Reggie Tidwell

It takes a lot of drive and determination to chart your own course, and no one embodies those qualities better than this week’s guest. As the creative director (and founder) of Curve Theory, Reggie Tidwell has provided beautiful and effective design, branding, photography, and videography work to clients for over 20 years.

We talked about the secret to Reggie’s longevity as a creative entrepreneur, and he shared his story about growing up in St. Louis, studying graphic design, and his early post-grad career as a Flash designer in the beginning days of the World Wide Web. Reggie also spoke about what brought him to North Carolina, and about his work in bringing an AIGA chapter to Asheville. Reggie is a prime example of what being a steward of design and giving back to your community looks like!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Reggie Tidwell:
Hey, I’m Reggie Tidwell and I am a graphic designer and a professional photographer as well as a videographer, which I do on occasion as well. I tell stories.

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

Reggie Tidwell:
Wow, it has been a great year. Bought a house.

Maurice Cherry:
Congratulations.

Reggie Tidwell:
Thank you. I also have had my best financial career last year. Everything has culminated to that, and this year seems to be on track to even beat that, so that’s super exciting.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, that’s real good. That’s real good. I mean, even with all of that, is there anything in particular that you want to try to accomplish before the year ends?

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, I mean, once you own a house, there’s always house stuff that you want to accomplish, but professionally, man, things have just been falling into place and sort of a beautiful way that I feel just very excited. I’m going to be doing all of the photography for… So I’m a huge fan of the outdoors and nature landscape photography. I do a lot of that for Explore Asheville, which is our big tourism division here in Asheville, and the Gray Smoking Mountain Association has reached out and they’re going to have me do all the photography for their new book on Cade’s Cove, which is a really beautiful spot in the Smokies. So if you’ve ever been to Great Smokey Mountain National Park, it’s our biggest and most visited national park in the country and it’s absolutely gorgeous. But I’m super excited. I’m going to be doing all the photos for the book, so I’ll get a book cred.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, nice. Congratulations on that.

Reggie Tidwell:
Thank you, sir.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your company Curve Theory. Now, Curve Theory has been around for over 20 years, which I definitely have to tip my hat to you. I ran a studio for nine years and I know how much goes into that. So 20, over 20 years, I think. What, 21 now, right?

Reggie Tidwell:
21 years. 21. I’m in my 21st year. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. What’s been the key to your longevity?

Reggie Tidwell:
Quite honestly, it’s building relationships. I’ve never advertised. It really is a combination of building relationships and being passionate about the work that I do. I love designing photography, I love being a creative, I love people. And so it just makes sense that I would be able to maintain this business because it’s all the things that I love and things that I would be doing anyway. I’m always building relationships. I always tell people, and I always think it’s a funny little bit of a factoid about me. I don’t typically just add people on Facebook that I don’t know, and I’ve got 3000 plus connections on Facebook and every single one of them is someone that I know. I had either a meaningful conversation with and align somewhere, or they’re friends in real life or I served on the board with them, or whatever the case may be. They’re all real connections and when you think about that, that’s a lot of… Exponentially the more people, the sort of more you can grow your network. This business for me is really about being present and available.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s really good for Facebook. I think Facebook and probably a lot of social media networks now have really enabled this way to just collect friends, almost like you’re, I don’t know, collecting trading cards or something like that without really having any intentionality behind it. The way that you’re about connections on Facebook. That’s how I am on LinkedIn. I’m really, unless I’ve worked with you or I know you personally or something like that, we met at a conference or something, we’ve had a conversation. That’s usually the only way that I’ll add people. Although now, lately I have gotten a little lax and well, partly because I let them stack up. So I’ll go months without adding anyone on LinkedIn and all of a sudden I’ve got a hundred connections. I’m like, “Oh, I should probably go through these and see who I know.” And I tell people, write a note to let me know how we know each other. And I mean some of them are just sales calls and what have you, but…

Reggie Tidwell:
So many of those.

Maurice Cherry:
But in terms of the power of the network, I got laid off recently and I posted I think two posts on LinkedIn about it and I was flabbergasted by how my network showed up and spread the word and put me in connection with other people. And I’ve had some great conversations and such, so…

Reggie Tidwell:
That’s amazing.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, there’s this author Porter Gale who says your network is your net worth. I totally believe that. Absolutely.

Reggie Tidwell:
Totally. Yeah. I get so much business from those connections on Facebook. I mean, quite honestly, it’s just doing stuff, especially from the photography side of my business. I’ll post a photo and I’m constantly posting photos and I do also on LinkedIn. Ultimately what ends up happening is because you’re constantly putting content out when someone thinks a photography and someone says, “Hey, do you know a great photographer?” You should be in someone’s very short list of their mental Rolodex. And that’s what happened. I get calls all the time. Hey, so and so… I mentioned on Facebook that I was looking for a drone photographer or a lifestyle photographer, a commercial photographer, whatever, and they mention you.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. What’s a typical day look like for you?

Reggie Tidwell:
So for me, it’s nice being a designer and a photographer because on any given day, I never know it could bring me being out in a field on a photo shoot, it could bring me in a brand strategy session with a client, or a discovery session with a new branding client, whatever it is. It’s nice because my days aren’t always the same. I get to travel, I get to, for instance tomorrow I’m going to be in another area of North Carolina for a commercial shoot for pretty much much of the day, starting at Golden Color. And it’s nice. And then Friday I’m in the studio all day, probably editing photos from that shoot and rounding out a logo for another client.

Maurice Cherry:
So you include your photography as part of your design service, so I guess company services, I should say?

Reggie Tidwell:
Kind of. Occasionally the two will intertwine, usually the two intertwine when I’m doing web designing. So if I’m designing a website for a client, a lot of times because I know exactly what kind of images the client needs, I can add it as part of my service to do a lifestyle shoot of their company or their clientele, and then that can get baked into their website. And I’m working with my own images. I can control a lot more effort that way. But yeah, it happens. It doesn’t happen as much because I don’t do as much web design as I used to. I’m probably doing about two or three sites a year where I used to do quite a bit.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Back when I had my studio, I wound things down from the design end, I’d say roughly around in the mid 2010s because there was certainly a market for bespoke web design. They want, people wanted a particular website theme or something like that. But now with all these website builders out here, people are taking the design element, or at least the modular parts or the design process into their own hands. And it’s like, yeah, I don’t really need bespoke anymore. And so I ended up doing more consulting because you were able to shift like that. So it’s interesting now because I’m looking for work at the moment and people are like, “Oh, okay, you redesign a website?” I’m like, Ah. I mean I haven’t done it in a long time maybe.

Reggie Tidwell:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I’m probably not your first choice for that, but I get what you mean. People, they hear design and of course if you have an online presence and a website, that’s the first thing they think about is, “Oh, can you design a website or can you redesign a website?”

Reggie Tidwell:
I think depending on the client, I do still see value in bespoke. I feel like ultimately I’ll end up doing a completely custom website where I’ll get to work with a developer and I’ll design the front end and we can work beautifully and make something really amazing. But that doesn’t happen as often as I would like. But I do find the builders have actually worked for me because especially if you know them, there’s Divi and Elementor, there’s a handful of other ones I’ve been using Divi for a while, and though it can be a little bit verbose in it’s code, I find that the flexibility of me being able to do something completely custom using mostly you doing custom CSS to some of their built in modules.
So I can build the content and lay out the content really quickly, then go in with CSS and really start to fine tune and make it exactly what I want it to be. That’s a nice, because I do work with very large clients and also small clients, that’s a really nice option for clients that don’t have six to 10 grand in their pocket to do a website. It’s just nice to have that as an option and for them to still get something that’s custom.

Maurice Cherry:
Speaking of which, what are the best types of clients for you to work with?

Reggie Tidwell:
Quite honestly, I’ve got a soft spot for the mom and pop shops, either they’re startups or they’ve been around for a while and it’s time to change things up. I love that transition of being able to help them renew their own passion in their business through that process. I’m working on the branding right now for an auction house that’s been around for decades. They’ve been on Antique Roadshow, so they’ve got a presence, but their brand look is a bit dated and they’ve started resting on their laurels a little bit because everything is just so tried and true. It is what it is. It’s been what it’s been. And they realize this time to shake things up a little bit. They want to expand their market a little bit, they want to… And so going through that process with them, it’s so rewarding because they’ve been living with the same logo for 20 years, or longer.
And to be able to see them embrace something that’s different, and it’s a fun process too with this particular client because they were like, “Yeah, we want some completely modern and avant garde.” And I went there, they were like, “Oh no. We love it, but we’re not ready yet.” And so, okay, that’s good. At least I know what your comfort level is. And so now I can dial it back and land exactly where we need to be. And then feeling them working through the resistance but then initially, not only acceptance, but oh my God, this is amazing. This is going to be really great for our company. We’re excited. That’s a great feeling.

Maurice Cherry:
So when a project, let’s say, comes in your inbox or something like that, what does your process look like when it comes to starting on new work?

Reggie Tidwell:
So I usually have a quick little meeting with the client just qualify whether or not we’re going to work well together and whether I’m the guy for the job. But then once that decision is made, I set up a discovery session where we really actually start to dig deep into the typical discovery questionnaire where you learn a little bit more about their business, their aspirations, what’s working, what’s not working, so I can better provide exactly what they’re looking for. I feel like, for me anyway, I feel like the key to being a good designer that makes happy clients and solves the right problems or solves problems in the right way is asking the right questions at the very beginning. So I’m all about being inquisitive. I want to know everything. And if you feel like it’s too much, it’s not.
Because at the end of the day when I’m digging into sketching out logo concepts or I’m coming up with a tagline or whatever that information that I’m going to be so thankful that I have it because I can go through and dig in for inspiration to recheck the direction that I’m going to make sure I’m headed in the right way. But yeah, it’s all about the Q and A, at the beginning.

Maurice Cherry:
So I see here on your website that you do a lot of volunteer work. You worked also with Leaf Community Arts. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So, Leaf Community Arts for me was a big part of, I did service work before that, but it probably to date was probably one of the biggest chapters in my life in terms of giving back. Leaf Community Arts is a nonprofit here in the Asheville area that they have teaching artists that go into the public school system and the neighborhood centers and basically recreation centers and they work with youth, teaching them poetry, dance, how to play the Djembe, how to do different types of art, visual art. It’s pretty amazing. And it gives kids this sense of ownership of something which I think is quite necessary, especially for the age range of students that they work with. But then they also have this other part that I was actually more aligned with was they do cultural preservation in First Nations, third world countries like [inaudible 00:16:38], and Uganda, and Rwanda, and Cuba, all these different places where there are cultures that have been around for ages and First Nations tribes that as the youth are becoming more westernized and the elders are dying off, these cultures are just vanishing.
There’s no evidence of their songs, or instrument making, or costumes, or any of it. And so what Leaf Community Arts did what they were partnering with an agency on the ground that was trying to do that cultural preservation and help raise money to do things like build recording studios, or hire artisans that know the native language to native songs, the instrument making, the dances. And they actually make it really cool for the youth where they’re putting their phones down, and totally engaging, and dancing, and singing. And I found that particularly interesting. I love the beauty of cultures, and how different cultures are, and how you can learn something completely and different from a culture that you never had experienced before.

Maurice Cherry:
And now are you still doing work with them? I know that now you’re also the new president of AIGA Asheville, the founding president, but have you waned your work with Leaf Community Arts?

Reggie Tidwell:
I have still a supporter of it. I worked all the way up to my presidency in 2017 and then my term ended. So I’m now board president emeritus. I’m still, the Leaf Community Arts people are family, they actually put on a huge music festival three times a year. I’ve met Arrested Development, Speech. Now we know each other by name. I’ve met, gosh, we’ve had Angelique Kidjo, and Mavis Staples, and Indigo Girls, and all these amazing bands that have come played. The Family Stone. But they put on this music festival in the spring and in the fall and this really beautiful place out in Black Mountain called, Black Mountain, North Carolina, called Lake Eden. And then they do one in downtown Asheville in the summer. And that basically raises money for all of the work that I mentioned before that they do with cultures and with the youth.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, nice. Nice. And we’ll talk more about your AIGA Asheville work a little bit later on in the interview. With everything that you do through Curve Theory, what gets you truly excited about your work?

Reggie Tidwell:
Man, I love to solve problems. Quite honestly. I love working with clients and trying to find out exactly what’s not working with them and helping come up with solutions that one, inspire and excite them. But then also they continue to propel me forward in my love of the work that I’m doing.

Maurice Cherry:
Now let’s dive a little bit into your personal story. You talk about this I think a bit on your website, but you grew up in St. Louis. Is that right?

Reggie Tidwell:
Born and raised?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Tell me about that.

Reggie Tidwell:
So I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. I was raised mostly by my grandmother, an amazing dad too, that was also in the picture. But most of my time was spent with my grandmother, who was an educator. She taught for 36 years and she was a huge supporter of education. And so in the summers where all my friends were out playing and running around, I had to do homework before I could go out and join them.
And of course I hated it then, but on some level I understood the importance of it and it would come into play in many periods throughout my life, just being someone that is studious. I ended up testing the highest in the seventh grade in language and math in the entire school that I was in seventh.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Reggie Tidwell:
In seventh grade. Which that said a lot about my grandmother’s dedication and how she worked it with me, but it wasn’t with a heavy hand. She just understood that she wanted me… I grew up in a very, I would say mean, just put it bluntly. It was a poor neighborhood, lot of gang violence, a lot of break-ins and theft. And I saw some pretty horrific things in my own neighborhood, just in my own alley. It wasn’t a place that I wanted to definitely grow up and grow old.
And so education for me was the key of being able to get to a more ideal situation. So I wouldn’t say I was a first generation college student. My mother had a degree music, actually two. She had wanted music and art, possibly three maybe in education. But my grandmother, of course was educated. And so it set me on my path to discover who I really wanted to be in the world. I think you had mentioned very briefly what was it that made me choose this path of design? But all that didn’t come quite easily.
I ended up pretty much blowing away my first couple years in St. Louis at a junior college called Florissant Valley. I think I had a 1.9 GPA because I wasn’t inspired. I picked business administration because I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But you’re asking a 18 year old, 17 year old, 18 year old kid to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life. And yeah, of course I want to run a business. Oh yeah, business administration, that’s what you should do. But that’s such a broad topic. I wasn’t inspired.
I actually went from that student, at one point I was the student in the back of the class nodding off, not very inspired. The teacher would call on me and not only did I not know the answer to the question, I wouldn’t even know what the question was because I was probably asleep. So I ended up taking a break after four semesters of that, I said I got to do better. This isn’t going the way I wanted to go. So I ended up taking a semester off and really doing some deep diving and soul searching. I talked to my counselor at the school. I really thought long and heavy about what I liked and the things that I knew I liked were being creative. I was always drawing from the time I could hold a pencil, I was sketching and doodling. And so I always loved art. My mom was an artist, is an artist. And so that was an inspiration.
And so I went back to school. I decided at the time that I wanted to be an interior designer or a architect. And the path to both of those were mechanical drawing and a lot of drafting. And so that was all I needed to be inspired. I went from that student that I mentioned before to the student making the top score on every test in every class until I graduated. I went from a 1.9 GPA to a 3.2 GPA, graduated with honors and got my general transfer studies to go on to a four year college.

Maurice Cherry:
I know there’s that saying that goes, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do to try to get to do the things that you do want to do. But I think also to that end, just from what you’re mentioning, that whole period of high school going into college, there’s so much pressure to try to decide exactly what it is you’re going to do. And I mean we also, I think have to put this in the context of just where the world was at this time. Because I’m guessing this is around early nineties. Early nineties.
And there was just this push, and I was mean I was in elementary school then, but I mean still there was this push to know exactly what it is that you’re going to do with your life at fairly early age. Look at the state of the world with what’s going on, what is it that you want to do? And for a lot of people it’s tough. I mean, even when I started out in college, I ended up switching majors because I thought I wanted to do one thing just based on societal norms and such. And then I was like, eh, I don’t really like it.

Reggie Tidwell:
I know. That’s a big part of it. I mean, thinking about it nowadays students take what they call a gap year. I am a firm supporter of that because I do feel like somebody that young needs to go out into the world a little bit and understand who they are. I mean, up to that point, they’ve just been a student studying all the basic electives. There’s nothing in that that would potentially produce career inspirations. Maybe you like math and maybe you like biology, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be a mathematician, or a scientist, or a biologist.

Maurice Cherry:
Right.

Reggie Tidwell:
So yeah, I feel like that would’ve served me well. But thankfully I was able to make that comeback and find that inspiration.

Maurice Cherry:
You ended up going to Maryville, University of St. Louis and there you studied graphic design. Talk to me about that time.

Reggie Tidwell:
So yeah, actually Maurice, I started, remember I said I was interested in just interior design or architecture. That’s what got me to Maryville because they actually had a nice interior design program. And I got there in those first two years I thrived. I was still inspired and I was still being a great student and loving the experience. But at one point I got, so the way Maryville’s program was set up at the time was you did all your art electives and got all those out of the way, and your art electives as well. You got those out of the way the first two years and then you dove into your concentration.
Right as I was about to make that transition, I talked to my counselor, Nancy Rice, at the time and I was like, I don’t know if I want to do interior design. I like the sketching part, I like the conceptualizing, but then it’s all floor plans and elevations and it gets super technical and that’s the part that’s where I get lost. And this particular teacher who, it is funny because I’ll tell you this in a second. She basically told me, Reggie, you’re great at computers. You love computers. I’ve been working on computers since I was 15. My grandmother bought me a Commodore 64 and I was programming in basic, I was playing games. I became very comfortable in that computer world. The nerd, the invention of the nerd. I took that as a compliment. She’s like, yeah, you’re big in the computers. And then she said, and you also love art, so you should consider graphic design.
And for me that was a new term. I hadn’t thought about it. And once I did the exploration and thought about it and understood what graphic design was and understood that I’d already seen it all around me all the time already and thought about how I could be someone contributing to that. Yeah, I was like, you’re exactly right. This is exactly what I want to do. And that’s where it started. I feel, I feel really fortunate that I’m someone who got a degree in something that I’m actually still doing.
I guess it was a few years ago, I reached out to her because we’re friends on Facebook. I thanked her. I didn’t remember if I’d ever thanked her, but my whole career came from that decisive moment where she told me about something I didn’t know about. And then I ran with it.

Maurice Cherry:
And I’m trying to think, I’m trying to place this in time because we talked earlier about early nineties. So this is mid nineties or so.

Reggie Tidwell:
So this is mid nineties. Yep. Mid nineties. Actually…

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. When you said…

Reggie Tidwell:
…ended up graduating with my BFA in graphic design and December of ’97.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Tell me what it was studying design back then, because you also have the big advent of the personal computer. You’ve got the coming of the internet as we know it. What was it studying design during that time?

Reggie Tidwell:
Man, it was wild. I mean, first and foremost, we’re working on Apple Performs 4500s I think was the model number.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Reggie Tidwell:
And I mean these things were tanks and dinosaurs. You could have Photoshop open, only, or Illustrator, but not both. And if, we’re talking 32 megabytes of RAM and I mean lots of crashes, so you had to frequently save your work. We definitely did some cut and paste stuff because that was just not too far out of the rear view mirror that people were still making the migration to computer. So there was still a lot of manual cut and copy and paste, cut and paste design, lot of assemblage, a lot of that stuff was still going on. So of course it was part of our curriculum.
And I’ll tap into my photography side as well. I always find it a little bit of a, for me, I paid my dues. It was a rite of passage that I actually got to do photography. I got to take photos using film and understand the value of the frame and not just take in 450 shots and hoping there’s a good one in there. And then actually developing my film in the dark room, all that stuff was happening around the same time, which all feels of course very archaic now. But that was the start. That was what it was like back then.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean it sounds like it was just really hands on because the computer couldn’t do everything. I mean, it could do some things, but you still, like you said, have to do copy and paste, or cut and paste, or you still have to take photos and develop them yourself. It’s so wild now when I think about digital cameras, because I remember in high school having Fun Saver cameras. You go to the party, you have your Fun Saver camera, you take all kind of shots, you don’t know what you’re going to get back until you get it back from Eckerd or wherever that you got them developed at. But yeah, and I took a photography course back then too, so I know about developing in the dark room and stuff, which now seems… It’s funny. I’ll watch a movie or something and they always paint it as this, I don’t know, old school way of doing things. Developing. And it’s not that far away from now.

Reggie Tidwell:
No. No. And honestly it’s become of a niche for some people. I know a lot of people that actually I say a lot, but a handful of people that are still shooting film and still developing in that handful of dark rooms that are left. And it’s something, I think maybe they embrace it, not because they’re too stubborn to switch to digital, but it’s a craft for them. Some of them are people that have embraced digital, but they also still really love film. I admire that. I think it’s great. I don’t miss it. I don’t miss the smelling the smell of fixer and then and not knowing what you’re going to get until you are dropping it into the developer and hoping that you nailed it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I could imagine even doing design back then because computers were changing and software was changing and everything. Were there trends back then? I’m just curious because I feel like a lot of stuff still carried over from print, but were there specific graphic design trends that you remember from back then?

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, I mean I think there was a time where decorative fonts were really starting to become prevalent. And you started, I mean this was quite honestly, I think this was when fonts like Hobo were actually still being used.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Reggie Tidwell:
Oh yeah, yeah. Papyrus. Yeah, I feel like there was a exploration… Fonts just exploded. And with the advent of the computer, fonts started off trickling in and then they exploded. And I think designers had to be really disciplined to not, I feel like most designers were going really far out and using all these crazy decorative fonts and still having their design disciplines about them. So they may only use one decorative font and a nice San Serif that balanced it. But those fonts were not elegant, at all. And it of course, depending on what you were trying to do with it. And I think what has happened, we’ve seen from a time where people were trying to get away from using the tried and true fonts, the Adobe Garamond, the Futura. People were feeling like those were overused or they were too basic and so they had to expand their typeface horizons. And then I find these days, man, some of the best brands go back to basics and are going back to some of those tried and true fonts and looking for things that are a little more elegant.

Maurice Cherry:
I didn’t even think about the proliferation of typefaces as something that was part of design back then, but it was. I mean really because you had, of course, greater displays that were coming out and you could just do more than what you could do with print in terms of the types of typefaces. You just had different things.

Reggie Tidwell:
I think that was it. I think it was so many people were used to doing manual print design and then all of a sudden you’ve got access to 3000 fonts. Hold me back.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reggie Tidwell:
That’s exactly what it was.

Maurice Cherry:
So you graduate from Maryville. You’re out there in the real world as a designer. What was that early postgrad career like? Talk to me about that.

Reggie Tidwell:
So the first thing I did, so going back to that whole wanting to be an entrepreneur thing, that still was in me. I still definitely wanted to have my own business and I started actually working with clients before I graduated. I worked at Office Depot, so I met a lot of people and there were people coming in that needed business cards, but they were really awful designs that they had or they didn’t have one at all. And I said, “Well this is what I do.” So I started developing a clientele before I even graduated and then spent the first year postgrad being an entrepreneur, working in the basement of the apartment that I lived at in at the time, it was actually a townhome, doing branding work. And it was mostly just branding and identity systems that I was doing early on. But about a year into that, being someone that’s super social, I started to get that cabin fever and wasn’t around people as much as I’d like to be.
And so I had a side job working at Circuit City. On one particular day I was venting about, man, I really think I want to work in an agency or a company. And there was a guy by the name of Mike whose dad headed up a division of Lid Industries, which Lid is a Fortune 500 company and they had a division in St. Louis called PRC. The acronym got dissolved, so I don’t know what it ever originally meant, but it was in PRC. Anyway, they were hiring a resident graphic designer and at the time, you’ll appreciate this, in terms of historical relevance in the design and web design world. They had a Macromedia authorized training facility and I got the interview, got the job. They wanted me to teach Flash and Fireworks.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Reggie Tidwell:
So I ended up being the only guy in St. Louis teaching Flash through a Macromedia authorized program. And so that really just kicked off all kinds of just awesome awesomeness in my career.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, I know you were in high demand back then. Cause Flash was everywhere. Everywhere.

Reggie Tidwell:
Everywhere and everything. And that was right at the onset of its popularity. So I stayed with that company for about a year, ended up, gosh, being in a big metropolitan area, teaching Flash was awesome. So I ended up getting hired away by a information graphics company called Xplain. And I ended up being their interactive team leader. That was pretty exciting. Did that, ended up teaching at Washington University while I was there because the Art and Design faculty at Washington University wanted to learn Flash. I did a summer workshop for the Art and Design faculty. They loved it so much they invited me to create a multimedia class as part of their visual communications curriculum based on Flash and other video and other multimedia applications. And that was amazing. And I ended up partnering with a lot of design agencies in the St. Louis area, fairly large agencies because they didn’t have a web team or division.
So that was cool. I ultimately got laid off from Xplain. They went through four rounds of layoffs. I went in the last round and because they still needed the work that I did, they became my first client. So that’s how I started Curve Theory in 2000, and or in 2001. It was just one of those things. I was still popular, the work was still necessary, the company was needing to make some pivots. And that was a blessing on my end because I always wanted to have my own business business. And that’s how it happened. I started, I launched Curve Theory with them as my first client 21 years ago.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. I mean, I can’t think of a better way to roll into entrepreneurship like that. You were already super highly sought out for your design work in another medium. The company you’re working with goes out of business. You start your own business. That’s perfect. That’s a perfect handoff.

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, it was. And they didn’t go out of business, thankfully. They did go back to their original, I think they grew to like 45 employees at one point, but they went back to the original 13 and they’re still around a day and they’re still thriving. But yeah, it’s getting kicked out of the nest but then given a nice little mattress to land on.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reggie Tidwell:
It was great. And I really love St. Louis, but I definitely knew that at some point I was going to want to leave St. Louis.

Maurice Cherry:
So what brought you to North Carolina?

Reggie Tidwell:
So at the time, the woman that I was dating was also in that same head space that she was ready to leave St. Louis. I was still teaching in Washington University and then actually had just been encouraged by the design chair, the Art and Design faculty chair to apply for this tenure track position that was opening up in the Art and Design department. And so I was at this crossroads where in my heart I knew I really didn’t want to stay in St. Louis that much longer. Things… I had envisioned leaving St. Louis almost as soon as I graduated but things kept falling into place career wise, which was great because those things were setting me up. But at one point my partner and I, ex-partner and I, were having these frequent conversations about where we would ever relocate to and at one point I mentioned that a good buddy of mine had in passing talked about moving to North Carolina.
And so I asked her, “What do you know about North Carolina?” And she said, “Oh my god, Asheville. Asheville is absolutely amazing. You would love it. Check it out.” And of course, since we had the web then, I looked it up and I mean, I think within 20 minutes I knew it’s where I wanted to be. It wasn’t landlocked. There’s a four hour drive to the ocean. Mountains, waterfalls, streams everywhere. Hiking trails, mountain bike trails, you name it. That’s the kind of guy that I was. I mean, thankfully had a father who raised me. In the time I spent with him, we would go camping and hiking. And so early on I garnered a love or appreciation of the outdoors.

Maurice Cherry:
And so you had the job that allowed you to do this work from anywhere. So why not go to a place you really want to go?

Reggie Tidwell:
Absolutely. I actually, I had to finish that first semester at Washington University and then I had the whole spring semester. So this was in 2023. Loved that semester, loved my students. Finished that semester, turned in my grades in May and the following weekend was Memorial Day weekend. I’d literally moved a week after I turned in my grades and never looked back.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. And you’ve been there ever since.

Reggie Tidwell:
And been here ever since.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. You’ve been a part of the Asheville design community now for such a long time. You mentioned your community work earlier and you’re the founding president of AIGA Asheville, a new chapter. What was behind bringing an AIGA chapter to Asheville?

Reggie Tidwell:
That’s a great question, Maurice. So for me, one of the things I did mention that I was on the board for the St. Louis chapter in the mix there. I think I joined the chapter while I was, might have been while I was still at Lid in PRC, but I know I did two or three years on the board as their web chair for the St. Louis chapter. And I really love that community of design, the comradery, the people that you surround yourself with understand your day to day trials and tribulations, they get it. So that was, I really appreciated that as it pertained to the design community in St. Louis. And I got to Asheville and we didn’t have that. As a matter of fact, I was trying to find designers just to connect with, just to network with and they just weren’t around.
I think I had maybe three or four design friends at the time, but we knew there were more designers in and around the area, there just wasn’t anything in place to help bring them out. Out of the woodwork. And so we had a lot of early conversations about, I would reach out to these other designers that I knew in the area and tell them how much I wanted to have a chapter in Asheville, because the closest chapters were in Knoxville and Charlotte. It’s a couple hour drive each way in either direction. And so for me, just selfishly, I’m like, God, I want that here. I don’t want to drive two hours to have community. It took a while. Originally you had to have 40 sustaining members just to even be considered to have a chapter. And I think given the fact that we were having a hard time finding 20 designers in Asheville at the time, that was a tall order.
So we ended up creating this thing called Design Salon, which ended up being a hang for designers in the area. And the more people gathered, the more the work got spread out, and the more designers you realized were here. The more you understood that there were some really talented people that were in Asheville. And because Asheville is such a draw for people all over the world, somebody that’s here now probably wasn’t here two weeks ago. That’s how’s how it works. There was a woman named Jamie Farris who’s also a really good friend of mine that took Design Salon and started adding programming to it, and that made it even better. And so the more program she added, the better. The more it had an actual format instead of just being a creative hangout, the more I saw that we were there, it was time.
And so 2019 was when I had a feasibility meeting. I just called a bunch of people that I knew and they invited other people and I said, “Hey, I think it’s time to finally start a chapter.” I didn’t actually know the requirements had changed in my mind. I was still thinking 40 sustaining members. So half the way through, we learned that it was only 20 sustaining members, but we actually turned in our petition to become a chapter with 43 sustaining members, I think.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh nice.

Reggie Tidwell:
Just because we are a little bit of a smaller city and I wanted to show how bad we really wanted to be a chapter.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reggie Tidwell:
And from that first meeting I was able to build our first board of really awesome and engaged founding board members. So yeah, we started literally the year before the pandemic and have thrived through the pandemic and we’re still kicking it.

Maurice Cherry:
That is amazing. That’s amazing to hear that. And now when you say sustaining members, is that members at a particular membership tier? Because I feel like they had that at one… I feel like sustaining was one of the, if not the top, but one of the top tiers you have to have.

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, I think Design Leader was the one after that. I think the sustaining member was at the $250 giving level and then it went to Design Leader, which doubled to 500.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Reggie Tidwell:
And so that is, especially for a professional association, that was a lot to ask, but I was just elated that many people wanted it to and believed in us having a chapter that much that they signed up. We still have a tremendous amount of sustaining members. We probably have more sustaining members than we have in any other giving level. And they have changed the price structure and the names of the giving levels a bit. And so it’s, I think easier now than ever to join the AIGA and I feel like that was part of the reason behind just sort making it a little simpler, especially after the pandemic. But yeah, it’s quite wonderful to be in a city that now has a chapter. We have great programming. We’re putting on our first design weekend, which is a mini design week that’s coming up at the end of the month.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh. Very nice.

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, first weekend of October, so it’s September 30th through October 2nd. Super excited about that. We got David Carson coming to speak at our annual meeting in November. That’s going to be pretty cool, Mr. Masterclass himself. So yeah, we’re happy to have a chapter and we’re happy to be able to have such a positive impact on our design community and that means everything for me.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career and all your experiences, is this how you imagine yourself when you were a kid in St. Louis?

Reggie Tidwell:
No, not at all. And it’s funny because I think being a kid in St. Louis and growing up where I grew up, I feel like my grandmother knew and saw my potential, but I didn’t see it because it’s hard. I’m surrounded by the things that I was surrounded by. And I think it’s hard to see the forest through the trees when you’re in that scenario. And for me, I don’t think, honestly, I still get surprised. I think at some point in your life, Maurice, when you’ve accomplished a lot, when you’ve done a lot, when you’ve had this longevity of experiences and learning, at some point you start to realize that people see that in you and they see all the experience and all the leadership and the guidance and they start to seek it out.
I get called to be on boards, I turned down probably seven board positions last year. I’m publicly a leader. And so I think it still surprises me sometimes where, and I think it also surprises me that sometimes somebody asks me a question and I think I’m still that 25 year old in school and still on his path figuring things out, and learning, and discovering. But then I start to answer, I hear the question and then my head just gets filled with all of this relevant information that you don’t even really think about. You’re not just sitting around thinking about all the stuff, but when someone calls and asks for mentoring or it’s a colleague you’re just shooting a breeze with. You start to realize how much of that stuff is in there and it’s quite amazing.

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

Reggie Tidwell:
I think for me it’s those relationships and experiences. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery and had all the money that I would ever need, I would still be a designer. I would still do design, I would just do mostly nonprofit work, and do it pro bono, and just take a select number of projects a year. I love the work, I’m passionate about the work, and I’m passionate about the people that I get to work with. I’m very particular about the clients. If a client doesn’t seem like they’re the right fit or I’m not going to have a mutually enjoyable experience, then I’ll pass on a project. And I’m pretty thankful to be in a place in my career where I can do that.

Maurice Cherry:
What advice would you give for someone who, they’re listening to this interview, they’re hearing how you’ve come up throughout your career. What advice would you give somebody that wants to follow in your footsteps?

Reggie Tidwell:
I would say, and I talk to young people all the time, I actually mentor. And the thing that I feel like is the most important is to really keep exploring who you are and what you like, and don’t follow the money. I feel like it’s very easy to, I’ll talk back to a time in my life when I worked at Office Depot when I was Florissant Valley in Junior College, I was asked to get into the managerial track at Office Depot where at the time I might have made, once becoming a manager, I may have made $35,000 or $30,000, which at the time seemed like a lot of money. And that’s a very easy distraction. That’s a very easy temptation. And I had a friend at the time who also was a really, really talented artist. He also was wanting to go to design school.
He ended up getting in that track and hated it. It just completely dominated his life. He wasn’t fulfilled. The money at some point wasn’t even relevant because he never had time to spend any of it because he worked so much. I turned it down because I knew, I think at this point I was already at Maryville University, so I was already in the graphic design program. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. So in order to get to that point, you have to do some self exploration. You have to understand who you are, what it is that you really value and set your sites on being able to do that for a living. And don’t waiver.

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

Reggie Tidwell:
Man, I would love to retire in five years. I’m 51. So that’s definitely a tall order, but in a perfect world, I might completely crush it for the next five, six years or so and retire early, or at least partially retire. But I do see myself in leadership. I do see myself still trying to bring positive change to communities in whatever way I can. Through social justice, through design leadership, through, I’ve hinted at the thought of being, it’s been mentioned and it’s been a internal conversation and conversation I’ve had with colleagues about the AIGA trajectory, and perhaps maybe serving on a national board at some point. I have friends on the national board. I love the organization and I love what the organization provides to the design community. And I always see its potential is limitless and to be able to serve in that world at a higher level, definitely. But yeah, that’s probably something that I would look to within my five year trajectory. And more than anything, I always want to make sure that the work that I’m doing continues to be meaningful.

Maurice Cherry:
I think you should definitely consider it. I mean, I’ve done work at the volunteer level, at the national level, and it’s great. It’s been great. I highly think you should do it. And I’m sure other people have probably mentioned this to you as well, but there’s a book in your story. There’s a hundred percent a book in your story.

Reggie Tidwell:
Yeah, I don’t know if anyone’s outright said that, but I definitely know there’s stuff in there that I always find it intriguing to look back in my past and see where I’ve been, and where I am, and how I’ve been inspired, and how I’m now able to inspire. That all is important to me. But yeah, thanks for saying that.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, no, there’s a hundred percent a book in your story. I mean, one, I think just because of how you have managed yourself through how design and technology have changed, but then also I think your personal story added in as a layer on top of that. And with the work that you’re doing now through volunteering and giving back, that’s the best seller. You might want to think about it. You might want to think about it. I’m just saying I’m putting it out there.

Reggie Tidwell:
Thanks. You’ll get their first copy for sure.

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

Reggie Tidwell:
Absolutely. So curvetheory.com. C-U-R-V-E-T-H-E-O-R-Y dot com is my commercial website. There is a link to my print work on there, which yeah, prints are great, but if you want to see the bulk of my commercial photography, landscape stuff, nature, and cityscapes, that’s a good place to go. I also am on Instagram Curve Theory on Instagram. And there I don’t really put a whole lot of design work on. I do have a separate account that I’m hoping to start building up my, putting all my design work on, but really photography… Years ago I had a mix of photography and design and it always just felt all over the place for me. And one of the things I always noticed when I go to other Instagram accounts and I see these really nicely curated feeds that everything just, there’s something nice about the continuity and you’re like beautiful landscapes, and then there’s a logo. It just feels odd placed. And so I took all my design stuff off of there and it’s just my photography on my Instagram account. But those are the best places to find me. And I’m also on LinkedIn. Reggie Tidwell on LinkedIn.

Maurice Cherry:
All right, Sounds good. Well, Reggie Tidwell, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean, of course, like I just mentioned about there’s a book in you, your story and the passion and the service that you’ve given back to the design community is something that I think is really inspiring for a lot of people. Certainly your local community. But I hope that people that listen to this interview also pick up on that as well, because you mentioned being raised by your grandmother and her being a teacher, those values that she instilled in you, you’re continuing to give those back out to the community, which are really the basis of your success. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Reggie Tidwell:
Hundred percent agree about my grandmother, and thank you so much for having me on, Maurice. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

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Roneka Patterson

These past two years have been stressful for all of us in a lot of ways, but this week’s guest is proof that you can find a way to redirect those feelings into something positive. Meet Roneka Patterson, an associate creative director at Hawkeye in Dallas, Texas, and the co-creator of The Unwritten Rules.

Roneka and I talked about adjusting to work from home life, and she shared a bit about her process and what it’s like to be a creative director. From there, we discussed The Unwritten Rules, including how the project was launched last summer with other Black creatives, and she shared how she got Hawkeye on board with amplifying its message. Roneka also spoke about mentorship and how she’s helping local high schoolers discover their creativity as well. Roneka’s motto — “keep going” — is one I think we can all adopt as we move forward and chart our own paths to success in this industry!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Roneka Patterson:
I’m Roneka Patterson. I’m an associate creative director with an art director background. I work at Hawkeye, which is an agency, an ad agency in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been at Hawkeye for about four and a half years, and I work on the Capital One account. So we do just basically a little bit of everything for Capital One, but a lot of CRM and direct mail, email messaging for them.

Maurice Cherry:
Now we’ve had quite a few advertising folks on the show, probably since the beginning of Revision Path, but certainly over the past year or so. How has it been adjusting to the work from home life?

Roneka Patterson:
It’s had its ups and downs. I think when we first started last year, there was definitely a lot of anxiety for me. I’m kind of an introvert and so I really relished having my time at my home with my family away from work. I think there was just a lot of nervousness on our team when we first went home. I was just getting pinged all night, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 at night through our messaging apps. Finally had to like, “Guys, we still need to have some boundaries here even though we’re at home.” So that stuff has kind of leveled out, but there’s still I’ve three year old daughter and so there’s times when she’s at home trying to work and my wife and I are juggling who’s got her now. It’s been a challenge.

Roneka Patterson:
I’ll say that from a creative standpoint, I don’t feel like the work for our team has dipped any. I feel like we’ve actually been a little bit more creative working from home. I don’t know. I think there’s a freedom of being able to work at your own pace with things, whereas if you’re in an office there’s a little bit more like, “Okay, how are things coming,” you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roneka Patterson:
But this has definitely been my most creative year in a while in terms of just the types of ideas that I’ve had, the thinking I’ve been able to do. I’m grateful for that. It’s been ups and downs, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
How long did it take for you to get into a groove where you’re like, “Okay, I can do this day to day.”

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, man. I think maybe over the summer. Maybe the fall of last year, of 2020, I think that’s when things kind of started to level out. So it was a good six months of it just being very chaotic. Not chaotic in the sense like, “Oh, I wish we could go back to the office,” but just this is just a lot. And I know that it’s a lot more than it would be if we were in the office. I think that fall is pretty much when it started to feel like okay, I feel like I’ve got the handle of this and it just wasn’t as intense.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your work at Hawkeye. You mentioned you’re an associate creative director. Is the Capital One account the only project you’re working on or do you work with other clients?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, I work with a couple of other clients just on project by project basis. I’m dedicated to Capital One. Our team that I work on, there’s about 30 of us. I think we’re one of the larger accounts in the agency and so we work pretty much primarily on them. But there are little things that come in the door that we can help out with for other clients. So I’ll say it’s about a 90/10 split.

Maurice Cherry:
So let’s say a new project comes in. Talk to me about that process. Where do you come in? How do you work with the particular client? How does that work?

Roneka Patterson:
So as an associate creative director, I’m a half manager, half hands kind of person, I think moving a little bit more towards manager. So basically when a project comes in, I’m helping staff the job. So it’s like, “Okay, we think this project is going to need two art directors and a writer, or two art directors and two writers.” I’ll help with that and then I’ll just be providing oversight and guidance as those projects happen. So I’m helping out with brainstorming, helping check files to make sure that they’re built correctly per the standards of the client. Basically just oversight.

Roneka Patterson:
Occasionally I’ll still get in there and do some design work. If we’re a little understaffed and we’ve got some people out on PTO, I can definitely help out in those cases. But generally just providing oversight and guidance based on the experience that I’ve had working on the account.

Maurice Cherry:
And so how long did it take you to get to that point within Hawkeye? Because I would imagine coming in you have to work your way up to that, right?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So I’ve been an associate creative director for a year and a half now. I think it’ll be two years in January. So prior to that I was a senior art director, and so a lot of what I was doing was the associate creative director level of things where I’m having to lead presentations and oversight on jobs. It hasn’t changed much, but yeah, a lot of it was just getting familiar with the company, getting familiar with the team, establishing a name for myself on the team. And then again, just starting to do that next level of work that finally they’re like, “Okay, yeah, you should definitely be doing this job because you should be getting paid for this because that’s the job that you’ve been doing.”

Maurice Cherry:
What’s a typical day for you working at Hawkeye?

Roneka Patterson:
So a typical day for me now, a lot of meetings. Whether it’s kickoff calls, like we’re kicking off new jobs, status calls just to see what everyone on the team is working with and help allot resources for the different projects. We do a lot of check-ins. Our account is very agile, so they love to meet. They’d much rather over communicate than things get dropped. And so we’ll do a lot of check-ins internally with our creative folks, like this is how the work is coming along. We’ll give feedback, we’ll do check-ins.

Roneka Patterson:
Capital One has their own robust creative department, so we’ll do check-ins with them to make sure that the work that we’re creating meets the brand needs. And then we’ll do check-ins with the client, the business managers who’ve actually requested the work. So a lot of meetings. In between there is time for brainstorms and occasional sketching, but a lot of it is just making sure that things are moving properly, that creative folks have the help they need so if they’re stuck on something or if they need an extra set of eyes on something, providing that support. But that’s pretty much how my days go nowadays.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s something that you think people underestimate about your role?

Roneka Patterson:
So when you’re at a CD level, and this may be me making assumption about that level, there’s a lot more strictly oversight. It’s understood that your job is to lead and to direct. With an associate creative director, you’re kind of in this in between area where there’s an expectation that if we get in a jam, you’re going to have to help out designing something or laying out something. Because of that, even though my workload, it may look like Roneka is only designing on a couple of things, I’m actually overseeing seven or eight things. So I think sometimes there’s the assumption that because you don’t see me doing the art direction stuff, that I’m not doing direction.

Roneka Patterson:
It’s one of those things, it’s not like a woe is me type of thing, but it’s something that I didn’t realize about the role before I got into it was just that there’s a lot of oversight takes time, to make sure to check in projects, to be able to switch on a dime to remembering, where are we at with this one? What kind of feedback can I give here that would be helpful? Presenting to clients, just being able to manage if something goes wrong and how do you talk to that? How do you speak to that in the moment? There’s just a lot of that kind of stuff that I think I wasn’t cognizant of before I got into the role.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve heard that from other folks that are in advertising as well, so what you’re saying definitely lines up with that. I want to go more into your background. I know you’re at Hawkeye, which is located in Dallas. Are you originally from Dallas?

Roneka Patterson:
So I’m from Austin, which is about three hours south of Dallas, so I didn’t go very far. Yeah, most of my family is from the Dallas Fort Worth area and my parents just kind of branched down to Austin and had me. I just stuck down there while I grew up and then I ended up moving back to Fort Worth for school.

Maurice Cherry:
Did you know early on that you were into design and advertising and all of that?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, so I always loved art. I love to paint, I love to draw, I love sculptures. Always had a passion for that. I mean, I can do think back to grade school and just being super into that kind of stuff. So I didn’t necessarily understand how to make a career out of that in terms of what design was, what advertising, art direction, all that kind of stuff. But I knew that I was really passionate about that.

Roneka Patterson:
Funny, actually, when I was in middle school, I used to run track. Pretty good at it. We were city champions my eighth grade year, which was a highlight for me. When I got to high school, it’s a different ball game when you’re changing sports in high school. There was a lot of practice for running track in high school. And I remember going home with my mom one day and I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I was like, “I want to just focus on my art.” And my mom was like, “Well, whatever you do, just make sure you go a 100%.” So she let me get out of track and I really started focusing on art.

Roneka Patterson:
I was taking art classes. I got some AP credit in art that I was able to take to college with me. I loved to create, to draw. I used to joke that my favorite class in high school other than art was history class because it allowed me time to just draw. I’d sit in my seat and just draw during the class and I loved that. But that’s where that love started to really strengthen. From there I was like, “Okay, I want to go to school, to college, and I don’t know how to do this.” So I was able to find TCU had a really good graphic design program, so I was able to get into that and the rest was history.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Let’s talk about that. Tell me what your time was like at TCU.

Roneka Patterson:
It was good. It’s a small private school and there’s a lot of money that gets poured into that school. They’ve got a pretty good football program. The Black community there is pretty tight knit because I think there’s only like 8% Black students there out of the entire school. So created some camaraderie that was nice.

Roneka Patterson:
In terms of the design program there, I think I was the only Black woman in my coursework, but there were other Black folks in the fine arts, studio arts degree path. So I was able to make some connections with them. Some of them I still speak to to this day.

Roneka Patterson:
So I think that overall, with all of the creatives that I’ve met through my career, I do feel like it was a really solid education, a really solid foundation. It taught me design fundamentals, an understanding of conceptual advertising thinking. I’ve met some folks that didn’t have one or the other, who went to an ad school or a design school. I just feel like TCU gave me a really good balance of the two things.

Roneka Patterson:
I’ll say that that’s where I had my first design job. I had a professor who pulled me this side one day and he was like, “Roneka, the dining hall is hiring.” And I’m like, “Excuse me? What’s that have to do with me?” He was like, “No, no, no.” He was like, “They have a marketing department and they’re hiring. They’re looking for a designer and so I think you should check that out. I think it might be a good fit for you.” It was great. I got to design posters and little logos for advertising around the dining hall. I got a free meal every day, which was amazing. And so that was my first design job was at TCU.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. In a way they really did prepare you for getting out there, working as a designer because you got a job working for the college while you were there.

Roneka Patterson:
Yep. Yeah, it was awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. So when you graduated, what was your early career like? I see you worked for an agency called Sonus. Tell me about that experience.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So that was a privately owned small boutique marketing agency. And so I think when I got hired, there was one other designer there and then I think she left within a year so I was the sole designer there. We had an account person and me. It gave me a good foundation of these are all the things that are entailed with marketing, kind of had to do it all. I learned how to present to clients because I was the person that had to present. I did the work and I had to present the work. Timelines, budgeting, all that kind of stuff. I think I learned more in that experience than I think I would’ve learned just being dropped into an agency environment or a larger agency because there just wasn’t enough hands. I had to do a lot of it.

Roneka Patterson:
I left there to work at an ad agency, and I worked there for six or seven years. It was at Moroch in Dallas. That experience, high highs and low lows. I think that I got to work on a bunch of different clients. I got to do a lot of different types of projects. The range of work that I got to do there really was amazing. It was the aughts, the mid-aughts, the late-aughts, so there was a lot of… I don’t know, the reckoning that’s happened in advertising over the last year or so, that was not a thing back then. So there was a lot of just political, cultural things that just really just wore me down.

Roneka Patterson:
There’s too many things to name. Just random things that happened that I think if you talk to any Black person who’s worked in corporate America, they could probably be like, “Yeah, yeah. That sounds about right.” After the time that I spent there, I left that agency and I said that I was never going to work in advertising again. I don’t care where I work. I’ll be a postal worker, I’ll work at the art museum. I don’t care. I can’t do this anymore and I don’t want to go back. This isn’t for me.

Roneka Patterson:
So I ended up at a greeting card company. So we did basically the B2B greeting cards, the type of cards that corporations send out during the holidays. So I worked in the marketing department there and got to lead and also just to see how things go from the business side because that’s another thing that you don’t really get to see when you’re working in an agency is just the business side of things. How are some of those decisions made? How are our agencies received? Because we worked with some freelance agencies, some of our projects and just sitting on the other side of the table, how are those things received?

Roneka Patterson:
So I did that for a little while and then I started to get the itch about potentially moving back into an agency environment. I’d said for myself it needed to be the right agency. It needed to be the right environment. I needed to feel safe. I don’t mean safe in the sense of boring, but safe as a Black queer woman, am I going to be safe in that environment? Am I going to have opportunities in that environment? So that’s how I ended up at Hawkeye. Actually, I got interviewed by two women who were creative directors and immediately I was like, “Okay, this may be it.” I’d never actually worked with a female creative director before in my entire career. So that was a very big reason why I wanted to work there. There are a bunch of other women creative directors at Hawkeye, which was really, really comforting for me.

Maurice Cherry:
What is it that appealed to you about going back to work at an agency?

Roneka Patterson:
I missed the creative department. I missed having a team of other creatives that you could bounce ideas off of, that could help push you and help push your work. I missed that. I missed having writers that could help me generate ideas and say it in a way, a lot more concisely than I could say it. I missed all of that. I missed the direction and just opportunities to just solve different types of business problems for people. I missed all that.

Roneka Patterson:
I didn’t realize it when I left that first agency, but I was like, “Yeah, I definitely miss…” When you don’t have it, that’s when you realize, yeah, there’s some value in having people around you that are super smart and super talented and they can just help make your work better. Also, they get it. You’re not having to explain and reexplain why creative is valuable and why it’s important.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s good that you had that break after working for two agencies for a long time. You can sort of separate yourself a bit from it. There’s that saying that hindsight is 2020. So you’re able to then look back and say, “All right, well, these are things I liked and this is why I want to have more of these things and maybe less of something else.”

Roneka Patterson:
Yep. You got it.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you talk about encountering a female creative director and that’s sort of what made you decide to work with Hawkeye, but did you encounter a lot of Black creatives in advertising throughout your career?

Roneka Patterson:
A handful, Maurice, a handful. when I was at Moroch I think there was about maybe five of us total Black creatives there. Traditionally in advertising, I met more Black strategists, account folks, relationship management folks. We had a few of those there. But creative, it was just few and far between really, and it was very discouraging.

Roneka Patterson:
I never saw anyone that outranked me. It was either a peer or someone that was a junior level. It gets in your head a little bit because you’re like, “Okay, maybe this is not thing that women can do. Maybe this is not a thing that Black women can do to be leaders, to be creative leaders.” I know logically that’s not true. I keep an eye on the industry, I know that that’s a thing that happens outside of where I’m at right now. But when you’re young coming up, you just don’t know. I was like, “Maybe I have to move account side or move into strategy and that will allow me to grow, have advancement.” But yeah, it messes with your head a little bit.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you found now that you’re more into your career in terms of tenure that you’ve encountered more Black creatives?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, definitely, definitely. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and confident with networking. Like I said earlier, there is a camaraderie that we have, those of us in this business, even if we don’t know each other. There’s just a little like, “Oh, yep, yep, yep.” You know you’re probably fighting some of the same battles and trying to champion some of the same causes. And so yeah, I definitely, any time I’m out and about, whether it’s an industry thing, an industry event or a conference or something, I’m definitely connecting with folks because you just never know.

Roneka Patterson:
You never know when you’ll run into those folks again, there may be an opportunity that you can provide someone or vice versa. I see a lot more now and I’m able to connect with a lot more now, which is really, really nice.

Maurice Cherry:
You created a project called The Unwritten Rules, which you did in conjunction with a former Revision Path guest we had on the show before, Alex Pierce, along with some other Black creatives. Talk to me about that. How did this come about?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, so this came about last summer. Obviously we had just a period of months of just… It was like a drumbeat of violence against Black people. Shootings and police violence and intimidation and gaslighting. Obviously a lot of that, the feelings of that culminated with George Floyd’s passing, murder rather.

Roneka Patterson:
So Alex reached out to me and he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to get some folks together to see if there’s just something that we can do or create just to get some of our feelings out about what’s happening.” And so I’m like, “Yep, just invite me to the meeting. I’ll be there.” There was about 20 of us, and so mostly creatives, couple of strategy folks. And Hawkeye, like most agencies, it’s a predominantly white agency, but the Black creatives there, we all have a side group chat and we keep in contact with each other, check in with each other. It was Alex and myself and Adam Johnson who’s a Black copywriter formerly, at Hawkeye. He was at Hawkeye at the time. Couple of other creatives.

Roneka Patterson:
We just talked, the Black folks on the team, we just kind of talked. We were like, “What are we feeling? What message can we say? What can we create? What can we do?” We did some brainstorming, we just did some really just brainstorming. What could we do? What could we create? We settled in this idea about these rules, these unwritten rules that Black folks all know that the larger population may not be cognizant of. In the conversation, it was just a little bit like, “What if we came up with an encyclopedia or just a foundry of these different rules?”

Roneka Patterson:
We talked a lot about tone because part of the thing last year that happened with a lot of agencies, immediately there was a lot of like, “Things are bad and here’s your black square and we need to do better. And we will.” Okay, great. It was like the universal we need to do better. Okay. We’ve been telling you that for a while, but okay. I’m glad you caught up. Tonally, we were like, “These rules are not melodramatic, trauma porny kind of stuff.” As a Black person, they don’t make me feel anything other than, yeah, this is just the way we have to… These are the things we have to know to stay safe and to avoid craziness.

Roneka Patterson:
It was very similar, in a lot of ways, to we’re doing some research on The Green Book If you read The Green Book, or any of The Green Books, there is a very matter of fact tone about the fact that this magazine needed to be created to keep Black people safe. It wasn’t like a so and so got lynched yesterday. It was very much like, “Hey, if you’re going to be driving to El Paso, here’s a body shop that you can go and get your car serviced. They won’t hassle you.” Very matter of fact. That kind of tone resonated with us. It made sense to us as Black folks. Again, these are rules that we just have to know, and we thought it would be a great matter of fact way to present these rules.

Roneka Patterson:
One of the main things that we really wanted to do with it was not just to say, “Hey, these are rules that Black people need to know.” But the so what. So what is here’s some data that backs up why this rule is a thing. Here are some things that you, person who’s reading this rule, can do to help make this situation better. For all of the rules that we have that we outlined, we came up with some different resources that we thought would help pay off. You read this rule, here’s something if you want to get involved, here’s a thing that you can do that can hopefully help make this rule not be a thing anymore, to erase that rule.

Roneka Patterson:
And so once we solidified this idea, we did some design exploration. There’s a designer at our agency. Her name is Rosie Ulloa, I always mispronounce her name. But she helped create the visual, the color scheme, the fonts, the visual direction for this. And from there, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to build a website. We’re going to do a social media campaign. We’re going to start creating some things with this.” And so from there, we started developing the website and we had an interactive designer, a web developer rather, from the company who was able to donate his time to help us build this thing. From there, it was once we had the look established we started working on our social calendar, because we did want to do an entire social media campaign that’s tied to this website to help promote the website. We wanted to do some user generated content. We want people to write in about rules that they’ve experienced that we may not have covered.

Roneka Patterson:
The website ended up being pretty robust just from a researching standpoint. We did the audio, we did audio narration of all the rules so you’ll hear my voice on the website in some spots. We really wanted to do a full audio visual kind of multidimensional thing.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, that’s kind of the origin of it. We did this on our own time. I do think the pandemic helped make this a thing. I think had we been in the office it would’ve been a little bit more challenging to, “Hey, we’re meeting on the fourth floor at four,” kind of thing. It’s a lot easier to just, here’s a Zoom link. Let’s link up. Just a lot of nights and weekends and some holidays just turning on it and refining it and getting the content, the writing.

Roneka Patterson:
We had some great writers that have helped flesh things out. Oversight is what I was talking about earlier, making sure that the tone is right and making sure that we’re not saying things that are improper. Yeah, it was a big thing. At a certain point we had to tell our agency, “Hey, this is the thing that we built.” And they were super supportive. It was really just a passion project that’s still going, still reviewing social posts once a week. But yeah, it was a side of desk thing that took a lot of love and heart and we wanted to do it for Black people so that when Black folks see it they’ll know we got you. You’re being heard. You’re not alone in that experience. And then we wanted to do it for the broader population so that they see in writing that these are things that Black folks have to be aware of and why.

Maurice Cherry:
You said something interesting in there I want to, I guess, learn more about. You said at some point you had to let Hawkeye know that this was something that you were doing. Why is that?

Roneka Patterson:
Well, we needed some support. I think part of it, we needed some legal counsel with some of the user generated content stuff, ideas that we were thinking about. We wanted to be clear with Hawkeye that, while we are all representatives of Hawkeye in our day to day, this was a separate thing. We don’t want this to be The Unwritten Rules courtesy of Hawkeye. Our CEO, Joe DeMiero, he’s a great guy. He was very much from the get go like, “Whatever you guys need, let me know. I will help provide it. We are here to support. So whatever you guys want to do.” They’ve been very, very, just the right kind of support.

Roneka Patterson:
We did want to do some promoting. [inaudible 00:30:53] has 70,000 employees globally. It’s like, “Hey, can we get this on some of our inner agency communications?” They were more than willing to do that. So we got some articles in our inner agency ecosystem. Hawkeye social promoted it and they basically were providing some promotional support, which was really, really, really appreciated on our part. But yeah, that was the extent.

Roneka Patterson:
One other thing that we definitely said we wanted to do from the get go is we don’t want to really submit this for awards. This is not just a how to fix racism from an ad agency. We just so happen to work at an ad agency and we’re going to use the talents that we have just because we work in advertising to do this. But this isn’t awards bait. This isn’t a play to get advertisers to care about this cause. We wanted it to be bigger than that. We wanted it to be for the general public to experience and react to. Yeah, that’s kind of how we ended up where we are now.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see this project going from here?

Roneka Patterson:
So we have some things in the works. I’m not going to say specifically, but I probably should just to make sure we name it, claim it. Our social media calendar, we’ve got that planned out through next summer. And our social media, we’re basically taking the idea of the encyclopedia and kind of expanding it a little bit. We have a rule breaker series. These people in history who’ve broken rules, broken some of those unwritten rules. We’re doing definitions like defining what do we mean when we say defund the police? What does that mean? Sometimes just putting it in writing for people, making a record of it. We’re not the first people to talk about the unwritten rules. We’re not the first people to try to define defund the police and why it matters. But those are the types of things that we feel like The Unwritten Rules should talk about. That’s the big thing that’s continuing to happen. And like I said, we’ve got a couple of other things that we’re working on down the line.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s been the feedback so far from the project?

Roneka Patterson:
It’s been positive. The best feedback I’ve gotten I think was from my family, who I’ve got Black Texans. Grew up in West Texas, East Texas, for them to be like, “This is amazing,” that says it. It says it in it’s beautiful. It says it in the right way. That’s been the best feedback for me. It’s been very, very positive, very, very affirmative. And it definitely does make the time and the love… There’s this moment when you send stuff out where you’re like, “I don’t know how this is going to be received. Is this going to work on Black Twitter?” Yeah, it’s been overwhelmingly positive and I think that’s part of why we’re like, “Okay, let’s keep going.”

Maurice Cherry:
That’s good. The reason I was asking that before about why get your employer involved, because it sounded like this was something you really were all doing as a labor of love. I’m not saying this to cast dispersions on Hawkeye specifically, but I could see how an agency, particularly during this sort of time, would look at a project like that and try to claim ownership over it in some kind of way, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. I’m sure there was probably a little twinge because there was some things that were presented to us where we had to turn it down. It’s like, “Hey, we have this newsletter.” It’s like, “No. It doesn’t really align with what we’re trying to do.” It was like, “Oh, we’re thinking we can create a training module that’s…” Like, “No, nope. It doesn’t really align with the time commitment that we have for this, for that.”

Roneka Patterson:
I know that if it had been a specifically Hawkeye driven project, I think definitely the rollout would’ve been different. And that’s just the nature of they’re in the business. They’re trying to get clients, they’re trying to show their clients that they’re a different type of agency than they are in a lot of ways, hence the support that we got for the project. I know it’s a fine balance, but they were all very, very respectful. Our executive leadership folks, they were very, very respectful and very grateful that we did this and just very supportive of whatever you guys need, we’re going to do it. We’re going to help you make it happen.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. That’s really great to hear, yeah.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, in your spare time, I noticed from going through on your website, you’re quite the photographer.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
When did you first get into photography?

Roneka Patterson:
I’ve always loved photography, even back to when I was in high school, picking up, figuring out what kind of art I wanted to create. I got my first camera in college. I’d had to take some photo classes to get my degree, and love it. I love being in the lightroom. I shoot all digital now so just love the ease of that.

Roneka Patterson:
But I really got more serious about taking portraits when I was working back at the first agency that I was working at. This business, it’s a grind. And so I don’t think you’ll meet a single person in advertising, creative, who doesn’t have some type of side hustle or is like, “Oh yeah, I do murals. I paint.” And so that just ended up being the side hustle that I really gravitated towards.

Roneka Patterson:
And so I started shooting with my friends and then that had started to lead to some actual work, some paid work. And it’s something that I love to do. It’s something that I’ve kept up with. I take classes and tutorials. I’m a part of the Black Women Photographers group. They have speakers speak to us about working photographers who talk about the business. So I’m always just soaking in all of that stuff. I hope, as I get older, that that’s something that I can retire into. I would love to do that full time in my golden years.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career, and even to where you are right now at the moment, talk to me about mentorship. Has mentorship been something that has really helped you out throughout your career? Is this something that, at the level you’re at now, you feel you have to give back? Talk to me about that.

Roneka Patterson:
So mentorship has always been valuable to me. I feel like I’ve only in the last maybe four or five years been able to adequately provide it to others. I had to get over my issues with advertising and be able to view it in a way to where I could actually impart words of wisdom or good vibes on someone who wants to make it in this industry. But I love it. I’ve worked with the Marcus Graham Project last summer to… I had a couple of guys that I was mentoring. Anytime I’ve been around Black creatives, I’m like, “Hey, let’s network, let’s talk. How can I connect you with something?” So it’s definitely something that I’ve pushed.

Roneka Patterson:
This year, my group at Hawkeye, the team that I work on, we started a mentorship program with Dallas ISD. So there’s a school here locally, a high school, it’s mostly predominantly Black and Brown. And we wanted to teach them about advertising. We basically figured out that part of two twofold issue that’s happening with Black and Brown folks in advertising, it’s recruitment and retention, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roneka Patterson:
Retention is how do we make this environment inhabitable for Black and Brown folks? Make them feel like they have a sense of community and safety. And then with recruiting, do kids know what advertising is? A lot of us backed into it. If you had asked me in high school if I wanted to work in advertising, I probably probably would’ve told you no because it sounded like, I don’t know. It sounds like suits and briefcases, you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Roneka Patterson:
I didn’t know that it was something that I could do and still have creativity and also pay the bills every month. So we partnered up with a high school in Dallas, and so we meet with them once a month and we just tell them about advertising. At the beginning of each meeting, we have rotating people that are hosting each meeting. They’ll explain how they got into the business.

Roneka Patterson:
Our session that we had the week before last, we used the Apples Shot On iPhone campaign to talk about all of the different roles in an agency that would help contribute to an idea like that, to help execute a campaign like that. It was really cool. We do quizzes with them to see what kind of things did they want to be? Do you want to be a strategist? Could you see yourself being an account person who manages relationships, client relationships? Could you see yourself creative or a production role?

Roneka Patterson:
And so it’s just an opportunity for us just to impart some knowledge and hopefully make some connection so that in a couple of years, when those kids are in college, they’ve got a connection with us and we can help link them up with someone. We do internships at Hawkeye, provide some opportunities for them. It’s something we’re really, really excited about. I love working with kids, so it’s just definitely fulfilling for me.

Roneka Patterson:
I just recently stepped down. I was the co-chair of my Delta… I’m a Delta. We have a group that we work with with middle school girls and I’d been doing that for 10 years. Finally I was like, “Okay, chapter president, I’m going to have to step down because I’m exhausted.” But picked this up just in time and so it’s just fun working with them and they’re open to learning. And hopefully we’re planting some seeds that will grow into an understanding of the business and hopefully some pathways for getting into this business.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. See, I think that’s awesome on multiple accounts. One, it goes back to that old adage of you can’t be what you don’t see. So the fact that you’re able to expose them to these career paths so early on gives them a sense of knowledge to know that this is a possibility for them to do.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, and I feel like also that’s the best way that you learn is by teaching. By showing other folks what it is that you know, and it can help you become more effective communicator and things of that nature. I think that’s awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
I talk with a lot of companies and they’re always like, “Well, we have to establish a pipeline and how do we do this pipeline and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I never liked the term pipeline because to me pipelines always strip resources away. It’s not about putting things back into the place where you have discovered them, it’s always about take, take, take, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s very kind of like Western paternalistic in some kind of way, doing that sort of thing. What you’re doing though is establishing this connection. It’s almost like you’re planting flowers in a way, you know?

Roneka Patterson:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Because you’re not recruiting them directly from middle school or elementary school or whatever to come work for the agency, but you’re letting them know this is what I do in case you’ve never seen this as a position. This is the work that I do and if it sounds interesting to you, then this is how you can do it as well. That opportunity is what we’re really looking to give to the next generation.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. We took a vote. We were like, “Do we want to focus this on high schoolers or colleges?” Because we’ve got a couple of HBCUs in Texas. We could work with Paul Quinn over in Dallas. And we said there is something really nice about talking to high schoolers who are still trying to connect some of those dots, as you said, planting those flowers. Let’s say, okay, the goal of this is not to… You guys are going to be interned at Hawkeye sometime, but if we can figure out this framework, we can hand this to other agencies. Hey, you’re in Chicago. This is something you could set up with a local school in Chicago. I think we felt like there was a void. And not to say that there aren’t other people doing this elsewhere, but we knew that here in Dallas it wasn’t being done, or this way rather, because I’ve definitely worked with some other agencies before.

Roneka Patterson:
But is there something unique and special that we can do just to drop some knowledge? Because there’s a big push for STEM and business. That’s great, but we’re STEAM. That A, that art. What if people have the creative? There’s this little creative nugget. Black folks are hella creative, Brown folks are hella creative. If we can make that connect connection, you that are supremely awesome at editing TikToks, that’s a production role. You could make a lot of money doing that. If we could start to make some of those connections for kids, I think we felt like we will have done our part. Obviously we’re going to do more than that, but this is definitely how we wanted to start that kind conversation with them.

Maurice Cherry:
Speaking of that mentorship, who are some of the mentors that have helped you out in your career?

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, man. Honestly, I’m kind of on an Issa Rae thing where it’s been peers that have really helped me along the most. Fellow creatives who were in the trenches with me that gave me encouragement. I’ve had a couple of creative directors where it was just like, “Okay, this person is definitely…” I had a creative director when I was at Moroch that I still keep in touch with today. We’ll occasionally have lunch together. He was just super brilliant, creative and helped push me creatively.

Roneka Patterson:
But yeah, a lot of it has been peers. It’s been one of the writers that I work with on The Unwritten Rules. He’s helped inspire me and just a connector. He’s like, “Hey, there’s this thing that I found out about. You should try this out.” Or, “Let’s go to the museum. I heard about this thing that’s happening.” To me, that stuff, it encourages me because being around super talented people, it just helps raise you up a little bit. But just that friendship has been invaluable to me.

Roneka Patterson:
I don’t want to name drop anyone specific, but I’ll just say that it’s been a lot of people being in the trenches with me, peers that have helped push me and encourage me. And I do that for them too.

Maurice Cherry:
What are you obsessed with at the moment?

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, this is bad. In my personal life or my work life?

Maurice Cherry:
Personal life.

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, this is bad. So my wife and I have been watching The Haves and the Have Nots by Tyler Perry. It’s on Hulu. There’s eight seasons of it. There’s 30 episodes a season. It’s insane. We’ve been binging it. It’s a soap opera. I grew up watching soap operas. Me and my mom used to watch The Young and the Restless and my grandmother and I used to watch it together. So I kind of got out of that over the last maybe five or six years, because life just got too busy and I didn’t have time to be watching soaps every day. But yeah, we’ve gotten into it the last couple of weeks and it’s just been insane. It’s like an addiction. We just got to get one hit tonight and then we’ll… It’s crazy. But yeah, that’s probably the thing right now. It’s kind of crazy.

Maurice Cherry:
I think we’ve all got an escape show that we dive into every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially during this pandemic.

Roneka Patterson:
Oh, yeah. This is a judgment free zone here. [crosstalk 00:46:25].

Maurice Cherry:
Look, grab your creature comforts wherever you can. Absolutely.

Roneka Patterson:
I could turn my brain off and set it on the table and just zone out, you know?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Do you feel creatively satisfied at this point in your career?

Roneka Patterson:
I feel like the last year and a half have allowed me to do things creatively that were kind of passion projects, explorations, just the type of work that I’ve all always wanted to work on in my career. A lot of it was the pandemic and just having the freedom, the personal freedom to do those things, to explore those things. And so, yeah, I would say I am feeling creatively fulfilled.

Roneka Patterson:
I’m definitely thinking about the next five or 10 years. What is that going to look like? Leadership is great. Being able to lead teams. I’m definitely doing more of that now. But the downside is that you’re not getting to create as much. You’re giving feedback and helping push other creatives to come up with really brilliant, amazing ideas. And so I think there’s always a little bit of tension with that. Do I want to continue on this path where I’m just going to be pushing and challenging and supporting? Or do I want to be in a position where I can still roll my sleeves up and do some of the work? I kind of go back and forth on that.

Roneka Patterson:
But I will say, between my photography and just the personal projects that I’ve gotten to work on over the last couple of years, I do feel like I’m getting a lot of the stuff in my brain out into the world, which has been nice and fulfilling.

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

Roneka Patterson:
I hope that I’m doing work that has positive impacts on the world. So whether that is more pro bono work, I’ve gotten to do a lot of that over the last couple of years and it’s super fulfilling for me. It’s merging the two things that I care about a lot, which is how can I help make things better out there and how can I create and express myself. So I think I would love to do more of that over the next five years.

Roneka Patterson:
As I said, I’m in a leadership role now, so I would like to continue that. I’m very much a let me pull some people up with me kind of person. So that’s a natural fit for a leadership. I’m trying to find opportunities for people. I’m trying to connect people, I’m trying to make sure that especially younger creatives don’t feel grinded up in this business the way I did. I don’t want anyone to feel like I got to quit because this isn’t… I got to quit this stuff because it’s not for me. I want to definitely encourage folks and get them to find that right balance to where they are getting their fulfillment, they’re safe and they’re allowed to grow. Any ways that I can help do that, that’s what I want to be doing over the next five years.

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

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah. So you can visit ronekapatterson.com. So it’s R-O-N-E-K-A, Patterson with two T’s, .com. I’ve got design work and photo work there. You can find me on the gram, @RonekaP. And you can find me on LinkedIn too. I think you just search Roneka Patterson, I’ll probably pop up.

Maurice Cherry:
And we’ll also make sure to put a link to The Unwritten Rules in the show notes as well so people can check that out.

Roneka Patterson:
Yeah, that’d be awesome. Would love that.

Maurice Cherry:
Awesome. Roneka Patterson, I want to thank you so, so much for coming on the show. One, of course, for telling us more about this project that I’ve heard about now probably for the better part of a year, in terms of it getting around in the world and getting around amongst other Black creatives. But also about just giving your own story and testimony about being a Black creative in this industry. And that even if there are setbacks, you can still find your way towards something that’s fulfilling, which I think we all need to hear that from time to time. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Roneka Patterson:
Thank you so much, Maurice. This has been great. I’m so glad to get to talk to you finally and just happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

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

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

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

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

Lafiya Watson Ramirez

It’s still pretty early in 2021, so if the year hasn’t quite gotten off to a good start, then let this week’s conversation with Lafiya Watson Ramirez be the permission you need to turn things around! Lafiya dabbles in several media — web, photography, augmented reality, mixed reality — and creates new projects for herself and for her clients through her company, Bad Chick Studios.

We talked about how she started her studio, and from there she shared the resources and programs she used to teach herself AR and XR. (Spoiler alert: a lot of these tools are free!) Lafiya also spoke on how her love for photography led her to web design and learning Flash, and how embracing becoming a generalist has changed her work and how she perceives herself as a creative.

Get a bit of inspiration from Lafiya and learn what you can!

While the internet has helped loads of people get into design, it’s design educators like Jennifer White-Johnson who really help teach the next generation of our industry. As a multidisciplinary artist, designer, photographer, activist, and advocate, Jennifer brings all this to her work as an assistant professor of visual communications and digital media arts at Bowie State University.

Our conversation began with talking about HBCUs and the responsibility they bear, and we discussed Jennifer’s background in art and photography and how a small stint at MICA prepared her for her current teaching career. We also talked about KnoxRoks, an advocacy photo zine dedicated to her son which helps give visibility to children of color in the autism community. As we move into 2020, I’m glad for this conversation and I hope it helps you think about how you can use your design talent in the world!


Facebook Design is a proud sponsor of Revision Path. The Facebook Design community is designing for human needs at unprecedented scale. Across Facebook’s family of apps and new product platforms, multi-disciplinary teams come together to create, build and shape communication experiences in service of the essential, universal human need for connection. To learn more, please visit facebook.design.

This episode is brought to you by Abstract: design workflow management for modern design teams.

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


I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of this year’s HBCU Month on Revision Path (as well as this year’s World Interaction Design Day) than with a conversation with Marcus Mosby. Marcus is a senior interaction designer at Fjord in Austin, TX, and his passion lies in designing and creating experiences that help improve the lives of users everywhere.

We started off with an introduction to interaction design, and Marcus talked about the processes and tools he uses, and gave tips for other designers looking to get into the field. From there, we talked about his time at Clark Atlanta University, and he shared what it’s like to design for different cultural considerations, and even gave us a peek at his photography work! There are a lot of paths you can take to get into design, and Marcus wants you to know that the sky’s the limit!


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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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