Ashley Bozeman

Black history isn’t just confined to February, as this week’s guest Ashley Bozeman clearly indicates. As the first Black woman art director at The Martin Agency, Ashley brings years of professional experience to the table to help some of the most well-known brands in the world get their message across to their customers.

We talked shop about the day to day grind of working in advertising, and Ashley shared how her time at Hampton University and at The Creative Circus helped prepare her for the work she does today. She also gave some great advice for those looking to become art directors, and even spoke on how she finds time for joy in these current unprecedented times. Whether she’s putting together briefs or working on comps, Ashley is poised to become a top talent in the advertising industry. Keep your eyes on her!

Transcript

Full Transcript

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

Ashley Bozeman:
Hi. So my name is Ashley Bozeman. I am an art director here at the Martin Agency, which is located in Richmond, Virginia. So as far as the title of my actual role, so basically I work in the creative department at a creative ad agency. I’m usually paired with a copywriter and together we are the ones who are briefed and tasked to basically come up with ideas for campaigns, commercials, social posts, really anything you can think of. It’s our job to basically come up with that creative idea. And then specifically as an art director, it’s my job to bring that to life visually. So how does that look? Who is being represented? What are the color choices? What are the style choices? Cinematography, … working with directors and things like that, but we basically just, we’re the ones who control how everything looks. Whereas our partners are copywriters, they are the ones who control the tone of voice and what that sounds like and the scripts and things like that. So together we’re the ones, kind of the big brains behind a lot of the things you’ll see on TV as far as commercials and things like that.

Maurice Cherry:
It sounds like your work is a lot of, I guess meetings and sort of heads down work sessions. Is that true?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah. Yes, definitely a lot of meetings, but it’s also a lot of concepting. So it’s a lot of just, I was briefed earlier today, we’ll get a brief and then we’ll look at our calendars, “Hey when you have some time.” We’ll put two or three hours on our schedules and then we’ll just find a room in the office and literally just sit and come up with ideas. Ideas that are large and kind of lofty that we’re not sure if the clients would ever even buy or do. And then ideas that also fit the brief exactly. So we basically, we’ll just kind of get together and just kind of brainstorm of different ways we can kind of find the best solution for that problem in the brief to be solved or for something to be showcased in the best way possible.

Maurice Cherry:
And now this brief document that you get, this is coming? I’m assuming this is coming from the client or is this someone else is kind of putting this information together for you?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, so internally we have our strategists, so our strategists are the ones who had to work with a client and then they come and work on their own research and insights. So, basically develop a kind of, just kind of a brief, so it just, it’ll give us insights. It’ll have the actual problem they’re trying to solve. It’ll have a target demographic about when we’re trying to do said thing, have a timeline, maybe important events that are happening around that time too. That then they kind of all compile it together to kind of create this kind of, it’s usually about five or six page long document that we can also then use to kind of go back to, to kind of make sure that whatever ideas we do come up that they fit the brief and they fit that target … clients. And they fit the platform that they asked us to create on. Yeah, it’s kind of a mix. A lot of it does come internally, but they definitely have to use findings and have these conversations with the clients to make sure that it’s good to go.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, from what I heard, you were the first black woman hired there as a creative in the history of the agency. Is that true?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yes. So that’s actually pretty crazy. It’s pretty crazy considering I started in 2018, in the beginning of 2018. And I think I didn’t find that out probably at least a year and a half? A Year and a half maybe into my career here. But so it was kind of a shock. But I think also too, it was something that was also still really exciting. And I think that my friends and my parents, especially my mom, was trying to hype me up about, where initially I felt kind of scared. You know? You kind of feel worried like, “Oh okay, I don’t know if I really asked to be the first.” But something my mom always says is, “Well somebody has to be the first, so why can’t it be you?” So I think that things like that are also just so important when it comes to just kind of remembering your place. And then again, not take it as a negative, but just to know that like, “Hey, this is pretty exciting. We’re starting new things and somebody has to do it.” And all of us are more than capable in being that person.

Maurice Cherry:
Who are some of the brands or clients that you’ve been able to work with?

Ashley Bozeman:
When I first started out I primarily was working on Land O’Lakes Butter. So I know a lot of unnecessary facts about butter. Which is so funny with creatives and that’s why I love creatives, especially in the ad industry. Because everybody knows wild things about wild things, random things. It’s just so interesting. So I know a lot of things about butter, I worked on butter for almost a year. And then last year I did a lot of work for Discover Card, I’m a little knowledgeable actually in credit cards. So that’s kind of exciting. This year and at the end of last year too, I’ve been on more Oreo work, which has been fun and exciting. And then a lot of different other things. As we were pitching for Old Navy, I helped out with that some and that was really fun. And so many that they literally just have us go back and forth. I’m working on Penske now. I’ve done UPS. I’ve done Ritz Crackers, I’ve worked on that for a while.

Ashley Bozeman:
So, there’s definitely a lot of brands that I’ve had the opportunity to touch here, which has been fantastic. But then also too, we also just have a lot of cool brands too that I’m excited to hopefully touch this year, DoorDash and CarMax and things like that. So yeah, it just kind of changes and it’s nice because I’m never just on one thing. I’m usually on a few different things, so that, and I think especially when you have a mind that’s literally all over the place, it’s nice to be able to divert your energy into other paths rather than just one.

Maurice Cherry:
Is there a specific type of client that you enjoy working with? Because I would imagine in an ad agency you’re working with, like you just mentioned all these different clients, they’re in all these different industries. There’s a lot of variety there.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, there are. Yeah, there is. It’s interesting too because I think I find that, that almost changes sometimes. I think there’s been parts of every client that I’ve worked on so far that I really, really have enjoyed and I really, really liked. I think Oreo is really fun because they are kind of design heavy and I do love design and they also really love big ideas. So that’s kind of a really fun place to kind of come up with these larger ideas. But I think also too, I really love projects that use their platform to kind of spread a larger message. And I think that that’s something that’s really nice because it’s kind of few and far between. A lot of times people just want to make sure that their brand or their product is put, placed first, which I totally understand. But I think at the same time, I also love, love, love when a client can tap into an issue that is relatable for them and appropriate for them and they want to do something about it. And I think that that’s really fun and I think that’s what gets me most excited when I get, on [inaudible 00:08:52] like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I have to ask this question because you’ve spent a lot of time talking about really sort of kind of the great things about your job and what it is that you do, but what’s the worst thing about being an art director in an agency?

Ashley Bozeman:
I would say the worst thing would probably, honestly and I think you can ask any art director this, I’m pretty sure they’ll say the same thing. I think the death of every art director is making comps and making comps is literally just the art of basically intense hours of photoshopping and searching for images. And let’s say you’ve come up with this grand idea, you said, “Okay, we want to make a truck that has a slide on the back of it.” And of course every client is just like, “Okay, I don’t know what that means. Can we see what that looks like?” So again, that’s our job so now we have to find a truck, I’m going on Getty and search all these things and find the perfect truck then photoshop that truck to make it Oreo branded, let’s say. And then put a giant, and then find another image of a slide that still fits and then still have it look somewhat realistic.

Ashley Bozeman:
So, I think that part can just be just such a time consuming thing because you can search for pictures for hours and you can get stuck in this hole for hours. And so I think that that might be the most difficult part, because how can you move fast but then also make something look as nice. So I think that that’s something I’ve really been working on this year too, is just my speed but then also to my craft and making sure that those two things go together. So, that can just be a little time consuming. But like I said, I think a lot of art directors can feel my pain when it comes to making comps.

Maurice Cherry:
So when you’re working together with the copywriter, are there, it sounds like you’re also kind of the designer too. There’s not designers that are in house that are helping out or you’re kind of?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yes. We definitely, we have a whole super, super talented design team and we also have a very super, super talented studio art team. The studio art, so that’s a group of people that will more so be the ones to kind of help us with those comps and kind of help us get things together and make sure the images are perfect and the files are perfect before they send them off to be shipped to whomever. And then our designers are more so, they’ll kind of sit in concept with us sometimes. So sometimes they’ll even be in the brief if it’s big enough, they’ll be in the brief with us and so then they know that they’re kind of concepting and thinking about it design-wise. Whereas we’re kind of focused on still the imagery, but also too the core of the idea. That’s still a big part of our job description as well. So we still have people who can help us out, but nine times out of 10 they have to kind of, they still have plenty of things they have to do on their own. So it’s just, I think as an art director you kind of have to be multifaceted. But I think a great art director is also a great designer and vice versa. So, it’s an interesting role because it kind of dips into a bunch of different things.

Maurice Cherry:
Was design kind of a big part of your childhood? Growing up, you grew up in Milwaukee from what you told me before we started recording. Was design kind of a big part of you growing up?

Ashley Bozeman:
So, you know what? Not necessarily design but more so just art. It’s interesting because, so I’m the oldest of five and both of my parents are super smart. My dad is an engineer. My mom has always been great at math and science and so I feel I came out and I was just this little, “Hey, let’s draw.” I just always felt, “Wait, what happened? How did I not get that gene?” But it’s fine. I think what’s interesting too is, now that I actually sitting here and talking about it, I think because of my dad’s job, we moved around quite a bit. And by moving around, we’ve probably moved around almost every three years. So, I was constantly going to new schools in new states and trying to, I was always the new kid, but I think I found comfort in art. I think that was something that wasn’t reliant upon somebody else. So if I were to move that summer or something, I could still draw, it was something that still keep me occupied. It was something that I really enjoyed, seeing a picture and then trying to, then bring it.

Ashley Bozeman:
Seeing a picture and then trying to then bring it to paper. So that was something I think kind of like that all kids do. But then I noticed that that was one thing that I really kept with. So I kept with it throughout middle school, I kept with it throughout high school, I even kept with it through, actually, through college, which I had then realized like, “Oh, maybe I should have majored in art. Maybe this should’ve been a thing.” But I still took, like I literally took an art class every single semester and there’s only one semester I did it and I literally could feel the difference. I just didn’t feel the same. So that’s when I realized, “Okay, like this is probably going to be a part of me forever.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ashley Bozeman:
So yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Were your parents kind of really supportive of you going into art, like that?

Ashley Bozeman:
They were. They were and I thank them all the time and I’m just so appreciative. They’ve always been super understanding. They’ve always been very supportive in that, and so I always say it. Before I left or right after I had graduated from Hampton, I had gotten a degree in Public Relations, which I still really liked. But you know, I just, I don’t know, there was something about it where I was just like, “Okay,” I basically made a deal with myself. I said, “Okay, so I’m job hunting. You know, I’m looking for a PR job but I’m going to take art classes on the side because I think that that’s something really important to me.” So I was looking for jobs in different cities and I lived in Atlanta and so, of course, I was probably looking up the art schools before I was looking up the jobs, but … so that tells you a lot right there but …

Ashley Bozeman:
I found through a Google search, I was like looking through like art school and then up popped up two different things. It was the Portfolio Center and then the Creative Circus. And I remember reading through, because as I was doing like the job search or like as I was looking at like descriptions for the PR jobs, it was interesting because art director would never be that far because it’s still all in communications. And so I would always see that job position, that job role and I was just like, “Wow, that sounds so cool. It literally sounds right up my alley, but I don’t know how would I become an art director? That doesn’t make any sense.” And like, “That’s really cool. I don’t know how people get into it, but whatever.” Once I found the Circus I was looking through and it was basically, I was just like, “Oh, so this is a two year program where I could learn how to be an art director.”

Ashley Bozeman:
I said, “That sounds lit. That’s exactly what I want to do,” and so I remember I had like, I found it, I thought about it, like I prayed on it and I sent my parents this really long text one morning. I was just like, “Hey, I found this school. I know I wasn’t planning to go right back to school, but I found this school. I’m in Atlanta and I can study as an art director there. And I think that like, I think it’s legit. Like I think this is something I really want to do. It’s something I’m really interested in. What do you guys think basically?” And they were just like, I mean, “Okay, crazy girl.” They’re just like, that’s fine.” They’re like, “Okay.”

Ashley Bozeman:
So like I was like, I was the one who was like really stressed, like, “I don’t know, like hopefully they’ll be okay with it. X, Y, and Z.” They were like, “Yeah, that’s fine. Like, sure why not?” And so for that, I’m very thankful because I just know it’s hard. I think it’s hard really for anyone to kind of tell like their parents and stuff, especially after we just spent all this money at a four year university that, “Hey, I want to go to a portfolio school where, you know, also mind you, you don’t get a degree in.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ashley Bozeman:
“You, more so, just get a certificate,” and it’s kind of crazy. It’s like, “Okay, so we’re about to put some more money back into schooling that you technically don’t get another degree in.” But I was trying to explain the importance. I was just like, “Well, look, like still like there’s like a 99% placement, 95, 99% placement rate after graduation. I think it’ll be great.” So yeah, they helped ride that wave with me ever since then and even before and still now. So for that, I’m very grateful. I know that that’s very much so a privileged that I don’t take lightly.

Maurice Cherry:
So I want to go back to the Creative Circus, but even before then you kind of glossed a little bit over the fact that you went to such a prestigious HBCU for undergrad. You went to Hampton University.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah. Those were some of the best years of my life so far. I think that’s where Ashley came to be Ashley. I think I had grown up in predominantly white institutions and places and schools. My mom was the one who actually really pushed for that. She was very adamant and “Hey, I know that, like, obviously, like we couldn’t help like by school district with so much like while you were in high school and stuff,” but she was like, “If you decide to go to HBCU, just know that this is probably one of the only times in your life you’ll be surrounded by so many beautifully educated brown and black people who look just like you and you just won’t necessarily get that opportunity anywhere else.” And the more I thought about it, it was interesting. I was a little nervous because I was actually going into the Hampton, I was worried that maybe I wasn’t “black enough.”

Ashley Bozeman:
You know, I didn’t necessarily have a lot of black friends growing up and I technically wasn’t in all those spaces and necessarily didn’t know all the music and things like that. Of course, I was still like with my family and stuff, but you know, it’s still not the same if you don’t have like a core group of friends and stuff in high school and things like that. So it just wasn’t the same. And so I was a little worried about that, but honestly it turned out that there were a lot of Ashleys at Hampton and it was fantastic. And I think I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, but that fear was just a projected fear that I had. It was never anything that actually happened. There was still a place for me as there was a place to someone who grew up in all black schools their entire life.

Ashley Bozeman:
I feel like that kind of flowing into Hampton was more, way more seamless than I thought it would be. But yeah, Hampton was an incredible experience. I have lifelong friends from there. I have bridesmaids, I have probably maid of honors, like I just have some of my best friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. I just love also, too, I think also, too, I came into terms of also celebrating just who I am and also being black and like how much, like how much power there is in that. And so Hampton taught me a lot of that as well. And so that’s really exciting and it’s interesting, too, it even transcended into some of my art, too. I notice growing up I actually drew more white women, more people who probably weren’t of a black ethnicity. It was interesting to kind of see how my sketchbooks have changed, too, by just being introduced into that.

Ashley Bozeman:
And then also like again, it’s important to know like … Well, it’s important as a child, even just growing up as a teenager, what you see and what your perception is on things and how much that affects you. But it was crazy how that was affecting my art and how I never really drew girls that necessarily looked like me, but now like if you asked me today like that’s all I do.

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Ashley Bozeman:
So it’s very, very, very interesting to see how just that influence that I think that I had [inaudible 00:06:55]. I think that that was probably the best decision I could’ve made. And that’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Like flat out, in my 26 years or so.

Maurice Cherry:
You make an interesting point there about HBCUs. I mean, so I went to an HBCU also. I went to Morehouse and HBCUs in general are … I mean maybe this is just us speaking as black people, like they’re very warm, comforting open spaces for everyone.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I don’t know if people that maybe don’t know the HBCU experience or just aren’t familiar with HBCUs in general really see that. But like it’s such a unique sort of family thing. I think one just among students and alums at a particular school, but also between HBCU graduate students and alums of other schools. Like we see like a certain kinship in other people that have went to HBCU. I don’t know if that, if that kind of makes sense or not, but, no. Essentially because you said your mom kind of really wanted you to go there to sort of soak up that culture. I’m curious to know like because Hampton has such a well known design program, I mean we’ve had several people on the show who have graduated from Hampton that went on to graduate school. Actually, you mentioned the Creative Circus, nikita Pope, she’s a Hampton grad. What was the program like there for you? Like did you feel like it really prepared you once you got out there as a working art director? As a working designer?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, so I think what’s interesting is I think as most … Well, I was 17, 18 year old going into college, I think I knew that I wanted to be kind of creative. I knew I liked things that were more like thinking based than creation based, but I don’t think I ever really knew how to fully get into it. And so with that being said, I think some of that, it was also, too, of my own misunderstanding and kind of almost like canceling it out completely. Whereas I think maybe I probably in those four years, I look back now and I’m just like, “Man, I wish I would’ve learned Photoshop and Illustrator and Adobe Suite during Hampton rather than trying to learn it at the Circus.” And so I think that was almost kind of my misstep in like not maybe taking full advantage of all the programs that were there currently in Hampton as I was kind of more so just focused on like just fine art and just drawing and painting and things like that.

Ashley Bozeman:
So looking back I’m just kind of like, “Man, if I would have only really known that like I could have done this and then went here and then that would’ve made sense then I think I absolutely would’ve set it up that way.” But I think, I know it’s not just me. I know it’s a lot of people. I think it’s just like you realize and you’re just like, “Oh, shoot, this was an option and this was a path.” And like looking back I definitely would have done some things differently as far as like my track and kind of like my major, definitely my minor. I think that they have a great solid program and I do have friends and I do know people who have successfully gone through the program, but they’re doing great now still, too. I just think I just wasn’t like for sure, for sure just yet, while I was at Hampton. It just wasn’t able to fully tap into all the resources.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I think that’s probably like, I don’t want to say a regret, but I feel like that’s a regret for … Sometimes I think for people that are at schools, they don’t feel like they’ve gotten a chance to really utilize all the resources. It’s sort of one of those, you know, hindsight, this 20-20 kind of things. You look back and realize how good you had it in a way. But I mean what you learned at Hampton though at least kind of propelled you forward to then go to the Creative Circus.

Ashley Bozeman:
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think also through Hampton, I think that also, one of big … Well, a really big takeaway that I got from Hampton is learning how to just work with people and learning to really come into your own. I think I feel like that that was almost like, I think college in general, it just, it comes at the right time and then always feels like it ends too early. But I’m sure that it ends right on time, but it definitely prepared me to work with people and professionalism and kind of again, like you were mentioning earlier about that sense of community that now I carry into when it comes to, here amongst all the employees here, Martin, but also especially our black employee network.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ashley Bozeman:
And that’s something that I really lean into hard because I think it reminds me so much of Hampton. So it’s something that I really kind of latch onto and really try to kind of just, I don’t know, just really attach myself to, because it really feels like home.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. So when you ended up going to the Circus and you were here in Atlanta, I’m curious like what was that time like for you? Because Creative Circus, I’m thinking, I’m sort of trying to line it up. So this is like between 2015 to 2017 what was that time like in Atlanta for you?

Ashley Bozeman:
Atlanta was a great time. So it was interesting because Atlanta necessarily wasn’t in one of my cities to live necessarily. But I realized that I had really made a home out of Atlanta by the time I … like those two years were up and I miss it almost every day. But I think my time there was just such a whirlwind, was probably the best way to explain it? It was like anything I’ve never, like I’ve ever experienced before. It was just, I just call it, it was just like this crazy two-year bootcamp, I felt like.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Ashley Bozeman:
Because the Circus is also set up by quarters, so it’s pretty much year round, and so that was something new. I think also too, that’s the biggest city that I lived in and I lived in my own. Also, too, kind of just going off a whim and doing something that I personally did never knew of anybody doing before and kind of leaping out to take that chance was also really scary. And so I think, what I was like 22, I think I’d just turned 23 the day before my first day of class. And it was just a crazy time. But again, like that was just another time where I learned so much and I got to be just so creative and that’s something else, too, that I miss. There were like, there were barely any restrict

Ashley Bozeman:
… that’s something also too that I missed. There were barely any restrictions. There were barely any like, “Oh we can’t do that or you can’t use those colors. You can do that.” Like everything was open for grabs. There was time to actually do things and even as rushed and as stressed and as busy as we were because we were all those things all the time for those whole two years. At the same time, I think that I still made incredible, incredible friendships and experiences that like, again, kind of like the Hampton, I think that that play in my life will stay with me forever too. I think that that was such a big, important time as far as my career development and also my development as a creative.

Ashley Bozeman:
I really think that that was also the time that I really fell in love with design and digital design and graphic design and digital art and how to transfer my traditional skills and kind of put it more into like this modern day age. So it was like this big squirrel, but it was fantastic. And again, I think that that was also a great choice that I’m very happy I did.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Now when you look back over your career, look back over your education et cetera. Who are some of the people that have really helped motivate and inspire you throughout the years?

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah. So I think a lot of times when I think about those people, a lot of times they are just people who have just been just kind. And a lot of times it’s friends, it’s family, everybody in between. So I would say that first off, of course my family is always super supportive, always have been day one, very thankful. Then I feel like I had my Hampton core group friends, they were always so supportive. I would call them in tears or super stressed out about a project and they would always pick up the phone, always be encouraging like, “Hey, we don’t really understand 100% but we know that you’re doing the right thing. So just keep going.”

Ashley Bozeman:
And then as I got to the circumstance stuff, I’ve met amazing creatives who are just all like just fantastic. And so I’m learning from them every day. And it’s really nice to also go through this journey at the same time with them and hearing similar stories. And I think that that’s something that’s more empowering that I think people may not realize, but having a group of people who are doing similar or pretty much the same thing as you but different places, it’s really cool to see us all grow all over the country. I have some really fantastic, fantastic coworkers who have now turned to friends who have now turned to family. And a lot of those people here at Martin, they are like brothers and sisters. They are like big brothers and sisters. They’re mentors. And I just am so thankful for all of them and I think that they are really single-handedly helping me navigate my career, which is priceless.

Ashley Bozeman:
I just learned so much from each and every one of them and I’m so thankful for their presence. But I think it takes a village and it’s been taken a village. So there’s a ton of people that I feel like I’ve been blessed with that can help me out with that.

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

Ashley Bozeman:
Yes, I feel like I’m not 100% sure what that is, but as far as like a name, I think my dream project would be visually stunning, very well designed. And then also too it would be for a bigger cause. It would either be for like a nonprofit, it would be either some kind of announcement. I’ve also always dreamed in maybe doing design or art direction for an art museum. Even like I’ve also been watching a lot of music videos lately. Low key I would love to art direct a music video. And then two, I think also my dream is to work on a movie one day.

Ashley Bozeman:
It kind of like it spans, it can be anything from like a book, like a very beautifully like well art directed well laid out books all the way to helping out to say that I was able to help out with even like a Pixar film if I could. Like be in the room to help out with like art direction or color or things like that. Things like that just really get me excited and those kind of projects too I think would help also to remind me of why I love my job in the first place and it all comes back to being able to make something and I think that that’s what I love the most is just physically making something and that’s why I love being an art director. I love coming up with ideas but also really, really love making things. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I have to ask since you mentioned a music video, which artist would you work with?

Ashley Bozeman:
I mean obviously I love Beyoncé. I would do anything she would ever ask me to do. In drop of a dime if she called me right now, I would run to LA or wherever she’s at, but there are some really, really, really cool artists out here that I really love. So I recently watched … I believe her name is Victoria Monét. She just had a music video drop for her new song Moment and visually it’s beautiful. She did such an amazing job. Her art direction is fantastic. Like things like that I would absolutely work with her in a heartbeat.

Ashley Bozeman:
And also too, I’ve been watching a lot of Brent Faiyaz. He also has some really cool artsy and kind of grungy art direction, which I would also be very into. And obviously Solange also does a great job. There’s just a few different ones. And then even too, people I would also say don’t sleep on even some of the rappers like Playboi Carti, he also does a great job as far as like his editing team, kind of like I love the effort that’s being put behind a lot of these music videos. They’re just so visually engaging.

Ashley Bozeman:
And it’s just interesting because we don’t necessarily have that like 106 apart or MTV playing music videos all the time. You kind of have to go out of your way to kind of watch them. But I love that we’re still putting the effort behind them even if we’re not being watched all the time. You think that that would kind of die off, and in some aspects it has. And I think people that’s why maybe we don’t even have as many music videos on a consistent basis than we think we should. But I think I love music so much. And so to be able to tell a story within a song, I think that that would just be such a fun challenge and you can take that story so many different ways as people do and find meaning and find purpose for everything. But I think that that would be something really, really fun to do.

Maurice Cherry:
I am seeing how the music videos now for certain artists are certainly, it’s bringing me back to like the Heyday of the 90s when we had like Hype Williams video that you had like really dope videos by Missy and everything and it’s like you get so in throbbing. Of course you love the song, but then visuals along with the song, it makes each video like an event of sorts.

Maurice Cherry:
I feel like we have to really give it up to Michael Jackson for making videos releases and events like a prime time of it that people used to tune into. I remember as a kid tuning into watch Black or White or tuning into watch Remember The Time, but like yeah, now you really kind of don’t see that. It feels like the big thing now is the surprise drop. I mean like Beyoncé did it of course. And now everyone else is trying to find some way to get your attention really quickly. So it’s not only, yes, we want you to look at the video and consume the music. But it’s really about gathering your attention for a period of time.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah. And similar to how you felt like that. That’s how I felt in Atlanta when she dropped Lemonade. I vividly remember that night and I went over to my friend’s house saw that at HBO, we’d all brought stuff to eat and watch and I just remember just texting my mom like, “Oh my God, do you see this?” I think that that was fantastic. I think that also just goes to show the true craft and then like again that wanting to make something. Again, this is nothing she ever like necessarily had to do, but I think a lot of it for her and just like Michael, I think it’s that wanting to tell that story and go that extra step.

Ashley Bozeman:
Like yes, I made the song and yes I made the lyrics and I have to sing and perform it, but now it’s just like I want to bring it to life visually. And I think that that’s really, really exciting. And I think you don’t see that necessarily all the time. But all that to say too is like Lemonade, like that was an event and I just don’t remember the last music video since then. That has really felt like an event. I don’t know. Like I feel like my memory might be a little jog right now.

Maurice Cherry:
No, I think you might be right. Videos come out all the time, but it’s like they get shared on Twitter or something and you watch a vivo link, and you’re like, okay, then you go about your day. Like it’s not really something that you really are tuned in for or anticipated seeing. Because for the artists they want to surprise you with it. It’s like, “Oh, surprise. I put out a new music video.” And you’re like, “Oh, okay.” And you watch it and then that’s it.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, I know. I know. And that’s why I think her idea of like a visual album was fantastic. And then to also see all the songs coming to life from one bigger story, which I think also too, a lot of that just goes back to storytelling and the art of doing that, which is really fun. Whether you’re telling your own story or you’re entrusted to share someone else’s story. I think there’s a lot of power and there’s a lot of connectiveness that comes in being able to kind of bring those words and those experiences to life.

Maurice Cherry:
And I think we’re also fortunate to be at a time where the technology is also accessible enough where you don’t necessarily have to have the huge studio and the crew and everything. I mean people are shooting great music videos on iPhones with gimbals, like the tech and the hardware, I should say, has gotten a lot more accessible for more people to really kind of get into it.

Ashley Bozeman:
Right. Yeah, exactly. It is really cool to see how quickly things move every day. And I know people talk about that all the time, but really things move so fast and so it’s just like you’re just trying to ride away. I would say 15 seconds, but I feel like it’s less than that.

Maurice Cherry:
It is now. I mean you’re starting to see artists that are like … Actually I read this article and I’m sort of plugging work here for a minute, but I read this article on Glimmer, which is my employer’s glitch, but we have a lifestyle publication called Glimmer and one of the recent articles is about how artists manipulates their songs and their DJ system makes sure that they’re getting like the maximum out of streams and everything like that. So it almost feels like the music is not in as much about expression as much as it is about just charting or getting numbers, reaching some like arbitrary success metric.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s good that you have the artists that are sort of outside of that, that are more interested in creating experiences. Like you mentioned Solange, you mentioned Beyoncé, I think Janelle Monáe is like another artist that tries to do that. Like just tries to elevate what she’s doing past just a track or an EP. She wants to make it like an experience.

Ashley Bozeman:
Exactly. It’s artists like that I really latch onto and I really respect them and their path because I think that that’s just like the definition of a true artist. Like you just legitimately want to make something for the sake of making it and expressing yourself. And I think that that’s so exciting. And also too, especially when you do a despite, maybe low views, may or may not help streams or whatever. I feel like in this day and age, if you’re really taking the time for music videos, a lot of times you’re just doing it out of artistry, which I respect. Especially really, really nicely well. Not just also like we’re just blowing this giant budget we have, getting this quarter of a million, million dollar budget. But outside of that we’re actually using it to actually sit down and craft a story. Those are the artists I respect the most.

Maurice Cherry:
What do you wish you would’ve been told about the advertising industry when you first started?

Ashley Bozeman:
I wish I would’ve known how quickly things move. And how things, things as far as like projects almost do like making me here today and gone tomorrow. It’s such an interesting thing and it’s such an interesting career choice because you are investing yourself. So like creatively and kind of like emotionally a little bit and mentally can be very straining and physically you can be very tired. So you’re just putting in all this energy-

Ashley Bozeman:
Basically you can be very tired, so you’re just putting in all this energy, and then into a thing that’s not even necessarily always for certain. So projects can still fall through. [inaudible 00:39:12] can be like, “Oh, we’re not going to do this.” Or they can be like, “Oh, we’re going to hold this for later. Oh, well, we don’t have the resources to do that right now, so we’re going to go ahead and table it.” There’s just so many factors that go into everything and way more factors than I think that people realize.

Ashley Bozeman:
Every time you see a really good commercial on TV now, I actually applaud it and I respect it because there are just so many factors that played into having great work get out there. So it’s just kind of hard. But that’s something I really respect.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you make time for joy?

Ashley Bozeman:
I make time for joy by, I think keeping to the things that I still want to do, regardless. I’ve learned that this job can be very stressful and there can be a lot of projected stress. It can be very rush, rush, rush, this, this, this. But I think what gives me joy at the end of the day, and when I go home and I go to sleep, is just my relationships with people and my friendships with people, and knowing how much those matter to me.

Ashley Bozeman:
So what brings me joy, I think, is doing whatever I can to maintain those, and to commit myself or be committed to still honoring the things that I still love to do on the side and actively making time for those things. So it can be kind of tough when you feel like you’re super swamped, and you have a lot of things going on, and a lot of projects, but I think it’s possible just with a little planning. A lot of things are possible with just like, “Okay, well let me move these things around so I can have some space.”

Ashley Bozeman:
And I also too, I think what I’ve been realizing lately, is just sometimes it’s solitude and sometimes it’s also just taking a step back and just finding joy and peace in also replenishing yourself. I think a lot of times too, we weigh outcomes, we define ourselves by the outcomes of our project. A lot of times, a lot, a lot, a lot of times, it’s because something fell through. A lot of times it’s not our fault, it’s just external factors. So I think it’s important for me to also find your way into other things, that I feel like maybe I do find more control in and putting more of my, some of that same, maybe not more, but at least some of that same energy that I put into for work things, that I will still put in for things like my side project, or if I want to just have a, I call them paint parties. My paint parties, it’s just me painting on my floor by myself.

Ashley Bozeman:
So overall though, I really do think that there’s joy all around us. I think it’s just our … Sometimes it can kind of feel scheduled or kind of like a responsibility. But in living in a world where things are so crazy, and things do move around so fast, and things get rescheduled, and this, that, [inaudible 00:02:58], you’re trying to keep up with things, I just feel like, “Well, hey, if I have to schedule time for me to [inaudible 00:42:03].” And if I put on my calendar, ‘Go have fun’ then that’s what I’ll do. But I find joy in my friends, and also, I find a lot of joy going to concerts too.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice.

Ashley Bozeman:
I love seeing live music, so that’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of, so I’m always at somebody’s concert. That’s something I plan to keep up.

Maurice Cherry:
What advice would you give to somebody that wants to break into the ad industry today?

Ashley Bozeman:
I would say, “Okay, cool. I’m glad that … I’m so happy that you’ve seen and considered this as an option.” I think that there are resources, and I think also too, it’s interesting now because I feel like the game is really changing as far as the way that recruiting is going. I think agencies, even Martin, is researching and finding new ways to recruit and find talent. It’s interesting, a lot of times it almost always felt like this secret almost. It’s just like, “How do you get into that? How do you do it?” But I think agencies are now trying harder to be more present, be more present at places like HBCUs, to go to more to a whole plethora of high schools and middle schools, to career fairs, which I’ve been to both and I’m helping with those efforts. Something that I’m also very passionate about.

Ashley Bozeman:
But I think that it’s definitely possible. I think if able, I think portfolio schools are a great, great, great in, a great in to the ad agency life. They really are a great pipeline to get in the door. But outside of that, just really tapping into those creative strengths, working on your craft and your skill, and then just feeling confident in concepting and coming up with ideas.

Ashley Bozeman:
But what’s lovely about ad agencies too, is what we tell everybody, is that there is usually a place for every type of person here, even if it’s not in creative. There’s usually some kind of space that everyone fits into. And so with that being said, I think it’s just so viable and it’s just, again, even if you’re not in [inaudible 00:44:10] department, I think there’s something to be said to be around so much creative energy and be in such a flexible environment. I really truly think, and I know a lot of people out there to feel the same way.

Ashley Bozeman:
But I feel like this is legitimately what I need. I feel like … I always tell people too, “In your heart of hearts, if you feel like you’re meant to do something, you might as well just start now because you’re going to end up doing it anyways because it’s not going to go away.” So, it’s just like, “All right, well if I’m able to start now, let’s just start now.” So yeah, but there’s a place literally for everyone and I think that’s what I love most about my job. Nobody, no two people, come from the same background or the same [inaudible 00:44:51]. It’s just different. But there’s all these different people but they all have a space, and so I think that that’s something to be said.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Like it’s 2025, what kind of work are you doing or working on?

Ashley Bozeman:
2025, at that point I feel like there’s probably a good chance I’ll probably be either in New York or LA. I would be working on some really, really cool, potentially lifestyle-esque brands. Whether that be like a Target, or do an interesting media company, like a Refinery29, or potentially even maybe even trying out what it’s like to be an art director at a magazine company like Elle or Ebony or any of those. And am I able to still empower people there too?

Ashley Bozeman:
I’m excited because I think by then my creativity will have branched out to something that’s still art direction, but I think might be a little different. And so that’s what I’m trying to figure out now, is what is it? I know I love creating, I know I love making things, but what are other ways I can also explore that too? And I also too, maybe I’ll have a side project by then that’ll just blow up, and then I can just be an entrepreneur for the rest of my life. You just never know and it’s just really exciting. But there’s so many opportunities to be creative but in different ways. So I’m excited to really explore those out in the next five years.

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

Ashley Bozeman:
My portfolio, which I’m working on updating currently, my portfolio is ashleybozeman.com. So A-S-H-L-E-Y B-O-Z-E-M-A-N.com. And then my Instagram is @AshleyCierraa. So A-S-H-L-E-Y C-I-E-R-R-A-A. So those are the two places that I am the most, especially Instagram, but I’m usually always around.

Ashley Bozeman:
I’m always down, I always answer almost every DM. Or if anybody who ever wants to chat or has any questions too about just getting started, that’s something I love to do. And I love to get people excited and just talk about it as a career. But I love to help out in any way that I can. I think that it’s so important to still reach back. And I know that I’ve only been doing this for two years, but if there’s some way I can help, I definitely will.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. All right, well Ashley Bozeman, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you really for sharing your story about what it’s like being a young black woman working in the advertising industry, and then also sharing the things that inspire you. We have people, I think really of all ages, that are listening to this show. We’ve got students, we’ve got captains of industry, et cetera, and we try to hit just a lot of different points of creativity and design and everything. So it’s always good to hear from the perspective of someone that’s, I wouldn’t say just starting out in it, but you’ve been in it for a while now.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah. But basically, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, but I mean to get the perspective of what is it like for you now at this stage? I mean, 2020 for all intents and purposes, is the future, in a lot of ways.

Ashley Bozeman:
Yeah, I know. It’s scary.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, and I mean it’s good to know that you’re at a position where you’re able to craft the images that a lot of people see when it comes to representation for a number of different brands and companies, et cetera. That’s a really big mantle to hold. So it sounds like definitely you have the creativity and the skills to make it happen, and I’m going to be really interested to see what you work on in the future. So thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Ashley Bozeman:
Oh, my God. Thank you so much for having me. This has been fantastic. It was lovely to talk to you and yeah, just thank you so much for having me on this platform, and hopefully that this’ll help or inspire someone else.


RECOGNIZE is open for essay submissions for Volume 2! The deadline is April 30 – enter today!

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What does the “middle” of a designer’s career look like? Does the “middle” exist outside of a corporate company’s career ladder? I examine these questions and more with this week’s guest, the one and only Chanel James. As a designer for EAB, Chanel works on production and design and for a number of different projects, all with the goal of making education smarter and our communities stronger.

Chanel talked about what attracted her to work for EAB, and also spoke on her work with AIGA DC on their board of directors. We also discussed the South and design, how she acquired a love for illustration from a popular kid’s television show, and yes, we went into the mid-career designer topic I mentioned earlier. Chanel lives by the motto “make it pretty”, and no matter her role or profession, she definitely brings the skills and experience to the table that make her motto a fact!

Full Transcript

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

Chanel James: Hi. My name is Chanel James. I’m an In House Designer at a company called EAB, which is like a best practices research, education firm. We essentially help schools, provide schools with research, and best practices to better the experience for students in higher ed, and otherwise.

Maurice Cherry: Nice. How long have you been at EAB?

Chanel James: I’m also at my two year mark, I’ll be at two years in February. It’s been a really awesome two years, I’ve learned and grown a lot while I’ve been here, I’ve touched a lot of different projects. It’s in house, but it can sometimes feel like an agency, which is exciting in that way. We get the same projects, but they change almost each year, so that’s exciting for me.

Maurice Cherry: Nice. What attracted you to working for them?

Chanel James: To say that I kind of got to back up a little bit, after graduating I went to go work for a consulting firm, which was not my vibe, not anything I enjoyed doing. Prior to that I was working in house for a nonprofit, still in the education realm and I loved that, it felt like a family, almost felt like school in the sense where I was learning as I was doing projects. But, the other place was not anywhere in the realm of what I wanted to continue doing.

Chanel James: I came across EAB, I met someone at an AIGA event in 2017 who worked here, and I looked up their work and I was like, “Oh, this is something I think I can get with.” I love the culture, like how the culture looks and stuff. I applied, and thankfully I got it, and the rest was history from there. Yeah, I was really attracted to, I’m a big one on workplace culture and balance, work/life balance because work takes up 85% of our lives essentially. And if you don’t enjoy it while you’re there, like if you don’t enjoy it, that’s like most of your life you’re not enjoying.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: I try to focus on that.

Maurice Cherry: What is the culture like there?

Chanel James: Very supportive. People here understand that you have like, people know that you have families, and you have life outside of the walls of EAB. PTO is taken seriously, that’s really hard when it comes to being in anything with design, often times people like, “Oh, overnight. Oh, we need this tomorrow.” But here if you’re like, five o’clock comes they’re like, “Oh, we understand. I’ll get it from you sometime midday tomorrow,” type thing. It’s nice to have like, I mean there are times like right now it’s like busy season, so things are kind of like we’ve got to get it done, but there’s still boundaries. I love how there are boundaries with work/life, and home life. I think that’s my biggest thing, it’s like why I love this company so much.

Maurice Cherry: So far what’s kind of been the most challenging thing that you’ve encountered while working there? It can be whether it’s just the general work culture, or in the job specifically working with a client, anything like that.

Chanel James: When I first started here it was, it’s not the most diverse place just in terms of actual diversity. There are not many people of color. They’re working towards that, but I think that was my biggest struggle when I first started coming from my back … you know, I went to George Mason University, I graduated from there, which is all about diversity. You know, celebrating people’s differences, and so there were always different types of people. But when I started on my team, my manager is a black woman, but then that’s it. Everyone else is white, which is okay, but I found myself not feeling like I fit in quite well, or wanting to do things the way other people do things.

Chanel James: I’m a very, I consider myself a very colorful black woman. I like wearing scarves, I have natural hair, my hair is like a big piece of my identity. Coming into a space where I don’t see anybody else who looks like me, dresses like me, talks like me, it’s tough because you don’t feel validated. And so, you kind of have to break out of that. It’s a mind game almost, you’ve got to remember that you can celebrate who you are even though there aren’t other people who look like you in the room. But that still takes practice, and it’s tough. Often times people leave places because they’re like, “I don’t see anybody here who looks like me, I’m going to dip out.” But I’m really proud of myself that I saw it through while I’ve been here because it’s gotten a lot better for me, but it’s still tough. I think we all, all designer’s kind of feel the same thing.

Chanel James: You’re usually like the only designer in a space, but when you’re the only designer, and the only black person or person of color in general it’s tough, it’s hard.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I’ve been in situations like that certainly where you end up being the, I don’t want to say the token, that’s not really the best way to put it. But, you end up being the only one kind of by default, and so it takes really a strong sense of self to know that you’re supposed to be here, you’re here for a reason, because imposter syndrome can really set in fairly quickly.

Chanel James: And it set in really hard for me, and I think it was something I had to get over in college too because I came from, so I grew up in Richmond Virginia. Which, whoever is from Virginia in general knows that Richmond is a, it’s like a predominantly black city. I grew up in like an all black elementary school, all black middle school, all black high school. Because that’s the way counties are set up, and we know that gentrification, redlining, all of the histories behind that, why certain neighborhoods are more black than others.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: But, I got into my college which is in Northern Virginia, and that’s an entirely different space to be in. There are streetlights that are constantly on. I know that it’s a small detail, but it was something that … it was small, but it impacted me because I was like, “Wow, these people got streetlights, they got sidewalks, they’re encouraged to be outside, the houses look all nice and clean.” This is where I always pictured my … I’m not saying I grew up in the hood, but when you grow up in areas that are predominantly black, things are different.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: That’s just how it is, it’s just different.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: College for me was a little bit of a culture shock because it was beautiful, the campus was beautiful. Again, predominantly white, so I had to find my community while I was there. I was like, “Where do I belong?” Then I started meeting not just black, but African people so I was like, “Wow, then what am I?” Then my identity started like, I started having this identity crisis. I’m like, “Well, people are starting to say they’re from this country. Oh, I’m from Ghana, I’m from Nigeria, I’m from Germany,” people at Mason were very big about repping their countries. Then people would ask where I was from and I’m like, “America? Virginia?” I feel like I really had to find myself getting into college. That’s why I say my hair is my biggest part of my identity, because during that time, freshman year, I shaved my head. I cut all my hair off.

Maurice Cherry: Oh wow.

Chanel James: Went natural, and I decided, I was like, “This is going to be my thesis while I’m here. Let’s talk about the identity of black Americans,” and things like that. Now, did that end up being my actual thesis in senior year? No, but it was a big part of who I was. People knew me for my different hairstyles, my art was kind of centered around my hair, I always brought up some type … because again, I was the only black person in my classes, it was like one or two of us. That college was like the first time that I was the only person who looked like me in classrooms and things like that, and that took a lot of personality shifting on my part.

Chanel James: And I thought for some reason that when I graduated, things would change. I would go back into spaces where I’m like, “Oh, there’s the black boss, black CEO, or Spanish CEO,” you know? Different type of people, but I was wrong. I mean, so far everywhere I went, it’s been like … or everyplace I’ve worked at so far has been not too many people of color in general. I don’t really know why yet, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Maurice Cherry: When you look back at your past experiences, is that the main thing that stands out to you is the diversity of the teams that you’ve been on?

Chanel James: Yeah, I think so. Now, sometimes it can reflect the experience I have with working. When I first started at EAB I was not confident at all. I knew I was talented, people told me I’m talented, but I felt like I was doing everything wrong. We have a lot of processes here, and we’re very organized, we’re a very process driven team. When someone came to me and told me, “Oh, this is wrong.” Or, “This isn’t how we do things.” I would get discouraged because I’m like, “Ugh, I did it wrong again.” I would focus only on what I did wrong. On top of the fact that I was the only black person, so I was like-

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: … “I’m being looked at differently because if I get it wrong, then that reflects not only on me, but everyone.” You know?

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, and that’s such an unfair-

Chanel James: Burden’s a good word.

Maurice Cherry: … Yeah, it’s an unfair burden to even have on your mind. It’s like, “Oh, I’m not just messing up for me, I’m messing up for all black people.”

Chanel James: Right? [crosstalk 00:10:29].

Maurice Cherry: That’s, ugh, I hate that.

Chanel James: Yeah, and I started finding myself wanting to find spaces where there were other people who looked like me, or who thought like me.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: I was still pretty hesitant to be my full self around other than my boss whose black, I think it was just me and her going into like having our biweekly check ins. I kind of, like I was able to unfold a little bit. I’m like, “Girl, let me tell you about this week.” Or, [inaudible 00:11:01]. “Oh, did you see Black Panther? How did you like that?” Type thing.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: But when I’m in this, I had to … it was a huge challenge for me to call out things. I’m like, “Guys, we shouldn’t be doing …” It’s still a challenge, because you don’t want to be that person.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: Like again, I’m black, but do I have to call out the things that might offend people of color?

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: Or, do I seem like I’m whining a little bit? It goes back to the point of validation. Sometimes you don’t feel validated when you’re in spaces when you’re the only one who looks like you.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, and I mean I think companies should realize that, that’s sort of like, or that should be seen as an advantage, or a cultural advantage in some way. You’re being able to see something that perhaps not everyone else is seeing because of the homogeneity of the team, you know?

Chanel James: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). One of the things that ended up happening for me to really feel like myself here was the fact that I found, we have employee resource groups, which I think most companies have. But, it’s groups that are for veterans, for parents, for just different groups of people to celebrate themselves, and things like that. We have the group called Mosaic, and I found, it was like two other black women on my team, some director level women, some entry level women, and men. And I was able to kind of find more of myself in them whenever I felt like I was running into an issue at work, or I wasn’t confident. I’d run up to one of their desks, I’m like, “Ugh, I can’t believe this,” type thing.

Chanel James: They would kind of help me feel a little bit better about whatever situation I was going through.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: Now, I notice that all of the black people come to my desk during the day. They’ll come by, “Hey Chanel, hey girl.” It’s kind of become like we have a network, a system. I hate to say it, I think everyone has some type of Slack group, or group chat.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, yeah.

Chanel James: Like a black … I mean you don’t name it that, but you kind of treat it like a black Slack, just going, “Hey-”

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: … “Did y’all see this in the news, pop culture?” Things that you can talk about freely without feeling judged in a sense. Finding that community here was really important for me, but that took a while. Prior to that I started going to Meetups. AIGA’s been a really big part of my identity too, so I in 2018 applied to sit on the board of the DC, AIGA DC chapter, and I ended up getting it. I started off as a Program Coordinator, and now I’m Woman Lead. And that-

Maurice Cherry: Nice.

Chanel James: … Yeah, thank you. That’s been a really big part of my identity as well, because I am able to create spaces, find other young designers, even like non designers who are just looking for a community, and help build that sense of community for them. Just to help them push through the end of the work week. We create programs that I think build people up, and I think that’s why-

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Chanel James: … I’m such a big fan.

Maurice Cherry: Let’s switch gears here a little bit because I’m curious to know, you mentioned growing up sort of in the DMV area earlier, was design, and art, and tech, were those a big part of your upbringing? Were you exposed to them early?

Chanel James: Yes, yes, and no, I’m just going to say yes.

Maurice Cherry: Okay.

Chanel James: Not design specifically because I think we get that … a lot of people growing up would be like, “Oh, design, computer.” I’m like, “I’m not a computer whiz.” But, let’s see. I had a speech impediment growing up, like when I was really young. I took speech classes in elementary school, it was so bad that my parents sometimes didn’t even understand what I was saying, it was like only my big … I have two older sisters.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: One of my sisters who I roomed with would have to translate for me. I watched Blue’s Clue’s a lot, and that taught me how to take basic shapes and build these complex forms, right? I would illustrate sometimes to communicate, and then I started becoming more inspired by, you know how you go into black homes, you go on family reunions and things like that, and you realize everyone has the same piece of art?

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: I think I was also pretty taken back about that, so my mom introduced me … not introduced me, but showed me some pieces by Jacob Lawrence who was, anything in the Harlem Renaissance I was a huge nerd for. I hate to bring him up, but Bill Cosby, Little Bill, that cartoon.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: Those pieces of works really inspired me growing up. Then, I got into middle school, I was introduced to animating. But not using any Adobe programs, I think we just used like iMovie and the Paint app. I can’t tell you what exactly we used, but it was frame by frame. My art teacher Mr. [Epps 00:16:24], really saw something in me, and so he encouraged me to keep doing these digital illustrations. Which again, I didn’t connect that to design because no one was using that terminology around me back then. I was really inspired by doing that, art has always been a really big part of my life, to the point where I applied to the Center for the Arts High School in my area but I didn’t get in. Which crushed me, but I had a pep talk by my mom. She’s like, “No, you can do it, la, la, la. Just keep going to the regular high school, make things happen for yourself.”

Chanel James: I think my parents both encouraged me in art, but my mom told me I had to pair it with something. She’s like, “If you’re going to be an artist, you have to make it profitable, so go work for a company …” again, she’s describing graphic design, but she’s not using the terms graphic design. She’s just kind of like, “You can work for a company and make maybe advertising, and things like that.” I’m like, “Okay yeah, I can do that.”

Chanel James: I ended up senior year applying to VCU Arts, which again, I didn’t get into. My world was crushed again, my validation was crushed again and I was like, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” Found George Mason, applied there, and got in. That’s when, I think it was in one of my entry level design classes, someone … they started teaching us about design, and Bauhaus, and all the histories. That is when I started, like I was introduced to the programs, and I just kept practicing.

Chanel James: I think the biggest turning point for me was meeting my professor Reese Quinones, who walked in the room, and it was the first time I saw a black professor walk into a room up to that point. I think this was my sophomore year, and I was shook. I was just kind of like, “Oh my gosh, I have a black professor.” And she was so talented. She spoke with … Now, she’s Puerto Rican but just looking at her you’re like, “Oh, she’s black.” You know? It’s black, it’s Puerto Rican, we’re all the same thing.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chanel James: But, she spoke with such passion about what she did. She would build things, and it was almost like watching a movie. She’s like, “Here, we can just take this shape here, add some transparency here, align here, and boom.” I’m like, “How did you do that? I want to be just like you.” She inspired me so much that I would sit and practice on weekends, just copying things that were in the media and things like that, going to museums, and just trying to understand …

Chanel James: Going to museums and just trying to understand why I liked what I liked, and stuff like that. So I think, yeah, that was my biggest introduction to design. But growing up I’ve always been a little Chanel artist. That never changed to me.

Maurice Cherry: Okay. When did you sort of get the sense that this was something that you could do for a career? Because it sounds like George Mason was a time that really was formative in shaping the fact that you kind of could do this-

Chanel James: Full time.

Maurice Cherry: Just as a scale. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chanel James: Yeah. Let’s see. I was able to sign up as like different school groups that we… I was in fashion society and I’m not a fashionista but they wanted me to make some of their flyers and social media ads and things like that-

Maurice Cherry: You were just saying you, you have the colorful scarves and everything [crosstalk 00:19:55] not a fashionista.

Chanel James: [crosstalk 00:19:56] to be colorful and do your own thing. But I don’t think I’m an influencer, [crosstalk 00:20:05] more stylish than I am but I would do things for them. And eventually some people from there would be like, “oh actually,” some girls would be like, “hey, I need a logo for this. Do you think you can do it?” I’m like, “yeah I can.” In my head I’m like, no I can’t. I don’t know how to do anything. And I would just kind of go for it. Open up Illustrator, which was at that time was like my best friend and put some texts and things together. Now, looking back on it, some of those things I did was, I mean I was just starting out so it wasn’t the best stuff, but that’s when I started doing things for profit and then if one person heard from another person that, oh yeah Chanel’s the graphic designer. In Black Mason, people would know me as the graphic designer.

Chanel James: So because our community was so small, you had maybe three designers who you’d be like, or three artists in a sense who would kind of do things for the black programming and things like that. And I also ended up getting a job on campus working with our housing department as a graphic designer, which was I think a pretty, that helped me figure out how to work on a team. It was kind of set up in house where we would be doing things for just housing and things like that. We’d create illustrative posters for our campus residence fairs and things for, what’s it called, freshmen move in was a really big campaign that we would have to create marketing materials, signage, flyers and all of these sorts of collateral pieces was when I started building that skillset of time management, sending things to print and things like that.

Chanel James: So that molded me a lot. By the time I finished that role there, I think I was able to intern with my mentor who was Risa [Kanyonez 00:22:15], the professor who I was drooling over [inaudible 00:22:21] I interned at her company and then ended up contracting for a little while and I’m going down the line of my timeline, but that’s essentially how I started, realized how to make a profit. People just kept referring me by word of mouth.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Now you graduated in 2017. You’ve been working here in the industry for a few years and we spoke about this a little bit before we started recording about the notion of kind of being a mid level slash mid career designer, I suppose. Where do you see yourself, like right now we’re recording this 2019, where do you see yourself in the design industry at this level?

Chanel James: I see myself, I don’t know, I’m in the middle of it. I don’t see myself as a expert by any means. Right. And I said this before, but I also don’t see myself as… I see myself as a [inaudible 00:23:18] I don’t, it’s so hard because I’m still trying to figure that out essentially. And I think a lot of us mid level designers are just still trying to figure that out. I am a part of a lot of things, mainly because of my job, AIGA, I do freelance and I use all of these different avenues and tools and people and volunteering and things like that so that I can say, yeah, like I’ve worked on, I know how to put a team together. I know how to run a program, I know how to ask for donations and things like that. But I haven’t been doing it as long as other people, so I get nervous to say, yes refer me for this or see me as an expert. You don’t have to use the word expert, if you’re not using the word expert, what else do you use?

Maurice Cherry: Right. It’s something where it feels like the, it’s the mid part that is kind of I think a little bit trippy because certainly when you see entry level positions, I see entry level positions that require as much as five years experience. That is not entry level if you’ve got five years of experience under your belt. But in the same vein, what is the middle of a designer’s career at this stage in the game because the tech is changing. The roles are changing. I mean 10 years ago there weren’t product designers. Everyone was a web designer or a graphic designer, so the roles are changing, the structures are changing within companies. What if you are a really strong individual contributor but you don’t want to go into managing a team or managing people? Where do you go from there? It’s a lot of sort of nebulous nebulousness in the middle of the design kind of career because I think even the ones that are the experts, I feel like they, I don’t know, it’s tough to say.

Chanel James: It’s a-

Maurice Cherry: I certainly. No sorry go ahead.

Chanel James: I was going to say you’re really just looking at the time of how long I’ve been doing this or if I’ve been doing this too long, have I refreshed up my skills? How long has it been since I’ve learned the latest, newest thing about this topic. And I also think with being mid level, you’re trying to move away from the negative notion that comes with being new or being labeled as new, labeled as entry because a lot of people who I’ve… Even this summer I was able to mentor two amazing individuals for our marketing department, but they both expressed to me how weird they felt, how much negativity came with the word intern, came with the word new, came with the word college grad or college student. Because people kind of brush you off into thinking that you’re not, oh, she’s not skilled or she doesn’t have, but because I mean they both were Black women. I think that sometimes young White people can get away with being new, but also being something that people gravitate towards as experts or go to’s in that sense. I mean look at-

Maurice Cherry: They’re a fresh new voice-

Chanel James: A fresh new voice. Look at, what’s his name? Facebook dude. What’s his name, the CEO.

Maurice Cherry: Mark Zuckerberg.

Chanel James: Mark, yeah. He was this college level, new, wet behind the ears guy and then like, hey, I want this app. Him and his other dudes are like… I’m sorry I’m using such basic terminology, but [inaudible 00:27:08] But when new people come up with an idea, sometimes it’s like, oh, they’re so ski… Yeah, let’s give them a chance. But I feel like as a person of color, if you’re coming in as new, young and of color, it can be really hard for people to take you seriously. It can be so hard for people to take, you unless you have a bunch of awards behind your name. You, oh, I interned at Google, I interned at Facebook. I got into the center for the arts at my high school. I went to VCUarts and because I didn’t have those names, I didn’t start having many titles behind my name until a year or two ago, it made me feel like I didn’t have much of a space in the industry to give advice or to really just kind of be seen as a person in the industry. I was still like a student of the industry, if that makes sense.

Maurice Cherry: That makes sense. I’ll tell you a secret, even, and this is just not only from people who I’ve had on the show, but also speaking from personal experience, even when you get to that level of having the awards and the accolades and all that stuff, guess what? People still don’t take you seriously. It doesn’t really get, I don’t want to say it doesn’t get that much better. You sort of have a little bit of an advantage depending on the communities that you’re speaking to. But I run into some of the same issues of credibility at this stage in my career as I did 10 years.

Chanel James: Why do you think that is? What issues of credibility come up? Like who would-

Maurice Cherry: I mean, how real can we get? I mean…

Chanel James: For me, I started listening to this podcast when I started this job, actually before I started this. Every day when I was at the job that wasn’t for me, to be very frank, I was very unhappy. I would listen to this podcast Revision Path every day, I would go back and I would listen to all… Though, this is maybe like summer of 2017 because I felt so inspired by all of the individuals who looked like me who came from places like me, who, they almost seemed like, I was like, okay, they have these accolades and they have these medals, these badges, they are taken seriously in these spaces. Even when people spoke about their struggles of getting to where they were, they still got to where they were.

Chanel James: So that pushed me and knowing that you’re the voice behind it, and knowing all… Of course we can list a bunch of things about Maurice Cherry and all the things that he’s done for the community in the task, I know you were on the task force many years ago, things like that [crosstalk 00:30:00] I met Jacinda. Jacinda was a really big part of pushing me back in like 2017 or 2016 so that community, right? I’m like, oh you guys made it, you are it. But to hear you say like, “ah no, we’re still trying.” It’s interesting.

Maurice Cherry: I might be telling some secrets here, but I feel like some of us, and I’m not speaking for everyone, some of us try to do a good job of obscuring that. I think from those that are coming up because we don’t want you to have that baggage. We don’t want you to come into it knowing like, oh, you can even still get this far and still run into issues because the hope is that the work that we’re doing clears the path, makes it easier for the next generation. I wouldn’t even say next generation. I mean it’s not like we’re that far apart, but I mean it makes the road easier by walking it. So that’s the hope, is to just not talk about all the negative stuff that happens and just try to focus on the more positive things to be that inspiration because it can be, there are still a lot of isms out there and I’m not just talking about the isms that have cropped up, I’d say even more vibrantly because of our current political system. But I mean racism is still very much a thing. Sexism is still very much a thing. Other isms-

Chanel James: Ageism yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Homophobia, et cetera. Ageism, yes. Even location. I mean, I’m in Atlanta and I get so many sort of small microaggressions about being from the South. Or being in the South and doing tech and design-

Chanel James: I understand.

Maurice Cherry: Like if I’m not in New York or if I’m not in an LA, these capitals?

Chanel James: Where are you? What are you doing?

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, yeah. It’s like, oh, Atlanta. Okay.

Chanel James: But at least in Atlanta, I mean, sorry to change the subject a little bit, but Tyler Perry, the studio, I feel like, I don’t know, Atlanta is on the come up with a lot of things.

Maurice Cherry: It is on the come up of a lot of things. I think particularly as it relates to entertainment. I would even say as it relates to tech, but it certainly doesn’t get the same level of, I think-

Chanel James: Respect.

Maurice Cherry: Oh absolutely not. It doesn’t get the same level of respect at all as like what’s happening in California or what’s happening in New York, Georgia still, because you know what ends up happening, I mean Atlanta is still very much a blue dot in a red state if we’re talking politically. So there are political issues which crop up that will overshadow a lot of other good things that are happening here. Like for example, the abortion heartbeat bill from earlier this year, that came up and then people from Hollywood wanted to boycott Georgia, boycott Atlanta really. And Atlanta is, because we’re that like blue dot in the red state, we get the brunt of that. It’s very much a different world once you leave Atlanta in terms of being in Georgia. So to that effect there are a lot of things that happen here that oftentimes will just get overlooked because it doesn’t come in the, I guess in the right package. I don’t know. It’s an odd thing-

Chanel James: I mean and that sucks too because I’m still pretty young. I mean, it doesn’t even matter about age, but essentially I have time to go anywhere. I have time to explore everything. But when I think about, I’m like, okay, so where can I go? What’s next after this? DC is hot and happening. There’s always jobs, there’s always things going on. But do I want to live in DC forever? Probably not. Absolutely not. And I’m like, do I want to move back home to Richmond? Probably not. There’s no jobs. I don’t consider jobs there.

Chanel James: And so then I’m like, oh, I don’t want to move to New York. I don’t want to be that girl. I don’t want to be that person right now. Who knows what’s going to happen in like two or three years. But when I think about Midwest and things like that, South, what’s happening in the South, you’re right. I mean other than Atlanta, because I think about different companies and things like that’s there. I don’t see myself in many other places and then it just puts me back on like, well, let me see what’s happening here in DC, which is unfortunate because I feel like there’s so many amazing things that each city can bring in terms of design life and culture.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. You have to really kind of work hard to make and carve out whatever that space looks like. I remember when I was 29, 30, I was really trying to move out of Atlanta hardcore. I was like, this is not working. My career has hit a plateau. Well, at that point, let’s say I was 29, 30, I had started my studio. I had just finished up this political campaign that I was working on and so things were kind of on an uptick, but I still felt like I was hitting a wall and I was like, I am not going to get better in my career until I leave and go to New York.

Maurice Cherry: So I had a friend of mine in New York who was sending me all these apartment listings and everything and I mean, long story short, I didn’t move to New York, but I ended up finding a way to make it work here, which is not to say that I gave up, but certainly I just couldn’t, I personally couldn’t see myself in New York. I mean I’m a Southern boy through and through. I know that about me and I mean I’ve visited New York a ton of times. New York is just, I wouldn’t vibe with the city. Like that’s just not how my whole, my energy would not vibe with New York. So I was like, I can’t do New York. I can visit, but I can’t live there.

Chanel James: Same. And I’m from New Jersey originally. All my family’s in New Jersey. And before that, Alabama. So, I mean, I never lived in Alabama, but my family has. And so I also am the same way about like the North. I’m like, no, thank you. But I think that that’s also another thing with being a mid level designer. You mentioned how you saw yourself somewhere and you tried to go for… So when you’re in the middle of it, I’m going to call it in the middle of it, you’re essentially looking at multiple roads in front of you and you’re like, my actions right now can affect where I am by the time I’m 30 or by the time I’m 35 and things like that. I just turned 24 so I’m always cautious and thinking of what’s going to happen if I do jump job, do find another… Should I try to work abroad for a few years like some of the other people you’ve interviewed?

Chanel James: I listened to some people who are moving to China and going to Germany, I’m like, maybe I should try, is that something I should try to do before I’m X amount of years old? Or maybe I should, I don’t have a family. I have no ties to anything. So I’m like, I should do this, or maybe I should do this. I’m looking at all of these different paths that I can take and it can sometimes be really overwhelming. And I think that’s the other part about being in the middle of your career because you’re not quite sure what can happen and what can change. And that’s with life in general, obviously, but it’s a bigger thing when you’re looking at like all of your idols and the people you look up to. You’re like, okay, I see that they made this decision, but what’s going to be right for me type thing so.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. And I think, I mean that involves a lot of introspection. It involves really sitting down with yourself and saying, or answering the question, what does success look like for me? What is the space? And this is.

Maurice Cherry: What is the space, and this is something that we actually explored at Black in Design this past weekend, but there was one of the things about how do we carve out a space for wellness and for joy. Because I mean certainly in America, I mean we black folks in America, we know what the deal is in terms of how we’re perceived by society, treated by society and law enforcement, incarceration, a number of different things that are set up to go against us as just basic human beings. Does that change if we move overseas? Maybe. I think certainly from the folks I’ve talked to on the show, it’s a trade off.

Chanel James: Right.

Maurice Cherry: You certainly gain some things, but you lose other things. I remember I was talking to Douglas Turner, I think he was episode 107 or something like that. He lived in Iceland for a number of years and he was talking about how the Icelandic society is very tribal in that, everyone kind of knows each other and he’s the only black man in Iceland.[laughter]

Maurice Cherry: And saying how for him it didn’t feel like racism really existed there.

Chanel James: Right.

Maurice Cherry: Which I thought was interesting considering he’d be one of the few people of color there. And then coming back to the States and seeing how it was different. Another interview with Qa’id Jacobs, who’s a UX designer in Amsterdam. Originally from, I think he’s from Jersey, New York. He’s originally from the Northeast U.S. But him and his family are in Amsterdam and we actually had a two part episode. The first part was, Hey, you know, you’re out there in Amsterdam, what’s it like working out there, et cetera. And then we recorded the second episode right after Trump was elected and it was a pretty heavy episode. I think it’s episode 179, but I remember cause it came right at the end of 2016. We had this conversation like, well do you think you would come back?

Maurice Cherry: Now given the state of how things are, what would that look like? And I know, now I’ve been talking to several people who are really seriously considering moving abroad; moving to another country; going to Ghana or going to.

Maurice Cherry: Isaac Hayes, who I interviewed a couple of months ago, is in China right now with his family. A friend of mine right now is currently going through Thailand.

Chanel James: Wow.

Maurice Cherry: Just coworking. He says it’s like a black coworking space in Thailand in Chiang Mai.

Chanel James: What? Where? How?

Maurice Cherry: I have a passport. [laughter] We can go. We need to make this happen. If we need to start doing Black Design ex-pac trips, we can make that happen. I think about that a lot as just the industry is changing, the wages that the world is changing and what does that mean for like our safety and our sanctity. Not just as practitioners of this craft in this industry, but just as people in this world. It’s heavy stuff. It’s a lot of heavy stuff cause especially when I think about what is it that is stopping black designers from becoming leaders of design? Clearly we’re out there and we’ve had a couple of them on the show, but it’s very few and far in between. Even even.

Chanel James: Oh no, I’m sorry, go ahead. No, go, keep going.

Maurice Cherry: I was going to say even some of the projects that I’ve done, most recently, the literary anthology I did, Recognize, is about trying to set up what does the next generation look like because yeah, we have the big names now. And I’m not singling them out, but we have Debbie Millman, we have Stefan Seigmaster, Polisher. We have these big names, but they’re not going to live forever.

Chanel James: No that’s.

Maurice Cherry: What does the next generation of design criticism, design thought, design leadership look like for this industry? Cause a lot of people from around the world do take their cues from what’s happening in design in America. So if we’re putting forth this monolithic, monocultural view of what design is based on the people that are practicing it, then where does that leave us?

Chanel James: Right. And I think on that note, with who the next leaders are for me, my focus used to be so much on who’s already there. Right. I’m looking at, for me, some of my idols, Diane Holton, who I used to fangirl over all the time and now I work alongside her. We’re both on the same programming team for AIGA. When I was looking at these large names in my eyes, I’m like, well they’re already there. That’s when I switched my thought process a little bit to who’s alongside me. Who’s with me right now? Who’s doing amazing work? Who’s doing amazing things, who’s probably going to be the next big thing in terms of our industry. I don’t know if like you listen to this quote that Issa Ray, who I also stan. She said instead of networking up, network across.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Chanel James: We just had our DC design week a few weeks ago and I was able to create a program; an event around my friend Bria Taylor. She does these amazing, she started out as a designer.

Chanel James: She’s still a designer, but she designs these kick ass looking cakes. It’s called Killer Cakes and she is so talented to the point where I’m like you need to have your own show on TLC or something or wherever they’re doing the baking things nowadays. [laughter] I was using my leadership role at AIG. On our chapter board, I was able to create a program that sold out, oversold out actually around her speaking about her process, her story, what she does, and then selling had her make a little bit extra money by doing a pop up shop with brownies and cakes and things like that. And I was like, that’s what I feel like we mid level designers should be trying to do. Instead of step on each other.

Chanel James: Use each other to build each other up. Refer each other for projects that we can’t take instead of just letting the project fall through. Telling each other about, Hey Bria is having an event happening on Saturday, or Simone’s having an event tomorrow. Building a network within ourselves and then that eventually the eyes are going to start turning on us and it’s like, Oh these, this is what this person is doing in the industry. And then that’s when the shift happens. Some people still can have a competitive mindset of, Oh, I’m not going to tell you about this opportunity. Oh, I’m not going to tell you about this stuff. And then it can be even harder than what it already is. I had a friend recently tell me about the Add Color Conference.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. They’re like a conference and an award show.

Chanel James: Right. But there’s also an opportunity some type of fellowship opportunity. I don’t know, I’m going to say fellowship, but it’s a really cool opportunity for young people who are creatives to, or in the marketing. Some people worked at Facebook and things like that, who get mentored for a week gets to take these classes, gets to take back these it’s like workshopping and things like that. And then they get sponsored to go to the award show and meet some of the leaders in that industry and things like that. My friend could’ve kept it a secret and be like, Oh, I’m going to apply when that time comes. But she instead shared that information with me and was like, yeah, you should also do. I see you also in this space able to do that. And I think that type of mindset is important for where we are in our careers right now because it’s the only way that we’ll be seen.

Maurice Cherry: No, I agree. I think so there’s two examples when you talk about that networking across. One is this sort of, and sorry, I don’t know if anyone has written about this. This may be a free idea if there are any journalists that are listening, but over the past five years there’s been this emergence of are you familiar with the Brack Pack? Does that name sound familiar?

Chanel James: No, not at all.

Maurice Cherry: So the Brack Pack was a group of actors in the eighties and nineties that all ended up starring in the same similar types of movies as Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Patrick Dempsey, Rob Lowe, some folks like this. They all were friends, but then they also were in all these movies together and stuff like that. The name sort of comes from the Rat Pack, which were a group of musicians in the 50s and 60s. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Dean Martin, couple of other folks.

Maurice Cherry: But now I feel like there was this emergence of a black path in a way. Where it’s like Issa Ray, who you mentioned earlier. Melina Mitsui SKUs, Quinta Brunson. I’m thinking of people that have started on the web and have moved up into larger areas of media and they all work.

Chanel James: Together.

Maurice Cherry: With and across each other together in a really interesting way because you see them in each other’s projects and you’re like, okay, they’re working together. That sort of thing. I also see that honestly in the podcasting world too. Are you familiar with The Read?

Chanel James: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: So The Read, there’s a number of shows that are in the same orbit of The Read, but they’re all friends. There’s The Friend Zone with Hey Fran, Hey and Dustin and Asante. There’s Getting Grown with Jane and Kia. There’s Jade and XD, and they all are friends, but they all have their own separate shows and platforms. But they all cross pollinate [chuckle] with each other. And I’m like, that is so dope. I would love to see what a black sort of design collective of some sort will look like if we were doing that. [inaudible 00:48:34] What could we accomplish and put out in the world with that sort of thing?

Chanel James: Right. I talk about that all the time with some of my friends. I have a friend in New York, Tavis Northam, who is a designer, director, photographer, and we are always collaborating on projects and then he came out with this indie short called Bakari about this runaway slave. And I created the poster for it. He’s always referring me all the time. I’m referring him. Same with, Oh man, it’s so funny. I can’t believe I’m printing your name, but some of my friends who actually went to Black and Design, I’m the same way with them and I think, that that emergence is already kind of happening. When you look on certain channels on Instagram, certain things popping up. People are creating a lot. There’s a lot of things like Well Read Black Girl. I don’t know if that

Maurice Cherry: Oh yeah, yeah, I’m familiar with that.

Chanel James: Things like that; platforms like that that are black creatives also on Instagram. Things that you can hashtag and tag. It’s a feed that you can kind of scroll through that is getting larger and larger by the month where you’re seeing people support each other. I gained a lot of my followers I think by my different hat. I always hashtag in on my art on Instagram and then I get people messaging me, deeming me, and all of a sudden I have a whole network of new friends who are enjoying the same things like type arts and things like that as I am. So yeah, I think that’s cool and it’s really important.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I would really like to see more of that; working together, collaborating on projects and things like that. I mean I even try to help out where I can. Certainly, for people who I’ve had on the show. If there is something they’re interested in, I try to make those connections. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t.

Chanel James: To be honest I’m not afraid. For a long time I would write notes from the PI. The different episodes that really inspired me and I would message, I would go on in LinkedIn or wherever they said at the end of the show to talk to them. I would message and be like, Hey, my name is Chanel. You really inspired me with this thing that you said. Just wanted to let you know that effected me. One girl who you interviewed, I think she was from Boston. Her name started with a D and I’m blanking on exactly what it was, but maybe last year I reached out to her on Instagram and we actually ended up becoming like, I’m not going to say friend friends, but like IgE friends and I would comment on her work and stuff like that. But she was, I think she was also my age. So I was super excited to hear her story and hear her process and hear how what she was able to do after school.

Maurice Cherry: In Boston? I’m trying to think who that is.

Chanel James: Okay. Boston. Maybe Connecticut? She [inaudible] but I don’t think she went to [inaudible].

Maurice Cherry: Oh! Daniqua Rambert her name.

Chanel James: Deniqua. Yes.

Maurice Cherry: She goes by Willow now, but yeah.

Chanel James: Oh Okay. She definitely was a big inspiration to me and I think I caught her off guard when I messaged her. [laughter] I was like, hey girl. [laughter] I’m a fan! She was probably like, who is this girl? I mean, she seemed cool with it. I was cool with it. I know. [laughter].

Maurice Cherry: Nice. Well when you look at, I mean we’re coming up at not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade right now. What do you see yourself doing in the next five years? Like it’s 2025 what is Chanel James working on?

Chanel James: Wow. Okay. So I definitely wrote out my five year plan.

Maurice Cherry: Okay. [laughter].

Chanel James: This was actually on my five year plan. So Pat on the back for me for making a revision path. [laughter] I’d say I don’t ever say where I am because I don’t like jinxing it. I say how I feel and what I’m doing for other people. So I’m financially able to support myself and my family. Me and my parents. [chuckle] And I am continuing to create spaces for specifically black and brown youth to enter specifically the design realm; a creative space to encourage them to be creative and educating them on what design is and looks like. I think that’s my biggest hope for myself on these next couple of years. Especially entering the new decade is to introduce design as a possibility to more people; young people of color and older people of color. Because you can always switch careers and just create spaces where they able to be there, their fullest self.

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

Chanel James: So I am on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and not Facebook. LinkedIn. You can find me on Instagram at Chanel Niari, C H A N E L N Y R E and on Twitter at Chanel_Niari and there’s also my website, chaneljames.com.

Maurice Cherry: All right, sounds good. Well Chanel James, I want to thank you for coming on the show and not just sharing your story, but also really for first of all, really illuminating conversation. I love being able to really talk and go into these sorts of issues around identity, and the industry, and motivation, and all that sort of stuff and I hope that others that listen to it will get inspired too. I feel like there’s a lot of folks that are in the middle, but the thing is the middle is very vast as we sort of discussed. It can be a few years in to a decade or more. There’s a big gap there where a lot of us are in the middle of it, as you put it earlier and I’m just really glad to be able to talk about these things with you. Glad you’re able to mark this off your five year plan. But this was really, really great. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Chanel James: Yeah, no, thanks for having me. And I encourage anyone to, if you felt inspired by this, to reach out. I’m always excited to chat and network with people. Let’s make this, what did you call it? Black Pack. [laughter] Let’s make it happen. Let’s make it real. So thanks so much for Maurice, for having me on the show.

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

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

It’s been a while since we first had Bobby C. Martin, Jr. on Revision Path, so I’m glad to have a chance to really sit down and talk with him to kick things off for our final month of interviews for 2018.

As the co-founder and founding partner of the Original Champions of Design, Bobby’s identity design system work sets him in a class all his own. Whether he’s handling rebranding for the WNBA or creating an identity system for the Girl Scouts, Bobby has helped elevate companies around the world.

We started off by talking about the business of OCD, including how it’s changed with the times, how they find clients, and what it’s like working with and building a team. From there, we took things back to Bobby’s early days in Virginia, and he shared the inspirations and memories which influenced him as a designer, and we also talked about design curriculum, as well as what it feels like for him to occupy space as such a well-known designer. Bobby wants everyone to know that you can make a living from being a designer, and putting everything you can into your work is the key to success!


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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When Jomo Tariku reached out to me to tell me about his work, I knew I had to have him come on the podcast and tell his story. His furniture designs draw heavily from his Ethiopian background, and has been exhibited in Accra, Dubai, Lagos, Venice, New York, Montreal, and in other spaces around the world.

Our conversation began with Jomo describing growing up in Ethiopia and how that led him into industrial design. He also talked about the importance of building a support network to ensure your work is sustainable, why he took a seven year break from his work, and he explained his signature piece, The Birth Chair II. Jomo really uses his heritage as a source of inspiration, and I’m excited to see what else he’ll create in the future!


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Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
fbdesign_logo_75
Revision Path is also sponsored by Glitch. Glitch is the friendly community where you can build the app of your dreams. Stuck on something? Get help! You got this!
glitch_75
Revision Path is also brought to you by Google Design! Google Design is committed to sharing the best design thinking from Google and beyond. Sign up for their newsletter!
Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
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Revision Path is also brought to you by SiteGround. Save 60% off all hosting plans by visiting siteground.com/revisionpath. Excellent!

300-sheila-owens

I was introduced to Sheila Owens through a fellow Morehouse alum, and wow — what a discovery! Sheila has over 30 years of software development experience to her name, and she’s currently doing Android development using Java.

We talked about how her entry into computer science was a bit of a fluke, her work for the United States Government, the experience of teaching computer science, and her advice for up and coming programmers. Sheila’s got quite a story, so make sure you check out what she has to say!


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And of course, much thanks to Creative Market, a marketplace that sells beautiful, ready-to-use design content from thousands of independent creators around the globe.
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Revision Path is also sponsored by Hover. Visit hover.com/revisionpath and save 10% off your first purchase! Big thanks to Hover!
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Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
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