Ayrïd Chandler

We’re off to the Caribbean this week to talk with the incredibly talented Ayrïd Chandler. Ayrïd is the head of her own studio, Ayrïd by Design, where she offers graphic design services with a focus on brand and identity design. She also teaches at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, where she’s helping to educate and inspire Trinidad and Tobago’s next generation of designers.

Ayrïd starts off talking about her goals for the year, and from there we get into the differences between being a designer in Trinidad vs. being a designer in America. She also spoke about what draws her to brand and identity design, and talked about entering Savannah College of Art and Design, moving back home, and how she’s making a name for herself there. Ayrïd’s path really shows us that as Black designers, we share a similar sense of community no matter where we are, so you’re never alone. Huge thanks to Rebecca Brooker of Queer Design Club for the introduction!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Ayrïd Chandler:
My name is Ayrïd Chandler. I am technically an officially a graphic designer. I run my own business firm studio, one-woman show called Ayrïd by Design here in Trinidad and Tobago. I primarily work on branding identity projects. Apart from that, I am a part-time lecturer for design at the University of West Indies St. Augustine, which is here in Trinidad. There might be other things I’m [inaudible 00:03:15] that I do, but we can get to that.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. How has the year been treating you so far?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Whew, it’s been interesting. I feel like 2022 has started kind of with a bang in a different way. I mean, things are changing with the pandemic, but then World War III question mark. I feel like a lot of stuff is just happening globally. I don’t know about you, but as a creative, all of those things kind of impacts me a little bit. I feel like because of the weight or the toll that can take on mentally consuming all of the information all the time. It kind of puts it own on things.

Ayrïd Chandler:
But apart from those obvious things, the year started actually with me doing a lot more than I planned on doing. I ended up being a creative director at the local agency here, working on ruling out some digital products. And then that got pause due to pause and investments. There was a lot of shifting happening, where I went from working on external products to focusing more on Ayrïd by Design, instead of juggling the two. Feel like that was a mouthful of your very simple question, but that’s all the year has been going for me.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It’s interesting about as you kind of alluded to about World War III and I promise for folks listening, this is not a political podcast, but I’ve been kind of keeping my eye, just I watch the news every now and then just to kind of get a sense of what’s happening. I mean, as we’re recording, this conflict has been going on now for roughly about six or seven weeks.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It doesn’t show any sign of abatements. It’s tough to kind of see, of course, all the devastation that’s happening and the general pleas from the President Zelensky. Yet, I know people that are actively traveling to that part of the world without a care in the world, and I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I’m like, look, I know you’re a few countries away and maybe that distance means something, but like, I don’t know if my American self wants to be in a war torn part of the world right now, but that’s just me.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah, no, I mean, I have friends and family in Europe and London and Germany and life is normal. Life is like every day, no big deal. Then I have a friend who is actually Russian, but she lives on this part of the world and she’s just like painting a picture for me of what that means and life, I mean, the war is really from what I understand only happening in, I mean, certain parts, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s not even affecting the country as a whole. It’s like say, and there’s a war in the US, but it’s really just happening in Washington. The rest of the US won’t really be in war. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I think it’s a very similar kind of situation where we just think, well, the whole of this thing is being affected when it’s really just a portion. But I think it’s just the fact that we are getting all of the imagery, we’re getting all of the information live. Like it’s not like before in the previous war, there was no social media. There was no, you know what I mean? It took a while to get news update. We’re getting everything instantly. I think that is what’s making this so different, at least for me. I mean, I haven’t existed in a war before, overtime.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s just new.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s also different to be completely honest that it’s happening to Europeans.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
When this is what’s happening to Syrians and Palestinians, and there were news about these sorts of things happening, there certainly wasn’t this level of focus on it.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Nope.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Geopolitics aside, is there anything in particular that you want to achieve this year?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yes, I do, actually. I would like to achieve financial independence and stability. That is the main goal for me this year. And what I mean by that is actually having the profit that the business makes then stuck up to a point where the business kind of can run on its own and it’s more sustainable. Right now, I think we’re still very much in those early stages of, I won’t say paycheck to paycheck, but month to month, certain projects will definitely make a difference, that kind of thing. And so, being able to kind of get that stability within a personal business that one might have, they had a day job, I think that’s kind of the goal that I’m aspiring to for this. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk more about your firm Ayrïd by Design, what made you want to start your own firm?

Ayrïd Chandler:
I came back home in 2012 after I graduated from college. I haven’t realized that I’m one of those people that didn’t go the traditional route of started off with a day job and then decided to leave and do my own thing. I kind of always worked on my own. I went straight from college, well, not straight, like mainly from college to freelance to registering my business. Honestly, I was freelancing for six years and I discovered all of the different things of how business worked in Trinidad and basically, my banker was like, “You’re commingling your funds, right?” I was like, what does that mean? She was like, “Well, you’re passing business funds into your personal bank account.” I was like, what do you mean business funds like money that I’m earning? She was like, “Yeah, you’re supposed to have a business account for those things.” I was like, oh, I did not learn this from school. I never heard this before.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I don’t know anything. And so, that kind of took me down a trajectory of the researching things and finding things out and talking to different people and that kind of thing. And also, it came at a point in my life when I really wanted to ground myself a bit and set roots on structure and stability. It was a kind of a natural make sense progression of, okay, no, you need to make things official. You need to go and register your business name. You need to be a legal, registered entity. You open your business banking accounts. I got an accountant. Like I did all of the things correct to make sure that I was set up properly and that led to so many different opportunities, which was great, so yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, it’s interesting, you mentioned that about it, not you being taught in school. I know that there are some schools that do have some kind of entrepreneurial program, but even for folks that want to just strike out on their own like, I know so many people have done over the past year or so because of the great resignation, like that kind of information isn’t super, I don’t want to say it’s not super available, but it’s certainly not something that is I think talked about a lot.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, when I started my first business, I had the same issue. I was co-mingling personal funds and business funds before kind of getting my taxes back and getting audited and then realizing, you know what? I should probably separate these funds, which makes more sense. It just makes more sense.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
But that’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure. For sure. Also, to your points of like information being readily available, I mean, I’ve a 100% agree from being in the US system, at least for my college and my education, that information is way more readily available for you guys. But in the Caribbean, information is still kind of pretty hard to get in terms of the structures of things. And so, you have to do a way more research. You have to actually speak to another human being. It’s not as easy as go look it up somewhere because our websites are still… We’re very much kind of a little bit behind. I’d say we are a decade behind in terms of that sort of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, but decade is a lot though, I mean.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah, I mean.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m glad that you mentioned that it is different like that in other countries, because certainly I think what’s shown here in the US is about sort of being a digital nomad and you can work from anywhere if you work remotely and this kind of thing, and I mean there’s limitations.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It was blessing for us…

Maurice Cherry:
What did you say?

Ayrïd Chandler:
… in a weird way. The pandemic was a blessing for us in a weird way because it forced us to get things like online banking, which we did not have before.

Maurice Cherry:
Really?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah. Things like apps on being able to pay someone who banks somewhere else in Trinidad was a challenge, which set up a challenge usually for business. At least to me as someone who, I mean, I learned banking with like Chase and Wells Fargo when I was in college. I was accustomed, getting paid by the company that I worked on in Atlanta taking out my iPad at the time, scanning it on the app and having the money in my account. Then I came back to Trinidad and someone would pay me with a check and I’d have to go sign in a bank line, deposits that check and then wait four to five business days to access the check. It’s very different realities and that affects business as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Walk me through like a typical day for you.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Sure. I always like to say no day is typical and every day is very different, but to paint a kind of a picture. I would start the day, usually catching up on emails. I have an assistant who I work with and she helps me establish what my to-do list is and what are the priorities in terms of clients, et cetera. I usually would have a meeting or two and these will all be online. It’s usually me chat, checking in with a new client, having a conversation about what their project is like, that kind of thing. Then it’s usually like four hours, especially if I’m working on a new branding project of just computer one on one time with zero disturbances. Well, I try for it to be with zero disturbances, but I have a dog that likes a lot of attention.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I usually just go into this whole work where the world does not exist and I’m in my creation mode. Then after that, it’s kind of, I do whatever I want in terms of relaxation, et cetera, and prep for the next day. The reason why I say it’s like there’s no typical for me is because that might be like a Monday, whereas if you were to ask me about a Wednesday, what tomorrow, it starts with me teaching my students, because I teach on Wednesdays from 9:00 to 12:00. And so, a Wednesday would start with me teaching and then most likely doing, having no other meetings for the day, just to kind of clear my head and focusing on getting tasks off my to-do list kind of knocked off. But I would say like if it was to broaden it a bit and talk about a week and a general week, it would be typically a little bit of teaching, many meetings, lots of discussion with my assistant as well as someone that I recently started working with who was kind of helping me structure systems and processes within my business.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Like set it up for a more sustainable model. A lot of just talking things through, talking steps through, talking like, okay, what is the process from the time I engage with a client to the final stage where they receive the final artwork, like what are the steps? When do they fill out the creative brief form? When do we meet? When do they make their first payments? When do they make their second payments? So stuff like that is kind of, what’s been happening a lot lately. Of course, well, the actual design work within those probable period.

Maurice Cherry:
What are the best types of clients for you to work with? Do you kind of work along clients in the particular industry?

Ayrïd Chandler:
No, I would say I work across multiple industries, both within the creative sector as well as corporate, as well as I think anything in between, best clients would be a paying client.

Maurice Cherry:
Hello?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Those are always great. No, but the ideal client for me is someone who’s a little bit open and clients who trust me, I think is what I am leaning towards noting is so important in the creative process. I work a lot with, I mean, well, as an identity designer, someone who’s there at the beginning kind of creating the logo for your new business, your new baby, your new idea, your new project or whatever. That’s kind of, I would say like 75% of the work that I do. I’m there at the beginning, right? I’m there with this person and they’re like, well, this is this thing that I’ve always wanted to do. And finally, getting started and I want to open a bakery or I want to create a new product. Those are kind of the SME as we call them that come to me and who I work with. And so, those are, I would guess the ideals right now, because they’re fun to work with.

Maurice Cherry:
What is it about identity design in particular that appeals to you?

Ayrïd Chandler:
That’s an excellent question and I’m now like I have my hands down and I’m thinking deeply to answer your question. I think I’m good at it and I know that sounds kind of weird and conceited a little bit. I don’t mean it in that way. It’s just that it feels kind of second nature to me. It feels like the thing that I am meant to be doing and I’m able to do well. Even when I was studying design in college, like that was the thing, that was the part that made my brain tingle.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I guess when we did a different courses, maybe someone more into web, their brain might have tingled when we were doing that. But for me, being able to tell someone’s story visually is really, really appealing to me. And so getting into this, the background of why you’re doing this and how you want your customers to feel and what is the best way to put all of those things together to kind of become the new face or look of your business, your project, your company, whatever. It just it’s really exciting for me. Like I love it, so yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
When a company or an individual contacts you about a new project, like talk to me about that, what does your process look like?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Sure. It’s changed recently, so I now know it officially. Usually, an email comes in and it will go straight to my assistant and she would kind of be their first point of contact. They’d be like, hey, I’m interested in finding out more about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Most of the times, people want a quote. That’s usually where the first thing they want to know is like, if they can afford you or how much it’s going to cost and that kind of thing, at least here. What I do is we send a form that I’ve created that helps get information from the client to create a creative brief, because the typical client wouldn’t know what a creative brief is outside of certain industries. It’s just not common knowledge.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I created this form that allows them to answer certain questions that ultimately creates a creative brief for me. But it also does things like ask, what’s your budget, et cetera, et cetera. What are the actual deliverables that you’re looking for? It kind of lays all of that out for me. Then from that point, we send a quote and it includes things like the timeline, how long the project will take, and it also lays out the kind of rules of engagement. Like, when you’d get your first invoice, when you’d get your second invoice, who has ownership, who’s rights and credits, all of those things are kind of I include my, what you would call like a contract within the quote process. From there, the client either says yes or no, and usually it’s yes, thankfully.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Sometimes, we need to meet and chat a little bit more about the project, sometimes we don’t. There’s some clients who I literally have never had a meeting with because they’ll just so very clear and they’re answering the form as well in their emails. And they’re like, “yeah, no, I don’t need to meet you, it’s fine.” But most of the times, there are instances where we’ll meet and just talk about a project a little bit so I can get a better sense of what it is that they’re looking for.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Then, I begin and head to phase one, which is usually sending, creating a document to send options for them, whether it’s one option based on their budget is on what they sent, whether it’s two options, whether it’s three options and I go through this process of research based on the industry. The great thing about what I do is that I get to learn about all of these different fields and lives and businesses that I would never have otherwise been exposed to. One day, I’m looking up all of the information about NFTs, the next day, I’m looking up real estate and how that works in Trinidad.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I just go like a deep dive into whatever the industry is so that I can understand it. I can see trends. The great thing about this, that I get to go this deep dive into different industries, what people are doing, and so I research the trends within the industry. I research things like what colors do people use? What are the font styles? I’m really good at observing patterns for some reason. I feel like that’s like little secret thing that I have. And maybe not, maybe that’s what all designers do and I just am giving myself more importance than necessary. I tend to like just pay attention to all the trends, pay attention to all the details and then go back to the original notes that the clients gave me of what they want, what they want to achieve and marry it all together to achieve this perfect for them outcome.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I send that off, then comes the pain taken part of waiting for client feedback, which I think is always like, it’s like the best and worst part of the project for me, at least because it can go either way. It can go, I hate this and you’ve not understood anything that I said, or it can go, oh, I love this, and this is what we want to move forward with. From that point on, it’s just back and forth with the client, whether it’s edits, whether it’s tweaks, changes, colors, fonts, et cetera. Then we get to the end when they finally made their final decision, I package all the wonderful files for them and I hand it off and I say, here’s your child. Goodbye, good luck. That’s kind of how I do it.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, your process sounds pretty thorough from start to finish.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah. I try to get as much information from clients as possible because that ideally is what helps me create. I think I’ve kind of figured out a way to eliminate as much as possible that back and forth period. Whereas in the early, when I first began, the back and forth was long and tedious and I didn’t ask as many question upfront as I do now. I wasn’t really designing for them. I wasn’t solving their problem. I was designing for the thing in general. I was designing for like, say someone wanted a logo for real estate. I was designing a generic real estate something. I wasn’t designing real estate but based off of what they wanted to achieve.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And so, I think when I finally figured out that I needed to be more in tune with the clients as well and asking them the right questions so that they would know, like not necessarily asking them what they want, because that’s not really what I want them to tell me, but more so what are their goals? What do they want to achieve? Why are they doing this? All of those questions help me then make sure that they have what it is that they need. I have noticed in the past couple of projects that I’ve wrapped up, that the back and forth period is way shorter as a result of that because of those questions upfront.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It’s usually really good to get as many qualifying questions as you can, because one thing it does also like you’ll quickly find out whether or not this is a project you even want to do. If it’s something you want to take on, if this is a client you even want to work with and certainly like, as you do more projects and as you mature in your business, you get a lot quicker at getting to the root of it.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s good that you kind of have that thorough process.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
You’re originally from Trinidad and Tobago, tell me about what it was like growing up there?

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s been amazing. I enjoy being part of the Caribbean and I think growing up here was fun, I guess, would be the word I would choose. I am a carnival baby and what that means is that a huge part of Trinidad’s culture. And I say part of, or not the only thing that is Trinidad, because we have so much more to offer, but a huge part of it is our annual, I guess, street parade is what would be the best way to describe it. But it’s really a season that kind of begins right after Christmas, straight until the February or March, depending on the year, because it usually lines up with whenever Ash Wednesday is. It’s usually Monday and Tuesday before, so similar to Rio, I think also similar to New Orleans, all of our carnivals kind of line up around the same time, but I grew up playing kiddies carnival, which happened before the main Monday on Tuesday parade, trust that ability to express this freedom and creativity and this open way always really, really fascinated me.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And so, when I say I’m a carnival baby it’s because like from the time I was five years old, I was engrossed in this culture and I was playing these things. We say playing carnival, we say playing mask, that’s kind of how we refer to it. It was great. Like I was ready like the first time my mom told me, like the first time she took me, she was like, testing me out to see if it was something I’d be interested in. When I realized that it was only one day, because I thought I was going back like the next day, like how you go back to school every day.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And she was like, no, you have to wait until next day. And I was like, what? No, tomorrow. So yeah, I would say growing up is very unique. I would say, I mean, I don’t know how many foodies there are out there listening, but if you’re a foodie, Trinidad is definitely a place to enjoy all of the flavors. I mean, moving to Atlanta directly from Trinidad for college was an awakening because I didn’t realize how much I loved our food until I left Trinidad, so that’s always really interesting. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
You didn’t run into any good like Trini spots here in Atlanta?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yes, it took me a while, because I mean this was 2008 to 2012 was when I was there. I didn’t have as much information and that first year was just me getting used to the fact that I am no longer home and dealing with the culture shock, which I didn’t think I would have. Because I was like, well its people where speaking English, there’s no language barrier, but learning, appreciate you or appreciate it, it meant thank you. That was like [inaudible 00:27:43] I guess. I was like, what do you say? Appreciate it, man. I’m like, what? There was a lot of back and forth with that in that first year for sure. And getting used to cafeteria food was also very interesting, lots of tilapia. It was weird time. It was very weird time, but I know I did eventually find some Trini spots there and I also started cooking for everyone and so it worked out, eventually.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh nice.

Ayrïd Chandler:
But yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Atlanta has a pretty big like overall Caribbean population, especially for students. I went to Morehouse. In the whole AUC area, especially when I first got to Morehouse, that was first time encountering anyone from the Caribbean outside of a bad impression that I might have saw in a movie or a television show.

Ayrïd Chandler:
[Inaudible 00:28:34].

Maurice Cherry:
I’m from Alabama originally so it’s just like one state over.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Okay.

Maurice Cherry:
But I remember getting to Morehouse and meeting Jamaicans and Trinidadians and Saint Lucians and at first thinking like everyone just sounded the same because I could kind of understand it, but I couldn’t understand it. But then also learning just the differences in everyone’s culture and the food, that’s where I introduced to roti and doubles and everything. Yeah, I know what you mean by the culture shock. I think Atlanta, I think for a lot of people when they first come to Atlanta from anywhere, it’s a bit of a culture shock.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah, for sure. Also, I mean, I don’t want to sound like a little bit of an alcoholic or anything, but we drink at 18 in Trinidad, when you guys drink at 21.

Maurice Cherry:
Legally.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Legally, but like going to the club for me and being told that this was before you all changed the law. This was back when like at midnight on Sunday, the bar closed because y’all didn’t serve on [inaudible 00:29:42]…

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
… on Sundays. That was huge for me. And not realizing that I couldn’t like walk along the street and drink a beer because that’s just a thing that we do here, Savannah was kind of like a safe haven for me because you can kind of do a lot down by the river.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And so, I was always kind of running away to Savannah just to get a bit of what I learned for you a little bit just like a little bit of home, but yeah, all of those things that you like you don’t think about that are things until you experience it and you’re like, oh, this is something that I have never experienced before. Interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, now your dad worked in advertising, was that kind of your first introduction to the world of design in a way?

Ayrïd Chandler:
I feel like it could be, possibly. I grew up watching commercials and critiquing them with my dad. That’s just kind of a thing that happened in the household and never did I put the two and two together and be like, oh this is a Korean, this is a thing that I would then be doing in the future. It was never that direct or that straightforward. I would be… And my dad works at [inaudible 00:30:51] in Trinidad for many years and after school, that’s just where I ended up. And we would be the office until eight, nine every night because advertising, at least here, I know globally, it’s intense but here is many late hours and long hours of just making sure that clients are happy. I don’t know that I ever made the connection with this is like a profession or a thing that I can do or wanted to do.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I knew like very early on that I wasn’t never going to work in advertising because of the demand and the hours that it puts on someone. I think everyone was really surprised when I was like, oh yeah, I want to do graphic design because it was not a, well, I’m following in my dad’s footsteps or I’ve been exposed to this thing, to this long and this is what makes sense. After did languages in school afternoon, even do art and well, what we call secondary school that you guys would call high school. It really wasn’t like a very clear cut sort of thing that happened at all.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It kind of became a, well, what do you enjoy doing and what are you doing naturally? I was a person that was like creating event programs in school for our masses. I went to like Catholic girl school and we’d always have weekly masses and I was doing the program for those kind of things. I was there and illustrate [inaudible 00:32:13] in on my dad’s computer, that kind of stuff. It came that way, as opposed to like me watching this person that I’ve lived with my entire life kind of doing this thing and following him, if that makes sense.

Maurice Cherry:
No, that makes sense. I mean like, I mean, I grew up, my mom was a biologist and I never wanted to really go into science I think because I was always around it, and I was not to say that I didn’t have a passion for it or a proclivity for it. It’s just because it’s around, it doesn’t necessarily mean, oh, this is the thing that I want to do. Like, she was like super surprised when she saw that I was really into writing. Then when I went to college that I majored in math. She’s like, what? She didn’t really understand where that was all coming from because she thought I would either do… She thought I would either do biology or like pre-med or something like that, and I had no interest in it whatsoever.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Good.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. What was it like SCAD for you? I mean, you mentioned that first year kind of being a bit of a culture shock, but how was it overall?

Ayrïd Chandler:
It was great. I mean, I was finally happy to be doing something that I enjoyed in a school structure because prior to school, like just to be completely transparent here. When I graduated from secondary school, high school, I had a 1.96 GPA.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh wow.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I got into SCAD with a 1.96 GPA, let’s just put that there.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Ayrïd Chandler:
This system here just didn’t appeal to me at all. Like I was doing it because I had to and not because of… And I wasn’t interested, I wasn’t engaged, it wasn’t anything like that. When I got to SCAD, it was like, oh my gosh. Like all of a sudden, I’m getting to do subjects, I’m choosing. All of a sudden, I’m getting to participate in this thing that I have actively decided like I’m interested in. It was the first time of me enjoying an academic setting at all, and it was great. I think we had some really great professors in the graphic design field. They made a huge difference for sure. Definitely, finding community and bonding with different people in different walks of life, from different parts of the world was really fun as well.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I was also really active in student life. So I was like an RA. I was the youngest RA at the time because usually you’re only allowed to be an RA once you get into your second year. But by the end of my first year, I was an RA and then I became CA and I also was one of the loud ones who probably administration did not like, but I got the food to improve in the cafeteria. Well, what we call the hub in Atlanta and I met with like the manager of the food, situation was like, how can we improve this? And can we change up the menus? Can the recipes can change? Like you’ve been cooking the same thing for the past two years, what’s going on? And so yeah, there was like a huge shift that happened literally my final quarter was when the results started to show. The food that they serve now is amazing in comparison to what we got. I still take small credits every now and then I’m like, you’re welcome guys, you’re welcome.

Maurice Cherry:
You paved the way.

Ayrïd Chandler:
But yeah, no, it was great. It was really, really nice to just be in a setting that foster learning a thing that you already figured out that, that’s what you want to learn. You know what I mean? Like it was fun.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. After you graduated, like tell me about what your early career was like? Because I’m kind of curious about this period right after you graduated and you were in Atlanta before moving back to Trinidad, because you kind of alluded to that a bit earlier.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Sure. [inaudible 00:36:16], well, for graphic design, we used to have this event called Out to Launch and basically it’s a reverse kind of portfolio review session where we set up booths. We, being the students, set up kind of a little booth about ourselves and our work. And then SCAD invites perspective employers and businesses and companies within our field to come and meet us. And so, we kind of sell ourselves at this kind of trade show kind of set up. It’s called Out to Launch and it’s for the graphic designers. It was meant to then introduce us to folks who we would then get jobs with after graduating. It’s in that final quarter and everyone, the pressure was on from that point in terms of, we were very much an interview stage and I was calling everyone and having interviews with folks, et cetera.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I had the option for OPT for a year, which allows non US citizens to stay and work in the US for up to a year after they graduate, legally. I guess the hopes is that a company loves you so much that they would then sponsor you so that you can get a work visa and stay on permanently. I interview with many folks and for some reason did not get through with many opportunities. Eventually, I connected with a company called Atleisure. I don’t think they exist anymore, but at the time, they were an outdoor furniture design company. They were based near Grant Park area, and they were looking for an in-house graphic designer to work with them, for things like instruction manuals and labels for their product. When I say outdoor furniture company, I’m talking things like patio furniture, umbrellas, that sort of thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
That was my first job. For three months, I was there, it was an internship. I was the in-house graphic designer. They would provide things to like Target and QVC. Those were like where they were selling these things. They had the furniture designers in-house who were creating their designs and then sending it off to China. Then I was like on the phone with China folks to get the instruction manuals and then design it with the established brand that they had. I had to tweak the brand a little bit because the brand was really rough when I joined. I was like, no guys, this is nuts, and I tried to tweak it a little bit, but there was only so much I could do because it was already registered and that kind of thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It was a really, really interesting time. I mean, looking back now, I see how that job helps me for a lot of the things that I’ve since done in a lot of the projects that I’ve since worked on. In the moment though, I will admit that I was very sad because in comparison, I had classmates who were interning at Nike and who interning at Apple and who were interning at Coca-Cola. Then there’s me like just interning at this furniture design company. I’m like, what gives guys?

Ayrïd Chandler:
There was definitely that internal sort of am I good enough? What’s going on? What am I doing with my life kind of thing. But I also was that person who even when I left to go to college, knew that I didn’t want to stay and work in the US. I knew I eventually wanted to come back home. I think maybe that’s what folks saw as well in my interviewing process, even though I wouldn’t have said that out right. I think maybe seeing that I was not as dedicated or connected to staying in the US, so work permanently because they would’ve been looking for folks who they could then hone and then have a staff afterwards, so maybe that was a thing.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I wonder for young designers particularly here in Atlanta and this is something that I have, I’ve discussed it with business folks here with studio owners and things like that. For design graduates that are just coming out of school right now, Atlanta is a tough city to break into for your design career just overall for a number of reasons. One is, I mean, I would say the business culture here particularly, but it’s not like New York. It’s not like Silicon Valley. It’s not a city where you can sort of start out at maybe a more design forward or design focused company in that way. Like even some of the big names, like Twitter or Square or things like that. They may have offices here, but then they don’t really have a design department. They’ve got sales here or engineering or something like that. It can be tough to get in on the start like on the ground floor and then agencies are hard because agencies want you to have agency experience and you can’t get agency experience without working at an agency.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s like that kind of rough go of getting in and so I know a lot of folks, particularly at… It depends on the school like I worked at AT&T for two years, this was way back in like 2006, from 2006 to 2008.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
I worked at AT&T and there was a direct pipeline from the Art Institute of Atlanta directly to AT&T like a direct pipeline. People graduated from there, they got referred by someone that they knew and so they start in house at somewhere. Then from there, they would either go on to the CDC or they’d go on to Northrop Grumman and they’d live just kind of this mid tier designer life so to speak, nothing fancy, nothing great, but it’s a paycheck, that kind of thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
I think the design community in Atlanta and I’m firing shots here. It’s just not that… I think for a designer just starting out, if they really want to sort of make an impact, it’s really hard to find a company here where you can do exciting work. If you end up at a good studio or something, maybe.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
But it’s tough. And so, I know that a lot of graduates end up leaving, you left, but a lot of graduates end up leaving to go somewhere to a more exciting locale with better prospects.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Better career prospects in general, not just entry level stuff.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah. Most of my class left, I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I would say when they like maybe two or three folks stayed in Atlanta and they got through it like Coca-Cola. For the most part, people yeah, for sure. I think New York and LA was where folks ended up. That’s a huge relation to SCAD and just kind of the grip that they do and making sure that you get an opportunity somewhere…

Maurice Cherry:
Right.

Ayrïd Chandler:
… once you’ve graduated.

Maurice Cherry:
Because the school itself is a, I mean, it looks great on the resume anywhere you go, they say, oh, you went to Savannah College of Art and Design. That’s going to at least get you an interview, so that’s great. But here in the city, it’s tough. And I mean, I’ve heard this from art students that went to art school. I’ve heard this particularly from HBCU students. I’ve even heard this from people that have went to Georgia Tech or Emory or Georgia State. It’s just, it’s Atlanta is a tough design city in that aspect. I will argue it until the cows come home. It’s just tough. I mean, I had to start my own business to really further my career in design.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Oh wow.

Maurice Cherry:
I graduated in ’03 with a math degree. Of course, I didn’t want to go into teaching so I did customer service jobs. That …

Ayrïd Chandler:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
… sold tickets at the symphony. I was a telemarketer for Atlanta Opera. Like I did boring stuff. Then I got my first design gig, believe it or not from answering a classified ad in the back of Creative Loafing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Oh, okay.

Maurice Cherry:
I answered it on a whim. That was my first design gig for the… It was for the state of Georgia. I did that for about a year and a half. Then from there, I went to AT&T, quit AT&T and then started my own studio. The reason I quit AT&T is because I could see my career hitting a glass ceiling already and I had only been a working designer for roughly about three or four years. I’m like, I’m not going to get any further here. I was registered at A Queens and I was like putting my resume out there and no one wanted to even interview me.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m just like, I was going to move. I was trying very hard in like the last, like 2008 or so, I was trying very hard to move to New York. I had friends that were up there that were like, well, we know a broker, we can connect you with because I’m like, I’m not going to further my design career staying in this city.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
It didn’t change until I broke out and started my own thing, which is very similar to what you did. You left, you started your own studio.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah. How does one with a math degree then do design? Walk me through that.

Maurice Cherry:
I tell people that math really teaches you how to think and so what helped me, particularly when I started my studio with being a math major, and this is going to probably sound a bit weird, but you write a lot of proofs in math. Math is all about proving things once you get like past a certain level, like you leave the numbers behind. It’s all letters and symbols moving forward. And so, you’re proving things like why is zero less than one? Why does one plus one equal two? And you would think like, oh, because it does. But then you have to prove it through all these weird theories and all this kind of stuff. Going through all those logical steps taught me how to put together a brief for a client, taught me how to put together a proposal, taught me to look at a problem and find more than one solution.

Maurice Cherry:
Like being able to abstract that out into a way that made sense is how I’ve done that. I would say everything from that has been just honestly just self-taught. I read a lot of books. I watch a lot of courses. Oh my God, when I worked at AT&T, for example, there was a Barnes and Noble that was nearby my apartment and I would go to that Barnes and Noble on a Saturday and get some of those Photoshop’s tips and tricks books. And I have my little point and shoot digital camera and just sit and just take picture.

Maurice Cherry:
Because I’m like, I don’t have $40 to buy this book so I’m just going to take pictures and I’m going to go back home and I’m going to look at the pictures and try to recreate it in my cracked version of Photoshop that I downloaded from some sketchy place that hopefully won’t give my computer a virus and just did a lot of practicing. There was a time where I went through and tried to figure out what every tool in Photoshop did, every single one.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Wow.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m like, I’m going to figure out what each one of these things does. And then that helped me out once I actually got into a production environment, because then I knew these kind of things that Photoshop could do, that other people didn’t because they only knew maybe layers or something like that. And I’m like, oh, well actually you can make an art board and do this, this, this and this. And folks were like, how do you know that? That kind of thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
It was a lot. I taught myself a lot about design. I’ve not taken a single formal design course.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I always envy folks who can be self-taught. I’ve tried to like try to learn things on my own and my brain, I don’t know what it is. I’m one of those people that needs to be in this formal setting and someone else is showing me the ropes in order to learn. I hate that about myself, honestly, because I’m so envious of folks who can just have that self discipline to learn a thing. I find it so fascinating and amazing, and I envy you right now, just a little bit.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I’ll tell you, it doesn’t help when you have to go and apply for a job because you can put all that self taught knowledge on there and the first thing they’re going to look at and see is like, oh, you sold tickets at the symphony?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah. That’s what I did.

Maurice Cherry:
Or they see that A, you don’t have the education and B, you don’t have the work experience. Whether I knew it or not, it didn’t matter once it got into that sort of setting like. Certainly, for my first design job, I really had to prove myself by creating a portfolio overnight for the job that I ended up getting. Then even for AT&T, I remember they gave me a take home test. They were like, we want you to make a three page website and there’s two types of businesses you can choose from, a bridal boutique or a motocross event. I said, you know what? I’m going to take the bridal boutique, the person, the interviewer was a woman. She’s like, what? You don’t want the motocross. I’m like, well, first of all, I’m feeling some sexism here, but I’m going to take the bridal boutique and I’m going to work with that and I made a little bridal boutique shop and they were impressed and I got the job.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I just feel like that’s the easier option as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Like motocross, what do you even do with that?

Maurice Cherry:
I don’t know, dirt background.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I’m not [inaudible 00:49:39].

Maurice Cherry:
Right. Tire treads, rough stencil type. I don’t know.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I just feel like bridal boutique is a better way to show off your design skill.

Maurice Cherry:
But I have to do, but yeah, I did a lot of, oh my God, just so much playing around in Photoshop, just trying to figure out what stuff did, but eventually once I had design experience under my belt, when I started my studio, for example.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
That was when I said my design career took off because clients don’t care where you went to school.

Ayrïd Chandler:
No.

Maurice Cherry:
They don’t care where you went to school. They just to know if you can do the job that they’re paying you for. And so, I did that for roughly nine years and then I closed my studio down and got back into the working world. But it is what it is.

Ayrïd Chandler:
What made you close? Sorry, I feel like I’m interviewing you now.

Maurice Cherry:
No, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. The market changed. I mean, when I started, I started my studio in like 2009, late 2008, early 2009. And back then, WordPress was really started to take off and so I had gotten good at making WordPress themes.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Okay.

Maurice Cherry:
That was something that really kind of let my career take off. I had gotten together with someone who was running for mayor for Atlanta. And wait, you were probably here during that time. What years were you in Atlanta?

Ayrïd Chandler:
I was there 2008 to 2012.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Lisa Borders had run for mayor in 2009 and I was on her campaign. I was her director of new media.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Okay.

Maurice Cherry:
I made her website, her Twitter profile, her MySpace page to…

Ayrïd Chandler:
Oh wow.

Maurice Cherry:
[inaudible 00:51:16] how long ago that was, and she didn’t win. She came in third place. But one, that experience really like connected me to so many other people, influential business people and donors and things like that. By the time the campaign disbanded, I had a Rolodex full of leads that I could then call on and be like, “Yeah, I can do this job. I can do that job. I can do that job.” But I’d say by the time 2017 really rolled around, the market had changed. WordPress was still a big thing but then you started having the rise of a lot of site builders. You had Wix, you had Squarespace, and then for clients, it suddenly didn’t make sense to have a $5,000 bespoke website from WordPress when they could just pay Squarespace $8 a month and throw something together themselves. It became harder and harder of a sell to make that happen.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Eventually I just kind of wound it down and got back into the working world.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Interesting. Interesting. Thank you for entertaining my question.

Maurice Cherry:
No, no problem. I mean, the thing is when you’re working for yourself, you always kind of have to keep an eye on just what’s happening in the environment like.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure.

Maurice Cherry:
I picked up different services. I stopped doing different services for a while, I’d say, right around the mid 2010s, I started doing diversity consulting. I had no business doing diversity consulting. What they saw was like a black person in design and this was around, I guess, maybe year two or three of doing Revision Path. And they saw me doing this podcast and companies were like, “Yeah, we’ll write you a check to come and tell us what we need to do to bring in more black people. I got to do work for Netflix and I did work for Vox Media. Now, I would say in hindsight, that was purely situational.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Not to say, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I didn’t know what I was doing. In hindsight, I would say that, because the money is spent now, but in hindsight I was like, “Yeah, you know what you need to do, change that job listing language.” And they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea.” And I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing here.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It did. You definitely did, because that sounds like good advice.

Maurice Cherry:
But it helped though. It helped though.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I think it’s obvious for us, but it’s not obvious necessarily. Like if you don’t live it and if that’s not, like if you’re not aware of the mistake you’re making, it’s very easy for us to… It’s your design training, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s very easy for you to… It’s your math training. You’re seeing what the problem is and you’re calling it out.

Maurice Cherry:
Right.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s very simple.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, there’s one company. I can say the company it’s Vox Media, but I remember I was doing consulting for their product team and they were saying that, well, we don’t know, like we’re trying to get a sense of how many people of color on our team and we just don’t know how to find that out. I was like, “Well, did you do a survey? Did you count?” They were like, “No, we haven’t.” I’m like, “Oh my God, how do you not count?” That’s like the… But they didn’t know that so they put out a survey and they got numbers behind it because this was at a time when a lot of tech companies were starting to first report, like the percentage of black people as part of their creative workforce.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And so, they’re like, well, we want to try to get behind it and figure out the number and see what we can do to improve it and everything. I was like, “You should do a survey.” That’s a great idea. Here’s $5,000. That’s a great idea. Okay. Look, I’ll take it. If that’s all you need to hear, pay me 5,000 more, I’ll tell you something else. But in hindsight, I would say very situational that it sort of occurred in that way, but in general, yeah. I just wound it down because the market itself was changing. It was harder to do the kind of business that I had did before. And while I was changing, my business was changing with the times, also the podcast was taken off.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
There was a point where the pod… I was bringing in more money with the podcast than I was with the studio and I really had to look and be like, well, what am I doing here? I could just focus on the show.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And not have to chase down checks from clients.

Ayrïd Chandler:
That’s amazing. Congrats.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, it’s something where every year you kind of just have to like take stock and see what you’re doing, see what you can change and improve.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure.

Maurice Cherry:
If you can go where the market goes.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure. I feel like, so my thing is like, I’m always, like I have a foot in terms of observation of the market in the US. Then I have the very real reality check of the market in Trinidad, which is completely different. I think this year as well, I’ve been trying to stop comparing the two. I’ve been trying to stop kind of beating myself up a little bit about, well, if you’d stayed in America, maybe you would’ve had this much and blah, blah, blah. And kind of just dealing with the reality of what it is to run a design firm in Trinidad. It’s definitely a challenge for sure, a 100%. No one’s going to pay me 5,000 US to tell them the things that I tell them all the time. That’s just not the reality of our situation here. It’s kind of sad on one end.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It’s kind of like, oh, I wish you people would just get with the program. Then on the other end, it’s like a nice challenge because it’s like, you get to be at this start of hopefully something different, something new, helping make a difference, helping improve a culture of what design could be in Trinidad. I mean, when I graduated from college, when I came back in 2012, at the end of 2012, there were no graphic designer jobs, like people don’t know what graphic design was. That wasn’t a thing. And the fact that now, like when I look through job listings, there’s graphic design of those, there’s graphic design of that, et cetera. To me, like that shows like, okay, in 10 years there’s been change. At least, I can say things are improving. You know what I mean?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Now, we just need to get them to pay graphic designers what we’re actually worth and stop trying to get a graphic designer, who’s also an animator and a copywriter all in one, which is a huge thing here, locally. No, we want one person to do all the things and pay them a quarter of the price. That’s like the realities and I guess it answers one of your first questions as well of like, how come I would’ve started my own thing is because you could make more money doing your own thing than you could working somewhere, which is wild. That’s wild to me. Like the fact that there’s more stability as a designer, like freelancing and working on your own and trying to figure things out than having that stability of well a paycheck.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, that’s absolutely how it was when I started my studio, I felt like I could make more money, but also, like I said, I had just hit a plateau in my career. I don’t know where I would be now if I would’ve stayed at AT&T and didn’t break out and do my own thing. Because aside from just the freedom of entrepreneurship, it gave me a lot of confidence just in my skills overall, because…

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure.

Maurice Cherry:
… at AT&T and T I was like part of a team. The way that they had a structure was they really pitted you against your coworkers. Like it was really more of a competition than a team kind of thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
That’s terrible.

Maurice Cherry:
Once I left, I really felt like I’ve got a couple years of design knowledge under my bill. I know what I’m doing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I could at least figure it out and come to terms with the kind of work I want to do and the kind of teams I want to be on and stuff like that. Because I was calling the shots myself, it made just a lot easier in terms of me being more confident, because at the end of the day, you know this, you have to hunt what you kill, I guess is how you put it. Like, no one’s going to be responsible for bringing the work in, but you.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Oh, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Unless you happen to have a salesperson, but other than that, you have to be the one that’s the face of the company, especially if your name is part of the company, like you got to be out there…

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
… selling it all the time.

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure. Definitely. I definitely learned that very quickly. It kind of happened naturally though, similar to how you kind of leap off points would’ve been working with that mayor. Well, going up the mayor person, I guess my equivalent project would’ve been working with our local film festival. That was one of the first design jobs that I got. And back when I moved back home, it was really just an internship, but I got to work alongside an art director, Melanie Atro, who is pretty awesome.

Ayrïd Chandler:
It was a really strong brand that it was already created. Every year, we just kind of roll out all of the different elements for the festival, whether that’s signage, whether it’s the poster, but what that allowed me to do similarly to you was network in a country when networking is not as… It doesn’t happen as organically, or as officially as when I was in Atlanta, I’m going to AIG, AIG buzz events and that sort of thing, like that was what I was accustomed to. I was like, oh, I’m going to go to this networking event and meet these people and talk and blah, blah, blah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And then I got back to Trinidad and I’m like, where are the networking? And everybody’s looking at me like, what are you talking about? All of a sudden, I’m in this festival with all of these different creatives, doing all of these different things and I’m meeting this sponsor. I’m meeting banks and all of these different folks who are part of this community that I would have been completely removed from for four years while I was in college.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And that definitely led to all of the connections, like some of the friendships that I even have to this day are from that moment and that time. Definitely, would not change it. I don’t know where I would be now, similarly to what you’re saying, I don’t know where I would be now if I was still working on Atleisure, for example, or right after Atleisure, when I came back home, I would say, my equivalent of your AT&T job might have been like this bank take that I took where they advertised it as a desktop publisher.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And this is a time when I have my graphic design degree and I’m not seeing any jobs with graphic design on it. I find this thing, I’m like, what is a desktop publisher? I’ll look it up. It was like, it said something like someone that designs long documents or brochures and annual reports and that side of things. I was like, oh, okay, well, I can do that for a bank.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Day one, I had no computer. Day two, they gave me no… Like I was sitting at the desk, no desktop on it for me to do any desktop publishing. It turns out they just wanted someone to design PowerPoint presentations for their managers to do a transitionary, blah, blah, blah so I didn’t last, I didn’t last a month, I don’t think. I was like, no, this is [inaudible 01:02:31] I didn’t have to open PowerPoint any time in my four years at SCAD. And right after that was when I found out about the festival looking for a graphic design intern, I was like, oh my gosh, someone wants a graphic design or specifically in Trinidad right now on that, and the rest was history. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, aside from your design firm, you’re also a writer, talk to me about that.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I was [inaudible 01:02:59] an aspiring writer. I’m not a writer. I won’t put myself just yet, but what I do is in my downtime or my free time, I go to a lot of writing workshops because like I told you, I’m not a self-taught person. We have this other festival here called Bocas Lit Fest, which is our literary festival. They put on different events and workshops all the time and I’ve been to a couple of them. I mean, I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. I’m like one of those people, I was always writing cheesy poems. I kind of over the years, just put a little bit more energy towards writing every now and then but this year, I put the most energy, I would say towards it, because I entered emerging writer’s thing. I entered Bocas Emerging Writers like competition, scenario, fellowship, sorry is the term.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I was actually shortlisted in [inaudible 01:04:01] and I was like, okay, you really need to start putting a little bit more energy into this writing thing and stop seeing you’re an aspiring writer and just be the writer that you want to be kind of thing. But yeah, really, I use writing as way to get out of my head a little bit. I find as a designer and as someone that works primarily alone and not necessarily on a bigger team, that it’s a lot of thoughts just floating around in there always, like the brain is constantly flowing and writing allows me to take all of those thoughts and kind of put it somewhere, which I really, really enjoy. So yeah, and I write about me or about experiences that I’ve experienced. Yeah, I like it.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you think you’ll ever kind of branch out and write about design?

Ayrïd Chandler:
I would love to. So I have a blog. I do write about design on there, sometimes, but usually it’s in a critiquing manner or it’s in a, this is how, this could have been better. It’s more like me critiquing the design society in Trinidad rather than me writing about design formats or structures kind of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay.

Ayrïd Chandler:
But I see myself doing both because it’s something I’ve been wanting to do simply because we don’t have it, one. Actually, technically I did write about design. I actually co-wrote a book called How to Get Paid for designers here locally in Trinidad and like talking about what the pricing is like and how to get those things done? Why you should I have a contract, stuff like that, but I guess that’s more business of design than design specifically.

Ayrïd Chandler:
But I also had this feature on my social media page on Instagram called Just A Tip, and I used to give design tips on Tuesdays and I wanted to turn that into something that I do on my blog or maybe a newsletter that continues and it’s a little bit more direct in terms of suggestions and that sort of thing. There’s room for it to answer your question, yes.

Maurice Cherry:
You could be the voice of Trinidad design.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Some people would say that I kind of am and I run away from that a lot. Like that terrifies me the idea of being the person for anything that’s… I feel very badly about speaking on behalf of other people. I just want… Let me, I’m speaking for me, myself, Ayrïd Chandler. I’m not speaking for Trinidad or Trinidad graphic designers or anything like that. That’s a lot of responsibility.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think a lot of writers are like that. They have their own quirks and stuff, but I think as long as you’re talking about your work and your process and even just writing about yourself, like you mentioned, that’s a good thing. Writing is one of those things it’s called a practice for a reason. You kind of have to keep doing it.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yep.

Maurice Cherry:
Aside from writing, you also teach, you’re doing a lot.

Ayrïd Chandler:
I do.

Maurice Cherry:
You’re running your business, you’re writing, tell me about your teaching at University of West Indies St. Augustine.

Ayrïd Chandler:
A couple years ago, I was hanging, I was on a rooftop event and met a fellow designer who was one of the folks that I first worked with here and kind of guided me and did local design scene. And he was like, I just started teaching and they’re looking for more lecturers, are you interested? And I was like, I don’t know. I was like, I’ve never given teaching a thought, like I am I qualified? They’re like, “Yeah, you just need to be a practice and designer and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “Hey, sure, let me try.” And literally within 15 minutes, he had messaged the person and the person messaged me and I had a meeting the next day to talk about lecturing to university and my mind was blown and they were like, “Oh yes, we were looking at your work and we think that you’d be great for this blah, blah, blah.” I was like, okay.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Before you knew it, I was teaching year two students about design basics and going from practicing design and to applying all of the things that I tried to search up all of my SCAD syllabi to get some kind of inspiration. Then before you knew it, I was putting together my own syllabus and the rest is what it is. And so, I started, this year was my third year teaching this course. I’m a part-time lecturer. It’s only during the first half of the, well, first quarter, third of the year, I guess, for the second semester that starts in January. And yeah, I get to talk about design and teach design and kind of help shape what other folks are doing that process and cut in conjunction with working with interns at my business, kind of inspired me to then start teaching courses as part of my business.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Because I realized one that I actually really liked teaching, which really, really surprised me more than anything else. I was really, really shocked and I’m not sure why I was that shocked. I guess I just never thought of myself as someone who would have the patience to teach, because I feel like it’s very much like a devotion on one of those things where it requires you to remove yourself from yourself a little bit and kind of very much make sure that what you’re seeing is resonating with someone and helping them. Teaching is basically helping another person. And I guess design is also helping another person and they’re both kind of the service industry thing.

Ayrïd Chandler:
And so maybe it does make sense that I enjoyed doing both, but I also noticed, and working with the interns that I worked with, they were coming from another local school and a lot of things were like lacking. They didn’t know some basic design things that I felt like they should know. We also have a huge self sort community in Trinidad. And so I thought, okay, cool, let me put together some design foundation basics, at least, that folks can reference. I’m talking about things like knowing the difference in a JPEG and a PNG and a PDF, like basic. And that also really went really well and so I’m actually preparing now to do the next, which would be my third offering of courses so far, but yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, you’re writing, you’re teaching, you’re running your own business. Like what’s the best thing about all this work that you’re doing?

Ayrïd Chandler:
What do you mean the best thing?

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I mean I could ask what’s the worst thing. I mean, I would imagine that you have some enjoyment out of this, Ayrïd?

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah, yeah. For sure. For sure. Honestly, I am one of those people that likes connecting with other human beings. I never thought I would’ve like, if you asked me this 10 years ago, that would not have been what I said. I very much am one of those people that enjoyed my alone time. I’m an only child. I like doing stuff on my own, solo traveler here, like all of that stuff. But I quickly realized over the past couple of years that I enjoy connections, I enjoy connecting with other human beings. I enjoy that experience. All of the things that I’m doing, I’ve realized that is the one common sort of thing that’s happening. I am able to step out of myself a little bit, step out of my world and connect with someone else in their world. That’s great. Like I enjoy that so much and it kind of makes life a little bit easier to live, at least, for me.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Ayrïd Chandler:
For sure. Like right in this very moment in time, I would say I need a little bit more and I think maybe that’s what writing does for me in terms of satisfying that creativity. I think, yes. Sorry, I feel like I am creatively satisfied, especially when I wrap up a branding project and the client is happy with it. I was like, I know I did the right thing and I know I hit the mark on what it is that they were looking for and also, what it is that they needed?

Ayrïd Chandler:
When they say things like, oh my gosh, I wasn’t expecting this, or like I get a lot of those kinds of reactions, which is pretty wild and fun and interesting. I think that does kind of satisfy that creativity, but I am also at that point where I’m at that 10 year mark. Because I moved here 10 years since I graduated from SCAD. I am feeling that itch of like, what now? What more? Where else? What can I do differently? Like what is the next step for me? You know what I mean? Like where do I go now? Do I pivot as we’ve been talking about so much on these past two years? Do I learn a new skill? What’s the next step in terms of that creativity and that flow and what I want?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Where do you see yourself for the next five years? What do you want this next chapter of your life to be?

Ayrïd Chandler:
I definitely want to teach more. I would love to be able to get to a place where I can go from being a part-time lecturer to maybe a full-time lecturer. I think that would be really awesome. I kind of really see myself becoming, I want to step more into that brand identity designer shoe out of that whole graphic designer shoe, where I still kind of float around, meaning I still do anything under the hat of graphic design.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Even though, I focus a lot on branding, I kind of want to like be like, I am a brand identity designer and I am the person that you come to for that specifically and that alone. I kind of I want to eliminate as much options and kind of zone in and be more specific and intentional with what I’m doing. In five years, I’d like to be able to impart that knowledge more, more talking workshop opportunities. Hey, if I can give a TEDx talk in five years, that would be awesome. You know?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ayrïd Chandler:
That’s kind of where I see things.

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

Ayrïd Chandler:
Ooh, I make it very, very easy. So I have my website. I technically have two, but for my business Ayrïd by Design, A-Y-R-I-D bydesign.com. That’s my website. I’m also the same thing Ayrïd by Design on Instagram, I have a very kind of unique name. I think I’m the only Ayrïd Chandler of there. So from a time you type that in, I think most of my stuff comes up, but those two places are kind of where you can start. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Sounds good. Well, Ayrïd Chandler, I want to thank you so, so much for coming on the show. Thank you really for just sharing, not just your story, but also I think giving us kind of a behind the scenes of what it’s like to run a business, particularly running it from another country and showing people out there, as you said, kind of right before we started recording, you said you wanted to let folks know that they’re not alone and that there’s a sense of community. And so, I hope that people will listen to this and they’ll sort of get exactly what you’re talking about. Like a lot of the experiences you shared are universal experiences to a lot of designers, to a lot of entrepreneurs. And so, even as you do your work with writing and teaching and everything, you’re not alone out there.

Ayrïd Chandler:
Yeah.

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

Ayrïd Chandler:
Thank you for having me. I enjoyed this.

Cherry-Ann Davis

What happens when a Trini woman ends up in the largest city in Switzerland to learn design? You have Cherry-Ann Davis, a graduate design student at Zurich University of the Arts, and a self-proclaimed creator of visuals and words. Quite a combination, right?

Cherry-Ann and I talk about her design thesis, as well as her work at a feminist design publication called The Futuress. Cherry-Ann also spoke on growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, how she switched her career from marketing to design, and spoke on finding community in an entirely new place. According to Cherry-Ann, you should stay open to anything because you’ll never know where it will take you. I can’t argue with that!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I am Cherry-Ann Davis and I am currently a master’s student at Zurich University of the Arts studying visual communication design.

Maurice Cherry:
And Zurich, that’s Zurich as in Switzerland, correct?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. Zurich as in Switzerland. I left my good hot island in the Caribbean to Zurich, another part of the world that I’ve not been before. Well, first of all, I never left my country for longer than a week before moving to Switzerland.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. And you’ve been there… I think you told me earlier, you’ve been there since February of last year.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. February 1st, 2020, I moved, I packed my four suitcases. It’s everything that I won and I hold dear in my life, and I brought with me. So many books. And I came by myself into a new world.

Maurice Cherry:
How’s it been adjusting to everything?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Well, one months after arriving, there was a global lockdown. So that adjustment period was quite hard because I didn’t know anybody. The one person that I knew, he kind of dropped me as soon as I got to Switzerland. So I was in a pandemic by myself, not knowing anyone in a flat with two other people upstairs.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And the people who were on my floor left, they went back to their countries to spend quarantine with their families, to spend that time. And I was just there by myself. Being new to school, not even having time to meet my classmates and get to know them. It was rough. It was real hard.

Maurice Cherry:
My goodness. I can only imagine. How did you get through that? Well, I mean, I guess you’re kind of still getting through it, right?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I am still getting through it. Enough prayers. I prayed a lot and I spoke to my therapist a lot, because as much as I was prepared mentally to move to another country, I was not prepared mentally to move to another country and be in so much isolation. Although I lived on my own when I was back in Trinidad, it was something that I could not comprehend.

Maurice Cherry:
As we’re recording this, so for people that know, we’re recording this right before Memorial day, so right near the end of May. What’s the situation like in Zurich or in Switzerland, I guess, as it relates to reopening or anything?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Right now, next Monday, all of the restaurants will be reopening to have both inside and outside guests. So for the last two weeks, they were just having people, they could dine on the patios or outside of your restaurants. But from this Monday, all the restaurants will be opened for both seating inside and outside. That is mainly because there’s a big drive to get people vaccinated.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I had my last shots yesterday and I’m scared as fuck because I’m thinking about all of the history with vaccination and being Black, and I’m in a predominantly White country. So my fear is just going off the radar right now. But Zurich is one of the cities that has opened up vaccination for all persons no matter your age group or your risk right now. So with that, they are trying to open more and more. Relaxing measures more and more. Sorry.

Maurice Cherry:
Which vaccine did you get?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I am not sure. I think it’s Moderna, but it might be AstraZeneca. I can’t remember. I was so nervous when they were telling me, I kind of blanked out.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. I mean, but it was one you had to get two shots for?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So it was probably Moderna. I think actually those might be the only two shots that are available globally. I don’t know if Pfizer is or not. I’m not sure.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I think when talking to some of my friends yesterday, Pfizer was available in a different part of Switzerland. So Switzerland is actually… Well, Zurich is actually larger than my country. So at different parts of Zurich, you could get a different vaccine. So I’m just like, wow, that’s weird.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean all these news, and I’ve mentioned this on the show before. So for folks listening, I’m not trying to belabor the point, but I mean, all of the news around this has just been changing week after week, whether it’s availability, or restrictions and things opening up. There’s been such a rush back here in America, in the U.S. for things to reopen that it’s kind of staggering.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, it was so interesting because I remember this time last year, there was so much about making sure people wash their hands for 20 seconds and wore a mask. And now that it’s masks off, I mean, everywhere, people are just… It’s going to be a wild summer in the United States because people are ready to get out.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Right now I get scared when I’m on the tram when I see someone not wearing a mask, I’m like, “Yo, so what are you doing? This is Corona.” And for me, it’s kind of baffling because back home in Trinidad, right now there’s a state of emergency. You can’t go anywhere between 9:00 and 6:00. And if you are going anyway outside of those hours, you have to have a good reason as well to be outdoors.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
You can’t exercise outdoors. I feel it for the people back home. And here I am having the opportunity to get a vaccine even because back home, they ran out of vaccines, and I am here with so much privilege and this man not wearing his mask, like what are you doing?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I know some Europeans that came, they flew over here last month to get the vaccine because the country that they were in, it didn’t seem that it was going to be available or they didn’t really have a sense of when the vaccines would be available. So they just flew over here, got it, and that was it.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Well, that’s an ability that very few have, that access to even leave your own country to get a vaccine. People don’t realize that privilege. I have friends in Berlin and they can’t even get the vaccine.

Maurice Cherry:
I think now it appears that vaccines are starting to get out to more countries from the U.S. because right now we’re at this point where supply is greatly outpacing demand. And partly that’s because prior to, I want to say maybe a couple of weeks ago, you really had to go to mass vaccination sites or maybe get them through your doctor or something, but now you can get them at pretty much any pharmacy. You can get it at-

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Really?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. The availability has increased a lot. But even with that, some people, because it’s a… If they do a two shot like Pfizer or Moderna, they’re only getting the first shot and not the second one because people are talking about side effects and everything.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
That was one of the things that was happening in Trinidad. So before I think they ran out of the vaccines, a few people who are in the high-risk area, they were able to get the flu shot, and then they ran out of vaccine. So it was like, what’s going to happen now that they need to get a second shot. Do they know after wait to get the same brand of shots or would they get a second shot from another brand of medication? So it’s questions, just big question marks in Trinidad.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, let’s shift the conversation away from vaccines and all that sort of stuff. Talk to me about what you’re studying. You said you’re at the Zurich Institute for the Arts. Is that what it was?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Zurich University of the Arts.

Maurice Cherry:
Zurich University of the Arts. Thank you.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. I am doing visual communication design. I came with the intention of doing a project around pattern design on Trinidad and Tobago. Because I had so much time during Corona and I have to have a thesis to go along with my artifacts, I was able to think a little bit deeper into what I want my project to be, because I initially, I was just thinking about the diversity and the culture of Trinidad and Tobago being represented in some type of pattern design for fabric or wallpaper.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I told my interviewers when I was applying for the school, that will love to see a line of IKEA wallpapers that just shows the brilliance and vibrance of Trinidad and Tobago through pattern design, and he said, “Yes. We have partners in IKEA.” And I said, yes, that’s what I want my project to be.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And during lockdown, I had way too much time on my hands, and I got to thinking, what does a pattern design actually say? And how does it benefit the design industry? And what would my thesis say? And what am I adding to the conversation? So it changed. It pivoted from being pattern design of Trinidad and Tobago as a thesis on the artifact, to the thesis now looking at how can designers who are not part of the Western world utilize their own culture to create inspiration for designs.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a really rich subject to go into.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yeah. For me, it’s something that I wanted when I was doing corporate design because I worked at a bank that was throughout the Caribbean. So we were operating in 17 islands at the time, and I was responsible for all of the visuals. So all of the marketing campaigns. I was responsible for creating the ads whether it was digital, or print, or even TV ads, I would be the person who would give approval along with my colleagues in Canada.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And a lot of times, my colleagues in Canada, I remember this one meeting, it was for a Christmas campaign, and they proposed an idea and I was the one reviewing it and providing the Caribbean context. And they were like, “Well, we’re not sure if you all have hardwood floors and you all use Christmas trees.”

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I’m like, “What do you mean if we have hardwood floors? Where do you think we live? On the beach and swinging from tree to tree? We have hardwood floors. We have tiled floors. We have [inaudible 00:15:42] just like everybody else.” And I basically had to let them know, hey, as much as you think that your view of things are better and your ideas are wrong, design, or even life, maybe more rich because of your position in Western world, we still have access to all of these things too.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Just do a simple Google search, and you’ll see how rich our countries are. And from that is where a seed was planted. Because so many times us as designers who don’t belong to the Western world, we still have to conform to a lot of the Western canon on how to design, on how we should market our products to people. And we most of the times don’t consider our audience, which is the people that we’re advertising to. They are also rich with diversity that we should reflect in our ads as well. So that was where the idea was based in.

Maurice Cherry:
I think that’s a marvelous idea. And it’s something that at least I know here in the States, there’s been a lot of talk around decolonizing design, which is sort of trying to free people’s mindsets away from honestly, from a Eurocentric vision of design like Swiss design, or German design, or French design, or whatever, by trying to free yourself from that and learn about designers from other cultures or even designers from different races so you can sort of add to your own design, knowledge, and research, and inspiration to create bigger and better things.

Maurice Cherry:
There was a couple of weeks ago we had Kaleena Sales, who teaches at Tennessee State University. And one of the focuses that she has for her work when she’s talking to her students and teaching her students is having them plum their own culture to put it into their work because she teaches at a historically Black college. Her students are Black. She’s Black. So that’s where you should be pulling from for your design, instead of trying to mimic, I don’t know, the Bauhaus or whatever.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. For me, I actually strengthened my idea in the BIPOC Design History course that was run by Polymode. So Silas Monroe and some other lecturers came together and they presented what a canon would look like if African-Americans were included in it. And for me, that opened my eyes to think, so why didn’t I learn about my own design history in school? I remember my design teacher always mentioning to us that good design is very clean and very Scandinavian or Swiss.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I’m like, but we have kind of more. We have so much color, and richness, and diversity. Why can’t I include that into my own designs? And for me, my thesis is more about showing designers that it can happen because I’m utilizing my own country, so Trinidad and Tobago, and our rich diversity, and history, and culture, and language in my artifact. So it’s more leaning towards a case study of how you can do it.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So it’s not just the theory around decolonization and postcoloniality. It is there, but it is centered in, this is what it is. This is how we do it. So many times when people do master’s and PhDs, it’s so academic level that a practitioner can’t understand what’s happening. And I want me, as a 22 year old designer, or aspiring designer to be able to say, I understand what she’s saying. I could do that. Now let me implement it in my own design processes.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a really smart way to think about it. And you’re right. I mean, I know when I think about Trinidad and Tobago, because I went to college here in Atlanta, but we had a ton of Caribbean students, mostly from Trinidad and Tobago. And even just talking with them and hearing them talk about home, and the richness of their culture, and the food, and the music, and everything, why wouldn’t you want to infuse that into your design because that’s what you get inspired by.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yeah. There was a lecture recently at a workshop that I’m co-curating with the futurist, and Toshika Arno Sutton was there, and she was also part of the BIPAC Design History. And she presented an exercise that she did in her degree program, and it was around the genealogy of design. And she infused in it her musical influences, her literary influences, the designers that made sense to her that time.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And she mentioned that throughout, she noticed all of her non-design inspirations were of Black culture, but her design inspiration was not of Black culture because there were no Black designers that she was aware of at the time. And that’s when she pivoted her direction. And that’s part of my research so far. I’ve been interviewing my mentor, who is one of the lecturers in Trinidad who teaches almost all of the professional designers.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And she has been teaching for the last 30 odd years at the [inaudible 00:21:15] Institute. And she has said… Well, in the interview, she said, “Well, yes, we have our culture, but there’s a standards to design, there are rules design.” And I’m like, “Miss, but we have rules, but shouldn’t we be allowed to interpret the rules through our lenses that we live.”

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And she says, “Yes, Cherry, your visual vocabulary and your life experiences should influence how you design, but at the end of the day, it’s still based on what the clients want.” And that kind of broke my heart a little bit because I am there thinking as much as I am following the brief of a client, if my audience is in Trinidad, it should reflect my audience more than the rules of design.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Right now, tethering on should I even think about what decolonizing design should be? Or should I just say they are the rules of design and you could break it, but not too much right now. So it’s a confusing space to me as well.

Maurice Cherry:
I can see. I mean, I don’t know. My advice is to break it, that’s just me, but also I didn’t go to design school. So maybe don’t listen to that. But I mean, I can see where that conundrum exists. You definitely want to pull from what you know, but, wow, that’s so interesting. That’s so interesting to hear. I want to talk about the Futurist since you mentioned it. Can you talk about what it is and sort of what attracted you to it?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So The Futurist is a para academic organization. So it’s an Institute that provides guidance for writers and that’s how I initially engaged with it. So last year in 2020, there was a workshop called Troublemakers. It’s the second workshop that was held. And it’s basically any format of an online course, as well as a writing workshop for students who want to be a part of a community of let’s say troublemakers, literally.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So we are the ones who are doing texts on difficult subjects and themes that most universities don’t necessarily want to get involved with or get too deep in because it’s a hard topic to navigate. So for me, a Trinidadian being in a Swiss design school, and one of my professors actually asking me, “So what’s the difference between your work as a Trinidadian and a Jamaican student who was enrolled at the time?”

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I was like, “Well, She’s from Jamaica.” Those simple things that I needed a community to even understand some of the terms that I needed to negotiate, and Futurist was that community. So I started off in futurist as participants in a workshop, and I messaged and I said, hey, I want to be a part of this. If you need an intern, I’m available.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I have a lots of free time next year because I’m extending my studies and I want to be a part of this. And at the beginning of this year, I was looking for a job and I just came out of an interview to be a nanny for two kids. And I was like, Cherry, you can’t be on nanny for nobody children because you don’t have that level of patience. You have two degrees, and the moment somebody child turn to you and shout a little too loud, your Caribbean instinct might hit in and you might want to discipline the child.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And this is not Trinidad. People won’t understand this. And at that moment negotiating these thoughts with myself to not say yes to that type of job, I got an email from Nina and she was like, “Cherry, are you still interested in being an intern?” I was like, thank you, Jesus. You know my heart. And at that moment, I was like ,”Yes. Hell yes. I will send on my resume.” And she was so impressed with how I was in the workshop with my texts.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So at the workshop, you present a text that you want to work on for three months period, and within that period, you help… What was the word I’m looking for? You help other participants by reviewing their texts as well. So it’s a peer review, but under the guidance of added time three persons who were at The Futurist.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So in that, you give feedback to your partners, but you’re in a group of about six or seven persons and any group, you all just provide feedback on each other’s texts. And throughout, I was always able to provide guidance, or provide suggestions, or there was always a rapport of me helping. And that led to me being open and able to be a part of The Futurist. And this year, I co curated. So I came up with the program along with Nina, which is against the grain. It’s an online course, as well as the writing fellowship.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m looking at it now on the website and it says it’s an online course and fellowship program fostering critical perspectives on the designed past and democratizing access to design history writing in a broad sense. I love that The Futurist’s focus is on design politics and design writing. Is that just sort of born out of what Nina, who is the, I guess she’s what, the founder of Futurist?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes.

Maurice Cherry:
Is that sort of born out of what she wanted to do or did you see this more as a community need?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
It’s both. So the first aspect for all of our online workshops is we create a theme, and from the theme, we invite persons to sign up for the online course. This is the third iteration. And for this iteration, it was a payment for the persons who wanted to participate in the online course, and in your participation to the online course, you will be sponsoring the persons who wanted to take part in the writing course.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And this worked out really well because we were able to open the online course for more persons, as well as the writing course for 42 persons who are writing critical design theory texts. And this format provides also a community. We operate on slack mainly. So we have a community of over 250 persons. Any slack group for just this one workshop against the grain.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And last workshop, which was troublemakers, we had 50 persons, and this workshop was mainly focused on writing. But with this new iteration, we were able to do a bit more and open up the community to a larger amount of people. So we have people from seven continents all over.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. Seven, even Antarctica?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Okay. Maybe not seven continents.

Maurice Cherry:
I was going to say, if you all got a research scientist or some penguins or something, that’s pretty dope.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
But we do have one person doing research on the Dodo bird, which is quite interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
I love that the focus is on writing. And I guess the, I don’t know, eventually those pieces will get published on Futurist once they’re through with this workshop.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. So this is a format that has moved from the first workshop, which was The L.i.P. Collective, very focused on feminists writing throughout a period, and then truly troublemakers, a lot of the pieces are still being published. And with against the grain, this would provide texts that will be published on The Futurist.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So a lot of times when people do master’s research and they put their life into this, they put the two years worst of knowledge into this, it just sits in a drawer somewhere and nobody reads it. As much passion that is imbued in this work, nobody reads it. Nobody gets to see this research and Futurist provides the opportunity for this research to be viewed by as many persons as possible. And I think that’s one of the best things.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I could access to this as well because my text, as part of the troublemakers, was published recently. It is called Culture No Context where I was looking at the ethics of ethnographic museums. So I had a lot of beef with ethnographic museums when I came to Switzerland and I went to a couple. I was able to process that through the workshop, and it’s also part of my thesis for my master’s as well.

Maurice Cherry:
What is an ethnographic museum?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So ethnographic museums are museums that take cultural artifacts and displays in a artistic sense. So if you think of textiles or sculptural pieces from Africa, India, Oceana, South America, all of these things will be just on display in an ethnographic museum. Sometimes it may be a range and gallery style. So it might be curated for a collection, or it might just be in their archives open for people to view, which is another thing that was hard for me to deal with.

Maurice Cherry:
Interesting. Wow. I want to break a little bit from talking about, of course, your journey and the work that you’re doing in Switzerland just to go back to Trinidad and Tobago for a minute. Talk about what it was like growing up there.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Well, Trinidad and Tobago is the most beautiful place. Everybody will tell you their island nice, but my island real, real nice. But I grew up in [inaudible 00:31:24], which is a place that the news always portrays as one of the worst place in Trinidad and Tobago. That wasn’t really my experience. I experienced community. I experienced people looking out for each other.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes, there is violence in our communities, but it’s not as much as the news reports it to be. And I’ve always had this view that, hey, maybe what you read on the news is not always true, because it wasn’t always my lived experience. I went to school in places that people will associate as the worst areas of Port of Spain. So there’s a part of Port of Spain that people call wrongly bridge.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So there’s Picton, Nelson Street and Bethlehem Girls. These were three primary schools in the area and I went to Bethlehem Girls, and I fell in love with art in the primary schools of Bethlehem Girls in our area where there were people tune in ponds, people making mass costumes. There was always creativity and vibrance in every aspect of my life. Move on love.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And until is places where the pan came from, which is in national instruments. And carnival really is boosted in these areas that people don’t like the most. And I’ve always had a idea that, and creativity is born in the places where struggle is also overwhelmingly popular.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. What it sounds like is that you grew up around a lot of creativity and ingenuity from these so-called rough neighborhoods or these rough places.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yeah. There was so much ingenuity because you had to find ways to survive. You had to find ways to make money. You had to find ways in order to feed your family. My grandmother used to sell in a markets every weekend, and I used to be there with her. I had my own little stalls selling my own little things, trying to make money for my own self.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And at that time, I didn’t understand that she was teaching me about business on how to invite people so that you could sell them your products over the person next to you who may have the same products. And many times she would tell me to draw a sign and put the price and everybody else would just have the number $2 for a [inaudible 00:33:51] tomatoes.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I would take my time and I would draw it and I would put little sunflowers around it. And these little things, I think it may not have helped. But I think to myself that these may have invited people to come to our stall to buy more things. But in different ways, creativity was always around me.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
But sometimes I wasn’t aware of it at the time. And hindsight, it’s not 2020 anymore. Hindsight, is really you think that it makes you realize, hey, the lesson that you didn’t learn then, you’re learning now. We’re not talking about 2020 anymore.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, when you were in Trinidad and Tobago, you started out at the College of Science and Technology and Applied Arts, and later you finished up at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. I’m totally basing this off of your LinkedIn. So please feel free to chime in and correct me if I’m wrong. But you kind of made this switch from marketing to design. Where did that shift come in?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
As a teenager, after my grandmother passed away, I moved in with my uncle and aunt and they really pushed me more towards the business side because I was always two minds about either business or art. I did both in high school. So I had to pay to do art because it wasn’t offered with the subjects that I wanted. So art was always something on the periphery. And they really encouraged me to go more to the business side.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I was like, well, if you’re sending me to do business, I’ll do business that I like, which was marketing at that time. I started in 2006, and at that time, the governments of Trinidad actually provided free tertiary education for all citizens. So you could go to college for free. And I went, and I got my associate degree in marketing, but then I decided maybe I could switch to art.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So I got a diploma and visual communication design. At that time I was like, what do I do next? I decided that I will go finish my degree in business because I am the type of person that once I start something, I like to finish it. So I wanted to get my degree in business. That was the moment I realized I don’t like business, having to do human resource management and organizational principles.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I’m the person who, as much as I can memorize theory, I like to be able to explain it and I could create a story out of it and not repeat it word for word. So that did not work out too well for me in those exams, but I passed, and I realized my passion really lies within being creative and telling stories.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And if I could do that visually, I’ll go back and get my degree in visual communication design. So after my business degree, I got my degree in graphic design at the same university. And it was a distance learning program. So it was a university in Sunderland in the UK, but there was a center in Trinidad that you go to and you would get the same qualifications.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So after you are studying and you make the switch to graphic design, and you’re doing that, what was your early career like after you graduated?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Well, after I graduated with my marketing associate degree, I got a job in a bank as an office assistant. So all of the other degrees, which is visual communication, and my two bachelor’s, those were done part-time. So I worked during the day and I went to school at night, which I will not recommend to anybody unless you have a lot of heart and determination.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
It was extremely difficult at that time. I was grateful that my job required no brainpower. So as an office assistant, I was basically just filing papers, enter drawers for the entire day. And then three years later, I got a promotion to an administrative assistant where I also had to deal with running the department.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So making sure all of the office supplies were in order and making sure all of the managers had whatever they need for meetings. That is when I realized I cannot do this office administration thing anymore. Some managers just don’t know how to speak to people, especially when they think that they are in a lower position than them.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And many times, I wanted to curse out my managers, but I remember that I had a job that paid for my degree and paid for all the things that associated with me in getting that degree. So doing design is never as simple as a business degree. You always have to get art materials. You have to think about printing the projects and all of these things.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
As much as the government was providing free tuition, I still had to think about how do I present a project to look professional. All these printing costs and all of these other things that you don’t necessarily think about before. So I had to keep my job. And I realized that within RBC, there is a internal graphic designer.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So when I was there as an office assistant, I looked through the company directory and I called the graphic designer at the time. I was like, hi, I want to do graphic design. I want to know what qualifications do you have? How did you get the job? And the person, she was really sweet. And she told me the school that she went to, and it was actually the same school that I was in at the time.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And she would help me with my assignments and helped me just to get the portfolio that I needed to become a graphic designer. And when she left, she told me, “Cherry, apply for the job.” I did not get a job the first time, but one year later, the person who replaced her left. And at that time, I was able to get work experience in graphic design.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So within the year of that person holding my spot as a graphic designer of RBC, I was able to teach graphic design with a government program at the time, which was retraining adults who wanted to learn a skill. So after not getting a job and feeling really disappointed, I was able to find something that gave me the experience. So the next time the job came up, I was able to apply again and get the job. So it works out in the end.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow. I mean, first of all, shout out to that woman for helping you out and letting you know this was an opportunity that you could take and also kind of motivating you to get to that point.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. She really did, and she’s still a friend till today. She messaged me this week.

Maurice Cherry:
What would you say is the best thing about the work that you do now?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
The best thing about the work that I do is that nobody tells me what I could do. So I initiate all my projects myself. It’s something that I never think that I could do because I have a knack for executing other people ideas really, really well. So you give me a vision. You tell me what you want to do. I sit down, I plan with you and we get this done. But when it comes to doing it for myself, there’s so much fear.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
There’s so much apprehension. But over the last year, 2020 has taught me if you are afraid, that just means you’re heading in the right direction, and your better mush the gas under the brakes. So just keep going full steam ahead, and that really helps me to think about how to approach these projects.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So a lot of the projects that I’m doing right now is around things that I’ve always loved. So I’ve always loved history, I’ve always loved music, I’ve always loved Trinidad. And a lot of my projects revolve around these things.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you found while you’ve been there in Switzerland, and I know places have been locked down, but have you found some, I don’t know, sense of community or some kind of sense of home there yet?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes and no. So for me, it was difficult to make friends because as any person who is moving to German speaking Europe will tell you if you don’t speak German, that’s the first strike against you. And I don’t speak German. And it was difficult for me to even have conversations with persons because most people can’t get past my accent even when I speak in my most standard English, as they would want to put it.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
People just so enamored by, “Oh my God, your accent is so beautiful.” But I’m asking for directions to go to the grocery. I need you to tell me where I’m going. And for me, finding a community actually happened while I was in school. So for us, there was a break in the lockdowns during the summer period, and I was just so happy to get out of my, it was not even a flat, my room and my dorm and the students who were also coming during the summer to do some work.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So I found a community with my friend, [inaudible 00:43:24]. She was from Israel, my friend, Paulina, and she’s from Poland, Swati, who’s from India, Pahlavi, who’s also from India. And I have two German friends as well. For us, it’s a community of immigrants, but we usually find a lot of common ground that we could all talk about, which is usually food and spices.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So I was able to form a community in my school during the time when nobody should be in school, which is the summer period. And we were all there just trying to catch up on what we think we would have lost during the lockdown.

Maurice Cherry:
It’s so interesting you mentioned that about food kind of being this sort of connective thing between you and other immigrants there. I just finished watching this documentary series on Netflix called High on the Hog. I think it just came out today, as the day we’re recording it, and I’m not sure if it’s available everywhere on Netflix. It may just be U.S. Netflix, not sure, but look it up.

Maurice Cherry:
So High on the Hog. It’s a four-part documentary series and the host goes from Benin, West Africa to Charleston, South Carolina, to… where else does he go? I know he goes to Texas. I feel like he goes somewhere. Oh, he goes to Philadelphia, and then he goes to Texas. And it’s sort of tracking how so much food, and vegetables, and recipes, and tastes, and spices that were there in Africa made the voyage over and became the basis of soul food here.

Maurice Cherry:
But I think sort of the connective tissue of that documentary and what you’re talking about is one, how food can be this sort of unifying factor, and how it seems like when food is on the table, and this is probably true in any culture, where foods on the table, we’re a lot more similar than we are different.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Very much so. I could attest to that. One of my friends, she’s actually doing her master’s on the intimacy of food. And just in having discussions with her, I understand all of the walls and the barriers that we think are there with food in front of us, it’s not anymore. And you are able to communicate and share experiences a lot easier just by sharing that intimate moments of eating in front of somebody or even eating with them.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I want to say, I don’t mean to embarrass you by putting this out here, but speaking of food, as I was doing my research, I saw that you are doing cooking videos on YouTube, which made me so hungry watching them. But please talk about that.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Oh my God. So during the lockdown, I was craving doubles, which is the quintessential Trinidadian breakfast. Any Trinidadian will tell you that doubles, right doubles will make you feel that you’re a Trinidadian. And you can’t ask a Trinidadian who has the best doubles, because they will always give you a different answer. But for me, doubles has grown up with me.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I remember when doubles was $1 and then moved to $1.50. When it went up to $1.50, I stopped buying doubles for a month. And then it went up to $2, and I was like, it is only going to go up from here. Doubles is the cheapest thing that you could get for breakfast, but it also satisfies you after that.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
After you party all night and you’re sweaty and you’re still drunk, you will find a doubles vendor to give you that hot [inaudible 00:47:05], and it will remind you of everything that is good in the world. And that was the feeling that I wanted, to relive when I started my cooking journey on YouTube. I am still very shy in doing videos, but I’m getting there, and I am working on it.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I brought my cookbook with me from Trinidad, which is naparima cookbook. I think it’s the book that all Trinidadians learn to cook from. And I am going through that book as though is it… I think there’s a movie called Marie & Marie, where she’s cooking through… Is it Marie? No. Julie & Julia, where she’s cooking through all of the recipes of a Julia child’s cookbook.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh yeah. Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, I think. I know what you’re talking about.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I will definitely be doing that. And I want to bring more recipes to YouTube using Swiss ingredients because I honestly thought I would not find anything that would taste like home in a restaurant, and I haven’t. So this is why I’m cooking online. And for me, it’s also a sense of bridging that gap where people think, especially in Switzerland, that a stranger is somebody who you have to be afraid of.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
But once I share food with you, you can’t be afraid of me anymore. This is me showing you my culture, showing you my side of life. And it involves a lot of flavor and all of… It involves sustainability in ways in which you may not have considered. So we use all of the food. We use all of the vegetable. We use as much parts of it as possible throughout the cooking. And I want to bring that to the university.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That sustainability part, you mentioned, that’s also something in that documentary that I talked about that I thought was really interesting. So there’s this thing, and I think maybe this exists in other countries, but certainly here in the United States because of slavery and such there’s this notion that goes around that slaves were kind of given the bad cuts of meat or the unpalatable cuts of meat. And we learned how to cook it, use those and in varied ways like pig’s feet or pig ear or something like that.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Pig’s tail, chicken feet.

Maurice Cherry:
But this documentary showed that we’ve always been like that’s not necessarily something that came about because of slavery in America. That’s something that Africans have been doing because when they hunt and they get the animal, they use the entire animal.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. And a lot of indigenous cultures have used these things for centuries. And it’s only because this new tomb has been coined sustainability that people are now looking at how could we use as much of the products that we have as possible? Hey, hello, we’ve been doing this. You are new to the game. Let us show you how to do it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I first heard about doubles actually because of this show. Back in 2015, I interviewed, I think she might’ve been the first Trinidadian person I had on the show. Her name was Jeunanne Alkins as she has a animation company and a design company called Everything Slight Pepper.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Oh, yes.

Maurice Cherry:
And she was mentioning the name of it came from that’s her doubles order.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Yes. Every Trini you must have slight pepper. If you don’t have slight pepper, I’m not sure if you have a Trinidadian passport. If you have a little sweet sauce too, you have a Trinidad and Tobago passwords we would say for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
And I have to say your videos on YouTube, the food looks amazing. The stew chicken, the macaroni pie, keep it up.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Thank you so much.

Maurice Cherry:
It looks so good.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
It was all done with my iPhone.

Maurice Cherry:
Look, that’s what a lot of people are using. I mean, come on. I just got a new phone last month or so because I’ve been holding onto my old phone. And this thing has three cameras on the back. These phones are getting so sophisticated. Use the phone. That’s where all the good cameras are

Cherry-Ann Davis:
For me I actually had a DSLR. And when I was leaving Trinidad, I realized this is too much for me to carry. I sold my DSLR and the money that I got from it, I put it towards buying the iPhone 11 because I know in the next two to three years, I’ll be a student and I’m not making any money to buy any new phone.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So I wanted the letters and I wanted to make sure that if I do anything with regards to recording or videos of photography, at least I have something that could provide me with good quality. And I am honestly excited to share more cooking videos. And those videos were released as part of my first curatorial project.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
It’s called We Cooking and it was part of a performance festival in Zurich called Zurich Moves and which I curated my thing as 12 other Caribbean designers to present work into a publication, but it tends on a mystery of Zurich Moves. Four curators came together and we produced a publication that is going viral. It’s getting lots of buzz in the arts within Zurich. And my mind is blown. This was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and I want to do so much more of it.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, if you don’t mind, I would love to link to your YouTube channel in the video so the audience can check them out as well. They’re really good.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Definitely. Thank you.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Right now? Yes, I do. I actually had this conversation a few weeks ago with one of my friends who still works in the bank. And she said to me, Cherry, if you did not leave the bank at the time that you left, I’m not sure you would have been able to survive because, for me, moving to Switzerland was a three-year project in which it involved at least 10 other people.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So 10 of my friends were there just cheering me on and making sure that I made my savings goals and helping me think about ways in order to make additional money to pay for my bills to move to Switzerland. However, it was called vision 2020 and it was not my goal to move to Switzerland. My goal was to move to Germany to go to design school there. When I got rejected, I had to change plans. I had to pivot really quickly.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And the friend who dropped me when I came to Switzerland, he actually came to Trinidad and he was like, “Cherry, this is a really nice school. I think you should come.” And he brought me brochures and I was like, “Hey, if Switzerland accept me, I’ll come.” And I applied and they did.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So that’s how I got here and this is how a lot of my creativity I could see the value in it now because it’s something that I’m doing and I’m doing from my heart and I’m doing the projects that I really feel passionate about. And I really want people to take notice of how passion could collide with purpose and provide inspiration for you to do things and go places that you may not have necessarily thought was within your reach before.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? It’s 2026. You’re out of school by this time. What kind of work do you want to be doing?

Cherry-Ann Davis:
I want to be a writer and a lecturer. So the reason that I did my masters was to become a lecturer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, which is one of the universities that I attended. But I am thinking now that with Zoom and Skype and the accessibility that we have for online learning, I don’t need to limit myself so geography.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I would to continue writing, design politics, and design thinking, and design critique pieces because there’s so many people and it will just react to everything the same things about design. And not looking at the nitty-gritty and the people who are being left out of the design conversations.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
And I want to say, hello, we’re here. Take a look at these with my writing. But I also want to help the next generation of designers see that anything is possible and that they could bring their authentic selves into what they are designing.

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

Cherry-Ann Davis:
So online I am at sliceofcherrypye. So it’s pie with a Y. So it’s sliceofcherryP-Y-E.site. And I’m also on Instagram with the same names, sliceofcherrypye, Twitter, TikTok as well where I just make fun out of things on TikTok. Those are the places.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Cherry-Ann Davis, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you really for sharing your honest look at how your life has been coming from another country and being in Switzerland during this whole lockdown and everything, but also really I can tell you have a lot of deep thoughts behind the work that you do about just kind of these intersections of culture and design and history.

Maurice Cherry:
And I’m excited to see the work that you produce whether it’s through the Futuress or through your studies. I’m excited to see how you bring your culture and all this work that you’re doing into this world that perhaps in Switzerland is not ready for it, but I have a feeling that you’re going to make them ready for it whether want to be or not. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Cherry-Ann Davis:
Thank you very much, Maurice. I just want to say one thing. My project is called Waiting Self and it’s exploration of what design could look like if culture is infused into it. So if I didn’t mention that before.

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.

Camille Selvon Abrahams

Camille Selvon Abrahams is a trailblazer in the animation industry. Not only did she co-found the first outsourcing animation studio in the Caribbean — Full Circle Animation Studio — but she also heads up animation studies at the University of Trinidad and Tobago and is the founding director of the Animae Caribe Animation Festival! And she’s still making history!

We had a pretty wide ranging conversation, and talked about her creative process, networking with other Black animators in the industry, the power of the African diaspora, and how she uses of storytelling to help with her work as a digital activist. According to Camille, we don’t need to ask permission to tell our stories, and I couldn’t agree more. Learn more about Camille and tap into your inner creative!

When I first met Karl a few years ago at HOW Design Live here in Atlanta, I knew I had to have him on the show because he embodies something special about the design community. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Karl came here to the U.S. for college, learned design and coding, and since then has built a vibrant and active community for coders, designers and creatives through his two annual events — SyntaxCon and Revolve Conference.

We started off talking about Karl’s work at his firm Harbormark, and from there he walked me through his journey from the Caribbean to the Carolinas, and how his first meetup in 2011 was the spark of something great. We also spent a good bit of time talking about conferences, speaking, and how these experiences are for people of color. Karl even gave some great advice for those looking to get into conference speaking, and we both give some advice for conference organizers out there. I’m really excited to see what Karl creates next!


Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
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Revision Path is also sponsored by Glitch. Glitch is the friendly community where you can build the app of your dreams. Stuck on something? Get help! You got this!
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caribbean-islands-map

Working in the beauty of the Caribbean is an enticing option for people who are looking for design or development opportunities. There are numerous Black entrepreneurs who are either from the Caribbean or have either emigrated to these countries to provide these much needed services. Here are  five design and development companies from a variety of islands in the Caribbean that we’d like to highlight.