Alleanna Harris

A common sentiment shared by a lot of the guests I’ve had on the podcast is that you can’t be what you don’t see. That starts at a young age, too — think about the book covers and other visuals you saw as a child and how that’s shaped you to where you are now. Luckily, there are dope illustrators like this week’s guest, Alleanna Harris, who are creating images that captivate and inspire kids so they can truly see themselves.

Alleanna and I went over some of her recent projects, including a portrait of Will Smith she drew in front of The Fresh Prince himself. She also shared her process on how she conveys a book’s story through pictures while also making them stunningly appealing. Later, Alleanna talked about growing up in South Jersey, attending UArts, spoke on the benefits of being represented by an agent, and told me what she appreciates the most about her life right now. Alleanna is a rising star, and according to her, a career in the world of illustration is possible! (So keep drawing!)

Interview Transcript

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

Alleanna Harris:
I’m Alleanna Harris. I’m a freelance illustrator from South Jersey. I mainly illustrate picture books, but I also do editorial, commercial, advertising, chapter books. I illustrate a lot.

Maurice Cherry:
How’s the year been going for you so far?

Alleanna Harris:
It’s been going pretty well. It’s kind of different than last year. Last year, I took on a lot, and the year before that, so I’ve been trying to just chill a little bit and take on less just so I could align myself with projects that I really want to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I find that a lot of creative folks I’ve talked to just on the show and off the show, they really started the year off kind of slow. Like, they’re really kind of easing into 2023.

Alleanna Harris:
Definitely, definitely. That’s what I’ve been doing my best, just picking things that I really, really like that I’m really, really into.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, based on all that hard work that you talked about before, I hear that congratulations are in order. There’s a book that you illustrated that won in the Black Kidlit Awards, is that right?

Alleanna Harris:
Yep, yep. It won best biography in the first Black Kidlit Awards ever. It’s called Marvelous Mabel. It’s about the life of Mabel Fairbanks. And she was the first Black figure skater, just the first Black famous figure skater. She came up in 1930s, 1940s, New York City. So it’s basically about her early life and all the things that she went through while trying to learn how to figure-skate, and it actually won. And it was the biggest surprise ever. I just went on Instagram and people were like, “Hey, Alleanna, you won,” and I was like, “What?” And I looked and it said, “Best biography,” and I was like, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I actually won.”

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, congratulations.

Alleanna Harris:
Thank you.

Maurice Cherry:
I also saw, just from peeking around through social media, you also recently did some work with Pentagram, which is a extremely well-known agency. How was that project?

Alleanna Harris:
It was pretty awesome. They emailed me and they said that they wanted some work done in the picture-book style for an animation for the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And basically, they said that they wanted me to illustrate a character named Abeo, and she was about six or seven, and they wanted a good representation of a kid in early elementary school just so that they could show it to policymakers. And it was up to me to come up with the character and what she looked like and how she moved around. So I actually ended up illustrating a lot of the key frames for the animation and a lot of the assets, the things that she’s holding, like her books and pencils and different formulas. And it was a really amazing process. I got to work with the great folks at Pentagram and another animation studio named Kong in the UK, so that was really, really awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
How long did that project take, just overall?

Alleanna Harris:
You know what? Animation… Well, actually, that would be more advertising. Those kinds of projects are really, really fast-paced, so that took about, I would say, under a month, maybe about three weeks. So it was-

Maurice Cherry:
Wow, it was fast.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, it was really, really fast, but it went really well. It was pretty straightforward.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, since we’re already getting into your work, I want to keep going down that road. We talked a little bit before we started recording, and you mentioned that you started professionally as an illustrator in 2017, but prior to that, you were, I guess, testing the waters, maybe, on Etsy. Is that right?

Alleanna Harris:
Yep, that’s right. I started right after college in 2015. And it was funny because my mom, she said, “Well, if you’re right out of college and you want to do this illustration thing, then you know what, I’m going to give you two years so you could figure it out. Do your best to figure it out in two years, and if not, then you could go right into probably, like, a master’s program.” So I was like, “Okay, I really have to figure this out.” And the best thing that I could think of was to just sketch and draw what’s around me or things that interested me. So I did a ton of sketches of places in Philly, and I also did a ton of illustrations of different Philly foods, and different pop-culture things, like living single in a different world. I ended up putting them on a Etsy shop, and it actually did well as soon as I started offering those prints. And that’s where I got my start.

Maurice Cherry:
How was Etsy like? Was it a good platform for you to, I guess, test out whether or not you had a market for your work?

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, it was really good. I was really surprised, actually, because when I put them on, I was pretty convinced it would take a long time. It’s crazy, but it was a week, only a week that someone first bought one of my prints. And I actually think it was a Ferris Bueller print that was my first sale. And then around that same time, I started sharing my illustrations on Instagram, too, so I started building an audience on there.

Maurice Cherry:
Is that the one where they’re at the Sears Tower and they’re leaning over and their foreheads hitting the glass?

Alleanna Harris:
Yes. Yep, that was the one.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that one. That one is so good. It’s so good.

Alleanna Harris:
Thank you. Thank you. That’s the one I did. That one, and then I did different ones of Cameron’s… I think it’s Redhawks jersey, Sloane’s white leather jacket, and then Ferris’s shirt/vest combo, and that did well, too. So, that was kind of my start on Etsy.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, you mentioned earlier, when you were working with Pentagram, that they wanted, quote, unquote, “a picture-book style.” What does your process look like for illustrating a picture book? I would imagine it’s probably different from working with an author than it is working with a company or a nonprofit.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, definitely. Well, for picture books, it can actually take a long time. It could take a year or more. Because I don’t actually work directly with authors; I usually work directly with the publishers. So I usually get those projects through my agent. My agent, Alex, she usually emails me with a manuscript and she’s like, “What do you think about this? Do you like how it sounds? Are you interested?” And then I look over it and then I say yes or no. And then if it’s a yes, then I look over the manuscript again, and then they might send me these thing called art notes. Usually they’re within a template for the book, so usually they place the text within the book so that I have a place to sketch everything. And then they give me art notes, which basically tell me what to draw.

But lately, they haven’t been giving me art notes. They’ve just been saying, “Okay, here’s the manuscript, and go for it.” So, I just sketch things, whatever comes to mind, whatever I think fits the story best, and then I send it back to them. The editor and the art director go over it, and then they come up with feedback and notes, and then I revise. Usually it’s a bunch of revisions, just a cycle of revisions. And then I go to final art, I start to add color. Sometimes I do rough color, I just place colors around, and then they give me the “Go ahead,” and then I fix that up. And then it’s another cycle of revisions. And then after I finish the final color, I usually go over it again. And then that’s it. It’s a long process, but it’s totally worth it.

Maurice Cherry:
And you mostly work with the editors, that’s interesting. For some reason, I thought you’d be working more closely with the author since it’s their words and everything.

Alleanna Harris:
I know, and usually… Well, when I started, I thought that would be the case, too, but no, I work directly with the art director and then the editor. Usually it’s both of them together. For my last couple of books, I talked to the authors after the process. It’s really funny. I usually don’t talk to them, not unless it’s through the editor.

Maurice Cherry:
And I would imagine the authors are… I mean, do they like that process, I guess? I don’t know. I guess that’s not really for you to decide, huh?

Alleanna Harris:
Not really. Usually, I guess they rely on the editors for that. If they have things that they want me to include, if they have reference photos or other things like that, they send it through the editor, and then I work from there.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting, interesting. Well, I guess if the author’s writing the book at that point, they’re like, “Look, you got it from here.” No, I mean, I guess it sounds like the authors are happy with it. I would imagine that would be kind of awkward if you do all this illustration for the book and the author’s like, “I don’t know if this is really what I wanted for the book.”

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah. Oh, no, that would be so awkward. But I mean, I would work with it and then I’d get it to a place where we’re all happy. But yeah, they leave it up to the editor and the art director. I’d say for one of the books, it was actually a early reader, and it was about Geoffrey Holder, the actor and Broadway star. I actually had to go through a lot of revisions for that one just to get it to a place where the author was happy with it. It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy with the art, but it was just a certain kind of feeling that she wanted, because he’s from Trinidad and she just wanted it to have that homey, bright feeling, just, like, Caribbean feeling. It took me a few revision cycles to get there, but I got there, so she was happy with it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, to that end, when you’re illustrating for a book, is it more about trying to accurately convey the story, or is it about making something, like you just mentioned, making it more visually appealing?

Alleanna Harris:
It’s both because you want the reader… And usually the reader is a kid. You want kids to want to know what they’re looking at, and two, to feel something from the book. So it’s usually my job to get it there, to get it accurate enough where they know who they’re looking at just by their parents, but also, it’s up to me to make it look good enough in terms of color and mood so that it really affects the readers.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, yeah. I mean, you said it’s a picture book, so the picture has to be sort of the primary focus almost, it sounds like.

Alleanna Harris:
Right, right.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Aside from that Geoffrey Holder book you mentioned, was there ever a particularly challenging illustration you had to create for a book, whether it was technical or just getting the look and feel right?

Alleanna Harris:
Oh my goodness, yes. It was actually my first picture book called The Journey of York. I’d say it was more like a oil painting-type style. It was way more realistic. And it had a lot of different landscapes, and all the people had to look really real. So it took a lot of work to get it to a point where it looked right. It had all these different locations in the Pacific Northwest and all this vegetation and all these people. And it was just a lot of going back and forth with my art director, Laurie. It took a lot of research, too. They actually sent me a book, and I do not remember the name of it, but it’s somewhere in my bookcase at back of me. But they had to send me a book, and it had a lot about the clothes that they wore during that time. It also had some examples of the places that Lewis and Clark went, because it was basically about the enslaved man that went along with them, and it was basically the brains of the operation alongside with Sacagawea. So, it was just a lot to that artistically.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I want to get more into your work and your career. There’s some really dope things that you’ve done that I want to talk about. But before we get there, let’s learn more about you. Now, you’re originally from Philly, but you were raised in South Jersey, is that correct?

Alleanna Harris:
Yes, yes. I’m Philly born. My parents are both from Philly. And I was raised in South Jersey, about 20-30 minutes away, Northeast. So, Philly is really important to me. Yeah, just raised in South Jersey and in a very, very close-knit family. It was a pretty cool upbringing. The town where I was raised in, it’s predominantly Black. I mostly went to Quaker schools growing up. And for those that aren’t familiar with Quaker schools, it’s basically Christian, but they believe that the light of God is in everyone, and they don’t have worship services. They just sit in silence for a little bit of time weekly. They’re known for just very rigorous academic programs. So, I went to Quaker schools for K through 12, kindergarten, all the way through 12th grade, and it was really a awesome experience.

Maurice Cherry:
Did you do a lot of drawing as a kid or as a teenager?

Alleanna Harris:
Oh, yeah. I’ve been drawing forever. When I was little, when I was a toddler, I would just scribble in all of my mom’s legal pads. Every single page, I’d just scribble. Like, turn the page, scribble, turn the page scribble. And then she’d go to work and then take out her legal pad, and then all of them were just covered in scribble. When I got a little older, I would always doodle in the church programs. By the time I got to middle school, I would keep a sketchbook with me. And my mom and my grandma were super supportive because they’d always be like, “Did you remember to bring your sketchbook? Always remember to sketch.” And I would just sketch everything that was around me. In high school, I was more of an academic-type kid. I was very math and science-y. So I didn’t really take a lot of art classes, but I always kept that sketchbook next to me.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, that’s interesting. You mentioned that about being more math and science-y, but also into drawing and art. Is that kind of what initially pushed you into architecture at Temple?

Alleanna Harris:
Yep, that was it. Because I was into math and science, but when I was trying to decide what to do, I was like, “I need something with a artistic bent,” and I thought that would be architecture. So, I got into Temple. I was in their honors program, actually, and I was also accepted into their architecture program at their Tyler School of Art. It was a really, really great program, but I did not enjoy it one bit. I thought that’s what I wanted to do, but I got there and I was like, “I don’t really enjoy this like I thought I did.” I mean, I did well, but I was like, “No, there’s got to be something other than this I could do.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I can imagine… I mean, when I went to school, for example, I went to study computer science, computer engineering at first because I wanted to be a web designer. Now, granted, this was late ’90s, early 2000s, so web design was not… I don’t want to say it wasn’t a profession, but it certainly wasn’t one that you could, I think, really study in a lot of schools. Most schools just didn’t even have a curriculum for it. And I remember taking it that first semester and talking to my advisor about it, and he was just like, “Oh, the internet’s a fad. You don’t want to get into that. Nobody’s going to be interested in that.” And he’s like, “If that’s what you want to do, you should change your major.” So I did change my major. But you went even further. You completely transferred schools.

Alleanna Harris:
I did, I did. I’m pretty sure everyone thought, I don’t know, maybe that I was a little bit crazy, because they’re like, “You’re at Temple, you’re at a great art school. What are you doing?” I had a really chunky scholarship that I was just not throwing away. But yeah, I need something more creative, so I actually ended up looking up other schools, and I found University of the Arts. And it happened to be on the other side of Broad Street. Temple University is on North Broad, and University of the Arts is on South Broad, on the other side of City Hall. So, I looked them up and I saw that they had an animation program, and I was like, “I think this would be really great.” I sat my mom down, I was like, “Listen, I have something to tell you.” And she’s staring at me, like, “What is wrong?” And I was like, “I want to go into animation.” She’s like, “Oh my God. Okay, that’s fine. Just figure out how to apply and we’ll just go from there.” So, I went to the Open House, I applied, and I actually ended up getting a bigger scholarship there than I had at Temple.

Maurice Cherry:
Whoa, look at you.

Alleanna Harris:
I know. Thank you. But it’s like, who knew? So, I ended up at University of the Arts as an animation major, and that’s where I graduated from.

Maurice Cherry:
How was your time there?

Alleanna Harris:
Oh my goodness, I loved it. It was different from Temple because, number one, it’s smaller. It’s private compared to Temple, which is public and it’s bigger. But it’s smaller, but it’s right smack dab in the middle of Center City, so right on the Avenue of the Arts. It doesn’t have a campus, it’s just within everything. This is within Center City. So, when I got there and I got to the dorm and everything, which is basically like an apartment, it was kind of culture shock because you have to learn how to navigate. It is kind of like “living as an adult,” quote, unquote, even though you’re in college. So it was just interesting having to meet people again because… I transferred, so I didn’t get to go to orientation, so I had to meet people.

It was really great because I always liken it to Fame, the school in Fame, because UArts has so many different majors. It’s just such a comprehensive arts university. It has musical theater, and fine arts, and film, and photography. And then I tell people it’s like Fame because we would sit in the dining hall and then people would just start singing and dancing and everything and just be in the midst of that. But it was a really great time. Just so many creative people, so many things to do, so many great professors. It was really awesome. I enjoyed it. I made a lot of great friends, still friends with them today.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, do you feel like it really sort of prepared you once you graduated and got out there working as a creative?

Alleanna Harris:
Yes, definitely, because it allowed me, just going there, to take different types of classes. I had my animation… my core classes, but I was also able to take film classes, and I learned a lot in those. And just the things that I learned within my film classes, it directly applies to how I see illustration, just my point of view. I also took illustration classes. And actually, my illustration classes, that made me realize that I really wanted to go into illustration more than animation. So for sure, definitely. Definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I can imagine that kind of environment because, one, there’s so many different creative disciplines happening at once, but then also, like you mentioned with that lunchroom example, you’re getting to see people exhibit their craft. You have the possibility and the potential to go into anything else just by getting inspired from being in that environment, which I think can sometimes be a lot different when you’re at a traditional liberal-arts school because you’re so locked into your major.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, definitely. I agree.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And then as you said earlier, after you graduated, for your early career, you started out with just, I guess, freelancing, starting out on Etsy, seeing if you had a market for it, and then that’s sort of where things took off. But you said you started professionally in 2017. So what were those first two years like after you graduated from UArts?

Alleanna Harris:
They were really interesting because I did things on Etsy. I was starting to build an audience on social media, but I was also doing commissions for friends and family members. So there’s some people who were like, “Hey, can you do this cover, because I have a book coming out,” so I do stuff like that. So, I did a lot of commissions. I even taught senior citizens how to paint. I would go to assisted-living places and we would have little paint-and-sip nights. And that was fun. That was interesting. I also do stuff like that. And actually, closer to 2017, I illustrated a book. Well, my cousin worked within the Philadelphia School Board. And she was working with someone who had a company that had to do with the school board, and she wrote books. So she was looking for an illustrator, and my cousin was like, “Hey, my cousin is an illustrator. You might want to check her portfolio out.” So she did, and she checked my portfolio out and she liked it, and she was like, “Hey, can you illustrate this book for me?” So, that was actually my first experience illustrating a book, and I absolutely fell in love with it. And actually, that was the main experience that made me want to illustrate books.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice, nice. Now, you’ve said that… We talked about this before we recorded, but you said there are a lot of different paths when it comes to illustration as a career and that you can make it lucrative. It sounds like for you initially, you tried out a bunch of different things, like you were teaching senior citizens, you were doing Etsy, you were doing commissions. What are some of those paths that people can take if they’re looking to pursue illustration as a career?

Alleanna Harris:
There are a ton of different paths. I guess just thinking about my major, I was an animation major, so most of my classmates, they ended up going the animation route. They also illustrate, but they’re within story of the animation. So they come up with the storyboards, they come up with the plot points, they do stuff like that. And then I also have friends that are animators now. So, you can definitely go that way.

Within illustration, I know people who illustrate commercially, so they do different advertisements or they work with brands like Google or Apple or Adobe.

I know people who work within art licensing, so they do the patterns that go on clothes or that go on different products.

There are just so many different ways you can go. Or, like me, you could go into picture books, or you could do comic books, and there are just so many different ways you can go.

Maurice Cherry:
And it sounds like, I guess maybe once you get further along on one path, you can maybe bounce between others. Like, if you’re doing picture books, maybe you can also do editorial illustrations or something like that.

Alleanna Harris:
Exactly, yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of leeway. There’s a lot of leeway because some people can look at your work and be like, “You know what? That will work over here. Do you want to try it out?” That happened with me. Someone from… I think it’s called the Phoenix International, they’re making a graphic novel about Ida B. Wells, and they’re like, “Do you want to work on this? I know it’s a comic book, and I know that you do picture books, but do you want to work on it?” And I said, “Sure.” And I ended up doing a graphic novel. But yeah, that’s definitely how it happened. You could just kind of jump from style to style.

Maurice Cherry:
And I would imagine your process probably still mostly stays the same, even if you’re doing these sort of different types of illustration.

Alleanna Harris:
Yep, yep. Yeah, it pretty much stays the same. You’re right.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I’m curious to get your take about AI-generated art. That’s a discussion that has really popped up, I’d say, within the last, I don’t know, I’d say, four to five months particularly, once people started using… what was the app called? Lensa?

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And they started making those AI-generated avatars and putting them out there and everything. I don’t know, the discussion around it, I think, has been so interesting because I’ve heard from artists that are like, “I hate this. This is theft. I can’t believe this is happening,” that sort of thing. And then I hear it from the average layperson that is surprised for two things. One, that the art looks nothing like them, which, I mean, yeah, you had a computer do it, that makes sense. But then secondly, they’re more perturbed that they had to pay for it.

Alleanna Harris:
Oh yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Like, you paid money for that? You gave them how much money? And I would see people on Twitter and stuff searching around, trying to find a free alternative because they didn’t want to pay Lensa. I think it was $8 or $10 or something like that. So they’re like, “Well, I found this Chinese app called Meitu, and I can do it there for free,” and da, da, da, da, da, and all this stuff.

From your perspective as an artist, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, all these AI-generated art’s algorithms and apps and stuff like that, what are your thoughts on all that?

Alleanna Harris:
I have so many thoughts. First of all, well, just, I guess, the bottom line, I’m not a fan. I’m not a fan because some people want to use it to replace working artists. I saw this big thread on Twitter with this guy who used… I think he used Stable Diffusion to make a picture book, and everybody was getting on him about the picture book because all of his characters, they weren’t consistent. It just didn’t look right-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah, I saw that, I think because he also used ChatGPT to write the book.

Alleanna Harris:
Yes, that’s it. That’s it. Yeah, I’m not a fan because it is theft because it needs other people’s work, at least Stable Diffusion does. It needs other people’s work to create art. So why don’t you just actually pay an artist to actually do the art instead of stealing the work to make something out of it? Also, I feel like using AI, you’re not really being an artist, you’re more being a client because AI is doing the work. You’re telling it what you want it to do instead of you actually actively doing it. I know it’s less work to tell software to do what you want, but the process is the biggest part of making the art, and you’re taking all the process out of it.

Maurice Cherry:
There’s a friend of mine, he’s an art director at an ad agency, and he’s been learning Midjourney and been posting the results on LinkedIn and stuff. And it looks nice. I find that the AI art has a particular style-

Alleanna Harris:
It’s a look.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, it’s a particular look. Very stylized, heavy shadows, all the art kind of looks the same regardless of who the subject is. But he’s been taking a class. Apparently people have written classes about how to ask the right prompts to get it to do the right thing. It’s so interesting seeing how far people are willing to take it, I think, just to see what the possibilities are.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah. Well, there are so many ways that we could use AI that would help or make our lives easier, but I just don’t think that that’s the best way to go about it. It’s like, why don’t we use AI to figure out our taxes or do the work that we don’t feel like doing, having to do bookkeeping or something like that. But the actual art part that really takes a human to do, you’re taking that away. I’m not really a fan, but hey.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, it’s so interesting, at least from what I’m seeing people trying to do. I think it does unlock some people’s creativity that doesn’t necessarily have the skill-

Alleanna Harris:
It does.

Maurice Cherry:
… to maybe take the idea that they have in their head and really draw it, or even spend money to get someone to draw it. So they’ll say, “Oh, well, let’s see what AI can do.” I saw… I think this was on TikTok. Someone had done a Racebent Addams Family, where the Addams Family is all Black, so then they had all of the… Gomez and Wednesday and Morticia, et cetera. It’s like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And then you look at all the comments that are like, “Somebody needs to take this to Netflix.” I’m like, “Netflix already has both the movies and the new series.” Not saying that they couldn’t do this, but what is… I think when people see that, one, I don’t know if they’re under the assumption that the person created it, but two, if they were to take it to that extra level, that’s when you got to get humans involved.

Alleanna Harris:
Exactly. And you were talking about the level of skill. That’s so true, because I think people want to avoid, I’m going to say this, but the ugly phase, when your work doesn’t look that good, when you’re still learning. But you can’t avoid it. To make good art, you have to make bad art first. That’s also why I’m not a fan, but yeah. You kind of skip over that phase where you’re just learning the materials, learning… If you work on a computer, you’re learning the software. You skip over that to try to make art that’s presentable. And you can’t.

Maurice Cherry:
I do have some writer friends that are using it just for character sketches. It helps them to take the character that they’re writing about to visualize it. So they’ll do it for that purpose, but they’re not going to take that and then go to a designer or an illustrator and say, “I made this on Midjourney. Can you touch this up,” or “Can you do XYZ?” I would imagine some people will go that route. Don’t do that. But I can see some useful applications of it, as long as it doesn’t get too… The person creating the picture book, I mean, come on.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It’s like, if there is a way to do it without stealing other people’s work and styles, then that would be interesting to see. But I just don’t like that a lot of the different programs are stealing other people’s work, and not even paying them for it. They’re just taking it, “Oh, I like this person’s style, so I’m just going to plug it in.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Well, I know Getty is suing… I think they’re suing Stable Diffusion-

Alleanna Harris:
I heard.

Maurice Cherry:
… because one thing that Stable Diffusion does, and I guess all of these algorithms or AI things do it, is, they’ll take the watermarks, too. Getty Images always has that big rectangular watermark across their picture. And so there are AI-generated images that have malformed versions of that, and Getty’s like, “Ah, ah, I don’t think so. You got to pay us for that.”

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah, exactly. And there’s this thing going around on Twitter. People were saying, “Oh, maybe you should plug in Disney and see what happens.”

Maurice Cherry:
Because yeah, you can feed stuff to it to make it better. But to what end is this going to come from? Because I’m starting to see applications of folks using AI for music, for example. I think Google has this beta program out now where you can give it a couple of phrases and have it generate music in a particular style, which I know musicians will hate that. But it’s interesting how far we’re trying to take artificial intelligence in a way that subverts human creativity.

Alleanna Harris:
Exactly. Along with creativity, it makes you think of ethics, too. Like, where exactly do we stop? When is it okay, and when is this not okay? It’s a bigger conversation.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, educators now are already having to deal with that with ChatGPT. I’ve been talking with a couple of educators now that are just like… Some are still trying to wrap their heads around it, others are already changing their syllabi to say, “Don’t do this.” And we’re starting to see school districts and stuff crack down on it because students… And this is to a point where, in an educational perspective, this is really dangerous. Students don’t know the difference. They don’t know the nuance or the particular human parts of this. They just see it, it’s like, “Oh, this can do my homework for me.”

Alleanna Harris:
Yes. Yes, you’re so right. It’s really something to see. It’s so many new developments in such a short amount of time. Technology.

Maurice Cherry:
I saw this while going through your Instagrams. I was doing research, but you even got to draw Will Smith in front of Will Smith.

Alleanna Harris:
I did. I did. I did. It was crazy because the folks at Harriett’s Bookshop, they contacted me and they were like, “Hey, we’re having this book tour stopping in and we were just wondering if you’d work with us in setting it up.” And I was like, “Oh my God. Of course.” So as I was working with them and getting everything set up and working with possible drawings, I was like, “Okay, something’s up because, one, this project is really rush. It’s going really fast. So I feel like this is someone important, and I don’t know who this is.” And then I emailed them and they were like, “Yeah, we figured we’d let you know. It’s actually Will Smith. And this is a Will Smith’s book.” And I was like, “Oh my goodness.” So, they were like, “Okay, so people from Westbrook-

Maurice Cherry:
Westbrook, Westbrook, yeah.

Alleanna Harris:
Yes. They’re like, “Westbrook is going to call you and they’re going to ask you to do a portrait, and you’re going to say yes.” And I was like, “Okay. Okay, I’ll say yes.” And I actually had to meet with them and send them past sketches to see if they approved. And then they told me, “Well, we’re going to show this to Will, see if he likes it.” And I was like, “Oh my God, you’re going to show it. He just [inaudible 00:39:17] to be Will Smith as just Will. Okay.” So, they showed it to Will Smith, they showed it to Will, and he liked it, and I ended up sketching him in front of him at the event.

It’s funny because I didn’t get to finish the sketch because the whole day was actually pretty hectic, but I was able to give him a drawing that I did. And I actually have the process video up on my Instagram, too. I was able to give that to him and he’s like, “Wow, that’s definitely me.” And I was like, “I know.” But it was great to just be able to say hello and shake his hand and say thank-you. And just to see how it went in person, it was just amazing. That was an amazing day.

Maurice Cherry:
Is he Philly royalty?

Alleanna Harris:
Yes, without a doubt.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve always been curious about that because, I mean, so much of… Of course, his early story has been about in West Philadelphia, born… We all know that. But then I think so much of his professional career has been wrapped up in Hollywood and California. I was just curious about that.

Alleanna Harris:
Oh no, he’s definitely royalty. And actually, before he got there, it’s just tons of people. There was even a guy dressed up like him in his Fresh Prince days. Like, the striped shirt on, the sideways cap. These would people that are like, “Oh, we walked so far to be here.” And there are people from the Carolinas, I think, they were just waiting for hours. And he pulled in and people were just losing… 6abc was there. They’re like, “Fresh Prince returns.” He’s definitely Philly royalty, no doubt.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow, nice. Now, you’re represented by The Bright Agency, and The Bright Agency reps, a ton of animators, artists, and authors. How did you go about getting representation, and what are the benefits for you as an artist of being represented by an agency?

Alleanna Harris:
It’s funny, it was actually pretty serendipitous. My friend Loveis Wise, they’re a illustrator. They’re really amazing. We went to college together. We both went to UArts. They were a illustration major. And they told me, they said, “You should join Women Who Draw. It’s a really great website. It’s basically a database of women illustrators. You just put a piece of your work there and you say your name and different things about your identity, and then people go there and look for artists.” And I was like, “Okay, cool. I’ll do it.” So I uploaded my info. And not too long after that, I’d say months, my first agent, James Burns, he said, “Hey, I like your work. Is there anything that Bright can do for you?” And I was like, “You got to be kidding me, because it’s…” Actually, Bright was the agency that I was looking at when I was starting to plan, sending out my artist postcards. And the fact that he found my work on Women Who Draw and then reached out to me was absolutely amazing. So, from there, I said yes, and I’ve been represented by Bright ever since.

Maurice Cherry:
What are artist postcards? What’s that? Is it, like, a calling card of some sort?

Alleanna Harris:
Basically, yeah, you put a strong piece of art. It could have different themes. It could be seasonal or just whatever piece of art that you like most. And you put that on one side and then you put your information, your name, website on the other side, and you send it to art directors or agencies. Basically, if they like them, they keep them and they keep you in line for projects.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So you use that to sort of shop yourself around a little bit.

Alleanna Harris:
No, I didn’t even start. I went on, I put my stuff on Women Who Draw, and he found me there-

Maurice Cherry:
And they came to you.

Alleanna Harris:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Okay. What are those benefits of being repped by an agency? I would imagine it sort of just takes a lot of the admin stuff off of your plate.

Alleanna Harris:
It does. It really does. That’s what I like most because contract stuff that goes through them, they have people who specifically work on contracts. So I could go to my agent even about payments or deadlines, and they could talk to the publishers and the companies on my behalf. It’s just great having someone in your corner who knows the field better than you do.

Maurice Cherry:
And then all you can do is just draw and get paid.

Alleanna Harris:
I love it. It’s so much help.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I mean, that’s the dream for all creatives to be able to have the freedom to do that. Like, just do your work, get paid, and not have to worry about all the in-between stuff. So that’s great.

Alleanna Harris:
Yes. Yes, yes. It’s definitely a blessing. I’m definitely grateful to work with them. It’s really awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, you’ve got a couple of books that are coming out a little bit later this year, right?

Alleanna Harris:
Yep, yep. I have two. The first is Good Things by Maryah Greene, and that’s a picture book about a boy named Malcolm. Lives with his dad, and I believe it’s in Harlem. [inaudible 00:44:33] grandma, and his dad actually passes away, so he has to learn how to take care of the plants that his dad left him. And it’s a really good book about grief, and about plants, too. I got to illustrate a lot of plants because Maryah is a amazing plant doctor in New York City. So, there’s that book. These books come out in August, I believe, the 1st of August. There’s also Recipe for Change, which is by Michael C. Platt. And he is pretty young. I believe he’s in his late teens or his teens, but he’s a chef. It’s a cookbook. And I illustrate different foods in different scenes, based on the civil rights movement. And each of the recipes align with the scene. So you have a recipe and a story and a portrait, and it’s really, really educational. So, I have those two coming out in August.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Are they both available right now for pre-order? Because I want to put links to them in the show notes so people can check them out.

Alleanna Harris:
They’re about to be. Recipe for Change is actually about to be open for pre-order in the first week of February, and I am still waiting on word for Good Things.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Well, hopefully by the time this comes out, which will be right around mid- to late-February, we’ll hopefully have links to both of those, but we’ll certainly mention them, as well.

Alleanna Harris:
Awesome. That sounds great.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. How do you stay motivated and inspired with your work?

Alleanna Harris:
You know what, I just think it’s a part of my personality. I’m really self-directed. I have a lot of family support, especially from my mom. And there are certain things that I just want to see on the world, and I want kids to be able to see themselves in books. And that drives me. That’s always the thing that pushes me. So I have no lack of passion or drive. That always pushes me.

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

Alleanna Harris:
Oh my goodness. I feel like I have a lot of dream projects. I’m always into little-known stories of figures that we definitely should know about, but we don’t. So I love picture books that have to do with subjects like that. But I’m also interested in going back into animation. I’m not leaving picture books, but going maybe into the visual-development part of animation, maybe character design and maybe, one day, art directing, that would be amazing, for a animated series. That would definitely be a dream for me. That would be amazing.

Maurice Cherry:
Is this a series that you’d create yourself?

Alleanna Harris:
Ooh, I’m open to it. I didn’t even think of that, but now that you say it, yeah, that would be great. It could be existing, too, but any way that I could art-direct or do character design, that would be a dream.

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

Alleanna Harris:
I just appreciate being able to use the skills that I’ve worked on. I guess I could say gifts, too, just to be able to use them to help people learn and just give them material to look at, just new books and being able to help kids read and learn new things. That’s just a blessing, and I never would’ve thought that this would be what I do as a career, but I absolutely love it. I love being able to sit down in my room and just draw and then actually have it turn into a book, into things people see on bookshelves. That’s just amazing to me and I’m just forever grateful for it.

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

Alleanna Harris:
Definitely more picture books. I guess, along with the animation thing that I just mentioned, I could actually see myself working on a series. But other than that, I could see myself doing more commercial work, kind of like what I did with Pentagram. Actually, last year, I illustrated a gift card for Target. It was a Christmas gift card. I can see myself doing more of that, more brand work. But yeah, those are the things I could see in the future.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, nice. We just had Domonique Brown. She has a company, a lifestyle company called Domo, Inc. And she has a collection… Yeah, part of her collection’s at Target now for Black History Month. She also did a few cards for American Greetings, I think it’s a card company. She did some cards for them, too. So, I could totally see your work in that vein. That would be great.

Alleanna Harris:
Thank you. Thank you. I would love it. That would be so great.

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

Alleanna Harris:
Sure. Well, you could go to my website. It’s alleannaharris.com, A-L-L-E-A-N-N-A-H-A-R-R-I-S, .com. And I’m also Alleanna Harris everywhere on social media, so you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, even Tumblr, TikTok. You can find me all those places. Alleanna Harris.

Maurice Cherry:
All right, sounds good. Well, Alleanna Harris, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I think that just the work that you’re doing is so inspired and really, I think, driven by your own particular creative passion. I mean, as a kid that grew up reading a lot, reading competitions and all that stuff, there is just such an importance on children’s books that I think sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. And so the fact now that we have so many Black artists, especially like yourself, that are creating the books with authors that children are going to read, that are going to help shape them into becoming the people of tomorrow, I think is just such an amazing and inspiring thing. And your work is just so beautiful, and-

Alleanna Harris:
Thank you.

Maurice Cherry:
… I’m so excited to see what you do next. And like I said, we’ll put links to your books in the show notes. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Alleanna Harris:
Thank you so much, and thank you so much for having me. This was great. I really enjoyed this.

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Kevin Carroll

Can you believe we’re almost a quarter of the way through 2022 already? I think now might be a perfect time for a creative tune-up, and this week’s guest is a true instigator of inspiration — Kevin Carroll. As a founder, author, and public speaker, Kevin’s words and his work have influenced hundreds of thousands of people all over the world to tap into their creativity and accomplish epic tasks.

Our conversation touches on a number of topics, including success, longevity, curiosity, and perseverance. Kevin talked about growing up in Philly, being a linguistics expert in the Air Force, his time at Nike, and talks about how you can find your own “red rubber ball.” Kevin’s words were just what I needed to hear right now, and I hope they will encourage you as well. Trust me, you’ll want to listen to this episode multiple times!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Kevin Carroll:
Kevin Carroll, author, speaker, instigator of inspiration. I get an opportunity to spend time with co-conspirators and storytelling, creativity, innovation, human performance, and advancing the human condition in a good and positive way. So I get a chance to do that on a regular.

Maurice Cherry:
That sounds like a dream job.

Kevin Carroll:
I don’t know if it’s necessarily, you know, it’s so funny, one of the things that I tell folks is I don’t really have a job per se. I’m kind of like Tommy from Martin Lawrence’s show. So my friends always say, what do you do, what do you do? Because like you’re always here and there and there. And so, I think I just have discovered that folks see a talent or a gift or skill that I might have that would lend itself to a project or an idea or something that they’re trying to advance.

Kevin Carroll:
I don’t really see myself as having a job in a traditional sense, a J-O-B. I really do think that I have this career portfolio, I actually was reading an article about that, why you should build a career portfolio, not a career path. And so I think I have a series of experiences. So I have more of a portfolio than a career path.

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

Kevin Carroll:
Surprise and delight and expect the unexpected, that’s what’s been happening so far this year already. I’ve been really blessed and count my blessings. We’ve stayed healthy this entire time. I think that’s allowed me to double down on optimism and positivity and to put out in the world some good energy. And that good energy is being reciprocated and reflected back. It’s been really wonderful some of the different projects that I’ve been invited to be a part of, find opportunities, to do a little bit of travel already.

Kevin Carroll:
So, some really fun locations. I was at the University of Oklahoma recently where I did some work with students on campus, but also student athletes on the campus there, and also in the community of Norman, Oklahoma. So that was really exciting. And then I literally just got back from an event where I spoke to 5,000 people, a live event, and that’s the first time a large group like that has been together was in DC.

Kevin Carroll:
And I was telling a friend that I got a chance to see the African American Museum, the National African American Museum of Art. I had not seen it like sitting on the, as you drive by it. Most of the buildings, if you’ve ever been in DC, Maurice, I don’t know if you spent much time there, most of the buildings are white. And here’s this building that’s this beautiful bronze brown, and it just stands out, and it feels so warm and inviting. And so, I got to see that yesterday, actually, I got there on Sunday and we were driving through and it was a sunny and it just stood out, and I was so inspired to see that.

Kevin Carroll:
That event with 5,000 people was actually in DC. So, I think that was a great sign for me to realize that wonderful things are coming this year and that’s a great source of inspiration to see a building like that and to think about all the voices and actions and impact that black and brown folks have been making, and I want to join forces with that. So that’s my goal, is to keep advancing that kind of intention that you would find in a building like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. It’s definitely great to come across that sort of realization like that, especially during Black History Month.

Kevin Carroll:
Yeah. Right? It fell right on the last two days of Black History Month, so it was great timing to see that building. It wasn’t something that I was unaware of, I was paying attention to that. I also talked about the importance of being where your feet are and being present. I think that’s what a lot of folks don’t do a great job of is being present, so that’s something that’s really been helpful for me is being present.

Maurice Cherry:
I guess given that, what do you want to achieve this year? Did that kind of put like an idea in your head about what you want to do?

Kevin Carroll:
I don’t ever really have like a I want to grow my business X percent or I want to, I don’t have those kinds of metric measurable per se. My whole thing is just at the end of the year, can I reflect back and see that I advanced the human condition in a positive way, and I had in some way that really will reverberate. That’s a thing that I always look at is like, what were some of the moments, what were some of the things? And so, I just want to continue to do that.

Kevin Carroll:
A big thing for me is I’m chasing significance, not success. That’s what I’m chasing> success is attainable and you can have a measure of success at any age, quite frankly, but significance takes time, and that’s the long game, and that’s the collective measure of all the impact that you’ve had. And so, that’s what I’m pursuing. This year is just another part of that mosaic, of that journey and chase to significance.

Maurice Cherry:
You’re doing so many things, as you mentioned, at the top of the show. You’re an author, you’re a speaker, you’re an instigator of inspiration. And I’m curious, what does an average day look like for you?

Kevin Carroll:
Probably not an average day. It can vary. There’s always some structure to what I’m trying to accomplish each day, and I do like to make sure that I feel inspired at some point. I’m always looking for opportunities to connect with folks. I have a very curious spirit about me. I think a typical or average day can be captured in this quote by Albert Einstein, “I have no special talents, I’m only passionately curious.” So I like to be passionately curious each day.

Kevin Carroll:
And so, whatever that unfolds or brings my way, that’s what I’m about. So it could be doing three virtual keynotes because we can do that now. [inaudible 00:08:20] necessarily got to get on a plane, to working on a collaboration with a sports program or sports team or university, or doing some reverse mentoring with my godson, where he actually teaches me art or Legos or something, and I’m learning from him, and he’s nine years old and he’s brilliant. I enjoy doing that. I just think that every day that’s my end goal is, was I passionately curious today or not?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I definitely think that the way that these past few years have been, in many ways, it’s opened up a lot of different avenues for people to try different things, to just pursue different types of work and stuff like that. I like that idea of just being curious and kind of seeing where things go. For me, at least I can’t say it for the listener maybe, but for myself, that feels super aspirational to be able to have that kind of freedom to do that. You’ve been doing it since 2004. What’s been the key to your longevity with this?

Kevin Carroll:
I think it’s relationship building. And my attitude is, if you shine, I shine, and I don’t want to be transactional with you, I want to be transformational with you. And so, that means we’re building something, we’re building something. And you’re in the business of seeing what you can get from me and you want to be transactional. We probably won’t build together. But if you’re about building a relationship and connecting on a deeper level that I can help you shine and in turn, it’s going to reflect back and maybe not right away, it could be five, 10 years from then. But that’s all good, and that’s all love, and that’s the way that I’ve looked at it.

Kevin Carroll:
So relationships have been really, really key and critical, because what I’ve discovered, and I think it’s one of those really wonderful, unexpected things, is I’ve been meeting people. When you think about all the public speaking that I’ve done, I’ve done public speaking since early 90s, I’ve been doing that. “Formally,” I’ve been doing it since 2002, but I’ve been meeting young people, meeting individuals where they are for decades.

Kevin Carroll:
Those individuals have grown up and guess who they remember put them on back in the day? Me. So now they’re in positions of influence and decision makers, and I get these notes on LinkedIn, Twitter, DMs on Instagram, hey, you might not remember me, KC, but you spoke at my school. My mom got you to sign this book. I happened to be at this conference. And now I’m with this company, this business, I’m doing this, I’ve started mine. And I thought of you when this idea came up, when this project came up, when this conference came up, and I immediately put your name for it. That’s what’s been happening for 18 years.

Kevin Carroll:
And it’s been gaining more momentum, which has been really magical when you think about it. But I didn’t plan it that way. It’s just been organic the way it’s all played out. My wife always points out, she said, “You put all those seeds out there not knowing that they would grow into oaks.”

Maurice Cherry:
Just to kind of, I guess, peel the curtain back a little bit, you asked me before we started recording, what’s your end game with this, this of course being Revision Path and this podcast. And the way that you just expressed that I think maybe ties into what I guess I could see the end goal of Revision Path being, in that there’s all these stories about black designers and developers and creatives and such that people can learn about. And to me, my hope is that this helps inform as many people as possible, we’re out here, we’re a creative force, we’re doing this work, in terms of planting those seeds as you mentioned.

Kevin Carroll:
You know what else, you’re creating a time capsule, you’re creating a time capsule that’s going to be a way finder for the next generation. So you need to realize that. I know we talked about you creating some kind of other creative effort off of this. You know exactly what I just said, I know you wrote it down.

Maurice Cherry:
I did.

Kevin Carroll:
I know you did, because look, we did our little prep call, convo before this, our warmup, and this just came to me. This is a time capsule. And imagine if you’re a young person trying to find your way and we can only envision ourselves in a position if we see ourselves there, well, they get to hear ourselves, they get to hear these voices. So you’re creating this audio time capsule. Come on, man. That’s fire. That’s fire. I’m telling you, first one’s free, Maurice, first one’s free right there. There you go. Receive that bro. Receive that.

Maurice Cherry:
Before striking out on your own and doing your own thing, I think people probably know you well from your work that you’ve done at Nike because it sounds like it was a very, very unique experience for you. Talk to me about that.

Kevin Carroll:
Yeah, you had a couple other guests on here that are Nike alums, Jeff Henderson and Kevin Bethune, those are two of my partners in crime and positivity. So they’re good brothers and we’ve done some fun projects together. My time at Nike, I always reference it in this way that Nike let me fly my freak flag. Nike let me really stretch my wings creatively and to discover things about myself that I didn’t know or that were lying dormant because of other experiences, and I didn’t get encouraged to express it. And Nike gave me permission.

Kevin Carroll:
And in doing so, unlocked a lot of my creative energy and my creative confidence. And so, I think that’s been something I’ll always be grateful for at Nike. I think I reciprocated with creating a more sense of belonging and connection there at Nike and Nike at large, at the other locations around world. And so yeah, I got an opportunity to do lots of different projects and work in lots of different areas from footwear design to special projects with Tinker Hatfield and his group to being a director of internal communications, working there.

Kevin Carroll:
So Nike really gave me an opportunity to tap into a lot of my gifts and talents, and they saw value in allowing someone to have all these experiences. And remember I said, I don’t think I have a career path, I have a career portfolio. Nike was a place that let me put more arrows in my quiver of that portfolio, if you will, of that career experiences. And so, yeah, I’ve always felt that Nike was this amazing living lab for me that I got a chance to do and try lots of different things and discover a lot of things about myself.

Maurice Cherry:
I remember listening to an interview where you were talking about how Phil Knight, who is the, I think he still is or maybe he was, the CEO of Nike, but he kind of referred to you as the mayor of Nike.

Kevin Carroll:
Yeah. Yeah. He’s retired now but he was the co-founder, CEO and chairman at the time when I was there, 97 to 2004. He caught wind of some of the creative capers I was doing on campus and the impact I was having. And so, he asked me to have a regular meeting with him monthly and to discuss with me the people and the culture and how things were going there. He kind of coined that term for me, said, I might be CEO and chairman here, but you’re the mayor here and you know this place.

Kevin Carroll:
So, I would give him information and share how people were feeling, what was going on, and being that bridge for him, being an executive, you’re not necessarily privy to that. So I was giving him that insight and visibility to how the people were feeling, what was going on, and opportunities for him to continue to further advance the culture in a positive way.

Maurice Cherry:
I want to switch gears here a little bit. As I mentioned to you before I listened to some interviews and things, you really talk a lot about how like your personal story can be a catalyst for someone else to kind of chase their dreams. So I want to dive a little bit into your personal story. Tell me about what it was like growing up in Philly.

Kevin Carroll:
Listen, Philly’s grimy. I love Philly that way. And we take a lot of pride in that with our city and everything. My childhood was challenging because of circumstances that we were navigating as kids, me and my two brothers. And so, addiction and abandonment, upheaval and uncertainty, dysfunction and disappointment were the norm because my parents were addicts and my grandparents rescued us.

Kevin Carroll:
The thing that I think my grandparents, maybe not necessarily realizing it but because of their age, we had a lot of freedom as kids to make a lot of decisions that probably shouldn’t be making when you’re a kid, but we out of necessity and just they couldn’t keep up with us that way. So, we had a lot of freedom. And so, I discovered a playground in my neighborhood first that was kind of the epicenter of our neighborhood, but it was this place where I felt I belonged first.

Kevin Carroll:
And so sports was a big thing in our neighborhood and I realized that very quickly. And so I dove head long into sports and played every sport you could imagine, whatever the season I was playing it. But it was never for trophies or first place or medals, it was always for belonging. I loved being part of a team and connecting and being a part of that.

Kevin Carroll:
That was I think an unlock for me was being part of a team and finding a place to belong. And it was a positive way for me to channel a lot of the questions I was having as a kid because of the decisions my parents made. And so, sports really was a great outlet and a great coping tool for me to manage that. And then public library was another great place, I loved learning and reading. So I went to the public library a lot.

Kevin Carroll:
And then my best friend’s mom became my mom in many ways, Ms. Lane. And so she poured into me as much wisdom as possible every day. I had a key to their house since I was nine, still have that key to their house. Ms. Lane was the cheat code, if you will, for me. She gave me all of the different ways to unlock possibilities and potential. I always say it was just two words that she would speak to me, why not. And she would always answer any of my, like Ms. Lane, Ms. Lane, I got this idea. She’d always say, well, why not? But then she’d always follow up with, don’t talk about it, be about it. Lots of talkers and very few doers, which one are you? So I learned about action And accountability from her.

Kevin Carroll:
But also someone who was unconditional in their love and just hoped for me to be successful. And Ms. Lane was the person who poured that significance idea into me, that you are going to be successful because you’ve got intellect and smarts, but I want you to chase something bigger and grander, I want you to chase significance. So that’s where that all stems from.

Kevin Carroll:
So that childhood started off difficult, but I found a way to rise above it and didn’t do it alone. I think that was one of the key things for me was when I talk about relationships earlier, that’s where I learned relationships and the importance of them. And it served me well all the way through me being on my own now for 18 years. Relationships stem all the way back to my childhood.

Maurice Cherry:
It takes a village. Like you said, you were staying with your grandparents and then you had Ms. Lane, you had your sports teams that you were a part of. So you had all of these different influences as you were growing up.

Kevin Carroll:
And these crazy people at the playground, because playgrounds, they got some colorful folks that are up there. I tell people, I’m a mosaic of many people, drug dealers, abusers, and war veterans, and ain’t quite right folks in the head folks. Just all kinds of people were there, other kids’ parents, food service workers, custodians, they all poured into me. And my brothers. I know that I’m a mosaic of many people.

Maurice Cherry:
So, after you graduated high school, you went on to college, and then after college you went into the military, you went into the air force. What was behind that decision?

Kevin Carroll:
I became a young dad. So, I didn’t even finish college, I was in my junior year, became a young father, I was 20 years old. And I came home and my grandfather said, “So what are you going to do about this?” He said, “You need to do the right thing.” And he said, “You need to not repeat history and be an absent father.” And so that was a loud message from my grandfather. And so these are his sensibilities.

Kevin Carroll:
So I made a decision to join the air force, not go back to college. I figured I could finish it while I’m in the air force, but I wanted to provide for my family. So I went in the military, my uncle was in the air force, so that’s why I chose the air force. I told people, they said, why’d you pick the air force? I said, my uncle always was smiling, so I figured he must be enjoying it. So, that’s why I picked the air force over any other branch. And joined the air force.

Kevin Carroll:
That was first time I ever been on an airplane was going to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. And landed in Texas and had no idea that I would end up really enjoying the air force and learning so much about myself and discovering I had other gifts and talents that had not been discovered yet. I had a language ability in the military discovered that and ended up becoming a language translator in the military and working with a top seeker clearance and doing all this clandestine work, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, kind of crazy stuff. So I speak a bunch of languages, and did that in the military.

Kevin Carroll:
And once again, more relationships, I’m still connected to a lot of people that I met when I was in the air force from 1980 to 1990. So 10 years I was in there, I’m still connected to a lot of those people too. So, we go back to that, what’s that through line for me is relationships and the importance of it and not being transactional with people being transformational.

Maurice Cherry:
I don’t want to gloss over the language part because I think that’s something which is super interesting because when you were in school, you had started to learn Spanish, but you dropped out, is that right?

Kevin Carroll:
Yeah, I dropped Spanish actually. It was five minutes. It was an amazing five minutes, Maurice. I thought it was a silly class, so I walked out of class, but the funny thing is I never forgot that five minutes. [Spanish 00:23:32], literally that stuck. I was a bit of a knucklehead and young, and I didn’t realize I had a gift then. And the military, they test you and it’s smart, they test you in everything just in case you have a talent that hasn’t been discovered. And lo and behold, I passed this language test in the military in basic training. And that’s how I got uncovered.

Kevin Carroll:
And so, I end up learning Serbian and Croatian Czech and German and become fluent in those and do that work in the military. But yeah, that’s how it ended up happening. But I can always reflect back to the fact that I actually always had it in me, I was just a bit of a hard head back in the day. So yeah, had I hung in there, I’d have Spanish in my repertoire. I’m sure if I put some time to it, I can learn that too.

Maurice Cherry:
I think if you know German, German’s a romantic language. I think Spanish might be not a total one to one, but I feel like you probably could pick up Spanish pretty well if you know German.

Kevin Carroll:
They’re in that family. Germanic is a little harsher than Spanish. Germans, you wouldn’t necessarily equate that like romance language, it’s a little harsh, a little strong. What I’ve discovered is once you learn a language, you are what I say language curious, if you will. So you’re just open to hearing what people are saying and how they’re using their words and what does that word mean. I use Google Translate all the time. I really am fascinated with what was that language and what was that I heard.

Kevin Carroll:
I think that’s the thing that really helps you. And a lot of folks that are American aren’t learning other languages. And I think that’s a big misstep here in the US, because you go to other countries and people are fluent in other languages because they’re just open to that, and they’re also raised that way. So I just think it’s so important. You’re not going to learn a language only taking the class twice a week for 50 minutes though. It’s not going to happen. That ain’t working.

Kevin Carroll:
Oh yeah, I took Spanish in high school. Yeah, how often did you yeah, oh, twice a week for 50 minutes, I said, how much do you remember nothing? Nothing. Yeah, because you got to be immersed in it. So I think that’s the other thing too is you have to be curious about it and want to keep learning.

Maurice Cherry:
French was my language. My mom had, French is her first language. But she also studied French and stuff in school and everything. And so I remember being a kid, she’s a retired biologist, but she had all her college level French books at home. So, I started learning French in second grade, and then basically learned it from second grade all the way up until I graduated college.

Kevin Carroll:
You were around it all the time.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That’s true.

Kevin Carroll:
Practice it. See that’s the problem is that if you don’t have a way of actually exercising and using the muscle and using the words to gain confidence, that’s why people fall off from their language learning. So you had a built in tutor, you had something there, you were immersed in it, you probably had either magazines or periodicals or different things you could read in French, all that stuff that immerses you, that’s what happened in language school in the military, it’s like you are fully immersed. I can sing Roll out the Barrels in Czech and all these other things.

Kevin Carroll:
We’d get dressed in cultural clothing and different things, so you really understood what it was you were learning. So full immersion is the key. That definitely had the right kind of environment to get really fluent in that language.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s so interesting when you kind of say it that way, especially about the Spanish part, because when I got to middle school, seventh grade, I wanted to take Spanish so bad. It was the first language elective that had filled up super quickly, because I was like, I didn’t want to take French because I already knew French, and I felt it wouldn’t have been fair for me to take French when I already knew it. Everyone else was learning it and I would be like, yeah, yeah, yeah, [French 00:27:51], whatever. I would already know it. I was doing good in French, I ended up taking French, but I did want to take Spanish.

Maurice Cherry:
I can kind of understand a bit of Spanish now, but I mean, even with French, I can listen to French music, I can read French books. I can understand it. It does, like you say, knowing another language does kind of make you language curious and opens you up to just more culture I think.

Kevin Carroll:
More culture, which is never a bad thing. The world is flat now, we have access to everything from everywhere. You do yourself at a disservice if you’re not curious around these opportunities and things to broaden your viewpoint and outlook on everything. I’m so glad that you have languages in your life. Maybe that’ll be the takeaway from our conversation is get some language in your life. Foreign language, not just English language, foreign language.

Maurice Cherry:
You had 10 years in the air force. After you left there, what was your next step? What were you thinking about doing?

Kevin Carroll:
I got my degree while I was in the service. Got a certification as an athletic trainer, I was actually working some NFL summer training camps when I was in the military, did armed forces sports program. I was actually the only certified athletic trainer in any branch of the service, so I got a chance to travel in support of armed forces of sports program around the world while I was still in the service. So I decided I was going to do athletic training when I got out of the service.

Kevin Carroll:
So I left after 10 years, moved back to Philadelphia, actually was a single dad then, so raising my boys. And started working in high school as an athletic trainer and a health teacher. Then I got a job at college level as an athletic trainer. And then I ended up in the NBA as only the first black trainer in the history of the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers, and the third in the history of the NBA. In 1995. And did that for two years.

Kevin Carroll:
That was the springboard. And my languages were the springboard to me actually getting noticed by Nike. So when I was with the 76ers, I actually got encouraged to use Serbian in the middle of a game to insult a player from the former Yugoslavia, [inaudible 00:30:19]. My coach told me to start saying something about his family when he’d run by because he wouldn’t expect it from our bench and distract him a little bit to save a time out. Literally that’s what my coach asked me to do.

Kevin Carroll:
So I start cussing at this dude every time he runs by and he’s seven feet tall. So I’m mumbling, whispering stuff every time he goes by our bench, and he can’t figure out where it’s coming from. So when he turns in the middle of the game and says, who’s insulting my family in Serbian over here, and the coach points at me goes that little guy right there. And Vlad is like, there’s no way. And I [Serbian 00:30:54], and he’s like what? And after the game, he came and approached me, and you’re going to love this because you’re based in Atlanta, he asked me to join the Yugoslavian National Basketball team for the 96 Olympic games in Atlanta.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Kevin Carroll:
And so, I joined them as the sports medicine liaison and their translator.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Kevin Carroll:
Black dude from Philly working with the Yugoslavian national basketball team. I got this crazy old school Polaroid picture of all of us. I’m the only raisin in the milk, I’m the only raisin in the milk. So it’s this really great candid picture of all us from a Polaroid from that moment when we were doing the pre-Olympic tour. That’s how folks at Nike actually found out about me.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. Languages really did unlock something for you. I mean, of course you kind of had the interest in sports, so, being an athletic trainer I’m sure it kind of was almost like a fulfillment of a wish that you kind of had as a kid, I would imagine.

Kevin Carroll:
Well, it’s so funny, I thought I was going to be in the NBA as all kids play sports, I’m going to be in the league one day, as a player I’m thinking. I didn’t think that my intellect and my ability to learn and then the understanding of games and then learning the science behind injuries and all that would actually propel me to that position.

Kevin Carroll:
So when I actually got to the NBA, I paused and really thought about like, whoa, I never thought it would be like this, but I made it to the league. How about that? And then of course, them haters from back in the day that told me it wasn’t going to happen, as soon as I got that gig, guess who was calling for tickets, Maurice? Yo Kev, hook us up with some tickets. Nah, remember that thing you said back in the day. I remember. I kept the receipts. No tickets for you, no tickets for you, no tickets for you. So yes. But I ended up getting to the NBA, which was a roundabout crazy way, unexpected way, but yeah, made it to the league.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow, man. Then like you said, that sort of opened you up to end up doing work for Nike and you started your own business. You’ve lived like four lives. With all these different careers and the way that they’ve all intersected, that’s fascinating.

Kevin Carroll:
It doesn’t make sense now when I say that it’s not a path, it’s a portfolio.

Maurice Cherry:
When did you decide to start writing?

Kevin Carroll:
So, Ms. Lane, my best friend’s mom who’s like my mom, she was the one who kept bugging me. When I got to Nike, she kept saying, when are you going to write a book? When are you going to write a book? And I would always push back, Ms. Lane, [inaudible 00:33:37] for? And she was persistent. I want to say for at least five years, she kept bugging me, bugging me, bugging me about it.

Kevin Carroll:
And then finally I said, “Ms. Lane, who’s going to read it?” And she said, “Well, there’s another you out there that needs to know it’s possible. That’s who you should write it for.” Bet. That was the moment I went, okay, bet, I’ll do it. But then I went, I don’t want it to be like a regular book so I’m going to use all this creative energy I’ve learned at Nike and all these things, I’m going to create this proposal that’s going to be so amazing that they’re just going to clamor for this book.

Kevin Carroll:
And I put together this proposal that was unique and different, crickets. Nobody wanted do it. Rejection. In fact, one publisher said it was over-designed and too creative. And actually told me to dumb down my idea, and maybe they’ll consider doing my book. And then I made a decision I’m going to self-publish it.

Kevin Carroll:
So I started the process of self-publishing it in 2003. We got it done by 2004. And it took off, we sold 11,000 copies in nine months. I didn’t realize that was determined to be a successful book because in the industry, if you sell more than 8,000, which is basically getting beyond your friends and family, that’s a successful book. We had done that with just word of mouth, no back table sales. I wasn’t pitching it on stage or anything.

Kevin Carroll:
And someone at ESPN happened to get a copy of my book and they were starting a books division. And I got a call out of the blue from ESPN, they wanted to sign me to a book deal. And I was still at Nike when all that happened. And so, I signed a book deal with ESPN and Disney while I’m at Nike, and that really starts this great opportunity to write more books and everything.

Kevin Carroll:
But Ms. Lane was the person behind the decision to write a book, well, the indecision, but lovingly shoved me towards my destiny kind of moment and stuff. But I’d always loved books. The public library was always a really special place for me as a kid, so I’d always loved books. And I’m always surrounded by books. But I never envisioned myself being an author. That was never anything I imagined or thought of even in my quiet time. Now that I’ve done four books, I’m quite proud of them.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that you self-published first, and then the success from that is what sort of ended up having publishers kind of coming to you for are doing more books. I love that part.

Kevin Carroll:
Yeah. And I think that sometimes you have to know what you’re writing it for, what’s the end game, let’s go back to that, right? What’s the end game. And when she basically said, well, there’s another you out there that needs to know it’s possible, oh, okay, bet, I’m going to do it then.

Kevin Carroll:
So until you kind of have that in mind who you are doing it for, and then we just talked about this time capsule, I know for you you can see someone opening up this time capsule, if you will, figuratively and literally, with all of these gifts and they’re unearthing these voices and these stories. That’s the spark for you then, that’s catalytic. And so, she was that catalyst for me to share a story. Then I made kind of that like, well, I’m not going to do a regular book. Having that attitude.

Kevin Carroll:
That decision actually was so interesting with the book it won over 23 design awards, my book did. Working with a great design team and then working with a great print team that did the self-published piece, and ESPN didn’t change anything in the design when they signed me to the book deal, they just put their logo on it and that was it. And so, that book’s been in print with them since 2005 and still in print, and I think there’s over 400,000 in print now.

Maurice Cherry:
Katalytic with a K.

Kevin Carroll:
Yes. Yes.

Maurice Cherry:
Now the metaphor of the red rubber ball comes up a lot in your books. Of course people can sort of check out the books and know what that’s about because you literally have one book called what is your red rubber ball. How would you suggest that listeners out there find their own red rubber ball?

Kevin Carroll:
So, it’s a metaphor, the red rubber ball, it’s literal for me because of sports and play, and the playground being the first place that I felt a sense of belonging and connection. But for most people, it’s more about the metaphor. What are you chasing? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What inspires you to go after it? And so, I think that’s a fundamental question. You need to know what inspires you to get out of bed every single morning. You have to have something.

Kevin Carroll:
And that became even more evident during this pandemic, because this global traumatic event broke a lot of people who didn’t have that clarity of purpose and passion and intention, and they felt lost. It derailed a lot of people. It broke a lot of people. And then there were some people who had this discovery moment, and they doubled down on the thing that they cared about, and they learned more during this pause.

Kevin Carroll:
And so I just think that the red rubber ball is about what are you chasing. What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning and that you want to chase it every single day? And then if you can be blessed and fortunate enough to find a way to blur your passion and your play, that’s great. Maybe you don’t necessarily, your work isn’t your play, but you can always know that this is something I’m chasing, this is something that inspires me and I want to keep that close. That’s the red rubber ball.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career and all of your life experiences that you’ve had, is this how you imagined yourself as a kid?

Kevin Carroll:
Never, never. I never imagined myself like this, honestly. When I first went to college, after high school, when I went to college, here was my job career idea. I was going to be in public relations in a bank. How random is that, dude? How random is that? But Maurice, this is how this got in my head. So, when I would ride the trolley, the trains in Philly and out on the main line, I would always see these men just dress sharp with briefcase. And so, I envisioned in my head, oh, they must work in a bank because I always see people dressed nice going in the bank. So, maybe they’re in there doing, I don’t know, public relations. I don’t know where I got that idea of public relations. So I said, I want to do that.

Kevin Carroll:
So when I went to college and people would ask me, so, what do you hope to accomplish? Oh, I want to work in public relations in a bank. I would spit that so fast, public relations in a bank. And people would always look at me curiously like, well, that’s very clear what you want to do. I was about them fits. I loved how cool they looked and clean and [inaudible 00:41:04], briefcase. And I obviously was interested in stories, public relations. But I didn’t have the word storytelling. And so, that’s what I thought I was going to do.

Kevin Carroll:
There’s no way in my wildest, wildest, wildest dreams, could I have ever imagined doing what I’m doing right now. Zero chance. The NBA thing was probably the only thing I might have spoke out and got laughed, basically just laughed at. And that squashed when I was a kid and my attitude was I’ll show you, you watch, I’ll show you. And then I end up in the NBA. That might be the only thing that I had an inkling of an idea. But of course, no one believed that would happen. But other than that, there’s zero chance I imagined what I’m doing right now, zero chance.

Kevin Carroll:
I just knew that I needed to be around a ball, so sports and play. Books, around education and enlightenment and just raising your game and elevating your game to learn more of the curiosity piece. And betterment. So people bettered me, and so, how can I better others? And so, those are my three Bs that I look that, the ball, books and betterment. And that’s kind of how I’ve always been about. I recently got that clarity, but those are three things that have been consistently in my life and a constant for me.

Maurice Cherry:
What gives you the purpose now to keep doing the work that you do?

Kevin Carroll:
There’s another one out there that needs to know it’s possible. Ms. Lane. So I made a promise to her before she passed away, it’s been eight years now, and I told her, I’m going to be the next you, Ms. Lane. I’m going to be that encourager for the next generation. I’m going to use technology and all these things, I’m going to have greater reach and impact, but I’m going to be the next you, and I’m going to remember what you said, there’s another you out there that needs to know what’s possible.

Kevin Carroll:
So that’s what gives me the passion to do this each and every day, that there’s someone that needs to hear from me, see a project I’m working on, maybe collide with somebody that I’ve already impacted, something like that. But I know there’s another one out there. So that’s what I do the work for on behalf of them.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, you talked earlier about significance versus success. I’m curious, what does success look like for you now?

Kevin Carroll:
It’s happening. I’m doing it and I’m proof that you can find success. Your circumstances don’t have to dictate your destiny, you can rise above that. Got to have that passion, purpose, and intention, and that clarity around what it is that you want to chase. So, that’s success, I have that. Significance is what I’m chasing. So I can point to, like you said, I’ve had four or five different lives, they’ve all been successful. Easy to point to that.

Kevin Carroll:
But significance, I haven’t reached that yet. I haven’t gotten to that point where I’ve got this really amazing platform that I’m impacting lots of people on a regular basis. I’m doing it kind of in piecemeal now. I’m hoping, I mean, speak it into existence, I want to have a TV show. I want it to be a Saturday morning show, where I’m inspiring young people, and they’re seeing themselves in me. But not to be the host or anything, but seeing all these journeys and all these experiences that I’ve had, and know that it’s possible for them.

Kevin Carroll:
And so, how can I introduce them to all these different careers and show them this wonderful multicultural expertise that’s out there so that they can see themselves in these roles that maybe they quietly imagine themselves doing, but not speaking them into existing or letting anybody know that they really want to do that, because they’ve not seen themselves in that role. So how can I be that unlock? How can I be that way finder? How can I be the plug for folks? How can I be a cheat code? That’s what I want to do.

Kevin Carroll:
So, that would be the end game for me, is this programming of some sort, traditional, Saturday morning or on a digital platform, but have the reach an impact so that I can be that Ms. Lane for the next generation, that CEO, that chief encouragement officer.

Maurice Cherry:
I can see a Netflix series in your near future. I totally can see it.

Kevin Carroll:
That’s what’s up. See. That’s what’s up. Right? Your lips God’s ears. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s do this, Maurice. You’d be one of the people on the show, I’d be talking about you. We’re now interviewing Maurice Cherry and how he created a time capsule of black and brown voices to encourage people to go after it. See, there it is, it’s already happening. Episode five, limited series. Or it might be like season nine.

Maurice Cherry:
You dropped already so many pearls of wisdom in this conversation. It almost feels a bit selfish to ask this, but what advice would you give somebody that wants to sort of chart the same kind of I guess path, to call it that, how can someone follow in your footsteps? How can someone be like you?

Kevin Carroll:
Do you. Be the best you think is the advice that I’d love to give folks. I’ll go back to the original thing I brought up. I have no special talents, I’m only passionately curious. And I think curiosity for the win, FTW. Curiosity, that’s going to unlock, that’s going to help you stay in beta as a human being, always updating, always improving. I say this all the time, we’re so quick to update those apps on our devices and our computers, but what about ourselves?

Kevin Carroll:
We’re the greatest app ever created, Maurice. There is no app greater than us. We’re so quick to update those apps on the devices, update yourself. That starts with curiosity, that starts with wanting to raise your game. And that’s going to unlock all kinds of possibilities and potential because you stay in beta, you’re always in this mindset of improving, of getting better, of leveling up. And that’s the key. And so, that would be my advice, that would be the thing that I think would really make a difference for someone, to chart their own path to significance, and to have a career portfolio of lots of amazing experiences. And to go beyond just a path.

Kevin Carroll:
We go into a super highway, that’s what we want, super highway of experiences. I think it’s available for everyone and it doesn’t, I’m proof, circumstances don’t have to dictate your destiny. I’ve seen it all over the world, I’ve seen people do a lot with very little, we’re resourceful and resilient well beyond our circumstances, but we got to surround ourselves with the right other mindset and people who believe in the same things. Haters are your motivators, they’re going to be out there and they’re real.

Kevin Carroll:
But find people who are like-minded and about the same things and keep them close. Keep those people close because they’re going to be the ones that help you when you’re really struggling. It’s not a clean, straight path. It twists and turns and challenges you. I always say this too, Maurice, doubt is success testing you. When doubt appears, when doubt comes into your mind, that self-talk that you’re not good enough, this isn’t going to be available, this is never going to happen for you, are you ready to dance with doubt? Are you ready to fight the good fight on behalf of that hope, that dream, that aspiration that you have? Then you ready to battle, then you ready to dance.

Kevin Carroll:
And that’s the key. Are you willing to fight for this when it’s not going to be easy, when there are challenging times? That’s the key, because that’s going to unlock things that you never thought were going to be possible.

Kevin Carroll:
One of the things that’s clear, my journey, expect the unexpected, because there’s a lot of unexpected stuff that’s happened. It continues to happen in my life, and just expect that, and respect it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, Kevin, I mean, again, you’ve given so much in this interview, my God, where can people find out more about you and about your work and everything online?

Kevin Carroll:
Just @ me, @ me, @KCkatalyst with a K, that’s easy. K-A-T-A-L-Y-S-T. Yep. So KCkatalyst. @ me. You’ll find you can find me on all my socials, is that, and it’s easy to find me linked in that way. You can find out more about me that way. And if I can be of service to the next gen especially or the young at heart, and folks that are just trying to advance something, I’m happy to do it.

Maurice Cherry:
Sounds good. Man, Kevin Carroll, thank you so, so much for coming on the show. I had an idea I think how the conversation went, because as I mentioned to you before, I’ve been listening to your interviews all day prepping for this, but I mean, the unexpected twists and turns that are just a part of your stor, I think what anyone will take away from this is that you are someone that embodies curiosity and really just a passion for learning that is definitely taking you to where you are now. The fact that you’re also still paying it forward to so many people is astonishing.

Maurice Cherry:
I see that Netflix series in your future. It may not be Netflix, maybe it’s Hulu. I mean, there’s like a dozen streaming services or something now. But I see it happening because this kind if message, it’s an important message, but I think especially right now, it’s so important because of what’s happened over the past few years. I think a lot of people have just kind of felt stuck, and this period of time has caused them to think about, well, what’s the next thing going to be. They need that catalyst, they need the KC Katalyst, that’s what they need.

Kevin Carroll:
My buddy would call me the hope peddler, he said, you out there peddling that hope. I’m like, that’s right, I got what you want, I got what you need. Come on. Let’s go. Hope will not be canceled, my man, hope will not be canceled as long as I’m out here.

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

Kevin Carroll:
My honor and pleasure, man. Time capsule, I’m just going to leave you with that, Maurice Cherry. Time capsule. This is what your program is going to become, there you go.

➡ Glitch is hiring a design director! Apply today!

Brian Cherry is driven and passionate about design! He’s a true hustler–not only is he the Creative Director of Nutrisystem but he also runs his own design agency Cherry Fresh Designs. Brian is a nonstop force to be reckoned with in this industry and he has no signs of slowing down anytime soon!

We chatted about everything from his career trajectory and education to hopes for the future of the industry. Brian is truly humble and inspiring while his insights and observations are keen and on point. If you’ve ever been afraid to pivot in your career or path this is the episode to listen to!

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Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Deanna Testa and edited by Brittani Brown. 


Thanks to engineers like Courtney Wilburn, your favorite sites can stay online even when they’re getting slammed with visitors. And as the lead DevOps engineer for the popular product review site Wirecutter, she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to the Web.

During our conversation, we talked about how she first got interested in DevOps, and Courtney shared some of the tools she uses, and how she took a non-traditional path into tech after college. She also discussed some skills that designers can hone to help out DevOps engineers, and she spoke about how bringing your full self to work helps with creative freedom. So the next time you’re browsing the web and you think about what it takes to keep websites running smoothly, think of Courtney!

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Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
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Revision Path is also sponsored by Glitch. Glitch is the friendly community where you can build the app of your dreams. Stuck on something? Get help! You got this!
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Our spotlight on Philadelphia continues this week with design strategist and hybrid thinker Natalie Nixon. Natalie has an impressive body of work ranging from fashion to anthropology, and her consulting and research lies at the intersection of creativity and strategy. Aside from her work as associate professor and founding director of the Strategic Design MBA program at Philadelphia University, Natalie is also the editor of “Strategic Design Thinking: Innovation in Products, Services, Experiences and Beyond”.

We touched on a lot of different topics: the importance of strategic design, her experience as a Black woman at the Ph.D. level of design, embracing failure, and much, much more. It’s an honor to speak with someone at this caliber of design, and I think you’ll learn a lot from her words and from her work. Class is in session!


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