sent in my application and I hadn’t heard back. And it was like, time was passing, months were passing. And I was like, “Ah, I wonder whatever happened.” And the girl I was dating at the time was like, “You really need to check on them and see what’s going on.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Magnus Atom:
So I went down to the office. I was like, “Hey, what’s going on?” And they were like, “Oh, so you actually got accepted, but they didn’t send out some sort of letter,” or maybe I didn’t get it. And so by the time I went down there, all the applications for the basic… I forget what the term is for most art majors that go into Parsons, but… That was all filled up. And they were like, “We feel really bad and you did get in and we have this experimentative… a new program that we’re creating called Design and Technology that we still have some spots open for. And if you want to go in through that, it’s a different curriculum.”

Magnus Atom:
And so rather than going in through the traditional route where you have to go through graphic design and you have to learn all these very fundamental principles and… It was more of a DIY sort of route, where you get to kind of… It’s kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure. And the whole idea is, it kind of merged a whole bunch of different, I guess, topics. So you had coding, coding within art, and then you had web design and then you had more experimentative… It was anything that you could think of where it’s design, but also plus technology. So you even had some sound designers in that mix. And so I went into that not knowing what I wanted to do at all.

Magnus Atom:
I thought maybe I was going to do graphic design. I knew I had to pick something at some point and time was ticking. And so when I went in, I was like, “Okay, I’ll try graphic design.” And that was not for me. I was like, “This is not my thing.” And then I did like… I really loved illustration and that was something I always did passionately on the side. But it wasn’t a choice, in terms of what I can do. They didn’t offer… If I wanted to be illustration, I would’ve had to completely do a whole new curriculum. And I would’ve had to start over or something. So I was like, “That’s not an option.” And then there was web design. I was like, “Okay, maybe I want to be a web designer.”

Magnus Atom:
And I think I got into it because I had some illustration stuff and I wanted to put it on a website. And this was before Squarespace and all those kind of templated websites where you could just upload your images. Kind of still had to know some coding. There was a WordPress, but I never really liked the whole WordPress thing. So I thought maybe I would do some web design and… I even took an internship in web design and realized… I got pretty far. I learned… I knew HTML, CSS, a little bit of JavaScript. I realized it wasn’t for me, either. Staring at lines of code for like 12 hours a day was just like, “Okay, this is not my thing. I’m going to burn out doing this.” And then the second year of Parsons, I had a good friend who… He had a little bit of animation experience that he just did from high school.

Magnus Atom:
I think he was kind of a go-getter; he just tried interesting stuff, tried new stuff. And so he already came in knowing a bit of animation. And so he was a close friend of mine. And I saw what he was doing and I was like, “Oh, that’s… kind of looks fun. That looks interesting.” And so he convinced me to take the Motion Graphics 1 class. And so I was like, “Okay.” It was just learning After Effects; basic After Effects. How to make shapes move and text move on screen; simple learning how to use the program. I took the class and I immediately was like, “This is pretty cool.” Because I liked illustration already, but it was the first time where I can take my illustration and have it come to life.

Magnus Atom:
And I took it very seriously too. A lot of people I knew… So I was… I lived in New York City, so… And I couldn’t afford to live in the dorms, so I lived at home. And so a lot of people I knew, they were living at the dorm life and they were partying a lot and… I was very jealous of like, “Oh, man, you get to live with three roommates and 200 square feet? Oh, man, I’m so jealous.” I really was. But I didn’t have any of that. And so I spent a lot of my time just working on my school projects.

Magnus Atom:
And so I think putting a lot of that work in early, I already saw… The amount of work I put into it, people were noticing it. I think the first time I was doing artwork or something that was kind of unique to myself. And people were like, “Oh, this is really good.” Before, people would be like, “Oh, yeah, I like this illustration,” or “I like that painting.” I was doing those kind of because I had to, almost. This was the first time I was like, “I want to do this.” And then people were telling me that they think it’s really good. And then also I was in these animation classes and it was already better than a lot of the other animators who were in that class.

Magnus Atom:
So there I think it created sort of a feedback loop of: People are saying you’re good at this. And I’m enjoying it so I feel kind of proud. So I feel like I have to do it even more. It ended up just becoming a thing where I’m… I ended up taking a whole bunch of animation classes and I wanted to learn everything about animation. I started off just learning After Effects, but then I was like, “Oh, I want to learn how to do stop motion. I want to learn how to do CGI; 3D animation.” And then within 3D animation, I was like, “Okay, I want to learn how to do dynamics. I want to learn how to do lighting and modeling and character rigging.” And I was like, “Oh…” I discovered cel animation for the first time, where you can actually just draw on a screen, rather than having to draw it on paper and then scan it in, and move it around in After Effects like moving images; it was like, “Oh, you can bring things to life Disney-style.”

Magnus Atom:
I was just fascinated by every different aspect of animation. And not only that, how can you combine all of these different things? So how can I mix CG and cel animation? Or how can I mix stop motion and cel? Or… And I even went so far as to take sound design classes because I was like, “I want to make the sound and music to my own animation.” So I was sort of just gathering all these skills, just because it was really fun to do. And I was like, this is… Seems appropriate. I wasn’t thinking… I was thinking I want to make a career of this, but it was more of like, “I’m doing this because I’m just super-fascinated by all of these different aspects.”

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. I think learning all those different things really helped me. And so I think by sophomore year, I definitely knew what I wanted to do. And by junior year, I actually… I felt like I was just ready to hit the workforce. I actually had a lot of teachers who were really helpful in terms of my early getting off the ground. So one of the classes I had, it was an intermediate animation class, learning concepts. And so one of the projects was for creating a mock commercial for a product or for a brand. And at the time, I was super into the whole vinyl toy scene; Kidrobot and even like BAPE and all that stuff was super popular.

Magnus Atom:
And so I really loved Kidrobot so I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to make an animation about one of their toys,” which was that iconic money… If you don’t know it, it’s… kind of looks like a white monkey that you can draw on; customize. So I made this animation, it was like a 15- or 30-second animation. It actually ended up… The teacher brought in some professional, I guess, people she knew from her professional circle to actually critique us in the finals. And so a lot of them… Some of the critiquers came in and they saw it and they were like, “Oh, this is really… You made this by yourself? This is definitely top-level… At least almost studio-level stuff.”

Magnus Atom:
And went so far where I sent it to Kidrobot and I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. I might not hear anything.” I think it was a couple days later, one of the directors of operations, they reached out to me. They were like, “Hey, this is awesome. Can you do something like this just for us for this other product that was coming out?” And so that was sort of my first step into a client project that I had gotten just by myself; no one else. So Parsons, I think, set me up in a way where it’s like, I met a lot of really interesting people, a lot of other interesting animators who also wanted to do what I did. Yeah, it was kind of like LaGuardia where it was a very creative atmosphere that was fostering my creativity.

Maurice Cherry:
And of course, now, you’re well-known animation director with Strange Beast. So clearly, even just getting that spark from doing the work at Parsons and learning about it has propelled you to where you are right now. The way that actually I had heard about you was because you won an award back in 2019 from The One Club. You won the Young Guns award, which is usually given to young designers. I think they do it every year. They have a Young Guns 17, Young Guns 18, et cetera. Where were you when you got news about your win?

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. Well, just really quickly, I actually won it this last year. But it was called Young Guns 19. I was actually sitting in the same spot I am sitting in right now. I was just at home when I read the email that I won. Actually, when I read that I was the finalist, I didn’t even know that I was a finalist. My executive producer at Strange Beast just texted me and she was just like, “Hey, congratulations on being a Young Guns finalist.” And I had… I didn’t even know I was a finalist and I was like, “What? Awesome.” Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And have things kind of changed for you since you won the award?

Magnus Atom:
Not really. I mean, yes and no. I’ve had a lot of people reaching out to me to try to pin me down for a full-time job. Actually, funny enough, this one company I’ve always wanted to work for… When I was starting off in my career, I always wanted to work for this animation studio. And I reached out to them early on and they never even got back to me. And it was always a dream to work for them. And then after I won, they reached out to me and they were like, “Hey, do you want a full-time job?” And actually, I turned them down because I’m enjoying freelancing and doing the whole thing with Strange Beast so much. So it’s funny how life works like that, I guess.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. I’m curious about that because we’ve had other award-winning designers on the show and I’m always curious to know if things really change once you get the award. Does it open you up to bigger and better jobs? Does that mean you get more press? Do you get representation? I’m just always curious about that because I feel like it’s still kind of 50/50. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the award can be kind of the thing that… Not hold you back, but it can end up being a bit of a curse, in a way.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. That’s interesting that you say that. After I won the award, I felt like all of a sudden, now there’s like a spotlight on me. I feel like I can’t really mess up, you know what I mean? Because it’s… A bunch of people now know my name in the industry. I’m not just, I guess, a nobody at this point. But at the same time, it was very liberating because it’s something I’ve always wanted, was the Young Guns. Ever since I was in college, I wanted to win this Young Guns award. And it was definitely like it was a dream come true for my twenties. So when I won, it was sort of liberating because all of a sudden, I didn’t have to think of, like, “Okay, I need to do this animation because I have to… It has to fit into my body of work so that I can win this award; the Young Guns award.” Now I’m kind of like, “Oh, I can do whatever I want.” If I want to do something different, I don’t feel like I’m constrained to doing just animation anymore.

Maurice Cherry:
That makes sense. The award kind of… It’s the validation. And so from there, you can springboard to other things because the work that you’ve won that award for, you don’t really have to prove yourself. You’ve gotten an award for it. People have judged your work and said that it’s good to this caliber; to this standard. So it kind of does give you freedom to do other things in that way.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s it, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And now, speaking of other things that you’re doing, aside from Strange Beast, you have a fashion and art brand that you created called Yugen Goon. Tell me about that.

Magnus Atom:
Yes. That was a fun side project I actually created with my wife. Actually, I started concepting it many years back because… I work as a commercial artist. So this work that I put on my site and the stuff that I do professionally is definitely of a certain, I guess, content. It’s commercially viable. I always had this outlet of stuff I like to do outside of that. I like to paint. I like to do… I love doing pastel still to this day. I grew up my dad making me do pastels and I still love to do it. And I have all these fascinations with all this other stuff, whether it’s spiritualistic or tribal or different content from religious or spiritual stuff from around the world that… It probably is not going to make it into my commercial for Nike.

Magnus Atom:
So it’s like, I kind of wanted to create this separate thing where I was like, “Okay, this is going to be just me.” That… I don’t really have to answer to anybody. Actually, funny enough, I created it because I wanted to sort of just create a side hustle. Because I was like, “I want to make a bit of money on the side, just as a revenue source.” And it ended up being… I couldn’t just do something for the money. It ended up being like, “Okay, if I’m going to make something, I got to make it cool.” So I ended up spending a long time on it, way longer than I should’ve; years creating just the idea for… I guess I’m such a perfectionist, but… Actually, my wife helped propel me to really finalize it because if it wasn’t for her, I would just have just been aimlessly just creating designs and not even putting it out.

Magnus Atom:
And she was like, “Okay, just… You got to put it out.” It was a nice departure from my usual animation stuff, because I got to take the artwork that I was creating on the side and then kind of play around with some graphic design and illustration that I get to experiment and kind of have fun and do stuff that I’m like, “Okay, this might not be right, but it’s like, this is… I think it’s cool. And if I think it’s cool, maybe other people will think it’s cool.” The whole idea with Yugen Goon was, I wanted to create this brand that was sort of a world in its own. So I wanted have these different characters and all these different storylines and hopefully one day I’ll create an animation that ties in and kind of tells the story a little bit better.

Magnus Atom:
But I made up all these different gods that are depicted on the clothing. And even within the clothing, if on the inside label, there’s… unique poem on each… So you know where the tag would be on the inside of the… that apparel tag? Instead of having a tag, I have a poem. And it’s just kind of there just for the people who buy it. It’s not there to show off. It’s not there for anybody else other than the people who know it; know it’s there. So I kind of like this idea of creating this world where it’s just… It’s sort of like storytelling and it’s sort of constantly evolving. It draws on a lot of, really, stuff that I’m fascinated by, whether it’s cultural… tribal masks, African masks, or Japanese masks or things like holy scripts from like the I Ching. Stuff like that just fascinates me. So that’s kind of Yugen Goon in a nutshell.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I was going to ask about what the significance with the masks might be.

Magnus Atom:
I haven’t even figured it out myself, honestly. Maybe if I ever have a therapist, it’ll come out and I’ll figure out why I’m so fascinated by masks. But I don’t know. I love the mask designs, whether… Of all cultures. Yeah. Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese, African, different African tribes… I think it’s kind of what they represent. And when you look into why they exist, they all kind of have their own unique meaning, but there’s kind of this connection that you see between all these different cultures that were separated by oceans. I don’t know. There’s just something beautiful, I think, to masks.

Maurice Cherry:
Hmm. When you look back at your body of work, is there any one project that really stands out to you the most?

Magnus Atom:
When I was working at Vice, I created this one piece called Bone Dance. I think it’s 15-, 30-second long animation. It was for Vice’s… They did a weed week where for a week, they would just air weed-inspired content. And they tasked us… They were like, “You can create anything you want, if it’s for weed week, and we’ll put it on TV.” Which is a cool brief. I don’t have that anymore. And at the time, even I knew, I was like, “This is cool.” But looking back, I’m like, “Wow, that was… You can create anything you want and they’ll put it on TV.”

Magnus Atom:
For that project, I was like, I came up with this concept of having these… Without going too deep into it, I wanted to create this thing that was a little bit trippy, but sort of high thought, kind of would make people think, because it would be playing late at night, hopefully while people are smoking weed and they’ll see it and be like, “Oh, that was different.” I didn’t want to just create regular weed bong stuff. So that was probably my favorite project because it was sort of… I had the most carte blanche. Still to this day, I look back and I’m like, “Oh, this is…” People see it and they’re like, “Oh, this is still super cool.” So yeah, I think that’s probably my favorite piece I’ve done.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you had any mentors or anyone that have really kind of helped you out throughout your career? And before you answer that, I feel like your dad may be one of them, in case you’re not going to mention him. Because you’ve mentioned him just in passing about how he’s really pushed you, especially early on, to be more artistic in this way.

Magnus Atom:
Yeah. I mean, that was… Yeah. I mean, you got it. It’s definitely my dad. I’ve always had teachers who are… They’re really helpful, but they haven’t stuck with me for the long haul, you know what I mean? After… I might keep in contact with some of my teachers after school, but not as much. So my dad has always been there. So I’ve always been able to tell him about what I’m doing and… He’s an artist himself. So I can… He gets it. He is… I don’t have to explain… He doesn’t have to be like, “Oh, so what is this animation thing?” It’s like, he’s always been super-supportive and pushing me to do that. So yeah. It’s definitely my dad.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. What do you really appreciate most about your life right now?

Magnus Atom:
The thing I appreciate the most… Probably the fact that I’m safe and I’m healthy and everyone I know is healthy. I know… I have friends who have lost loved ones to COVID and it’s been really hard for the last several years for a lot of people. And so I’ve been super-fortunate that everyone I know is healthy and… Yeah. I guess that’s it, really. I mean…

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I mean, it sounds like so far, your career has really progressed to a fantastic point. I mean, you’ve had this strong upbringing, this dad that really pushed you, now you’re doing this work at Strange Beast. What else do you see yourself doing in the future?

Magnus Atom:
It’s interesting thinking about it, because even if I look back at the last decade, I would never have imagined I would get to where I am here. Because my goals when I was younger is completely different now. Where I will be in ten years or five years, I have no idea. But the stuff that I’m super-passionate about now is not as… It’s not the same stuff that I was passionate about when I was in art school.

Magnus Atom:
So I think a lot of the stuff that’s really… still inspires me is working on my clothing company or if it’s… I’m really into this upstate living of repurposing… antiquing furniture and making it brand new, which is something I never thought I would be into. So yeah. It’s like, I still want to do… I still love animation; that’s still my path, I think. And in terms of where I see that going, I want to keep creating stuff that’s sort of in my style and keep it evolving. Keep doing work that I am passionate about that pays the bills. But on the side of that, I have other passions that is completely outside of animation now.

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

Magnus Atom:
Sure. So you can visit my website. It’s just magnusatom.com. Or you can find me on Instagram, @magnus.atom. And if you want to see other Strange Beast artists as well as my stuff, you can just go to Strange Beast’s website, which is strangebeast.tv.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Magnus Atom, I want to thank you so much, really, for coming on the show. I think if there’s one thing that people really get from this, aside from just your incredible story, is that getting to where you’ve gotten has taken a lot of work. And that’s not to say that the road should always be easy as a creative, but what it sounds like to me is that you’ve really put in the work over the years and now you’re sort of at the point where you’re able to really kind of reap those rewards, which sounds, of course, really good to hear. I really am interested to see kind of what you do in the future. I mean, a lot of your work is already out there. I didn’t mention this, but there’s a Lil Uzi Vert video that you did also. So you’ve managed to amass a huge body of work, and I’m really excited to see what you do next. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Magnus Atom:
Well, thanks so much for having me, Maurice.

Alanna Flowers

2021 has been quite a year for us all, including this week’s guest Alanna Flowers. This year, she became a full-time creative and launched her own business, AGF Design Studio, and I had the chance to talk to her in the midst of her very busy holiday schedule.

Alanna gave me the rundown behind why she started her studio, how she plans to expand her services next year, and also gave some insight into her creative process. She also talked about growing up in NYC, the pros of art licensing, and how she builds her brand through social media.

Thank you all for listening to Revision Path this year — onward to 2022!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Alanna Flowers:
Hi, my name’s Alanna Flowers. I’m a lettering artist and illustrator, based in Brooklyn, New York.

Maurice Cherry:
How has the year been for you so far?

Alanna Flowers:
Wow. This year has been unlike any other that I’ve had. Professionally and creatively it’s been really refreshing and really a big learning experience, I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
In what ways?

Alanna Flowers:
Well, I’m a new freelancer. I started freelancing January 1st of this year, so-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh.

Alanna Flowers:
I just jumped in feet first and, yeah. I’ve had so many rewarding experiences and I think, because I’m still so new, I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, congratulations on striking out on your own like that.

Alanna Flowers:
Thank you so much.

Maurice Cherry:
If you don’t mind me asking, what was the catalyst behind you deciding to do that?

Alanna Flowers:
I mean, everyone knows how things have been for the state of the world. So, the pandemic hits last year, and at that time I was a full-time in-house graphic designer/graphic design manager. I was reporting to work every day, working in downtown Manhattan. New York City’s a hotbed, but I reported to work. So, that was a challenge for me definitely. Then I guess as the whole year went on, I was really evaluating. I’m like, how can I start doing what I’m actually really passionate about? Because at that point I had already thought about maybe I want to strike out, even do something different, even if it wasn’t necessarily freelancing on my own. I knew that I just wanted something different. So, the pandemic was a humongous catalyst for reevaluating on all levels. So, yeah. I decided, I think midway through 2020, I’m just like, all right. I’m going to start saving this money that I’m making, and try to figure out something on my own.

Maurice Cherry:
And you did, and you struck out on your own.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Since this is coming up at the end of the year, do you have any early plans or resolutions for 2022?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. Geez. I’ve been thinking really hard about next year actually, because now I have something to base things on, because everything was very, well, we’ll see how this goes. So, now I actually have quantifiable metrics to base things off of. So, I have big goals for next year. I want to expand my services definitely, and just continue working with great brands and clients.

Maurice Cherry:
So, let’s talk more about your studio, which is called AGF Design Studio. You started at the beginning of this year, how has business been, just establishing yourself?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. It’s been really great. I’ve been very fortunate honestly, to have worked with all of the brands and people that I’ve gotten to work with this year. I’ve gotten to work with Adobe. My first client was American Greetings.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Alanna Flowers:
It’s like, how does that happen? I’ve had a very fortunate year and experience going out on my own. I think if we can keep that momentum, and it seems that we are so far, going into next year, I think that would be great.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Those are two big names just right off the bat for your first year.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
So, what is the process like when you’re… Say you have a new project come in, or there’s a new design that you’re working on or something like, what does your creative process look like when you’re starting something new?

Alanna Flowers:
That’s a really great question. It really definitely depends on what the client’s needs are, and they give you a creative brief and you review it, and I start thinking about what exactly is it that they’re asking me to letter? Because as a lettering artist, I’m usually illustrating some sort of quote or phrase, so I start thinking about stylistic treatments. Sometimes the origin of the quote is historical, so maybe it’s from an actual figure, so I do a little bit of research on that person. From there, I just follow the steps of my process, which are basically establishing some kind of hierarchy for the piece, so that it communicates in the best way possible to the intended audience.

Maurice Cherry:
It seems pretty straightforward then.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. It’s not too complicated. I think where things start getting complicated is maybe how long the phrase is, and the composition, creating for social media. I’m usually given some sort of dimensions and constraints, so my compositional approach for something that’s supposed to be a square will be completely different than something that’s supposed to be a poster, for example. So, it just depends from project to project, I think.

Maurice Cherry:
Are you currently working on any projects that you can talk about right now?

Alanna Flowers:
That’s a good question. I can vaguely describe it, I guess. Yeah. I actually just started a project that I’m really excited about, and it’s actually going to allow me to incorporate lettering and a little bit of animation actually. It’s a marriage of my interest in filming and video and editing, with lettering and animation. I’m pretty excited about this one.

Maurice Cherry:
That sounds pretty cool. Wow. So, you mentioned Adobe, you mentioned American Greetings. These are both very visually strong companies. American greetings with greeting cards, Adobe of course, with everything they do with the Adobe Suite and stuff. Are there specific types of clients that you’ve found that you work best with?

Alanna Flowers:
I’ve been fortunate to work with Adobe for a few projects this year, each one was so different. I think what I’ve seen from the clients that I’ve gotten to work with is, it’s always best when the vision is as clear as possible, I guess. And when we can just establish that we’re on the same page as much as possible. Things pretty much sail smoothly from there, as long as you can have a nice, clear line of communication with the client, I find that those project go over the smoothest and the best, from beginning to end.

Maurice Cherry:
So, even with those types of clients, I’ve got to imagine you’ve probably had a bunch of different people just try to hit you up. And with it being your first year, I’m probably guessing there’s been some clients that you’re like, “You know what? I don’t know if this is the best one,” because sometimes in your first year of business, you want to take on everything, or you try to take on as much as you can because it’s your first year and you want to try to do all the things. But have you found the flip side to that?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. I’ve definitely had some interesting things come my way, and it would just meet me right in the middle of me working on something. And I’m just like, I could say yes and rush through this and it not be that great. Or I could just politely decline at the moment. It’s great they found me, they have my contact information and I have that contact from them, so those doors could more easily be reopened. Just like, “Hey. I was busy then, but my schedule’s open now.” But, yes. There’s definitely been a lot of temptation to say yes to everything, but thankfully, so far so good, and timing seems to have been on my side for most of the time.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I was going to say, it sounds like it’s more of a timing thing than the actual work itself. I guess that’s pretty good. It’s good to know.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s switch gears here because I really want to learn more about you and how you really came into all of this. Tell me about where you grew up.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. I grew up in White Plains, New York, suburban kid all the way. Even though I’ve been Brooklyn now and I’ve been here for a few years, I definitely was not a city dweller all my life. So, yeah. I grew up in White Plains and that’s the only place I’ve known.

Maurice Cherry:
Were you exposed to a lot of design and art and stuff like that growing up?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. I would definitely say, that as a kid, I was always very enthusiastic about the opportunities during class to color and do arts and crafts, and art class and stuff like that. And then, just from, I guess, a personal side, I always enjoyed musical theater, and my family would be able to go to Broadway shows every now and again for the holidays or something. So, just being exposed to even different forms of art, even if it’s not visual or digital art, just being exposed to all different kinds of artistic expressions was definitely a thread throughout my upbringing.

Maurice Cherry:
And now you went to the New York Institute of Technology, in Old Westbury. Can you tell me what your time was like there?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. My time there was so great. It was so interesting because I went there and I applied there even, on the recommendation of my old high school art teacher, Dr. A. So, he was an alumni of there, so he’s like, “Oh, apply there,” because that’s where he went. The art program there was very small because NYIT is actually more of an engineering school. So, the art program felt very intimate. Everyone who had some sort of art major, whether you were graphic design or motion design, or what have you, everyone knew each other. So, it felt like a very close knit little family and community, and I really enjoyed my time there.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you feel like they really helped prepare you to go out there in the world and work as a designer?

Alanna Flowers:
In some respects, yes. Where you’re thinking about working for a company, or an agency, or working in-house. Yes, thinking about, okay. I could have a job after this in a creative field, but not necessarily in the thread of a, this is how it looks if you want to work for yourself idea. So, definitely preparation was there, but definitely in the traditional sense.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I haven’t found that there have been a lot of schools, maybe some of the art institutes, only because I know that they do take a lot of input in from people in the community, basically just about what they should be teaching. But, yeah. There’s not a lot of design focused schools I’ve seen that give you the tools for entrepreneurship. It is about pushing you into that… I don’t want to say pipeline, but pushing you into that realm of, are you going work for an agency? Or you could work for a design focused tech company, or something like that. It’s not really about, how can I take these tools and strike out on my own because a lot of that is… I mean, yes. It’s your technical skill, but there’s also just so much business stuff that you need to know to run your own business and deal with contracts, and all that sort of stuff.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. Absolutely. Any kind of inkling of what it was like to be a freelancer came from the one off, maybe you have a semester with an adjunct professor who happens to also be a freelancer on the side, or something like that. I mean, they might show us some of their client work as examples and stuff like that. But definitely not completely focused, like you said, where it’s dedicated to teaching you the ins and outs of the business aspect that goes into freelancing.

Maurice Cherry:
Why do you think that is?

Alanna Flowers:
That’s a great question. I feel like there’s more attention on the creator economy, and maybe it’s because now I’m in it directly, but I don’t recall it being talked about as much, even amongst me and my peers. The power that social media could have in transforming someone’s creative career in that trajectory, and being able to go off on your own. So, there might have just been an unknowing of the potential of these platforms. When I was going to school, Instagram was king, but now there’s so many competitors and so many different avenues that you can take. I don’t know. I think, as more people do it, the more shine it’ll get, and more people will talk about it.

Maurice Cherry:
What were those early years like after you graduated?

Alanna Flowers:
It’s pretty interesting actually. When I first graduated, I was very bright-eyed and was super excited to just jump into my field, but I actually had an opportunity fall through, that I wanted to take to be a designer. I was down on my luck a little bit, and I told my friend, I was like, “I just need income please,” anything. I ended up actually taking a job as a receptionist for a year right out of college, before I was able to secure my first graphic design job.

Maurice Cherry:
A receptionist, huh?

Alanna Flowers:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) I gave myself one year because I was just like… And I was a great receptionist.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Alanna Flowers:
I was very efficient and they’re just like, “Yeah. You’re great.” And I’m just like, and with all this stuff comes complacency and comfort, and you know this was just a very temporary thing so you need to move on. So, I had my exit strategy, and after that experience, I was able to get an associate design job in-house.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, that’s something good to know, that you had a plan to get out of it, because sometimes you fall into those gigs where you’re doing the work as you have to do it, it keeps a roof over your head, it keeps food on the table, but it’s not fulfilling. It’s not what you really want to do. So, at least you had a plan to get out of that, and eventually start somewhere and really work on your design career.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. It’s very interesting thinking about it now, but it’s just like, well, it’s part of my story. It is what it is. It’s not always red roses, but I’m grateful for the way things happened anyhow.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I noticed that you’ve been doing a lot with social media. You can go to your website and really tell that you’re very active on these other platforms like YouTube and Instagram and Pinterest. How has, I guess, exhibiting your work through those channels helped you out as an artist and an entrepreneur?

Alanna Flowers:
I think it has really challenged me to think about one, I guess how much one person is capable of. So, you’ll see a lot of people who do content creation full time, and you’re just scratching your head and just like, how are they doing all of this content? And just like, well, there’s a strategy behind everything, and a lot of content is actually strategically recycled and scheduled and all this stuff. So, once I was able to break that formula down in my head, I was able to be like, okay. I’m just going to put my work in multiple places, because you never know how someone will find you or come across you, and shooting as many shots as you can is always, I think, good. Especially if you’re entrepreneurial like me, or just trying to increase your chances of someone coming across your work. I think it’s always best to be in as many places as possible.

Maurice Cherry:
And also, by doing that work and showing off what it is that you’re doing, you’re attracting other people, which for your first year in business, I mean, that’s the best marketing that you can do, is to really show the work that you’re doing so other people can find out about it.

Alanna Flowers:
No, definitely. It’s definitely a whole process of show and tell. Your social media quickly becomes your portfolio, or your YouTube becomes a reel of the things that you can do. I’ve had so many people tell me, it’s like, “Oh, I watched some of your YouTube videos,” and that exhibited that you can speak about this topic, and you know about video editing. It’s interesting also the way that people will break down, “Oh, I’ve seen your content in this place, this place and this place,” and from that I can deduce relatively the kind of skills that you have, and the interests that you have. I think it’s just a great way to showcase everything that you can do.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you find that different social networks are better, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. I would say so. I think it depends, because a lot of people have been saying, especially this year, that video content has really taken over platforms that were previously photo based, like Instagram. Where TikTok and Snapchat have… Well, mostly TikTok, but I guess Snapchat really did it first, where people are creating video content, and using that as a way of exhibiting a tutorial. It could be for anything. I use a lot of my platforms to use as tutorial based posting, so I think that’s a great way to engage with my community. It’s not always about, oh, this is the finished piece that I did. I like to share educational content, so I’ve found that anything that really has videos on it, which is everything, can really be used in that way, which I’ve tried to leverage a lot this year and has been pretty successful.

Alanna Flowers:
And then, other platforms like Twitter, I found are just great for building community and just getting out there, and just talking with people who are really like-minded, and in your same creative sphere. Maybe they don’t do lettering, but maybe they do type design and other kinds of illustrations. So, it’s really interesting to hit that follow button on someone and see them follow back, and be surprised maybe the people who are just willing to talk to you about the stuff that you guys already know that you’re interested in from your bio or whatever.

Maurice Cherry:
So, even with all that, you’re on these different social networks, you’re doing these things. I see that you have a section on your site about art licensing. Talk to me about that, because that’s something that I haven’t really seen on a lot of really designers or illustrator sites, is about licensing.

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. That’s definitely one of the areas that I knew that even if, quote unquote, I was maybe slow out the gate to get some clients, I could definitely build a licensing portfolio. I’m personally, I think I’ve collected probably almost every greeting card or holiday card, birthday card I’ve gotten since I was, I don’t know, 10 or something. I’ve just always loved the illustrations, and just the look of greeting cards. I’m just like, that’s art licensing. I could totally do that. I was able to actually get an art licensing course that I purchased at the top of the year, and it was really helpful for me getting some licensing clients. That’s just a little bit of recurring income that I get, which is nice, and it’s completely passive. Once I’ve done the designs, they just generate that little bit of income for me every month. So, it’s really nice.

Maurice Cherry:
So, have companies already reached out to you to license some of your work?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. I actually did a little bit of… I think I’ve actually done probably all of the outreach maybe, I think, for all of the companies that I’m licensing with right now. The first one I did was a mobile app called Felt, and they actually do digital greeting cards. So, you have the app on your phone, you can design the greeting card, you can write it on your phone and they’ll mail the card out to whoever is in your address book. So, they have a hybrid approach, where it’s like you do the process digitally, but they’ll still mail the card. So, that was interesting. I don’t… Honestly, I think I just Google searched like crazy, just art licensing, seeing other companies that fellow lettering artists have licensing deals through, and just collecting contacts and doing the research, and just sending out cold email. Got a few good responses this year.

Maurice Cherry:
And is that… I mean, I would imagine that’s probably pretty steady income too, with licensing, because you’re doing along certain time terms, maybe monthly or annual or something like that?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. Exactly. It just depends on whatever your contract agreement is, the terms of your royalty payments. But it’s cool because I can expand my portfolio, if I want to add 10 new cards to a collection, I can, and just have those go in circulation and see how they perform. And then you just get your little monthly commission reports, so you can see how your designs are performing, and maybe where you want to make some improvements, maybe add to different categories or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Who are some of your inspirations, either as an artist or as a business person? Who inspires you?

Alanna Flowers:
Oh, geez. Well, I definitely was inspired from the very beginning by Jessica Hische, because she was probably the first name that I heard attached to lettering. I think that happened when I was in a typography class that I took in college. My professor had shown her daily drop cap project as an example of lettering, and I was just like, “Lettering?” And then, from there I just fell down the rabbit hole, so to speak. I was pretty much hooked from there. Other than her, Martina Flor definitely, has all also been a huge inspiration. I actually took her freelancing course when I was first getting started this year, learning the ropes of freelance from one, a seasoned lettering artist, but also someone who’s been running their own lettering business for 10 plus years. It was a huge inspiration for me.

Maurice Cherry:
What advice would you give to someone out there that’s listening to this, and they want to follow in your footsteps? They want to maybe learn lettering design, or they’re looking to strike out on their own as an entrepreneur. I know those are two separate things, but what advice would you give to someone that’s listening, and they want to go in either or both of those routes?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. Well, when I was first thinking about it, I think I was first listing all of the talents that I had, I guess, like these are all the ways that I could monetize the skills that I already have. I’m a trained graphic designer, I can do that. I taught workshops before, I can do that. Just listing out those skills and talents was, I think, the first thing, because I’m just like, okay. These could be my services hypothetically for freelancing. And then, I think it just from there went to following this passion that I’ve had for a long time. I think that first exposure to Jessica Hische’s work was probably 2013, 2014 or something like that. So, from there I just had lettering as a hobby and a creative outlet while I was sitting at my receptionist desk. I think being a graphic designer full-time made it harder for me to nurture that creative hunger, I think, for lettering.

Alanna Flowers:
I knew that what I wanted to buy myself was more time. So, from there I saved money. I’m just like, I’m completely new to freelancing. I never truly envisioned myself freelancing in my career. So, I was just like, I know one thing that I need is a little bit of a cushion financially. I definitely took a risk quitting my job, but I didn’t just do it without any logistical understanding of my expenses and stuff. And then, I think from there, it’s just really go with your gut. I did have the financial cushion, but I did not have a client history. I didn’t have referrals from other people that I could take with me in my little email address book or something.

Alanna Flowers:
I took a risk definitely in that aspect. But because I’ve been nurturing this skill and this hobby for so long, with the hopes of somehow making this my profession, I think a lot of the things that I’ve encountered were that whole luck, where it’s opportunity meets the preparation. So, yeah. If you want to do something, make sure that you’re already doing it in some capacity, even if it’s just on the side to begin with. As long as you’re feeding into that, whatever that thing is that you really want to be doing, that’s definitely positive as well.

Maurice Cherry:
What does success look like for you at this point in your career?

Alanna Flowers:
Wow. Right now, success looks like being able to sustain and continue from places of passion and genuine excitement and interest, and not from the place of, I’ve got to take this client on because I need to pay my rent this month. I think just continuing with that feeling of excitement and passion, I think, because even when you’re doing things that you’re really interested in, after a while you might get a little burned out. I’m hoping to not, to not reach that burnout point, and be able to be responsible with my time and with my emotional wellbeing. I just want to keep doing this and maintaining,

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

Alanna Flowers:
Oh, geez. I have many, and it’s great because some of them even happened this year. But I am definitely setting my sites out for large scale projects, like murals. I am definitely looking to get my lettering painted outside somewhere in New York City. I think that would be the coolest thing, and have people take pictures with my work outdoors. I think that’d be really awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
What do you appreciate the most about your life right now?

Alanna Flowers:
I appreciate the privilege that comes with being able to take a risk, like the one that I took, and in some ways I’m still taking. I really appreciate that. And I appreciate the luxury of time. I’ve bought myself a little bit of time with a little bit of the planning that I did before, I ended going freelance, but I’m abundantly grateful for those things.

Maurice Cherry:
So, given where you are now, where do you see yourself in the next five years? Is there certain work that you’d want to be doing at that point or anything like that?

Alanna Flowers:
This year has been a lot of seed planting. It’s like I have to start working from somewhere. So, I started my YouTube channel this year, started with zero subscribers just like everyone who starts anything. In five years it would just be nice to see these communities that I’ve started, investing and grow. I really love lettering and I love working with clients. It’s such a rewarding feeling, being able to help them. But it’s also really rewarding to help other people who are interested in lettering. So, that’s why I definitely knew that as a part of my freelancing that I wanted there to be some sort of educational aspect, with workshops or tutorials and stuff like that, like I do on YouTube. So, yeah. Just expanding my reach and having that allow me to reach back as well to others.

Maurice Cherry:
Reaching forward and reaching back, I like that. So, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you? Where can they see your work and everything online?

Alanna Flowers:
Yeah. You can find my work at agfdesignstudio.com, but you can find me on YouTube at AGF Design Studio. That’s my channel name, that’s also my name on Instagram. And then, also on Instagram and Twitter. I’m Alanna_ Flowers.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Alanna Flowers, I definitely want to thank you so much for coming on the show and really one, I think telling your story, but then two also, giving us a little bit of a peak behind the curtain of what it’s like to a new freelancer. There’s been all this talk this year specifically about the great resignation, and people leaving jobs and striking out on their own. It seems like you’ve really… I mean, well, one, you have struck out a lot on your own. But two, it seems like you’ve really hit a stride and you’re making great work. You’re promoting yourself out there on social media. I wish, when I started my studio, that I was half as prepared and put together as you are with how you’re doing everything. I think you’re doing a great job, and I’d love to see where your work goes in the future. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Alanna Flowers:
Thank you so much, Maurice, for having me.

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.

Tiffany Middleton

What a difference a few years makes! This is definitely the case with this week’s guest, Tiffany Middleton. When I first talked to her on Revision Path, she was just starting out as a junior designer from Childersburg, Alabama working for a Texas-based sports company. Now she’s a senior art director for FanDuel and has continued honing and flexing her design skills, only this time in the Big Apple!

We started off with a quick check-in, and Tiffany spoke on her interest in mentoring and helping other Black sports designers through a community she created called Trenches. She also talked about some of her favorite projects over the past few years, the experience of working for ESPN, and spoke on the confidence she’s found from fully stepping into her identity and claiming it proudly. Tiffany is all about showcasing the power of the Black creative voice, and you know that’s definitely something we support around here!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Tiffany Middleton:
Hi. So I’m Tiffany Middleton and I am currently a senior art director at FanDuel in New York City. I’ve been here for about six months and before FanDuel, I spent about four to five years at ESPN on the digital team and then on the social media team.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. How’s the year kind of been going so far aside from, I guess, starting this new job?

Tiffany Middleton:
Oh man. I guess I would go back to, I guess, 2020 of how it started and then where I’m at now. So like I said, before FanDuel, I was at ESPN and I think life for me there was like kind of getting to do your dream job and then coming to a point of wanting a change a little bit. I grew up on ESPN, it was everything for me, I’m a big sports fan. And when coronavirus happened, to bring it up, I feel like it kind of changed my perspective on not just my life, but also my career in a way where it just made me kind of take a pause and think about what I was doing and if that was the right direction for me. It’s kind of at a point in my career where I felt like I had achieved everything that I wanted to achieve at ESPN.

Tiffany Middleton:
I feel like I learned so much there. I feel like it was one of those. I compare it to [The Warriors 00:04:11] of it’s a well-oiled machine, it’s so many talented designers there. There’s always great work, but I guess I kind of like to put it in a sports perspective of taking a chance on myself and kind of [KD 00:04:25], leaving The Warriors and coming to Brooklyn. So that’s what I feel like I did. [crosstalk 00:04:29] And I feel like a lot of that happened off of coronavirus because it paused everything, it changed it. So it’s been going pretty great. It was definitely an adjustment, a different system. So it’s been relearning everything I thought I knew but from [inaudible 00:04:47] perspective.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, did you take a break between leaving ESPN and starting at FanDuel, or did you just kind of go right into it?

Tiffany Middleton:
I pretty much had two days off and I was back into it.

Maurice Cherry:
Damn, you got to get yourself a break. Wow, two days and you just went right back into it.

Tiffany Middleton:
That’s the thing. Ever since I’ve been a kid, my goal has been to be a successful designer. So it was like, I didn’t know what a break was. Since the last time we talked in six years, I probably have only taken one vacation that’s been more than four days. I usually go on vacation [inaudible 00:05:24] my computer. It’s like I didn’t know how to take a break. So it’s like coronavirus made me kind of realize I needed to take a break in life. And then it also changed my perspective of design and how I can use that more for a spiritual, more people impact thing versus a success thing.

Tiffany Middleton:
I try to use my design in a way of helping other black people get into design and find different careers to kind of outside the box versus doing design to kind of build my own career in a way. I feel like I’m settled in my career and I feel like now I’m at a spot where I really interested in mentorship and helping other people out and then collaborating with other designers and also just spreading more awareness about design in general for black people.

Maurice Cherry:
I want to go back just a little bit to ESPN because, of course, during the pandemic last year, sports were kind of… Everything sort of took a pause, especially major sporting events. How did that really affect your day-to-day work at ESPN when everything is revolving around regular sporting events?

Tiffany Middleton:
So what I did at ESPN right before I left, I worked on the digital content team. So a lot of our work wasn’t your day-to-day sports on TV. It was more of a very secluded market and we did a lot of stories based off of sports where they were these long form digital visual storytelling pieces. So we told a lot of stories that were kind of about sports and evolved into sport has been none of our day-to-day work revolved around the sports games. So for us, I think one of the departments that probably had a biggest impact of… We were working even more because we were doing a lot of evergreen stuff before a sport stopped. So once it stopped, it’s like we started to do more work and more traffic on the site because there wasn’t these live games. So I honestly started working more when the coronavirus happened, but I was at home, but I was working more. So it was a different pace, but you start to burn out a little bit quicker than you would in an office.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, interesting. I can imagine because you’re now having to work from home and I think it’s something… Certainly when I had guests on the show last year, that was just a big thing for a lot of people to get over because your home is sort of your refuge away from work and now the two locations have merged and you have to kind of find a way to compartmentalize that.

Tiffany Middleton:
It’s no break. And then I got a puppy, so it was just like, I never had a break. I had no space and [inaudible 00:08:15]… While I was there, they started to have layoffs during coronavirus. So it’s like, I started to see the impact of it for coworkers and friends. So it started to kind of… Mentally, it became a tough situation because it’s like, “There’s no sports, are sports going to come back?” Eventually the coronavirus did affect our team. So right before I left, I had a couple of coworkers that did get laid off. So I think it was just a lot happening at once. And then you see it so close up of the effects of people. Luckily I personally wasn’t laid off, but just having people that I’ve worked with for four and five years lose their jobs, it takes a mental toll on you.

Maurice Cherry:
I know exactly what that’s like. I mean, I was working at a startup last year going into the pandemic and I think it was maybe about two months… Actually, it was right around this time that we’re recording, right around this time. Right around Memorial Day that they laid off my entire department, just gone and it does take a toll on you because you say that part about having to learn how to take a break. I had to learn how to take a break really quickly because I went from this kind of go, go, go, rush, rush, rush all the time, traveling with work, to now just you’re at home. And granted, I’m in Atlanta and there wasn’t really that much of a lockdown period, but still, it takes a toll on you. It really does.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. And see, I was in Connecticut, so it was already feeling like a lockdown place. [crosstalk 00:09:50] coronavirus [inaudible 00:09:50], it was a complete lockdown.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. Let’s fast forward to kind of what you’re doing now. You mentioned you’re a senior art director at FanDuel. What does a typical day look like for you?

Tiffany Middleton:
So my role at ESPN was more so hands-on, building websites and working with developers and kind of taking about a month or two per project, whereas at FanDuel, not only am I managing a team, so I’m responsible for everything FanDuel Fantasy and [TVG 00:10:23] products and FanDuel Racing. And then just overseeing the designers on my team, approving work and then also creating work myself and then figuring out different systems and trying to rearrange systems that they have in place currently and just figure out new processes. So I went from kind of 90% designed to 50% design and then 50% emails, people managing, processing, strategy. I’m definitely enjoying it, it’s definitely a different role. So it’s just making me see things in a different light and understanding the intricacies of having a great system.

Maurice Cherry:
Is it different going from a media company to… Well, FanDuel is what? Entertainment slash gambling sort of, right?

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Maybe gambling is not the right word to use there.

Tiffany Middleton:
I don’t know if that’s the word we want to use, but essentially, I would say more of… Because I’ve been playing fantasies, I’ll say it’s kind of like a getaway for sports of people still watch sports but I think, especially with social media and Instagram and things like that, something that I did notice at ESPN was people were less likely watching TV. [inaudible 00:11:41] I think they started to do with a lot of cord cutting where I feel like at a company like FanDuel, adding an incentive of betting or a fantasy or just being able to play with your friends and kind of watch a game with a little bit more invested into it, makes it more longevity with [inaudible 00:12:00] sports.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tiffany Middleton:
But you’re competing with everything else on social media these days. So making that switch from essentially storytelling and it’s very Print style Magazine type of foundational design to more we do a lot of marketing assets on this end. It’s a faster pace, a different type of strategy, a different audience that you’re looking at. Also at ESPN, I was kind of working on user experience and UX and UI. So going from a UX and UI back to kind of marketing design, it definitely took some adjusting to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah. Going from that sort of product based work to more, I guess kind of print and web sort of almost, it’s a big shift.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. I was using Figma and Sketch at ESPN for my last three years and [inaudible 00:12:53] Photoshop. So it’s like I’m having to almost go back to college. The product world is very much different than marketing, like I said, it’s a whole different thought process.

Maurice Cherry:
What does the design team at FanDuel look like?

Tiffany Middleton:
So we have a ACD above me, so he manages our whole department and so it’s him and then it’s me and my counterpart. And so I oversee half the house and my counterpart oversees the other half of the house. Like I said, I do fantasy and racing. So racing includes TVG, which is a horse racing product. And then FanDuel Racing, which is our in-house horse racing product. And then my counterpart, he does FanDuel SportsBook and then FanDuel Casino. And then under us, it’s senior and junior and regular designers. And then we have a copywriting team that we work counter with. And then we have a project managing team that we work with. So it’s a bigger team than… Well, not bigger, but a little bit more diverse as far as the copywriters, editors and designers on our team as a whole. When we’re on meetings, we’re all together versus at ESPN, a lot of our meetings were more just in the design department. I did work with a lot of writers, but not as closely as we work with our copywriters and project managers at FanDuel.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you all started to kind of go back into the office yet? Or is it still remote?

Tiffany Middleton:
We’re still remote, so I haven’t met any of my coworkers in person. I’ve only seen them on Zoom.

Maurice Cherry:
And you’ve been there now, like you said, for just a couple of months now.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. All right. Well, hopefully soon once these mandates lift, I feel like there’s already this rush to get back to normal. I’m using the air quotes over here. So that’ll probably happen sooner rather than later. When it comes to working on new projects, what does the creative process look like? Because like you said, the team is pretty varied in the structure and even the type of designers that you have.

Tiffany Middleton:
So I think the biggest difference, especially from ESPN to this job is that at ESPN, a lot of the projects, it was a free range of the imagery you can use as far as the athletes. Whereas at FanDuel, we have to use a lot of stock imagery or more your foundational design stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Tiffany Middleton:
So when we’re concepting, it’s like, you really have to rely on your design skills versus at ESPN, I felt like if you have a nice photo of LeBron and great typography, it’s a pretty solid design. Whereas here you have to really work to kind of use what you have.

Maurice Cherry:
And that’s because you’re not necessarily working directly with the teams or with the photographers [crosstalk 00:15:43], you have to kind of sell the concept of sports without the actual athletes in that way.

Tiffany Middleton:
Exactly. So it is a different task.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at some of the work that you’ve done over the past five to six years, it could be stuff at FanDuel, it can be stuff at ESPN or whatever, what have been some of your favorite projects?

Tiffany Middleton:
Ooh, that is a very hard one. I think my favorite project is going to be a project I did right before LeBron’s time with the Lakers. So we hired an artist from every state where every NBA team is and did these LeBron billboards, which is a pretty cool project. It took a lot of time just finding the right artist in the right states and then collecting their work. And then we did kind of a website part to it. But just seeing the different artists come up with these different concepts that are very true to their states and very true to the teams that they were trying to get LeBron to come to, was probably my hands down favorite project. I mean, it became a big deal of in Louisiana, I think they actually put up some of the billboard.

Tiffany Middleton:
Somebody purchased the art and they put a billboard in Louisiana and then the LA one was pretty great, which the artist who did that ended up putting those on a t-shirt and I had one. So it was just one of those projects that you don’t really get a lot of chances to work on. So I was very grateful to have been assigned that project, but it also took a whole lot of work because I was excited for it to be done with, but still when I look back, I think that’s probably one of the funnest projects that I worked on throughout my career.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, when I had you back on the show, back in 2016, you were in Dallas, you were just starting out at Panini America, I remember it’s a company. I think they make trading cards, right?

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s sports trading cards. How did you end up getting connected with ESPN and eventually making it to New York?

Tiffany Middleton:
So super funny, but Twitter. Twitter is the funniest thing. So right when we probably were chatting maybe two months before that, I actually had applied for a job at ESPN. They flew me out. I met one of the creative directors there via Twitter and he connected me with a potential job. I went to Connecticut and I end up not getting the job and I was devastated, super sad, but then a month or two later, I end up getting a job in Panini America. And probably two months after we talked, if not sooner, I got an email from the same creative director, and he reached out about a potential part-time job with ESPN, working on Snapchat, at the time Snapchat Discover was not a thing, but that’s kind of how I started. So I was working at Panini America full-time and then I started working with ESPN part-time and within a year, they offered me a part-time position in Connecticut, but I was hesitant to kind of move for a part-time position, but they made things work to where it worked out logistically for me.

Tiffany Middleton:
So I end up leaving the job in Dallas after a year, moving to Connecticut, working part-time for a couple of months. And then I end up getting an opportunity to work full-time, which I switched from the social media team to the digital content team. So it was kind of this blessing in disguise that I didn’t even know. Like I said before we talked, I had gotten denied from ESPN and I was devastated. And then within a year, I was in Connecticut, working there and it was a full circle moment.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). How was it adjusting to the city and everything?

Tiffany Middleton:
I moved from Dallas to Connecticut. So I’ve been in Connecticut pretty much the last five years or so. And [crosstalk 00:19:36] I met friends in Connecticut and we would spend a lot of time in New York City. And so eventually I was like, I need to move to New York because I’m going [inaudible 00:19:45] Connecticut, but it’s not a lot to do there. Especially [inaudible 00:19:49] Dallas or New York, it’s nothing to do there except for work. So I always moved to Connecticut envisioning that I will live in New York City. I just didn’t think I would be in Connecticut that long. So coming to New York has been a big adjustment, but I don’t think I’ve really experienced New York because coronavirus.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah. That makes sense.

Tiffany Middleton:
[crosstalk 00:20:10] living here, I’ve been here on the weekends, but I haven’t lived here when it wasn’t coronavirus, but it’s starting to pick back up. But just being here for five or six months, the amount of black creatives that I’ve been able to meet compared to living in Connecticut or even Dallas is 10 times twofold.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh really? Okay.

Tiffany Middleton:
So many more black creatives, just different people that I would not have crossed paths with in life if I hadn’t lived in New York and especially within Brooklyn itself.

Maurice Cherry:
Now are these other black designers in the sports and entertainment industry or just black designers in general?

Tiffany Middleton:
So some, a handful are probably in sports entertainment and then some are just within the industry of just creative and fashion. But actually at ESPN, I did meet a lot of black creatives, some weren’t designers, but photographers, videographers, producers, just a wide range. So it’s like, ESPN was very much majority white, but I did meet a lot of black people that were creative, just within smaller groups.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. That’s good to know. I mean, I would imagine, like you said, with the pandemic, that does make it difficult now to really meet folks. I can’t wait to go back to New York. When I used to work for a company in New York, I didn’t like it because I would go to New York and I’d think, “Oh, work.” But before then, I loved going to New York. So I’m looking forward to going back up there when I don’t have to work. And just kind of experiencing the city, New York is fun. It’s fun. I don’t know if I could ever live there, so props to you for that, but it’s a great city, especially for, like you said, meeting other black creatives and stuff. That’s pretty cool.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Did it take a lot to kind of adjust to the city?

Tiffany Middleton:
I think because the last two years I’ve been back and forth… I kind [inaudible 00:22:04] neighborhood, I have friends that lives pretty close, so it’s like I got here, everything kind of just centered around me. I already kind of had people that I knew, I already had spots that I knew, but I think it’s definitely different than Connecticut because it moves very fast. There’s a lot going on. And me growing up in the South, every time my family comes up to New York, they absolutely hate it after [inaudible 00:22:29]. [inaudible 00:22:33] overload of people, overload of things, it’s just a overload. So [crosstalk 00:22:39] sometimes it can be tiring, but I also live in Brooklyn. I feel like Brooklyn is more like a neighborhood versus if you go to Manhattan, it’s more of that New York City vibe, whereas Brooklyn just… It’s chill, but you never really know what you’re going to get when you walk outside.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, certainly, I mean there’s parts of Brooklyn that are like that. Most places that I’ve been to in Manhattan… Unless you’re going further up like near Harlem or Washington Heights or something, or at least to me, it hasn’t felt as claustrophobic as if you’re down in say the Financial District or something like that. But no, Brooklyn is fun. Brooklyn’s a fun time.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. No, it’s very fun. It’s very quiet. It’s also very small once you get used to it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Nice. That’s really nice. So let’s talk about Trenches. Now I remember when I had you back on the show you were talking about In The Trenches, which was this site that you had created to kind of talk about black designers and the sports and entertainment industry. Has Trenches kind of evolved from that concept?

Tiffany Middleton:
I think it’s evolved as I’ve evolved, right? Like I said, early on in my career, very focused on just design, design, design. And I think the older I got, the more I really started to look at the spaces that I was in work wise and realizing that, “Why am I the only black designer?” And then looking into sports in general and like, “Why is there only 10 of us?” Feeling like you’re in a box that you can’t quite get out of. And so for me, Trenches kind of started to evolve around just black creatives in general. So I’m kind of still in this in-between of it’s sports, but I’m also trying to break it out more into culture and music. Because I feel like sports is very black on the field, but within the front offices, it’s usually very non-black. I’ve tried really hard to focus on black designers in the sports industry, but you just start to kind of run into the same people because it’s hard to let us in.

Tiffany Middleton:
So I’ve been working with a mentee and she got a job in the sports industry and working at NFL. And I was really proud of that, but it’s like, we’re still just fighting just to get in. Last year, I ended up teaming up with some of my friends who some worked at ESPN, some worked at the NBA, they’re all black women and we did a Zoom conference where it was just black women in the sports industry. And it was just designers, editors, social media managers. And that for me kind of changed the wheel again because it was something near and dear to me. Being a black woman, seeing that many black people that were kind of experiencing the same thing I was experiencing, it made it feel more true to me. So that’s kind of where Trenches have evolved, is going from sports and design to more just our experiences as black women or black creatives in this industry.

Tiffany Middleton:
We sometimes don’t seem to exist or even when we get there, we’re dealing with issues that a lot of our counterparts aren’t dealing with, or even when I think sports is on a general, it’s so hard to get into. And a lot of times people break into it by doing these free internships. But the reality is there’s not a lot of people of color, especially black people that can kind of afford to take this free job and have their parents take care of them for a year or so without getting an income. And I think sometimes that pushes us behind and then sometimes I’ve seen where people, essentially hire people that are the same as them.

Tiffany Middleton:
So it just started to seem like a lot of different obstacles that were coming up for black people to be in the sports industry. So it’s something I’m still fighting for, but it’s evolving more into a culture thing because I feel like black people have more space to kind of own their own thing in culture and music versus in sports. It just seems like until the gatekeepers really focus on bringing in black creatives in the sports industry, it’s always going to be a tooth and nails fight.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. I didn’t even think of how maybe these specific kind of niches of design would still unfortunately really have this big diversity problem. And the reason I’m saying this is because over the past few years, as I’ve done the show, I mean, there has been an influx of black designers in product and UX like crazy. And I don’t know if it’s because of bootcamps or because of other programs or stuff, but you can go in a major city and swing your bag around and hit a dozen black UX folks. It’s kind of astonishing in a way. I didn’t even think about how in something like sports and entertainment that there’s not that many black designers that are kind of making the graphics and stuff like that. Why do you think that’s the case? Is it because of the kind of old boys’ network?

Tiffany Middleton:
I think it’s a old boys’ network and I’ll be honest, I think for me, I started to notice it with Trenches because once I started Tweeting out stuff about Black Lives Matter and black designers… The more I started Tweeting about black people, the less interaction I started to get because I have ran Trenches as if it was this well-oiled company. And I had kept it very corporate and not really personal. And last year when the George Floyd thing happened, it became more personal to me. That’s when I really, really started to realize, “Oh, they’re not interacting that much.” And I think that kind of made me switch it up because I just felt like for years there are a lot of followers that I could kind of name off the top of my head.

Tiffany Middleton:
People were very into Trenches, but when it became about humans, it was less support. It was less interaction. It was losing followers. So me being a black queer woman, I couldn’t fake the funk anymore. It wasn’t as important to me as livelihood was, I wanted to more so create a platform and a space for people like me that weren’t really included in those rooms versus people that had always kind of been entitled to that room. So I felt like Trenches was becoming something where even I wasn’t being accepted in it as I was.

Maurice Cherry:
You said something really interesting there, I want to kind of draw out a little bit where you said once you started talking about humans, humans play sports too. And I’m not saying that in a bad way as how you say it, but I know there seems to be… And this is probably gone back we’re talking decades, probably OJ and even past them. But there’s something about America and seeing black athletes, they just don’t want politics in their sports. They want sports to be this idyllic… I don’t necessarily want to say lily-white, but they want it to be this idyllic problem free environments that’s just about the game. And that’s not the case, especially when you have black people that are the majority of the players.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. I mean, we could talk about this all day, but [inaudible 00:30:08] it’s a system, right? Because the real thing for me is, like I said, I grew up on ESPN, I loved it to death. I grew up on Slam Magazine, but something I didn’t realize up until recently was it was not those companies that I was in love with or that I loved, it was that the guys on the field, the women on the field, they reminded me of the people I grew up with. I was able to see people that looked like us on the big screen and that’s what I was attracted to. So I think once I got to those companies, I started to realize that the people on TV aren’t the people I’m working with. So it’s like they controlled our narrative. And I started to really realize that they control our narrative.

Tiffany Middleton:
And I think what I like about LeBron so much is that he was one of the first players that I feel like truly started to own his own narrative. I love Michael Jordan to death. I think he’s the greatest athlete ever. But if you really think about Michael Jordan, the executives at Nike owned the narrative of who he was supposed to be and who they wanted him to be and who they [inaudible 00:31:13] be. And so I think when designers are designing these graphics, they’re just essentially using these basketball players and football players that are essentially characters with the tattoos and the dreadlocks and the braids, and they’re looking cool on these graphics. But if they walked into a store at their homes and they didn’t have those big names, they might call the cops on them. And that’s why I said humans of… Once I started talking about real heart to heart stuff of things that we have to deal with as black people, nobody wanted to entertain it.

Tiffany Middleton:
I don’t want to be like an athlete that’s just like, “Shut up and dribble.” When I’m shutting up and Tweeting what you want to see, you’re cool with it. But when I Tweet something that’s serious, nobody wants to talk about it. Or when I Tweet about, “You guys should hire more black designers.” “Well, they’re not qualified.” Well, why aren’t they qualified? Is it that they can’t afford to be in these schools? Or is it that they have the talent, but it’s not what you’re looking for? Because for me, I’ve always thought art is [inaudible 00:32:11]. So I think there is good design and there’s bad design, but there is a lot in between, as I’ve seen a lot of black designers get passed up on roles just because their work wasn’t the way a white designers’ is. So I also realized that a lot of people were getting hired from roles where people whose work I would be Tweeting out. So I just started to feel like I was supporting more non-black designers than I was black designers.

Tiffany Middleton:
And that just sit right for me, because I feel like it took me a while to just get my foot into the industry. And I think the people that did let me into those doors, they were all people of color. They were either people of color or white men who weren’t from America. So my boss at ESPN, he is from London. So it just was something that, it just was so apparent that I couldn’t not notice it. So that’s kind of why I kind of stepped away from the sports design thing and just started to focus more on black creators.

Tiffany Middleton:
Because I would find a lot of beautiful art in Brooklyn or beautiful photographers or things like that. But their work wouldn’t be sports center, but I just felt like it still needed to be shown and talked about, especially because once I did start speaking about black lives, or I put out the Protect Black Women shirts, 90% of my sales, 90% of the interactions was all black people. It just changed the perspective of I don’t want to be a sellout and it just felt like I was at that moment without realizing it.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. I have to say, even coming to that realization shows, I think, your growth as a person and as a designer to be able to really survey the field and see that, that sort of what’s happening and how you can help to counteract that. One of the things that I present when I talk about Revision Path, I tell people to not just be an observer of the problem, but to work to try to be the solution because it can be real easy to just look at the landscape and see that things are messed up. And that’s all you talk about is how messed up it is. But you’re not doing anything to counteract that or to be actively against that. So no, I think that what you’re doing with taking Trenches in that direction is a great thing. And I can tell you, even just from doing this show for however… 400 plus episodes, the tide is turning in some ways, but it’s interesting to see how even in industries like sports and entertainment, particularly in sports, that that’s not the case.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. It is definitely not the case.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. So aside from Trenches, you mentioned this Protect Black Women shirt. Are there any other projects that you’re working on?

Tiffany Middleton:
That was the last one out, I do you want to relaunch it because I feel like it has more legs and I have some stuff planned for the upcoming year, but I’m trying to figure out all the logistics, so just stay tuned for it.

Maurice Cherry:
The way that the year is going now, it’s of course so different from last year. It’s like, you’re kind of trying to get your rhythm back in a way after a year of not really being able to do what you do, you kind of have to sort of ease back into it a bit. I’m trying to think of what other stuff I would want to do creatively this year. And I don’t know, I need time to think about that. So that makes sense. Now back when I had you on the show, I keep mentioning our old interview, but you told me then that your dream project would be working with Nike. Is that something that’s still on your design bucket list?

Tiffany Middleton:
That has changed completely. So I think for me, the difference between me six years ago and me now is going back to what I just said about just fully stepping into my blackness and understanding that every room I walk into, people are going to see my color first. And I don’t ever want to take a job where I feel like I might have to lose a part of my culture in the surroundings of where I’ll be. So for me, A is I visited Portland, I’d never visited before, but I went there last year, right before coronavirus and my time at ESPN was great. It changed my life, it was a great experience, but I would probably not want to live in a place where the population is less than 20% black and very not diverse. And so A, I would just not want to live in Portland.

Tiffany Middleton:
And then B, I think again, kind of going back to growing up on ESPN, especially growing up on Nike, I mean, every shoe I own is pretty much a Nike shoe except for Adidas. But realizing that all of these companies, the one thing they have in common that I gravitate a lot towards to, is black culture. And I think for me now, it’s like, I’m realizing that I have what I was looking for and I can kind of do my own thing with it. And I also feel like, not to take anything at Nike or any other company, but sometimes it just feels like it’s capitalizing on black culture, especially when it’s such a big brand. And that’s kind of changed my thoughts about it because like I said, six years ago, I’m just thinking logistical design stuff, not thinking about any culture perspective or from a person to person perspective.

Tiffany Middleton:
And now it’s like the older I get, I’m like, I would love to work at Nike. I think they do great design, but I also wouldn’t want to take a job where I feel like my mental health or my ability to be around my culture might be limited in a way or capitalizing on black culture and not really giving back to it. I think I’ve turned into this humanitarian type of person. So I would love to work with Nike. I would love to collaborate with Nike, but working at Nike, as an in-house designer, those thoughts are a little bit less now.

Maurice Cherry:
I have what I was looking for. That is such a powerful statement to say. And you’re right about how these companies… Particularly Nike, I mean leans on blackness a lot. I mean, look at their marketing. I mean, look at Kaepernick.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah, exactly. And I mean, I think they do great work, but if we’re being in real and you look in the front office, they may not have a lot of black executives. And I’m one of those people, it might be contradictory or people might disagree with this, but I want to see black people in roles that aren’t diversity and inclusion or HR roles. I want to see a black design manager. I want to see black people in those roles at Nike where they’re doing the same jobs as white counterparts, but they just happen to be black. Not that they’re roles where it’s a role made for a black person. I just feel like they can add more diversity to the office side

Maurice Cherry:
In one of your recent Tweets, you said, “The older I get, the more I simplify.” How have you simplified your life over the past few years?

Tiffany Middleton:
Oh gosh. Let’s see. I think decluttered is the number one word. Not just decluttered my home, decluttered my mind, decluttered my thoughts, but I’ve decluttered my design process a lot. I think younger me is more into, “What’s the coolest design I can come up with?” Versus now it’s, “What is the most practical design I can come up with? What design can I create that isn’t going to cause any issues with legibility, any confusion?” Very being into simple. I love fashion, so I have to use Kanye as an example. Kanye from Graduation was wearing backpacks and polo outfits and lots of colors and stuff like that.

Tiffany Middleton:
And now [inaudible 00:40:19] Kanye seems like he wears the same thing every day, but he’s reserving his energy more so he can be more creative. And I start to realize that if I’m trying to do the best design every single design I do, I’m exhausting my energy and it’s causing me to be less creative. So now I’m being more intentional on textures, backgrounds, fonts, the foundational thing is that I can kind of switch up. So it’s kind of making this toolkit of accessories or design tools that I use and I kind of switch up and change around. So I still am able to be creative, but I’m also boxing myself in to where I’m not exhausting my creative energy.

Maurice Cherry:
Kanye also got four kids. So I would imagine that cuts down a lot on his own style. Just like, “Look, give me something simple.”

Tiffany Middleton:
I was going to say, he’s also a [inaudible 00:41:15] billionaire, so kids is… I’m sure he has people to take care of them to-

Maurice Cherry:
That’s true.

Tiffany Middleton:
[inaudible 00:41:20] creativity.

Maurice Cherry:
What keeps you motivated and inspired these days?

Tiffany Middleton:
Oh, let’s see. I think black culture does. I’m big into music. So I think back in my day… I’m not even that old, but I feel like back in the day, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott, their music videos, they used to get me so excited. The conceptual stories behind it, the creativity, still feeling like true to nature, but seeing it on the big screen, those type of things get me excited. So music is continually being my inspiration for just motivated with design and then motivated on side projects or just motivated to do things that can potentially make a small change in this big world.

Maurice Cherry:
At this point in your career, how do you define success?

Tiffany Middleton:
I would say success for me is a peace of mind. Obviously a peace of mind, which seems very simple, but you know how sometimes you get the job that you love, but you never get any sleep, you’re always tired, you’re always stressed out, you are just running raggedy? So I think for me it’s like success has nothing to do with money, has nothing to do with awards and things like that. I think it’s what gives me gratification, what gives me peace, what makes me feel like I’ve done what I need to do, but it just doesn’t cause me regret or cause me a lot of problems. I just feel peace, especially with everything going on, that is what I define as success. Being able to do what I want to do when I want to do, how I can do it without having somebody control that in a way.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s the thing that I really love about kind of always having some sort of a side project or something. No matter where I work or what I do, I know I’m always going to have something on the side that’s just mine that I can do 100%, no outside input or anything like that. So I feel you on that. I actually asked this question in the last interview, I said, “What advice would you give your teenage self?” But what advice would you give 2015 Tiffany to help prep her for the future?

Tiffany Middleton:
Oh man. Patience. Just be patient because things are going to come and they’re going to come when they’re supposed to come, not when you want them to come. And that every day may seem like a long day, but when you look back, they’re short days, but to do something every day that will impact the next day.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, what would you like the next chapter of your story to be like, when you look at, let’s say the next five years, what kind of work do you want to be doing? Where do you want to be? All that sort of stuff.

Tiffany Middleton:
I think New York is my home for the next five years, at least. So I would definitely like to still be in New York, I would like to do more community events like art shows, maybe do some school programs. Just do more awareness for black designers within sports and just black designers in general. And then I’ll also probably like to hop my foot back into the product world because I really loved the thought process about that. So just more community events, probably bring Trenches outside the computer and have a outside event and maybe dabble back into product eventually.

Maurice Cherry:
I think that would be a great idea to do, like a little summer meetup or something like that.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It’d would be great. When I started doing live shows for Revision Path… What’s funny, when we had our interview, I wasn’t even thinking about taking this offline. I was like, “This is just going to stay a podcast.” But I started doing live shows in 2017. And the great thing about doing a live in-person event for black designers is the actual space and community that it creates. It’s not so much that you’re like, “Oh, where people in a place listen to someone,” or something like that. What it’s doing is it’s bringing folks together around a common theme that they may never have found a way to interact with each other in any other sort of way. So the fact that they’ve managed to come together in this one space that you’ve made of a meetup or something like that. We’ve done live shows where people will be hanging around an hour after we’re done, two hours after we’re done.

Maurice Cherry:
They’ve closed down the venue, people are still standing outside talking and it makes me wonder what connections have been made from those kinds of events. And if those connections would have even happened, if the event never happened. So I definitely love the idea of doing some live in-person stuff. I mean, I was starting to do a tour in 2020 before the pandemic. We did a live show out in Los Angeles, that was great. Actually we did our 300th episode in New York. That was 2019. I don’t want to get into that story, but that was a whole other thing. But if you think about doing live events, even just a small 20 person thing or something like that, socially distance, do it, it is such a good time. Not just for you as the host of it, but just for the community that you’ll be able to bring together around a common cause.

Tiffany Middleton:
Yeah. No, it’s actually something I’m kind of working on right now. So we may have to connect later, but yes, it’s something I was talking about with the team that I worked on, the Zoom conference with. And then coronavirus happened and it was just not working, but now that people are being outside again, it’s definitely something that’s in the works for me.

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

Tiffany Middleton:
So I’m big on Twitter. I love to Tweet, so you can follow my personal page, it’s Tiggatip. So T-I-G-G-A tip on Twitter and then also Trenches, just Trenches_ on Twitter and I’m also on Instagram and not Facebook, but Instagram and Twitter. So @Tiggatip, personal, and then Trenches for Instagram and Twitter.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Tiffany Middleton, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show, coming back on the show, really. It’s been so great to hear your story of how you have leveled up since I first had you on the show. Back when I had you on back then, I remember saying how fun it was, how much of a treat it was to just talk with you and get a sense of what you’re doing. And I can hear the maturity and how much you’ve grown over the past six years just from this conversation. So I’m excited to see what comes next for you. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.

Tiffany Middleton:
Thanks for having me.

Sponsored by Poster House

Poster House

If you are in NYC, head to Poster House in the Flatiron District to check out Julius Klinger: Posters for a Modern Age, an exhibition Steven Heller from PRINT Magazine calls “a trove of modern design innovation,” and Freak Power, an exhibition about Hunter S. Thompson’s run for sheriff described as “visually striking” by The New York Times.

Head to www.posterhouse.org and book your ticket today!

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.

For our 250th episode, I’m so honored to bring you this conversation with creative director, graphic designer, and entrepreneur Julian Alexander. Julian may be most well known for designing the album cover for 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying, and his design work on the Miles Davis box set The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions even earned him a GRAMMY for art direction! Even with those huge accolades under his belt, Julian is a really humble guy, and I think that really comes through in the interview.

We talked about how he got his start in design, his time as a design director for Sony Music, and I asked how his career changed for him after winning the GRAMMY. We also discussed the relationship between design and music, some of his current projects through his studio Slang Inc., and gave some really great advice for designers of all levels. Julian is a true champion for design and designers, and I’m so glad to be able to share his story with you all.

Cheers to 250 episodes of Revision Path!


Did you like this episode? Get special behind-the-scenes access for just $5/month!

rp_patreon_banner


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.
fbdesign_logo_75
Revision Path is also sponsored by Glitch. Glitch is the friendly community where you can build the app of your dreams. Stuck on something? Get help! You got this!
glitch_75
Revision Path is also brought to you by Google Design! Google Design is committed to sharing the best design thinking from Google and beyond. Sign up for their newsletter!
Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
mailchimp-logo

We’ve had design educators and researchers on Revision Path before, but never a design scholar! Audrey Bennett studies cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary communication that makes use of images that not only impact the way we think and behave, but that also permeate global culture. For the past 20 years, she has done her research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she currently serves as professor and graduate program director for the Department of Communication and Media.

Audrey and I talked about her journey to becoming a design scholar, and we discussed the notion of a Black design aesthetic, as well as how her work and the design industry has changed with the rapid adoption of technology. Audrey has done a ton of research in the field of graphic design, so if you’re looking for a deep dive, make sure you check out the interview, read her papers, and learn more about her work!


Did you like this episode? Get special behind-the-scenes access for just $5/month!

rp_patreon_banner


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.
fbdesign_logo_75
Revision Path is also sponsored by Glitch. Glitch is the friendly community where you can build the app of your dreams. Stuck on something? Get help! You got this!
glitch_75
Revision Path is also brought to you by Google Design! Google Design is committed to sharing the best design thinking from Google and beyond. Sign up for their newsletter!
Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
mailchimp-logo
Revision Path is also brought to you by SiteGround. Save 60% off all hosting plans by visiting siteground.com/revisionpath. Excellent!