Isiah Xavier Bradley

Isiah Xavier Bradley was born to be an artist, and you can really feel his love for the craft just from spending a few minutes chatting with him. The Seattle-based illustrator loves all things comics related, and his body of work is filled with superheroes, aliens, mages, and all kinds of other fantasy figures.

We talked about some of his creative projects, and we spoke for a bit about diversity in the fantasy illustration space, as well as how he approaches storytelling through his art. Isiah also shared his story of growing up in Philly, getting inspired by his father (a painter!), and finding creative community both online and offline. Isiah is looking to achieve great things and grow as a professional illustrator, and with his enthusiasm and talent, he’s well on his way of making that happen!

Interview Transcript

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

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Hi, I am Isiah Xavier Bradley and I’m a freelance illustrator and comic book artist.

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

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
It’s been going wonderful. It’s been wonderful. It’s been unsuspected, but just wonderful accomplishments have been happening. Recently, I was at the Western Hotel and was doing an event with two other artists and we were hired to do a 10-minute painting of Seattle’s like landscape of the space needle and the mountains, and of course, we had to include someone drinking coffee in there because there’s nothing but coffee around in Seattle everywhere, but yeah, that was one of the events that I recently did about maybe two months ago, and that was just amazing fun. I didn’t think that was going to happen. It was like I get caught off guard about like how many wonderful things just happen out of the blue. It’s like you don’t know when it’s going to happen or what’s going to happen, but with all the work, just paying off and networking and pursuing, it’s just this year has been a wonderful surprise of many things I got a chance to experience and to do and people to meet. It’s been awesome. It’s been an adventure-

Maurice Cherry:

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
… seriously. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you have any plans for the summer?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, goodness. Well, right now, I’m going to be going to see my friend later in this month to Las Vegas. I mean, I know it’s not exactly summertime, but it’s close enough. So, I’m going to go see her. We’re going to work on some storyboards together. Besides that, I plan on spending as much time as I can outside painting and enjoying the fresh air because in Seattle, it was just way too cloudy and I needed some sunlight, but that’s it so far for now.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at this time last year, how would you say you’ve changed or how have things changed for you over the year? What’s different? What’s new? Anything like that?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
I would say my mindset has definitely been changing. Last year it was like my art was still, like my career was still growing and I was getting more people and more companies to hire me, which felt really good, but also I had to work on my mindset about what success was and about how my career is growing. For being an artist, there’s no chart to show you. Like when you meet a goal, there’s like no reward or some outside source, especially when you’re a freelancer, to say, “Hey, yes, you made it. Yes, you did it,” and everything and that was something I had to get used to because it was like I’m my own boss. I have to be the one to do that for myself. So, that way, I can acknowledge the work. I was doing the hours, the hard projects, the tight deadlines, or I had to change my mindset to recognize the accomplishments I was doing and also to be completely self-aware and present.

That’s another thing. I was working out more and I’m working out more now this year. I was realizing that physically, like they always wanted to make characters like toned and skinny and muscled, and realizing how that had a negative effect on people and it’s including myself because I was like, “I need to show that beautiful is all different types of shapes and sizes.” Beauty is diversity. That’s like with my character, Sandra. Actually, I was inspired by Lizzo because I was watching Lizzo and Lizzo was just this beautiful, powerful, thick queen and I wanted to create a character that was like that. So, I created a character called Sandra. She has this huge ice ax and she’s just around this really cool character that just doesn’t take nothing from nobody and it’s her own person and as I’m talking to you now, I’m looking at the poster above my desk and it’s like all my diverse characters. I have Native American. I have Mexican. I have Black, Afro-Latina, and different types of body types, and I just feel like that definitely contributed to how I was thinking differently last year and this year and how it affects my artwork now.

With that experience, it definitely helped me become more of a better artist and more in touch with myself too, about finding that beauty about myself too. So, now I’m able to take that and put it into my art.

Maurice Cherry:
You touched on something now that I actually wanted to discuss a little later, but we can jump into it right now. Is representation, and I’m using air quotes over representation because that’s such a broad spectrum of what that could mean, but is that something that you feel like has to be a part of your work? When you think about your individual identities, do you feel like I need to put that into my work in some way?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Absolutely. I think it’s important. For example, Ariel, that was a huge debate just because of the color of her skin, but the people that I saw, like Black little girls and Black women seeing Ariel being a Black mermaid and having that such powerful, positive enforcement, I’m like, “Yeah, we need to have more of that. People need to feel like they can do that too,” and sometimes people just need to see that like I did. Like for X-Men, Storm, that beautiful Black queen goddess. I love her so much of the X-Men. She’s great. She definitely was an icon for me and diversity and acknowledging that I was like, “I have to make sure that I represent more of that, bring that out more into the world so that way people of color can feel beautiful too and people with different body types can feel beautiful too.” It’s just like diversity is absolutely needed because it’s all around us and it needs to be accepted.

It’s something that’s so natural and for it to not to be celebrated as such, it hurts and especially towards our younger community, our younger community needs to know that, yes, you can do this. Yes, you can be that. I dream of a future where everyone is just represented equally and accepted and loved. So, we can all just create beautiful things because imagine what we could create if all of us were just getting along together and just sharing our beliefs and whatnot, but we don’t have to agree on it, but it’s just something that could be so beautiful. So, absolutely diversity needs to be in my work. Absolutely. The more weirder, the more unique, the better. I just want that. I yearn for it.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, there’s that adage that goes like, “You can’t be what you don’t see,” or something like that and I think certainly along the lines of illustration, animation even, there’s been such an explosion at least over the past decade or so where we’ve seen Black and brown artists, queer artists, et cetera, that are creating works in those images and putting it out there in a way that… I mean, some stuff has even been on streaming series and things of that nature. You started to see such a huge explosion of this diversity through the medium of illustration or animation over the past 10 years and it’s really been something to see because along with that, there’s also all these other stories that can be told because it’s coming from people with these different perspectives or because the characters are not the average white character, et cetera. There’s just more opportunities and possibilities for storytelling.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Absolutely, absolutely, and I feel like some companies or people would just be nervous about tapping into it too, because it’s change and people can be very scared of change, but it’s like we need that change. We need it. Even though it’s scary, it’s like we need it because it’s like we can’t keep repeating ourselves over the years over and over and over. No, we need to have that change right here, right now, so that way in the future we can have a better opportunity for everyone and then everyone can just feel that self-love more and capable. Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your work as a freelance illustrator. What does a typical day look like for you?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, actually, it’s weird. My mind likes to play tricks on me and what I mean by that is sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning and I will be ready to go. I’ll just jump right into it. I’ll just get up and brush my teeth, maybe splash some water on my face or take a shower, or I’ll just wake up and I’ll just go to my art desk and start painting out of nowhere. I feel like those are my go-get-it days. Today is definitely one of those days where it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and do my work and be focused,” which is like I made that conscious decision to go into that. So, I would wake up, make a list because for me, I can’t think of things in my head of what to do. If I do that, I easily get overwhelmed.

So, I have to make a list and that list keeps me organized and not only that, but checking it off actually makes me feel like, “Oh crap. I’m actually getting stuff done. I’m actually doing it,” and it’s like, “I’m not going to focus on how long it takes me. I’m going to focus on getting the goal done,” because once I get that done, it’s going to feel really good. Then I can go on to the next one and then I’m just like, “Yes, I’m doing it.” On off days, I wake up and I have no energy in the morning and I have to wait till 12 o’clock for my whole body to feel that full awareness. It’s like, okay, I’m ready to make art and I think that’s why it’s so important to be self-aware because if you can be completely self-aware and present about how you’re feeling physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, that you will be able to conquer yourself.

You’ll be able to be like “I know what you’re thinking,” and be like, “I know what to do.” It’s like if I’m at home and I’m trying to work and I can’t focus, I know to remove myself from that space into an outside space or a completely public space where I can focus and get things done. So, it’s about doing that work and realizing what works best for you and for me, it can just flip. It can be vice versa, but I’m working with it. It’s been doing wonders for me. I’ve been able to get more work done, especially from working from home because you could get so easily distracted, distracted by video games, distracted by cooking food.

I mean, I love food, but also I got to do my work or movies and whatnot and I think as long as you’re completely self fully aware, you’re good and breaks. I always try to take a break after probably between hours or every other three hours perhaps. So, I’ll take a small break or I’ll just get up after 15 minutes, after I realize that, “Hey, my focus is slipping. I’ll just get up and walk around, stretch my body out, just get it physically active, walk away from the project and maybe go for a walk outside,” and then I’ll come back and my mind is refreshed and I might be able to point out some things I didn’t notice before. So, yeah, it’s all about just knowing how your body and your mind think and just utilizing that for your advantage. That’s how pretty much my take goes. Natural chaos. I like to call it natural chaos.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I think you touched on something that a lot of people probably like at the start of the pandemic had to come to grips with when working from home is that it’s tough to work from home. It takes a lot of discipline to not fall into just doing something else. Like you mentioned, I could play video games. I could eat. I could do whatever. I could watch TV, whatever, but knowing that you have to get the work done is it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge and I think for a lot of people when the pandemic started, that was something they had to come to terms with. One, I think it’s just outfitting their place to be a place to work because the office is the office. Home is home.

Now, you’re bringing the office to your home. How do you make that happen? It’s a process to get to that level where you can feel like you can really wake up in the morning and get into a flow state and get work done at home. It’s harder than I think a lot of people realize.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Especially when you’re own, you’re your own boss too. You have no one looking over your shoulder. You are completely free. You get to decide exactly what you do and how you do it and it’s a blessing and a curse because you’re like, “Dang it. I need to focus.” So, that’s why it’s always good to know yourself, to be like, “How do I function? What can I do to make sure that I am actually getting work done?” It’s so easy to fall into that trap and being a freelancer is more than just one job. You have multiple jobs. You’re the manufacturer. You’re the producer. You’re the advertiser. You’re the financial budget person. You’re the stock person organizing your area, make sure you have enough materials and whatnot and all that.

It’s like you’re playing multiple roles. I don’t think many people realize when you’re playing freelancing, you’re literally your own army unless you are hiring somebody else to help you, but it’s hard times. Not everyone can be affording that, but if you also have that capability to do that stuff by yourself, then go for it. Just make sure you’re giving yourself breaks and affirmations. Affirmations are really important for sure.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, you do a little bit of everything from comic books to trading cards. What does your process look like when it comes to approaching a new piece of work? What does that look like?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
I usually like to feel it out. Like what is this image going to convey? What is the vibe I’m trying to give it? Because doing illustrations, and any kind of illustration, sketch cards, book covers. It all leads down to storytelling and it’s so important that you recognize body language, colors to evoke mood, the perspective, the layout of the image. Everything adds to the story. So, I try to keep that in mind while I’m looking for references and I try not to spend too much time on references because I find that you could spend a lot of time looking up references and then you lose too much time that you could have used for the project.

So, I try to do at least an hour of references, or under, and then I just go in there and do really quick, bold sketches. I think that doing bold sketches allows you to develop your idea much quicker and gives you a bit more of a confidence booster. It’s like I know what I’m doing. I know what I want to go for and it just helps you move things along in a much more progressive kind of way and afterwards, after thumbnail is chosen or making a discussion, depending on the client, sometimes clients have notes about something they would like to have changed, or sometimes you’ll just get lucky, which thankfully I’ve been very lucky where I’ve had customers where they’re like, “Oh, it’s perfect. Keep going.” I’m like, “Great.” So, I’ll just go onto the next step and I’ll do a loose sketch.

Back then I used to do sketches where I would just go from very loose sketch to a very, very tight sketch, but nowadays, I go from a loose sketch to half tight sketch because I like to add more details with the color. So, after I’m done doing a tight, but not full-on sketch, I like to do a quick color filling, and that quick color filling allows me to play with the color and see what works, what’s more powerful that serves the image in the story and then after I get approval for that, I just go in there and start painting it like I would traditional art. I don’t know if many people would do it this way, but I like to stick to three, four layers max only because I was raised by my father to do traditional art and when I went to art school, I learned digital art and then it took me a while to feel comfortable with digital.

So, I took that mindset and the way I used traditional paintings, I took that method and applied it to digital and now that I have less layers and I’m working on it like I would traditional, it actually turns out much more the way I would want it to. Yeah, it is weird. I think it’s just because I was just so trained for so many years. I was doing traditional art way longer than digital. So, that’s programmed in my head, but it worked nicely for me. I really like how my digital artwork comes up now. I still do traditional, of course, because I can’t let that old-fashioned love go. That’s my first love, traditional watercolor, acrylic color, pencil, love all that. I would just apply that method and it would just work nicely for me and that’s pretty much my process right there. Just remembering what you’re trying to tell, what the story you’re trying to tell, and long as you keep that in mind along with the body language and the color and the way that they’re just presenting themselves, the character or the environment, that’s the best way to create that image you’re trying to make.

Maurice Cherry:
Now. You mentioned storytelling. How do you approach storytelling through your art? Is that a separate process?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, well, first thing I did was I did some research. I actually had a friend, Tony Atkins. He’s a DC comic artist, and I think he’s the one that recommended me to look at this. I’m not 100% sure, but I have this book here called Framed Ink, and it’s called Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers. It’s so such a good book. I recommend this book for any artist who’s trying to do illustration or comic book art. Technically, it’s for comic book artists, but after reading this book, it allowed me to take that method and apply it to illustrations and it talks about everything. It talks about what direction the trees are going in. If the trees are somewhat bending towards the focus point of the piece, it actually creates more of a focus point. If you’re looking downwards or upwards at a person, let’s say upwards, it gives more of a towering kind of vibe where you feel small and they’re big and threatening and whatnot.

Even the dramatic lighting, when I was doing comic books, I was working on some stories where sometimes I wouldn’t even go in full detail. In the area, I would just put a Black background and add dramatic lighting to their face because sometimes the character would be sad or upset and I really wanted to capture that and it gave it a traumatic effect. There are so many little things you can do, and even hands. Hands are a big thing too that give a big personality in storytelling. So, if someone’s more gentle and calm, maybe their fingers look more elegant and soft and not so stiff and someone’s mad or trying to cast an aggressive spell or something like that. Maybe their hands are a bit more provocative or a little bit more like gnarly or something like that. There’s so many aspects to storytelling.

And also another thing I loved to do. I haven’t done it in a hot minute because I’ve just been painting crazy, which is look at movies and notice how they have the camera set, what kind of colors they’re choosing. It’s just like watching movies can teach you a lot about how to do storytelling and I’m trying to think of what was like a good movie I think that was pretty good. I would say I liked Ultraviolet with Milla Jovovich. That was a good one for how the perspectives were. They did the crazy camera angles and the way they showed scenes through someone’s shade. They’re wearing shades and then you could just see a picture within their shades. It’s just so many interesting ways for you to do storytelling. Maybe the person’s drinking a cup of coffee and you see them talking, but you’re not focused on them, the reflections in the cup of coffee. It’s just so many fascinating ways to do storytelling.

So, I would say for sure, just also pay attention to people out in public, just like we’re not having a conversation. They’re not all standstill and stiff like some action figure. No. They’re either hunched over or they’re leaning one way or the other, or it’s all about just pay attention to those small details and if you gather all those, those things to come together. You can come up with some really cool images. So, I would just say people watching, movie watching, sometimes even video games, but it depends on the video game. Like God of War, that’s a good storytelling for sure. If you’ve seen God of War, the video game, you would definitely see what I mean because it’s so well done and put well together, but that’s why I would say that and this book called Framed Ink for sure. It’s so good.

Maurice Cherry:
Speaking of video games, as I’m looking through your portfolio and seeing your work and everything, a lot of it is based on fantasy, science fiction. You’ve mentioned comic books being influenced by that. What really draws you to those as genres? What draws you to all that?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, goodness. I fell in love with comics and fantasy, sci-fi stuff when I was a kid. I was so obsessed with it. I wanted to submerge my mind into that world. Something about it just seemed like so much fun and it seemed bright and exciting and just something that just reached out to me. It all started with the ’90s, those beautiful colored costumes and Storm making her speeches and you didn’t see, but my hands just reached out to the sky like her. Just like what else was fantasy like Yu-Gi-Oh!, the monster designs. I was just fascinated by all this. I was watching cartoons absorbing it like a sponge and I was so into it and I had so many action figures. I still do, and honestly, it was like my dad introduced me into fantasy art as well, because he’s an artist and he would do a lot of these paintings at home where they were just fantasy-based, abstract kind of fantasy combination.

I just grew really fascinated with it and to be honest, I was like, when I was a kid, I was bullied and that world of fantasy and superheroes honestly helped me with my day-by-day life. It just brought so much happiness for me and honestly, I think that’s one of the main reasons why I became an artist in the first place. So, anyone else who was different like I was, they could look towards that and maybe get inspired by a character because it was like I was just so inspired by so many other characters too that made me just feel like I was capable. Like being different was great and awesome, and I just think that that’s definitely what drew me in. It’s just that entire world is something that made me happy, really, really happy and it still does.

Maurice Cherry:
Is there a lot of diversity in that space? I mean, of course, there’s the different stories that are being told, but in terms of other artists and things like that, is there a lot of diversity in that fantasy space?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
In terms of other artists?

Maurice Cherry:

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
I feel like for sure, like back then, when it came to it, like at the time I wasn’t aware, but Larry… I forgot his last name. But Larry is the producer and artist for the ’90s X-Men and it wasn’t until maybe five years ago I found out that it was a Black man and I was just astounded and so inspired. I was already inspired by the X-Men. The fact that it was created by a Black man, I was about to burst in tears happy because it just made me so ecstatic and I was like, “Holy crap. Someone who made something that inspired me and that just touched me in so many ways,” and oh, it was empowering. It was just amazing. I would say for sure that was just an important part of my art journey.

And now, since him, I didn’t notice too many. Even before I met him, I didn’t even notice too many Black artists, or at least they weren’t acknowledged at least because I feel like when it came to especially the comic book industry, that a lot more artists were not being acknowledged for their work. I mean, thankfully now it’s becoming more of a thing, but it should have been a thing already. It should have been like they should have been recognized for their hard work for sure. I didn’t know that many. I know a couple now. I follow a couple now on social media, which is great, but I just feel like we need more because especially for big projects like Dungeons and Dragons and Marvel, like thankfully Marvel’s now definitely for short, like not even artist-wise, but actor/artist-wise, we’re getting more people like Monica, Miss Marvel. It’s just having more people of color. It’s just awesome and I feel like now we’re getting more people of color who are artists arising more, especially during the pandemic because… Well, I think the pandemic’s over now-ish, but I think a lot of people realize that you can make your own business. You can be a freelancer. You can do this.

And them realizing that really did reveal more to social media. Like, “Hey, we’re here. I’m queer and I’m a person of color and I’m here,” and because of that I am happy that that happened, that people were able to put their stuff out there more. So, now I can actually see more and honestly, I’m just really happy about that. I think that would be the only good thing that came out of the pandemic. The only good thing was people realized, hey, I can start my own business. Hey, I can do this. I can make art and people can buy it, and with that, I would just have more rising, more rising and I just want that for everybody. More people to bring their voices forward because I didn’t have enough of that when I was a kid. I didn’t and that’s why I don’t know many people by name, which is unfortunate, but now it’s happening. So, yeah. Now, I can full on support.

Maurice Cherry:
I just looked up who you were talking about. I think it’s Larry Houston.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Yeah, I was looking at his last name on the Storm piece he signed for me, but I couldn’t make out… I was like, “Darn it. That’s too many swirls. I can’t read it.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, Larry Houston was the producer and director of X-Men, the second season. I’m looking at his Twitter bio, but he’s like Fantastic Four, second season, Captain Planet, Johnny Quest, GI Joe, GI Joe movie, The Karate Kid, Care Bear. I had no idea. I had no idea he had such a impressive resume.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
I only knew he did the X-Men. I didn’t know the other stuff. My goodness.

Maurice Cherry:
And actually speaking of X-Men, like I know there’s the new… I think it’s like the reboot of the ’90s Cartoon is supposed to be coming out I think this year, maybe next year, but that has a Black director at the helm too, Beau DeMayo.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been following it too. I was like, “Yes, I need to see this.” It’s like it’s supposed to be a continuation off the ’90s, which I’m very curious about how that’s going to go because first off, that show was just… It was ahead of its time. It tackled racism. It tackled speciesism. I think that’s how you say. You know what I’m talking about? I forget the correct terminology, but anybody who was different, that was not normal. Anybody who was different, they were just looked upon as a freak of nature or something like that and just to have a show that was empowering people who were different, it was a huge gift. I don’t know honestly if I would’ve been an artist if X-Men didn’t exist at that time for me when I was a kid. I don’t know because that was just a huge motivator, huge inspiration for me.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s switch gears here a little bit. I know we’ve talked a lot about your work and you’ve led us into your process, but you’ve also given us, I think, a bit of a window into where you came from and where this love comes from. So, let’s talk more about you. Let’s talk about you. Are you originally from Seattle?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
No, I am from Philadelphia.

Maurice Cherry:

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Most of my life, I’ve been an Philadelphian.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. What was it like growing up in Philly?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh goodness. First off, concrete jungle. No trees around. Some trees around, but not that much. Going from Philly to Seattle was definitely an adjustment. Goodness gracious. In Philly, I’m just remembering, like I was living with my parents. I went to art school. I went to Northeast High and that was in the Northeast Philadelphia and that was definitely a school I enjoyed for sure because I had so many good friends there. I was a part of the choir, so that was another creative thing, another creative outlet for me and I was working on comics and this is before I was overthinking some of this stuff. So, I was able just to draw without overthinking it and actually made a little bit of profit there too.

So, it was super fun just to draw my own comic book, make copies, and my classmates were like, “Ooh, we want to buy one. We want to buy one,” and it was just super, super fun, but the area I was in definitely was more concrete jungle. I don’t think I got inspired by the area I was in, more by the people I was hanging around with and my dad when he was working on this art and my brother too, and it was just like I had a good community over there. I’m very grateful for having so many awesome people there that inspired me to continue making art and going hushing over there in Philadelphia was great. Was there for four years. I met some very good friends of mine and they’re still friends of mine, which is a blessing because it’s hard to find some true friends and it was just a wonderful experience, and honestly, it also helped me find more of myself too, just like people there who knew me through and through.

Before even I knew me, it was weird. It was like, “Where are you, in my head or something?” No, it was just an awesome experience. Plus the food was way cheaper than Seattle. It was also dangerous because I could get me a plain pizza at large for 11 bucks and I would go for it, but over here in Seattle, it’s like a large plain pizza is like 26. So, it’s like, “Okay, maybe that shouldn’t be ordering so much over here. Maybe I should learn how to cook.” So, when I came up here to Seattle, it was definitely more of a, okay, let’s step up this adulthood more. Let’s learn how to cook. So, I did that and goodness gracious, I had to build my entire art studio again because I had no scanner. I had no art desk. So, it was just starting all over and fresh, but being in Seattle, I love the nature. Nature is gorgeous.

If you ever wanted to get away, obviously, you could just take a bus to a park somewhere and just chill there. It’s like nature is right there and it was just so nice to have that accessibility. There is definitely a Seattle freeze for a couple, maybe a handful or two. Over here where it’s like some people are just like they’ll pretend you’re not there or if they need to reach for something, they’ll just reach right in front of you and I’m not used to that. I’m used to Philly kind of interaction which is like, okay, if you need something, I’m going to say excuse me and then get together, but thankfully, a lot of people weren’t born here and moved here and you can always tell because those are the people that are just like, “Oh, hello. How you doing?” They actually will have a conversation with you or have eye contact with you, but thankfully I’ve had the pleasure to make friends with a lot of people who weren’t having the Seattle freeze symptoms.

They wouldn’t have the Seattle freeze symptoms. They would just be completely themselves and open and nice and kind. Yeah. So, be over here in Seattle and Philly, I could tell you that the difference is that for sure is like, “Philly, you just need more green. You need a lot more green,” and then Seattle’s like, “Seattle, you just need to look more fun. You need to have a little bit more fun.” Yeah, it was definitely like a process and adjustment for me to go from East Coast to West Coast. Such a huge adjustment, but I’m still me. I’m still a Philadelphian. I even consider myself to be a little bit of Seattleite, but Philly come first because I was there most of my adult life. So, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
What made you decide to move to Seattle from Philly?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
I wanted to be with my ex at the time. So, me and him both moved to Seattle and at that time, I was going through a lot of struggle, a lot of inner struggle, inner demons, what’s that? Imposter syndrome. My friends were trying to help me and my family were trying to help me and they were all so wonderfully attending and want to make sure I was okay, but I was not going to be okay until I was going to want to be okay or figure out some stuff. So, when I moved over to Seattle, it gave me that breathing space for me to figure out what’s going on with me and it took a hot minute too, but thanks to therapy, thanks to journaling, thanks to working out, thanks to being self-aware and giving myself those self-love affirmations, all that helped me become much more of a happier person to get in touch with that inner child that was suffering from all the seriousness of adulthood.

It’s like I know we got responsibilities, but also we are supposed to live our life and have fun. I can’t lose that part of myself because that part of myself is a huge part of why I’m an artist. So, I have to make sure that I’m taking care of myself and giving myself that time and space I need to do what I need to do to make sure I am in a better place, and when I’m like that, I’m actually able to be there for other people more. I’m able to handle more. It’s just something that I think that everyone needs to take into consideration. It’s about like self-care, self-love, self-expression for sure. Self-expression because too many people hold things in and it builds up like a volcano and it explodes and it’s not fun. That was one of the things.

I was just like, “I can’t be living my life like that. I want to be happy. I want to make my work and be proud of the work I make and I want to be there for my friends and not feel exhausted or forced and doing all that work. That self-work allowed me to become much better.” That’s what I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
Have you been able to tap into an artist community or a design community in Seattle?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Took me a hot minute, but I find it a little hilarious because I didn’t think it was going to work, but I went to a comic book store, Phoenix Comics & Games, in Capitol Hill, and I went there, and I was looking at the local artists and they had local artists putting their comic books on the rack and I was like, “Oh, let me see if I could find somebody,” and thankfully I found my friend Tim, and his book, I think it’s called Enter the Wolves. He had his phone number and contact information in there, or was it just his email? Either way I contacted him and he responded and we met up. This is before I had any of our friends at all here on the West Coast. So, I went to go meet up with him. We hung out, had a cup of coffee, talked, and it was like later we decided to start making it a thing.

Let’s get together and draw and then we would do that and then we started to bring more people into the forward people. He knew people I would probably meet that were interested in meeting for the art meetup and it’s just now a regular thing and we’ve been doing it for years now, just doing our art meetup and drawing and just having a blast because one of the huge things I missed in Philly was my art community, was hang out with my friend Laurie and Kat and we would just hang out together and I loved that. I didn’t realize how much I would’ve miss that until I moved to Seattle and it was no longer accessible and I needed that back in my life or at least closest to as I could get. So, having that art community is a huge blessing and it’s awesome and it also helps me focus too.

It’s like, “Ooh, if I’m going to be home I’m going to have to adjust myself, but if I go out and meet with my art friends, then I have no excuse. I can just go in there and start drawing because I’ll be fine and chill with my folks.” So, absolutely worth it of trying that, just emailing random artists like, “Hey, you want to meet up and such like that?” I’m just glad that I did that because usually I get social anxiety and I get nervous about talking to people, but it was like, no, I’m not going to let that stop me from making new friends. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to do it. Yeah, I’m just very grateful for that. Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you spoke earlier about Larry Houston, but I’m curious, are there other artists or illustrators that have influenced your work the most?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Jim Lee.

Maurice Cherry:

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Because he was drawing the X-Men back in, I think, the ’80s, ’90s-ish. Like I said, I’m a huge X-Men fan. You just don’t know. I have so much X-men on my wall about besides that. No, Jim Lee, it was definitely for sure because I loved the intensity he will put into his ink work. It was just so comic bookish style and it really made the X-Men look really cool and I was just like, “Oh my God, I could just read this all day.” Another artist I would say is Ross Straus. Him, I enjoy because of a lot of his potent color. Like my art teacher back in Hussain would talk about how juicy the colors are, you know? When we’re painting, she’s like, “Get the juice in there,” and I’m just like… ever since then when it comes to my art, I just have to put juice into my color.

It’s like I need to make this a little bit more pow in your face. So, yes, that was definitely another one. Alex Ross is another one. He is much more of a traditional. He does works in, like I think traditional acrylics or oils. I’m not exactly sure, but he does work with traditional mediums and his work is taking the comic book world and making it more into a realistic kind of vibe and he does a lot of dramatic lighting too. So, I just loved it. I just love how he was able to take that world that was fiction and bring it so close to reality. So, sometimes I’m doing my work. If I’m working on a cover or something like that, I’ll step on comic book style. I’ll probably go for an illustration style just because it gives it a completely different vibe. It gives the character more of a breath of life kind of scenario.

I mean, I love the graphic feel, but something about just seeing a character that looks almost realistic. You’re like, “Oh crap.” You’re just like, “That looks great,” and one more is Simon Bianchi. I hope I pronounced his last name right, but I believe he is a French artist who works for Marvel and he does a lot of acrylic watercolor kind of techniques where it’s a combination of realistic and comic book style and I just loved how he would illustrate such a dramatic use of colors and his hair detail. He would draw a lot of detail in the hair, but it would just look so beautifully well planned. I can’t even get into full detail about how his stuff works, but Simon Bianchi is definitely an artist I studied especially back in art school. When I was learning watercolor, I would just look at his pictures and I would just paint what I saw.

I would just paint up a panel I saw of his I really enjoyed and because of that, I actually got much better with watercolor the next year because watercolor was literally the first medium I was trying to get really good at and it took a hot minute for me to understand how to manipulate watercolor, but now it’s like after all those years of studying and investing time and studying that medium, watercolor, I just was excited to actually be able to utilize it to make an image the way I wanted to because watercolor is very, very tricky. So, thank you, Simon, for doing that for me because now I know how to paint.

Maurice Cherry:
Now you mentioned that your father was a traditional artist. Was he an illustrator also?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
He definitely did his own paintings. He didn’t do it professionally, but he wanted to, but unfortunately he didn’t have the support of his family, like not the way that I do and I’m just grateful for him to give me that support because he knows how hard it is out here in the creative field because so many people want to jump in and do it, but my dad still does make art till this day. Like I was talking to him and my mother for Mother’s Day and he showed me these pieces he was working on. It was so beautiful, abstract, gorgeous, surreal kind of fantasy and it just makes me so happy that he’s still making his art because this is a part of who he is. He might not be doing it professionally, but at least he’s still doing it and I’m just happy and proud of him for that.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. What advice would you give to any aspiring artist? They’re hearing you talk about your work and your process and they want to follow in your footsteps. What advice would you give to them about just starting out in the industry?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Number one I think is patience. Patience with yourself, patience with the process of making art and patience with the process of getting work if you want to pursue it professionally. It took me a hot minute before I started to get more commissions coming in manually, and it took a while for me to get to that point where, hey, I don’t have to look for commissions. People just come to me and asked me, “Hey, can you do this for me?” All that took a while and like I said, without that actual chart to show you, hey, you’re on step two now. You’re on step three. Woo. Without that, it’s so easy for you to feel like you’re not moving. You’re standing still, like your career’s not going anywhere, and especially if you are starting off with illustrate, like you’re starting off by making art and you’re not at the level you want to be, it’s so hard to be patient with yourself, especially when you’re comparing yourself to other artists.

I think people need to have much more patience with themselves and understand that what’s going to get you there is consistency, to keep trying, to keep painting, to try new things, to share your work. Don’t be afraid to share your work. That’s something that I still struggle with sometime. I mean, I know I have a lot of content on my social media. Yes, I do, but there are moments where my partner will catch me. He’s like, “Don’t overthink it. Just write out your stuff and post it on there,” and I’m just like, “You’re right. I just wanted to be perfect,” but there’s no such thing as perfect. The best way to be perfect is to be yourself authentically and then there you go. Just be your genuine self. That is perfection.

I would definitely say that that’s something that that’s needed is patience. No one’s going to give you a timeline of when you’re going to get that job either and that’s frustrating. I could totally get that, but you also just got to… Like I said, you got to be patient with that process. You won’t know until it actually happens in that moment. Like this podcast, I didn’t think I was going to get interviewed for a podcast and next thing you know, it just pops out in a moment. I’m like, “Oh, wow. Okay.” I’m like, “Fine.” Even the Western Hotel thing, that was another random thing, and I’m like, “Oh my goodness.”

Another thing I would say for sure is give yourself affirmations for sure. If you had to make yourself that list and cross something off that you got done to get that pat on the back kind of feel, then do it. I would say go for it. That’s absolutely necessary because it’s so easy for you to do things and then forget what you do because this happened to me before and still does sometimes. You forget what you do in the day and then you feel like you’re like, “Oh, I could have done more.” It’s like, “No, no, you’re doing pretty darn good. Look at that list.” I think it’s definitely important to give yourself that affirmation and also to sometimes take a look back at your old art and look at your art the way it is now so that way you can give yourself that affirmation of, oh, I did grow. You know? Because it’s like it’s so… Being an artist is a marathon. It’s not a race. It’s a marathon. That’s what I’m saying to be consistent and with that marathon you’re running, it’s so easy for you to feel like, “Oh, I’m not growing as an artist.” My skill level’s not improving or whatnot and it’s always good to look back at your old art pieces and don’t compare to other artists.

That other artist is on a completely different path than you. Not every artist is going to get a job the exact same way. Not every artist is going to get noticed the exact same way. It’s so different from each other, it’s frustrating because you wish that there was a book to go ahead and tell you like, “This is exactly how you do it.” Oh no, there’s no book. You just got to put your stuff out there and be consistent and don’t be a butt hole. That’s another thing. When you’re talking to people, always want to be a genuine person, but also treat that person with fellow respect. No one likes to work with somebody who’s mean or nasty or comes off as aggressive. No, like this is networking and building a relationship, a friendship. You want to make sure that you are presenting yourself the best way you can be that is genuine and true, and I think that’s just something to absolutely consider as well and another thing I think that’s beneficial is trying out new things.

Like I’ve done watercolor, acrylics, used acrylics as watercolor and on canvas, digital painting. Now, I’m starting to get into story boarding and sculpting. Sculpting too. It’s like you are an artist and yes, you have a preference, but it’s always refreshing just to get into something just a little bit new and it keeps your excitement up. It keeps you like, ooh, I’m so excited just to try that out. You’ll see what comes out and everything. I’m painting on canvas now, and usually I don’t paint on canvas. I usually leave that alone, but with that 10-minute piece painting I was doing at the Western Hotel, that was something that really brought that out on me that I was like, “I want to paint on canvas. I want to try that out.” I feel something that’s pulling me towards that and it was like that kid-like spark that was like, “Ooh, I need that.”

So, now doing that and looking at the canvas, I’m like, “I am happy,” and I think that’s definitely something important to do is don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to show your art, self-affirmations and patience with yourself, and one more I think is self-awareness, and self-awareness, I mean by that is just acknowledging if you are upset about something because being an artist isn’t just drawing pictures. It’s you’re putting your energy into that piece. You’re giving parts or you’re putting parts of yourself into that piece, and if you’re upset or going through something, it’s going to show up, or you might not be able to draw as well. You might not be able to think as well. That’s why it’s so important to be self-aware about what state of mind you’re in, and it’s all about just giving yourself that attention, acknowledging that you’re not okay or you’re upset, or maybe you’re just tired and burnt out.

It’s good for you to acknowledge this and to know this so that way you can just take care of yourself, give yourself a hug, or get a hug from a friend or talk to somebody you trust, and this is definitely something that will help you out for sure because being an artist, and especially in a world like this, it’s stressful. It can be very stressful, but it’s also very, very rewarding, especially when you are just giving it your all and you see it pay off. It’s something absolutely worth it, and long as you are just making sure that you’re your own best friend, you’re going to get there just like you got to make sure you give yourself some loving and you got to make sure that you just acknowledge when you need something, and I think that’s important too. That’s my advice.

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

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, okay. It’s on my list. It’s on top of my list. I want to be a cover artist for Marvel, because I just like doing illustrations. I just love doing the storytelling. I want to be a cover artist. I want to do full-on paintings and do stuff for them. I want to do stuff for Wizards of the Coast because I love the overall style of their world. They’re just this beautiful like… It’s like Renaissance paintings. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about, but it’s like they have that soft glow. It’s like the way they paint them. I was going to the Seattle Art Museum, and I was noticing these pieces that were back in the day Renaissance Times where I have no clue how they did it, but the way they painted, it’s almost looked like they were computers themselves, but you could still tell it was by an artist, of course. The way they just captured a glow or the texture or the way the person was, like the way they were standing. It’s just like their bodies weren’t even stiff. Something like that. It’s just like, “Oh God. Yes. That is exactly what I need.”

Maurice Cherry:
We had someone on the show a couple of months ago, Lauren Brown. I think she’s an art director at Wizards of the Coast. I’m looking now. Yeah, Emmy Award-winning illustrator and art director at Wizards of the Coast. She’s here in Atlanta too. Yeah.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, nice. I’m going to look them up.

Maurice Cherry:
Yes. Yeah, so there’s a lot. I mean, there’s certainly, I think as you sort of mentioned that, I think that opportunity is definitely going to be out there for you because as I talked about earlier, it just seems like there’s more and more Black people, really people of color, but I’d say Black people specifically that are really being out there, especially with the major titles. I’m really surprised to see how many are doing things for Marvel. We’ve had a few motion graphics designers that have done work for some of the movies, like Black Panther or into the Spider-Verse. It’s amazing how we are starting to get out there more. I mean, granted, it’s still not super diverse like in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like that’s going to happen for you sooner rather than later. I really think that.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, thank you. Yes, please. I want that as like I can feel my spirit trying to grab it with its hands. It’s like I want it. It’s like I need that because in the future, I want to have my own company, like Marvel or Wizards of the Coast where it’s like I’m able to give those same opportunities for other people of color and especially Black people. It’s like there’s so much talent there and it’s like it’s so untapped and now we’re just tapping into it. It’s so much more like Woman King. Oh my God. [The] Woman King, Viola Davis, like oh my God. Thank you for doing that movie because that was amazing. Michelle Yeoh about… What’s it? Everything In Our Place. That’s a long title.

Maurice Cherry:
Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Yes, that’s another one. It’s like see what happens when people of color and diversity is represented. You get awesomeness. You get wonderful stories. It’s just something that is needed and in the future, if I can provide that opportunity for more people, I will. If I can reach back and grab my fellow artists and be like, “Hey, I did not forget about you. Come here. I got something for you.” I want to do that and I feel like that’s something that a lot of people of the community should be doing. It’s the only way for us to excel and expose ourselves to more and get our names out there because there’s so much that haven’t been shown yet and we’re just tapping the tip of the iceberg for all this. I just think it’s going to be amazing and I just can’t wait to be a part of it.

I just want to be a part of it, and I just want to be there with my fellow nerds, my fellow awesome nerds and yes, just being in a convention surrounded by people who are raised in the same world that you were raised in. You know, just like anything, like fantasy, sci-fi, comics, movies, games, all that. It’s such a beautiful way to bond with people and to share that. It’s so much fun and I feel like one of the biggest things, adults forget to have fun and to be a kid again, and honestly being an adult, you’re just older and you forget to tend to that inner child and it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. So, it’s when adults go to conventions and it’s like someone who’s like 50 and they’re still buying action figures and whatnot, go for it. Do it.

You work so hard. You get that action figure. You get it and you flaunt it like seriously. It’s just like we need to make sure we’re balancing out that fun and I feel like that’s what my work and the industry of creativity gives to people, gives you that permission. Even though you don’t need permission, you should be having fun. It gives you that childhood like happiness, and I think that that’s why the reasons why it’s so important to be an artist is to bring that out of people so people can still feel that. I think it’s still so important for it. I think it’s very important.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I mean, I feel like you’ve already spoken some of that into the universe now, but what do you want the next chapter of your story to look like?

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Oh, goodness. I have visions of how I want things to look like. As I say this to you, I’m actually looking at my manifestation board. It’s something that I’ve come to really enjoy doing because I’m looking at my manifestation board and some of it’s already come true, which is great, but in the future, I would like to go to more conventions for sure. That’s something I love doing, just to be in that world full of people who enjoy the same things I do and to interact with them and to show them my work. It’s one of the greatest gifts to create art and someone comes along and they’re just entranced by it or they are feeling things because of it, that the art has moved to some kind of way, and I think that is awesome. So, I definitely will want more of that.

I haven’t had my work in galleries before, so I am focusing on getting my work in galleries too, because now painting on Canvas, it’s like I want to develop so much art on canvas, bigger size, small size, all the size. So, I definitely want to have more of my work in the galleries and I want to have my comic book up and have it out there because it’s like my own stories I’ve had on my mind for a while. I started to give it some more work recently, so I was like, “I’m grateful that I’m starting to get back into that,” and in the future, I would definitely love to have a comic book made officially, have a shiny cover, and maybe a 3D model made of a character.

Five years from now, I just want to be making art like crazy and I want to be a part of those teams that make fun projects like people at Marvel, like the people who get to be a part of the whole process of the movie and whatnot. I would love to be a part of that. I would love to be part of a company like Wizards of the Coast where it’s like I can give contributions to like, hey, let’s make this character, whatnot, and just design new stories and characters and whatnot. I would love to do that just to be fully submerged more into my craft, and I think that’s something that I have recently come to full-on terms, which is like acknowledging that this is not only my career, but being an artist is my life and I love being an artist. So, it’s like I just want more of all of that. I am greedy and I want all of that.

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

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Well, I do have my own personal website. It is my full name, You do have to include the Xavier in there because otherwise you’re going to get the Black Captain America, which-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, yeah, that was his name from… I remember that from the show, from Falcon, Winter Soldier. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Yes. Yeah. I’ve always found that hilarious. I was like named Dr. Superheroes, even my middle name. I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” I’m like, “I think I was born to do this.”

Maurice Cherry:
It’s destiny. Yeah, it’s what it sounds like.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Yeah, like universe, you have a heck of a personality, don’t you? Also, I do have Instagram and Twitter and TikTok, which all you can find under my handle, Isiah_XB, and then there’s my Facebook as well. You can always go under my full name, Isiah Xavier Bradley and my page would show up. Just include that Xavier part, and we’re all good, and most people get confused with how to spell my name, so I am going to say it’s spelled I-S-I-A-H, and then underscore XB. Most people spell Isiah with two As. For some reason, mine is just with one A. I don’t know why, but okay.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. There you go. Well, Isiah Xavier Bradley, I want to thank you so, so much for coming on this show. I think if there’s anything that people will get from this interview is that you have this joy. It’s not even passion. I mean, I will say passion is probably there too, but you have this joy about just the fact that you’re doing exactly what it is that you want to do that is infectious. You’re excited about the genre. You’re excited about your work. You’re excited about all these things, but you’ve also taken the time to make sure that your own self is prospering and well throughout all of this.

I mean, the world is changing at such a rapid rate. I mean, you talked about self-care and rituals and things of this nature, so I really get a feeling that people will listen to this and they’ll get a really good sense of you as an artist, as a creative, and hopefully we’ll follow your work and we’ll see that Marvel cover one day. I’m putting it out there. We’re going to see you one day, but yeah, thank you again so much for coming on the show, man. I appreciate it.

Isiah Xavier Bradley:
Well, thank you so much for your time, Maurice. I really do appreciate it. This has been awesome. You really made up my day. I can’t stop smiling right now. I’m just excited, just like I’m going to start painting all day today, like I was already drawing and I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to get into it real good.” So, thank you so much for your time and this opportunity. I’m really grateful, Maurice. Thank you so much.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

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Dwight Battle

What does it take to work for a company like Amazon? Well if you’re Dwight Battle, it’s all about forging your own path. As a self-taught designer, Dwight has honed his design skills at agencies from Atlanta to Seattle, including product design at HBO.

Dwight started off talking about his work at both Amazon and HBO, and then we talked about his live growing up in Ohio and moving to Atlanta to start his career. We also had a pretty spirited discussion about the changing tech and design scene in Seattle, the need for representation for Black designers, and why saying yes until he could afford to say no has been instrumental to how he works. Dwight’s living proof that success in tech is within your reach as long as you allow yourself to find your own way!



Full Transcript

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

Dwight Battle: My name is Dwight Battle. I am a senior UX designer at Amazon working on the Kindle team.

Maurice Cherry: Nice. You just started at Amazon a few months ago, right?

Dwight Battle: Yeah, I started at the end of August. Yeah, it’s-

Maurice Cherry: Oh, wow.

Dwight Battle: Yeah, it’s been-

Maurice Cherry: What has-

Dwight Battle: It’s been a crazy time.

Maurice Cherry: I was going to ask, what’s the experience been like so far?

Dwight Battle: It’s very much… The phrase I use a lot the first couple of weeks there was drinking from the fire hose, and it’s very true. I think people go in with a preconceived notion about what Amazon is and what working at Amazon is like, and it’s fairly accurate. You do hit the ground running, and your head kind of has to be on a swivel. It feels like… I’ve been there six, seven weeks now, and it feels like six, seven months. I’ve done too much stuff in that time.

Maurice Cherry: Wow. You say you’re on the Kindle team, like as much as you can discuss, can you talk a little bit about just the kind of work you’re doing?

Dwight Battle: Yeah, I am on what we call the reader team. We manage the, as it sounds like, the reading experience across our various platforms and the e-reader. Specifically, I am the main designer for the core app experience team, so really, the overall IA of the product and how things look, work, and feel on a very high level before you dive into a specific book or piece of media.

Maurice Cherry: Okay. What is a just a typical day like meetings, things like that?

Dwight Battle: I’m still so new there, I don’t feel like I’ve really gotten to normal yet. We have our usual standup meetings and sprint planning things and things like that, but I’ve been really focused on one particular feature at the moment so I’ve been really heads down trying to solve what is turned out to be a fairly meaty challenge for most of this time. I don’t actually know what an average day at Amazon is like yet because it’s been a very… I feel like it’s been a very unique experience right now.

Maurice Cherry: Okay. I know beforehand Amazon, you were at HBO. That’s when we first-

Dwight Battle: Was. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: We met in 2016 at HOW Design Live here in Atlanta.

Dwight Battle: This was at HOW. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, and you are a senior product designer at HBO. Can you talk about what your time was like there?

Dwight Battle: My time at HBO was amazing. I was there for just under four years. We worked on the HBO Now and HBO GO streaming products here in the Seattle office, so that’s everything across phone, tablet, TV, desktop. I touched a lot of different things. What I really liked about that team, especially early, it was that it was a fairly small team so I got to do a lot of different things, and then as the design team started to grow, that focus became more and more narrow, but even then, it was narrow to a point where I could focus on things that I found interesting within the product and areas where I could affect change and make improvements to the product. They gave me a lot freedom to explore those things, so I got to do a lot of really cool things there.

Maurice Cherry: It sounds like you were there at the time when these big streaming services got off the ground. Of course, people knew about Netflix, but I mean, of course, HBO has HBO GO, HBO Now, like you mentioned. Amazon has its own Prime Video and things like that. How was it learning how to create those interfaces for TV because that’s so different from the web?

Dwight Battle: It was… When I made the pivot from print design into digital design, I made a focus on, or I focused on digital product experience in screens and TV screen to particular because I felt like that was a really interesting opportunity, and there wasn’t a lot of people doing that at the time. Coming into HBO and everything that that was, and yes, Netflix was around and Hulu was around and Prime Video was starting to kick up, and now everybody’s got some sort of a TV experience, there was a weird window of time where no one really had it figured out, and there was a lot of opportunity to say, “Hey, this is what navigating a screen with five buttons should look like and should feel.”

Dwight Battle: There’s so many interesting challenges there because you don’t have things like hover states or you don’t have long presses like you have on a phone or something like that. I think when Apple came out with their new swipe remote, that opened up a lot of possibilities with how you interact with a piece of content. It was a really fun and interesting time to be working in that space.

Maurice Cherry: I remember Android TV from around that time, and it was so clunky to use, not just because I think of the overall, at least back during that time Android was ugly, but aside from that, just the tools that you use to navigate, it wasn’t remote-friendly. I remember the Android TV I had, it was a keyboard. It was like a keyboard, and then on the right where there would be a number pad, instead there’s a track pad with a little, like buttons. It was a very odd experience, and it’s like-

Dwight Battle: That was a while ago. You’re, like-

Maurice Cherry: It’s like you can’t really lounge-

Dwight Battle: … Google TV, yeah.

Maurice Cherry: … on the couch. Yeah, you can’t really lounge on the couch with a keyboard and try to do certain things because of just ergonomics and such, so it has really come a long way.

Dwight Battle: I think a lot of times people tried to translate, especially in those early days, tried to translate the keyboard/mouse/monitor experience to a living room experience. I’ve always been really fascinated with media servers like Plex and Xbox Media Center and things like that, so I’ve been looking at that for a long time. That’s all it was, was taking that mouse/keyboard/monitor interface and throwing it on a big screen TV. That’s not how most people interact with a screen of that size. It’s much more of a lean-back experience, and you’re just kind of grazing the content, finding something to watch.

Maurice Cherry: I would say it’s also more of an audible experience, like you want to be able to hear those beeps as you go from menu to menu, from item to item where, like on my main computer, I don’t have speakers. I have headphones, but I may not always be wearing my headphones, but I can still navigate the web silently just viewing. It can kind of be hard to do that with television, especially if you’re not really looking at it. Sometimes you’ll be on the remote, you just point in the air and you hope that it did the right thing, but at least you hear that little audible cue that’s like, “Okay, it’s moving. It’s doing something.”

Dwight Battle: Yeah. I think that feedback is so critical, so when you hear the bloop, bloop. It’s funny, when I’m watching TV with my wife and where commercial hits, she’ll do the bloop, bloop, bloop, which is the TiVo sound, and that’s the sound for me that, “Hey, you should fast forward through these commercials.” That’s something… We haven’t had a TiVo for 10 years, but that has become such a known paradigm. That audible indication that something is happening is so much more important on a TV space.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, like the rise of audio branding as streaming services have grown has been really interesting. I think TiVo and Netflix really come to mind with that. When you hear the Netflix, like… you know, “Okay, this is Netflix, the show is starting, the episode is starting,” whatever. That’s the cue for you, the non-visual cue to say, “I need to pay attention.” I don’t know if any of the other services really have that. I don’t recall if Amazon or Hulu have it.

Dwight Battle: I don’t, I-

Maurice Cherry: I think Showtime might have something. Something, they have like-

Dwight Battle: Showtime’s got their little chime, but it’s tied in with their programming. It’s funny, everyone knows the Netflix, but what I grew up with, and honestly when I took the job at HBO, I posted this video, but back in the ’80s when it was the Saturday night movie premiere, the night, and they had that pan through the city, and then the HBO theme would play and the-

Maurice Cherry: Oh, yeah.

Dwight Battle: … HBO logo would come spinning, that was the sign that was like, “Oh, yeah,”-

Maurice Cherry: I remember that. Oh, my god.

Dwight Battle: …. “it’s about to go down,” it’s Saturday night, and that has always chimed. That’s always been a trigger in my head. When I took the job at HBO, I posted that video to say, “This is where I’m going next because that was so iconic to me.” When I see things like Netflix’s chime or Showtime’s chime, those are the things that I think about.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I think the broadcast channels have all picked up on that. Of course, NBC has the xylophone… and CW has like a little, I don’t know, like a soft rock riff or something, but all the networks have their little visual thing… or not visual… audio thing where you hear it, and it’s like, “Okay, this is something from that network or from that [inaudible 00:08:49].” It’s a really interesting kind of a branding thing.

Dwight Battle: It’s-

Maurice Cherry: I find that really interesting. You’re currently a Seattle, but you grew up in Columbus, Ohio, right?

Dwight Battle: Yes. Columbus, Ohio, home of the Buckeyes.

Maurice Cherry: Home of the Buckeyes. What was it like there?

Dwight Battle: I loved Columbus, Ohio. I have so many memories of what it was like growing up in Columbus. It seems kind of crazy to say that it was a small town, but at the time, to me, it was my world. I don’t know. I just remember… I don’t have a good answer for that question actually.

Maurice Cherry: Okay. When you think about that time, was design and art, was that a big part of your world growing up?

Dwight Battle: Yes, absolutely. That was one… I used to draw a lot. I think I always knew I wanted to be in some kind of a creative role, even if I didn’t know what that meant. I was always drawing. I was never really big into sports as a kid, which is crazy to people who know me now, but the thing that I used to always get excited for was a Super Bowl, not because of the game, but because of the commercials. I have distinct memories of being excited to watch the Bud Bowl and Spuds MacKenzie and things like that. I was always drawn to that, those type of experiences. I remember having a drawing of the old Camel mascot, which-

Maurice Cherry: Oh, Camel.

Dwight Battle: … the Camel cigarettes, met Joe Camel, and which probably isn’t great for an eight-year-old to be drawing, but I always knew I wanted to do this and something in that realm. I remember doing a shadowing experience. I followed, I shadowed a photographer for the day, and I went to his studio. I’ll never forget, he had this beautiful brick building, and he had this huge studio. He was showing me how to work the cameras and such. I was… and the thing that stood out to me was he was wearing jeans to work. I wanted to do that because he wore jeans to work because I saw my mom going off to work in her suit and sneakers and I saw my dad going off to work in his business attire. I was like, “I know… That guy is wearing jeans. Whatever he’s doing, I want to do that.” I’m always in this space, so.

Maurice Cherry: So you knew from an early age, this is exactly what you wanted to do?

Dwight Battle: Yeah, I didn’t know how it was going to manifest itself. I was really into comic books as a kid. I tried to draw. I’m a terrible drawer, but I tried to draw. I was really in a lettering, so I was trying to do something with that. It wasn’t really until, I think, high school when we moved to Minnesota that I even learned what graphic design was and started looking at that as a potential opportunity.

Maurice Cherry: Was your family supportive of you going in that route?

Dwight Battle: Oh, yeah. My parents have always been very supportive of this, of me doing this. I don’t know if they always understood what it meant, but I remember them putting me into art programs when I was young, like the summer school like at CCAD, Columbus College of Art & Design. I did a couple of summer camp things there, so they’ve always been really supportive of this.

Maurice Cherry: Nice. You’re in high school in Minnesota, right?

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: You graduated high school, and then after that, you went back to Ohio.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: University of Dayton, right?

Dwight Battle: Yes.

Maurice Cherry: Tell me about that.

Dwight Battle: Wanted to go to Ohio state, and I didn’t get into Ohio State, and so I thought, “Well, I’ve got family in Ohio. University is the next best thing.” They had a really good design program. I remember going out to visit the campus and being really impressed. For being a Catholic school, one, the number of black faces I saw around. It wasn’t a ton, but it was more than I was expecting, and the design program was really, really, the art and design program was really very good.

Dwight Battle: I took a year off after high school because I wanted to work, I wanted to save up some money for school, so I actually took a year off before I went off to University of Dayton. I started there, and honestly, when I look at it now, I was there for a year. I probably enjoyed the partying a little too much. I enjoyed the social aspects of college more than I enjoyed the class aspects of college.

Dwight Battle: But in hindsight, I think I was making decisions about my future from a very, very poor perspective. It was, “Hey, this is your… You’re 18 years old. You’re supposed to go to college. Go to college. This is what you’re going to do.” I knew I wanted to do something in design, but the idea of alternative pass for that never crossed my mind and the idea of I could’ve moved down to Atlanta early and done something. I wasn’t coming at it from the right space, and I don’t think, honestly, it was the right time for me to go because I went into it, and I kind of blew the opportunity. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that was in front of me.

Dwight Battle: It was kind of a sobering experience when I got the… At the end of the year, I looked at this next looming bill for the next year, and I was like, “I can’t afford this. I can’t afford to take out another loan for this, so I need to go figure it out something else.” I moved to Atlanta, moved in with my parents, which started a nice long period of moving in and out of my parents’ place for a number of years until I figure things out.

Maurice Cherry: It’s so interesting, the first year of college because… and I don’t know if it’s like this at other colleges, but it feels to me… and maybe it’s just a combination of freedom from the parents and being in a new environment, but it feels like the college throws everything they can at you to make you not go to class and to make you not want to study or do anything. It’s like there’s so many extra curricular activities, there’s football games, there’s parties.

Maurice Cherry: When I went to Morehouse, they had charter buses. The clubs would send charter buses, pick us up, take us to the club, and drop us right back off on campus. It’s like you don’t even have to worry about transportation to get to and from places. I don’t know. Maybe it’s different at other colleges, I don’t know, but it felt like, I mean, I had that experience freshman year. I think I’ve talked about this on the show where my freshman year Morehouse was rough.

Maurice Cherry: It was rough. I mean, I got kicked out of my dorm. I had to get into another dorm, and it wasn’t even so much because of the partying and everything, but it’s just there’s so many other things to do that have nothing to do with class, and you have complete total unfettered freedom to do those things, and there’s nobody to snap you back in line or tell you, “This is what you need to do.” You have to go in with this level of self-discipline that I don’t think a lot of 18-year-olds have.

Dwight Battle: It’s kind of crazy that we sit 18 year olds down to say, “Here, you need to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life over these next four years. You’re going to take out hundreds of thousand dollars in loans to do this, and we’re going to give you zero support. You’re an adult now. Figure it out.” It’s crazy to me that we do that because that was how it felt. It was like, “I’m an adult. I can do whatever I want to now,” and the switch never clicked that was like, “Oh, I also have to do these things because it’s going to move me forward and to the path that I think that I want,” but again, what I wanted at 18 years old is dramatically different than what I wanted in my mid-20s or even mid-30s.

Maurice Cherry: Right, and I mean, oh, my god, that’s so true. I racked up credit card debt. I just did dumb shit. I had a job. I did get a job. You remember College Club? Do you remember-

Dwight Battle: That sounds familiar.

Maurice Cherry: … their website?

Dwight Battle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Maurice Cherry: It was a precursor kind of to Facebook, but College Club had this interface where they gave you a number, and you could call the number, and it would read your email back to you. They had all these little campus sites, so whatever school you went to, there was a site just for your school, and you could meet people at your school or at other schools. I ended up working there as a like a campus representative from Morehouse for College Club. Then I was hustling on doing that because I was getting paid to do that. The way that they had the pay structure set up was you got paid like… and this is wild now for people that are listening that are hearing this. We got paid $3 per picture and like $5 per new account.

Dwight Battle: Wow.

Maurice Cherry: Every time you took pictures, like you went around and you took pictures of campus life and uploaded them, I’m just counting in my head, “3, 6, 9, 12,” boom, boom, boom, boom. Same with accounts, 5, 10, 15, 20. I was in the computer science department at the time because I had majored in computer science, computer engineering that first semester, and I remember talking with a friend of mine… Actually, the same friend I told you about who teaches at Ohio State.

Maurice Cherry: We put together this macro program that we could basically just take pictures, and we would upload all the pictures to a folder, and then run the macro, and the macro would upload everything, and it would give us a total of what it would be at the end because the digital cameras we had… This is 1999. The digital cameras we had took a, like one of those hard floppy disks.

Dwight Battle: Oh. Wow.

Maurice Cherry: It was a Sony Mavica, and I remember it having like a box of disks in my backpack just like slotting them out, taking pictures and stuff, and the macro, we made another macro that would just make random accounts. We were getting money like hand over fist like every month, $4,000. What am I going to do at 18-

Dwight Battle: With [crosstalk 00:18:37]-

Maurice Cherry: … with… you think that I’m about going to class, and I’m making this much money now? I almost flunked out the first year. I was so just not even focused on it. The other reason also was because I wanted to do web design, and my advisor was like, “If you want to do that, you need to change your major because you’re not going to be able to do that here.” He’s like, “The web is a fad. There’s no way that people are going to be doing stuff on the internet in five years. What are we going to do on the internet? Play solitaire?” So yeah. So yes, so after-

Dwight Battle: Well, that person was right.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. After Dayton, you said you moved to Atlanta?

Dwight Battle: Yeah. Yeah. I was living with my parents. I got a job, bounced around, was working retail, just really trying to figure out what my next step was. I knew I still kind of wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t know what that path was. I think it was… I did that for a couple of years, and I think it was, ’99, 2000-ish that I found the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Maurice Cherry: Oh, wow.

Dwight Battle: I went and checked it out. At the time, with a couple years of post-Dayton, I said, “Let me make sure that this is the right place for me,” and did my due diligence. It seemed okay. Then I got in there and realized what we all know now about the Art Institutes, but I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I remember, and I only remember this because this is what kind of kick-started my career was I had a class, and the teacher… They made such a big show about the teachers are working professionals, and so they’re going to their jobs and then they’re going to come teach these classes in the evening.

Dwight Battle: Well, the professor was never there. This woman basically wound up teaching us. It was a Photoshop class. This woman who was a classmate there basically just started teaching the class. She told me about this company that she worked for that was a small… It was a publishing company. They made apartment magazines. She asked if I was interested in a production job, and I said, “Well, sure. I need a job while I’m going to school, so this is perfect.” I started working for the apartment guide, which is such a quaint idea now, but they were little books-

Maurice Cherry: I remember those.

Dwight Battle: … that you can pick up at the grocery store, and you would have listings of apartments, and you would pick out your apartment. That was how you found where you wanted to live. I started out as a production artist there. By this point, I realized I was giving the Art Institutes a lot of money. I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I think there was one class I only showed up for three times and still got an A, so I said, “This is not the right thing.”

Dwight Battle: So I left there, and that was the start of my career. I started out as a production artist pumping out those books, and did that for three years. I was starting to think about what the next step was going to be. I started having conversations with what they called art directors, what was the next step after being this production artist, what could I do next? They said some of the cities were large enough to justify having their own in-house artists who basically ran the, quote-unquote, “art department” for these apartment guides. Originally, he was going to send me that Vegas, and thank god he didn’t. That sounded amazing at the time. Thank god I did not wind up there, but-

Dwight Battle: It didn’t. That sounded amazing at the time. Thank God, I did not wind up there. But he said, “We need an artist for the Puget Sound book,” and I had no idea what that was because I don’t know what the Puget Sound is.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And he said, “It’s Seattle.” I said, “I don’t know what Seattle is.” And so in 2003, I moved out here to Seattle. I knew exactly one person. I knew a girl I went to college with who was living here, so she was the only person I knew here. And I moved here in 2003 and did that for a couple more years.

Dwight Battle: Realized fairly quickly that print work in the Seattle market was drying up quickly, and I was trying to make this move into advertising because that was what I knew I had always wanted to do. And I talked to a friend/colleague at it, at an ad agency here, and I took him my sad, pathetic little apartment guidebook and poor portfolio and said, “What could I do here?” And he looked at my book, and he said, “Did you do these ads on a Mac or a PC?”

Maurice Cherry: Hmm.

Dwight Battle: And I said, “Oh. I did them on a Mac,” and he said, “So, it’s not completely worthless.”

Maurice Cherry: Oh, wow.

Dwight Battle: “I can work with you here.” He was like, “You need to get out of that job because this job is not going to get you where you need to be.” And I think it was shortly after that that I gave like two weeks’ notice or two months’ notice, and I said, “I’m going to go find something else. I’m going to go find something that is closer to what I want to be doing.”

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And that took a while. I did some exhibit design. I worked for a company that did all of Microsoft’s conferences and trade shows. So, it was their CES exhibits and their E3 things and things like that. I freelanced for a while doing a lot of logo branding work, websites, and things like that. And then it was about 2010 where I kind of saw the horizon of what was coming down, and it was the iPad. And I was so intrigued by the potential of that device and that screen and what it meant and what it could be that I immediately went out and bought one and changed my focus and said, “This is what I want to do,” and started focusing on that and made that pivot.

Maurice Cherry: So, I want to go back because you just covered a lot of time. The early part where you’re talking about you’re working in an apartment guide. I’m just curious. What was that time like for you? That’s three years. That’s a long time to be at a place for design, especially back then because there wasn’t really a lot of variance in what you could do for digital design like there is now. You can be product or UX or what, you know?

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Interaction and what have you. What was your mind frame like during that time when you’re working at the apartment guide just doing these print ads?

Dwight Battle: Honestly, it was a time where I said, “This is the time that I’m going to put my head down and grind.” It wasn’t design work. It was very purely print production work.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: So, it was throw headphones on and grind through these ads and grind through making these copy changes or whatever they were.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And so, I knew that that was a means to an end. I knew I didn’t want to do that forever.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: But I knew that I needed to pay my dues, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know because again, I was coming from basically two years of college separated by five years. So, I knew I needed to learn a lot. And so, I’d work on stuff during the day. And then, I would go home, and I would read books on design. I’d mock up my own ads, and I would do as much learning as I could on my own even with the limited resources that were online at the time. And just trying to read and soak up and inhale as much as I could so that the next time I was doing these print production things, I could do it a little bit more efficiently so that I could get through more things so I could go home and do more of this other thing.

Dwight Battle: And so, when the opportunity to … And I started having conversations with the people who would be my bosses about becoming an art director for a book about a year before it actually happened. I went to them and said, “What do I need to do to get here? Because this is what I want my next step to be.” And so, doing that was a big help because they basically provided the roadmap for me, and when the time came to interview for those roles, I had done everything they were looking for anyway. And I had shown that I was capable of doing all that work anyway. So, it really became more of a, not formality, but I had shown I was able to do the work. So, getting the job was easy.

Maurice Cherry: So, it sounds like that was your education.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: That was your college basically.

Dwight Battle: Basically, yeah. That’s kind of how I’ve started referring to it, yeah. My career started in earnest in 2003, and it was such a dramatic shift from what I was working on because I went from working in a production office pumping out things to having to support salespeople and having to work with people who had completely different priorities than I did and having to work with people who thought about things completely different than I did.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And so, it was a very strong fundamental shift in how I thought about design work because I was so used to just like, “Hey. I can design all these things in a vacuum, and it doesn’t really matter what happens outside of this.” And I moved here, and it became very much, “No. These things have a purpose.”

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: “We need to … There are numbers that I need to hit, so I need to make sure that this content matches that.”

Maurice Cherry: What was Seattle like during that time, during those early 2000s?

Dwight Battle: It was crazy. I knew Seattle because of Microsoft and Amazon and Starbucks and Nintendo. I lived … My first apartment was right across from the Microsoft campus, and it was like driving onto the Microsoft campus was I remember being shocked that it was literally a campus. I just, I guess for some reason in my head I always thought of a building, a big, tall building downtown that had Microsoft on the top, and that was Microsoft. And to see how much, how ingrained in the community it was was kind of mind blowing for me.

Dwight Battle: But I never really thought about Seattle as a tech city. It was just a city that had some tech companies in it. I stayed largely away from it because I didn’t want to work in tech. I wanted to work in advertising, and I wanted to work in design. So, I stayed away from all of that. I remember turning down interviews at Amazon, so it’s like, “I don’t want to work. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to work for Amazon.”

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And so, it’s crazy to me when people say that Seattle’s always been a tech town because it didn’t really feel like a tech town to me really until about 2010, 2011 when it was like, “Okay. Now, Facebook is here, and Google is here. And companies are starting to move here to take advantage of all the engineering talent.” And so all of a sudden, you would look around, and Uber’s over here, and Lyft’s over there. And Facebook’s down the street, and Google’s taken up like several city blocks over in Kirkland. And you looked up one day, and you’re like, “Oh, wait a minute. Yeah. This is now a major tech city.”

Dwight Battle: In 2003, it felt much smaller. It felt much more of a community. I loved my early days here. I felt like I knew a lot of people. I made it a conscious effort to get out and meet people because I didn’t know anybody here. And so, I had distinct friend groups of my design friends and my friends that I would go out to nightclubs with and my friends that I would play sports with. It just felt a lot smaller than it does now.

Maurice Cherry: Mm, interesting. I knew about Seattle from The Real World.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: And now, I remember that because that was the year we first got cable, and I had heard about this stuff because we had magazines. I grew up in the deep South in Selma, and so anything that I knew about pop culture and everything came in the mail. We had magazines, and that was pretty much it. And I think when we first got cable in like ’97, ’98, and I think Real World Seattle? Was Seattle?

Dwight Battle: Yep.

Maurice Cherry: So, yeah. Seattle. Yeah. That was the one with where Stephen slapped Irene, yeah.

Dwight Battle: Yep.

Maurice Cherry: That was the first one I saw, and then I went to Seattle. It was 2002. I had got an opportunity to do an internship interview at Microsoft. Actually, that’s the only time I’ve been to Seattle now that I think about it. It was my first time there, and I was like, “I got to see The Real World house.” Never found it, but I got to see Pike Place Markets on the Space Needle. And I saw the Microsoft campus that you were talking about, and I just remember going there and seeing all the Segways and thinking, “This is like the future.”

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Like, “Oh, my God. People are driving around on Segways? I’ve only read about Segways. What?” Didn’t get the internship, but it was a really interesting experience. I’ve been trying to get back there ever since, so hopefully 2020 can make that happen.

Dwight Battle: Come in the summer.

Maurice Cherry: But, yeah.

Dwight Battle: Come in the summer. This is my-

Maurice Cherry: Come in the summer?

Dwight Battle: Yeah. This is the part that I think people who know me would be remiss if I didn’t say it. Don’t come in the winter. The weather here is terrible. I hate it.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: I would have said that summers are beautiful, but it’s about to start raining for the next eight months.

Maurice Cherry: Okay.

Dwight Battle: So, just fair warning.

Maurice Cherry: So, now that Seattle is kind of, I guess, changing into a tech city sort of like you’re saying, how has the culture changed? Have you felt that shift as well?

Dwight Battle: Yeah. I remember a couple of years ago. I remember reading an article about things that were happening with long-term residents of Silicon Valley and fighting against the … There are long-term residents of San Francisco fighting against Silicon Valley and stopping buses in the street and doing all these things to disrupt what was happening to their city. I remember, I think it was three or four years ago, the same thing happened here in Seattle, and Microsoft, I think, was using street bus stops or something like that. And somebody literally held up a sign and was stopping one of those Microsoft transit buses because you were like, “You’re destroying this neighborhood.” And so I’ve felt that. I’ve noticed that.

Dwight Battle: I remember, I mean my starting day, my first day at Amazon, and I think I was in a room with 300 other people. And that was their day one along with me, and I think it was 300 people. And they told me it was the smallest one they had had this month.

Maurice Cherry: Mm. Okay.

Dwight Battle: So, Amazon is bringing in a ton of people. Google brings in a ton of people. Facebook, obviously, is bringing in … I think Facebook’s second biggest campus is here. So, yeah. It definitely has had an impact on the community both in terms of obvious things like the cost of living and housing, but also in the way I feel like when I moved here there was care for, this is going to sound really out there, but it felt like there was care for other people. You didn’t hear a lot of talk about people as “they”, or at least I never did, you know?

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And I’m sure there was NIMBYism floating around back then, but it’s been very apparent here. We need to do something about the homeless problem, but we don’t want it over here. Do it somewhere else.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And I think that’s come from a lot of that, a lot of people coming from Silicon Valley up here, people coming in from other places because this is a more affordable place to be compared to some places in California. And so, there’s been a … And in the weather here is pretty moderate most of the time. And so, it’s become a destination, and so it’s become a destination, but there’s nowhere for anybody to live. And there’s people who have been living here for 30, 40 years that are fighting against all of that. So, yeah. I definitely feel it. I’ve definitely noticed it.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I’ve heard that from … There’s this video channel on YouTube that I really like that’s based out of Seattle called Cut, and they often will show, well, they feature Seattle people because they’re in Seattle. But every now and then, they’ll have something which sort of talks about the city, or they’re interviewing people in the city. And they’ll talk about how things have really changed with sort of the encroaching of tech upon, I guess, the Seattle culture and everything.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: So, that’s really interesting because I think about that with Atlanta, also. I mean Atlanta is a city that has been changing a lot over these past 10 years, mostly because of entertainment.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: Because a lot of film and TV that is done here, and that has certainly not just, I think, changed the culture, but also it’s changed the cost of living, et cetera. It’s not as expensive as a New York or a San Francisco or L.A., but it’s affordable enough where people are starting to move here, and that influx of people is changing the culture. I’ll admit I’m not super involved in the local sort of design scene for many reasons, but I’m wondering. Now that you’re at the position where you’re at, especially having done so much in the field, do you feel like there’s really a design community there in Seattle, or is it just all tech?

Dwight Battle: I don’t. I’ll say that with an asterisk. I’ve become an old man living in the suburbs. So, I go to work, and I come home. And I play with my dog, and I watch TV. So, I’m sure there are things happening that I just don’t know about. But I know when I was younger, I struggled a lot with going to trying to go to design events here, not feeling very welcomed, and getting frustrated and leaving.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And so, that happens enough times, and you give it another shot. And it happens again, and you give it another shot. And it happens again. Eventually, you just stop going.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And so, part of that’s on me. Part of that’s on the design community here. I feel like the things that I go to now have been more tech-focused, but I think that’s also because my career has been more tech focused.

Maurice Cherry: Mm.

Dwight Battle: I haven’t been to a design-focused event in a while here, and I feel like when I go to other cities … I was in Minneapolis for the IGA conference, and I went to a bunch of different design events and felt immediately welcomed in, and it was a great time. And then, I tried to come back to that same one here after that event. It just wasn’t very welcoming, so I’ve just stopped trying to go, and I do acknowledge that I need to be better about that because I also grumble about the fact that I don’t have any peers that I can talk to. So.

Maurice Cherry: I remember that from when we met in Atlanta. You were sort of telling me that. Do you think part of that is just the infamous Seattle Freeze?

Dwight Battle: You’re going to get me in trouble, Maurice, because I have very strong feelings about that. I think the Seattle Freeze, I’ve actually come around on a little bit on that idea a little bit. I think people here are you have to work to make relationships here. I don’t think that’s ever been in question. The way I always describe it, it’s a hard nut with the super soft center. And so, you’re going to take a lot of work to get through that nut, but once you get into the middle of it, it’s this very welcoming, great place.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: But you got to do the work. And if you come from somewhere like an Atlanta or Minneapolis or places where it’s very outwardly, like you walk past people on the street and then the next thing you know, you’re over at their house for Sunday dinner. That can be a hard transition to make.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: I fight against it myself. I don’t want to become that person. I don’t want to become that person that I have complained about for 15 years now. So, when people reach out to me, I do my best to try and follow up to them because I can’t complain about the Seattle Freeze and then freeze people out myself.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: So, I think my perspective on that has changed a little bit as I’ve been here for some while. I think Seattle might get a little bit too much of a bad rep for that. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible to meet people here.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I read a recent article from, I don’t know if you know this guy, Timothy Bardlavens. Does that name sound familiar?

Dwight Battle: Yes. I know the article that you’re speaking of.

Maurice Cherry: You know what one I’m talking about?

Dwight Battle: Uh-huh (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. It’s-

Dwight Battle: I have not met him.

Maurice Cherry: Oh. I haven’t met him either, but, yeah. He’s been on this show before, actually for an article he wrote back in 2016, also about AIGA.

Dwight Battle: Hmm.

Maurice Cherry: Back then he was talking about why he quit AIGA, and this recent article that he wrote was about how AIGA upholds white supremacy, which I mean, whoo.

Dwight Battle: That’s, yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Right out the gate. Right out the gate. I was like, “Oh, shit. Let me sit up.”

Dwight Battle: Coming out swinging, yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: Now, I sat up in my chair when I saw that headline. Like, “Oh, okay.”

Maurice Cherry: And it’s interesting because when you talk about sort of design community and when I think about design community, AIGA invariably does come to mind because it’s the professional organization for designers, and there are chapters in every city. And I know that there certainly are some cities that are more welcoming and open than others, but then it seems like as a whole, the organization just sort of has this issue with diversity. And design events tend to be tied to AIGA in a way where it’s like unless it’s coming from that chapter, you really kind of don’t see it in a way.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: I think Atlanta is unique in the respect that we’ve always had a really strong arts community here. It may not specifically be digital design, but you can meet people who write, paint, sculpt, what have you, and it’s not within the confines of a sanctioned professional organization, that sort of thing. Have you found that kind of community in Seattle? Just the creative community not necessarily digital design.

Dwight Battle: No, and I would love one. I really would. I wish, and if someone’s listening to this and knows about one, find me on my website. Please tell me because I would love to have a community to talk about just general design stuff and period. That article in particular I think encapsulated a lot of the frustrations that I had with AIGA both local, and, man, I don’t want to say nationally because I don’t have a lot of experience with nationally, but definitely locally. I just, I never really ever felt welcomed there except when they were trying to like, “Here’s our diversity event.”

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: “You should come to this.” But if I went to just a regular event, I just, it never felt right. And I have this group of friends that I’ve met through actually through the HOW Conference, and they all have a diverse set of backgrounds. There’s photographers. There’s artists. There’s entrepreneurs. We don’t have anything in common other than the fact that we met at the HOW Conference, and those are the relationships that I value the most because we come from such different backgrounds and because we have such different specialties that I value those relationships. We get together once a year, and it’s great. But I would love something like that locally.

Maurice Cherry: Well, if any folks in Seattle are listening, make sure to hit up Dwight about that. Absolutely.

Dwight Battle: Please do.

Maurice Cherry: There’s a post that I saw that you wrote on LinkedIn a few years ago. It’s called, Where’s My Ari Gold? Ari Gold for folks who might not know is from Entourage, right?

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah, from Entourage. That’s a good show, right? In this post, you were asking about like, “Where are the agents that are representing designers?” You’re saying that like, “Musicians have agents. Authors, et cetera, but when it comes to designers, there’s often no one that’s advocating for the designer for better work and things like this.” I really want to get into that because, well, one, I’d love to get an agent.

Dwight Battle: Dude.

Maurice Cherry: I would love to have someone that could advocate for me about that, but why do you think that exists? Why do you think there’s that dearth of, I guess, representation for designers like that?

Dwight Battle: Well, let me start by talking about why I wrote that.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: At the time, I was in that transitional phase when I was looking for trying to get into the digital space. And so, I was working with a lot of recruiting agencies, and that’s a very frustrating experience.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And I remember having a conversation with a friend who is an illustrator, and she’s written a couple of books. And she was telling me about her agent and so on and so forth, and then I was having a separate conversation with another recruiter who flat out told me, “I don’t work for you. I work for the company that’s trying to hire you.” And that really changed my perspective of how I engaged with recruiters because they don’t really have our best interest in mind. They need to fill a role, and they’re looking for the best person to fill that role. But if I where I wasn’t at that time in my life, I’m looking to make the next step in my career, and I make looking to make a pivot in my career, I have no one that can advocate for me.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And I don’t have anybody that can say, “This is what this person is.” I’ve got my website, but I don’t have a person that can say, “Here’s why you should consider Dwight for this role.”

Maurice Cherry: Right.

Dwight Battle: And that was where it came from was I would happily pay somebody to go out and advocate for me and to help me negotiate salary, which is something I think all designers struggle with. I think underrepresented designers probably struggle with that as much if not more because we’re always making on the low end of the scale.

Maurice Cherry: People aren’t checking for us anyway.

Dwight Battle: Right, yeah. I don’t have somebody that can say, “Hey, on Twitter, hey, come work for me. Here’s a bunch of money.” That doesn’t happen. I just read this. It’s on as a tangent. I just read this article about the Game of Thrones guys.

Maurice Cherry: Oh, God, yeah.

Dwight Battle: How they basically were like, “We don’t know anything about this, but here. Here’s a bunch of money to go make this this fantasy show for 10 years.”

Maurice Cherry: Right.

Dwight Battle: And that’s not something that happens to designers in particular and underrepresented designers in general. So, that was where that came from was I’m trying to make this pivot into a space, and I want someone that can advocate for me. Not just advocate for me but help me get to that stage where I can advocate for myself.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And I had to do all that. I had to, again, find all that information and work through that stuff on my own, and I finally got it all figured out about six months ago when I was having these conversations with Amazon. So, that was where that came from. As to why we don’t have them, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s because there’s a lot of people out there who want to be designers and are willing to call themselves designers and-

Dwight Battle: … who want to be designers and are willing to call themselves designers and will take anything that’s given to them salary wise, job wise that there just doesn’t seem to be a market for that. I don’t know, but I know that there’s a lot of talented designers in this world that aren’t being found because they aren’t in the right circles, they don’t know the right people. And that seems to be a hole that could be fixed.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And you hear all the time, “Well, if we could find talented black designers, we would have talented black designers”.

Dwight Battle: And my response to them is always, “Well, you’re not looking”. You can’t ask your employees to go find talented employees and be surprised when they all come back looking like the people that you already have working there.

Maurice Cherry: Right.

Dwight Battle: And still wish I had an Ari Gold.

Maurice Cherry: I feel that one. It must be it for real because it’s one of those things where, I think the general thing that I get from you is there’s a lot of figuring out, and oftentimes as designers, and especially digital designers in this field, there’s already so many other things we have to figure out in terms of the right tools, and the techniques, and working with the clients and all this other kind of stuff. You want to be able to, I guess, offload some of that in a way, to an agent. I think that would be a good thing and I hope for people that are listening, they don’t think that this is coming from some kind of elitist state.

Maurice Cherry: I think anyone, once you get to a certain level in your career, you don’t want to have to keep fighting for the same things that you did when you started out. You shouldn’t have to go tooth and nail with someone on salary or on certain benefits or things of that nature. Maybe that’s just sort of the nature of whatever market that you happen to be in, if you’re in a big city, if you’re in a small city, et cetera.

Maurice Cherry: I know illustrators often have agents, so they are a part of an agency and that’s who tends to get them gigs. I don’t know if there needs to be something like that for designers, or if there’s just not … I don’t know. I would love to know what that is because I’ve certainly had folks on the show who are, what’s the best way to put it? They’re creative consultants or something. They work with designers, almost in like a collective sort of sense.

Maurice Cherry: So I’m thinking of one person, off the top of my head, Ian Davies, who I think I interviewed him back in 2017, 2018 something like that. And he has a collective of people that he works with and helps them out with gigs and stuff. But it’s very much a closed door sort of thing. You have to know someone who knows someone. I know of different creative collectives. Laci Jordan, whom I’ve had on the show, I know she’s part of the [inaudible 00:46:44] collective, which is made up of designers and writers and artists. So it’s a number of different types of creative people. I don’t know if maybe that’s the model that needs to happen, like a bunch of us just need to get together and be super friends. I don’t know what that would look like.

Dwight Battle: The Avengers.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. No seriously, because I’ve had designers of all stripes that have been here on the show and that’s a common thing. They want to be able to have people that are going to help push them to whatever the next thing is in their career. And that’s not necessarily a mentorship kind of thing. I won’t even say coaching or sponsoring, but it is sort of an agent thing because this is something like you mentioned in the post, you’re willing to pay for that.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: You would pay for someone to help you do this, whether that’s a percentage of the salary or what have you. And I think headhunters kind of do that, but even that’s tricky because the headhunters are not really for you, they’re for the company that they work for because they’re probably getting paid on commission or whatever.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Oh man, it’s real tricky. I hope there are folks that are out here listening who are in the creative field, that might know someone who does this. Please reach out to the show or something like that because I feel like that’s a really big need, especially for underrepresented designers, because what’ll end up happening is someone puts out a call on Twitter or something.

Maurice Cherry: I feel like that’s how I see a lot of these sorts of opportunities crop up. “I’m looking for such and such”, and then someone starts a Twitter thread with 50 people in it or something. And I don’t know if someone’s going to look at all 50 of those people or whatever, but it’s like a sort of lazy man’s way of aggregating that kind of information. But man, I would love to have an agent. Really just someone that could help out in that respect because as you get to a certain point in your career, the recruiters are just trying to hit quota. They don’t really care whether or not … I still get recruiters that will contact me for like, “Oh, we have a six month content writer position”. I’m not looking for six month contract gigs. Get out of here.

Dwight Battle: Yep.

Maurice Cherry: First of all, I’m employed full time and secondly, I’m not going to do contract work at this stage, especially for like … No, no, absolutely not.

Dwight Battle: I actually put that on my LinkedIn. That says, “I would rather not be contacted by third party recruiters”. And it doesn’t stop them.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. It doesn’t stop them.

Dwight Battle: But yeah, it’s just that. And I respect it. Listen, you have your roles to fill, you’ve got your numbers to hit. I get it. But I’m at a stage in my career where I would rather honestly take that energy that I’m spending trying to find my next job, and put it towards helping someone that is where I was 15 years ago and help them get their career started.

Maurice Cherry: Right.

Dwight Battle: And so when I spend all this energy trying to find a job, I can’t also do that. I get lots of emails through my website all the time, asking, “How do I do this? How do I get into this career?” And I try to respond to every one that I can. But that takes time, it takes energy, that takes your spirit. You’ve got to get into a mindset to do that.

Dwight Battle: I love that idea of collective. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I think one of the things I’ve always done in my career, and this has probably been because I spent so much time contracting was, I’m always looking at what the next step is. I took Amazon for very specific reasons. So once my time in Amazon is done, what’s the next thing?

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea of having some sort of collective where a bunch of designers can be in one space. It can be a very creative space, you can run your own thing, you can come together. But then also provide opportunities for young designers who don’t have those contacts and who don’t have blue check marks next to their names, and who don’t have this huge network of people that are willing to just throw opportunities out into the Aether. I feel that strongly. I want to do that. I want to be in a position where I can do that because I didn’t have those resources when I was starting my career.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. So just to shift gears just a little bit here. We’re talking certainly about the energy that it takes to put all this together, and certainly what I’ve gained from listening to your story is that you’ve had to really, and I’ve said this on the show before, but you’ve had to make the road by walking. You had to forge your own path through all of this to get to where you are right now. What do you think helps fuel that ambition?

Dwight Battle: I’m always looking forward and it sounds kind of silly to say that I’m never happy, but I’m never happy. I have this vision in my head for myself and so I keep moving towards that thing. So I take steps that I think will help me get there. I just started doing some motion design work because it’s something that I’ve always found interesting, I thought it’s something that could help me and somewhere down the line in my career, so hey, let’s start doing some motion design work.

Dwight Battle: And I think that may have come from the fact that the way I started out my career, I didn’t have the tailwinds of coming out of school with a degree and an internship and all these different resources and references and things like that. I had to do that individually, step-by-step and trying to find help where I can. And to be clear, I did not do this by myself. I couldn’t have done any of this without lots of support from various different people.

Dwight Battle: But I think that drive, always thinking about what my next thing is and thinking about, okay, once my time here at Amazon is done, I’m going to be however old I am and starting to think about the next step in terms of retirement. So what is the next thing that going to get me to that point? And what do I want to do? Do I want to be driving through Seattle traffic to go into an office at 55 years old? So if I don’t want to do that, what do we need to be doing now to get to that point?

Maurice Cherry: Can you afford to take a break?

Dwight Battle: No.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: I couldn’t take an extended break. I took a month off between HBO and Amazon, and got a lot of things done and did a lot of different things. I don’t know that I’m built to take a super long sabbatical. I don’t know what I would do, I think I would go crazy. I know I drive my wife crazy.

Dwight Battle: I don’t think I could and I don’t know that I would want to, unless I was doing something very specific like traveling. I’ve never been overseas so that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. But, no.

Maurice Cherry: The reason I asked that, I wasn’t like trying to like poke a hole in what you were saying, but I do feel like, particularly for underrepresented designers, especially when you get to a certain age, like late thirties, early forties it’s like, what’s next? Do I still want to be doing this 10 or 15 years down the line? Because if the industry has changed … Well, the industry will change. That’s just inevitable. What is my place in it?

Maurice Cherry: Much like you, I was self taught. I was doing all this design stuff as a hobby and lucked into my first design job in ’05 and have managed to build on skills and opportunities to get where I am now. And that’s great, but I don’t have a formal education in design, I’ve got my experiences in my projects which have helped me out. And it’s interesting even to have that.

Maurice Cherry: If I try to look at what the next thing is, then it’s like, does this transfer? Can I use this? Do I have to go back to school? What is the next thing? And part of me is like, well maybe I should just like take a break. And it’s not something that I think underrepresented designers, when we get to this stage in our career, really even this age in life, is not something we can really afford to do. We have to keep going and it sucks.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: It sucks. I would love to have just three months. I would get so much stuff done. If I could have just three months to not have to worry about what the next thing is I have to do, what the next step is. Like what’s the next project? Oh, yeah.

Dwight Battle: If you said, “Dwight, you have to take three months off”, I would spend most of that three months figuring out what I was going to do on day 91. And maybe that’s coming back to design, maybe it’s not.

Dwight Battle: I’m big into these home improvement shows, and so I was watching this show last night and the designers said something that really resonated with me, and I’ve always tried to put it into words. She said, “Always say yes until you can afford to say no”.

Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dwight Battle: And I feel like I’m starting to get there. Over the course of trying to get to this job, I said no to other jobs. But when I think of that, holistically about my career, is there a point where I don’t want to be a designer anymore? She went from a fashion design career to being an interior designer.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: Is that a shift that I can make? And what does that shift look like? So I think if I took three months off, I would do basically that. Figuring out what that 91st day looks like.

Maurice Cherry: Always say yes until you can afford to say no. Wow.

Dwight Battle: I might get that tattooed on me.

Maurice Cherry: I feel like I’m starting to get to the know part, but even when I give the nos, it’s sort of like a, maybe. It’s a soft no. I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Dwight Battle: I feel like it’s hard, especially for us. It’s hard to say no because you don’t know if you’re going to have an opportunity to say yes again.

Maurice Cherry: Exactly. Oh my God. Yeah.

Dwight Battle: So you feel like I have to take this thing, even though it might not be the best thing for me or for my career. I have to take this because I don’t know if there’s going to be another opportunity.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I’ll give you a prime example. So, two years ago I publicly was like, “I’m not speaking at conferences anymore”. The last one I think I spoke at was after How. I forget what it was. Whatever the conference was, but it was a pain in the ass to deal with the conference organizer, and travel, and accommodation.

Dwight Battle: I remember you telling me about this. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: I was like, it’s not worth it to go through all of this to do 45 minutes on stage, for what? And at this point in time, I also was kind of thinking to myself, where’s my agent? Who’s advocating for me so I don’t have to put up with all this bullshit?

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: And I was on a podcast called Working File with Andy Mangold and and Matt McInerney. It was the two of us. It was Cap Watkins who was VP of design of Buzzfeed at the time and myself, and I was like, “I’m done. I am capital D done with speaking at conferences”. Have yet to get a conference invite since then. But I don’t know if it’s because I said no or if they’ve just stopped coming.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: And recently, I spoke at Bowling Green State University and that was really my first time giving a fairly big talk, I’d say there was maybe about 150 people there. It was students. And I’ve done little things around town, here in Atlanta, but it’s like 50 people at a morning coffee thing or 75 people at a … Actually, I wasn’t even speaking about design, I was speaking about podcasting. I wasn’t even talking about my design work. This was the first time I really got back on a stage and talked about design stuff in like two years, and I was like, “This is good”.

Maurice Cherry: And I told myself then that I would like to speak at more colleges or universities because I just feel like I would rather impart this knowledge on students, so they can take it into the future, than on working jaded professionals right now, who are just here on a professional development budget.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: I’m thinking of like what’s the impact of what I’m putting out there? As opposed to just being on the stage, so I can add a credit to my CV or whatever. I don’t care about that. But yeah. Oh man, always say yes until you can afford to say no. That one hit me deep. Oh man.

Dwight Battle: Yeah. I had to pause it and had to think about that for a minute because it hit me the same way it hit you. Man, that puts it all into words.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah.

Dwight Battle: And the bulk of my journey this past year was that. Was okay, can I say no to this? Is it the right thing for me? And if I say no, is there going to be another thing? Because if I had just taken the next thing, I wouldn’t be sitting here, working at Amazon. I’d be doing something less interesting.

Maurice Cherry: Right. All the could have, would have, should haves.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Take a look back at your career, if you could put up a billboard, or a manifesto, or something to say anything to anybody in your field, what would that say? What would you want to put out there that you want everyone to know?

Dwight Battle: That path isn’t a straight line. Or I would say, the path that people think that you need to be on isn’t always your path. And it’s okay to take a left turn, even though the GPS says to go straight, and see what happens when you do that. You may wind up where you were originally intending to go. You might wind up in a better place. So feel free to get lost, I guess.

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Feel free to get lost. I like that. When you look at other work from your peers or anything like that, is there any projects that you’ve seen lately that have really inspired you? That made you wish that you had done that?

Dwight Battle: I don’t know if it’s lately, but a couple of years ago there was an ad campaign. I think it was the Old Spice guy. The guy with the towel around his waist and was riding a horse with the diamonds or whatever. And this was when I was super trying to get into advertising. They had just rolled out this character and I think the guy went on Twitter in character and just started answering questions in character, and making commercials and putting them on YouTube in real time in this character. And I just thought that was so brilliant and such a good use of all of those mediums, instead of going forth then and building up this big, expensive ad campaign, something that’s going to air a handful of times for three months. Reacting to people in real time.

Dwight Battle: And that has always stuck with me, and I try to think about what are the things that I can leverage that are happening right now? Whether that’s, Tik Tok would be the thing now, but it would have been Snapchat last year. But, can I be ready to jump on a thing that people aren’t even thinking about, to communicate things to people? If I were to take this to the extreme in my role at Kindle, how could I leverage Tik Tok to get people reading more books? That’s always stuck with me. And that campaign was a while ago, but that’s always stuck with me.

Maurice Cherry: So one thing that I really have been trying to focus on for 2020 is how can we use the talents that we have to really, I guess, build the future. There has been campaigns and art installations I’ve seen about, there are black people in the future. Have you seen these before?

Dwight Battle: Mm-mm (negative).

Maurice Cherry: It’s like a billboard. I think there’s one in Detroit, or maybe it originated in Detroit, where a woman has a billboard and it says, “There are black people in the future”. Because when you see science fiction, we’re normally not there. It’s like, Uhura and Worf and Geordi, and whatever to do was on Deep Space Nine, that was the Vulcan.

Dwight Battle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Deep space nine. I’m showing my Star Trek nerdery here. But, when you look at the future, the next five years or so, what kind of work do you want to be doing?

Dwight Battle: If I look five years into the future, I think I want to be helping the next generation of designers get work and get paid. Those are the two things that I see in the future for me, as my career gets to wherever it’s going to be. I feel like I almost have that responsibility to bring people along and again, because I didn’t have those resources of opportunities. I hope I’m in a space where, whether it’s at Amazon or elsewhere, that I can be in somewhat of a position of power to bring people into the room because I think that’s also important.

Maurice Cherry: So you’ll have the Battle agency? Is that what it’ll be? Something like that?

Dwight Battle: I have such a fortunate last name that I really should leverage it more than I do and in a more creative way that I do. But yes, something around the Battle agency.

Maurice Cherry: I need to see how much it is to trademark though, because I come up with all kinds of stuff from my last name all the time. Some of it I see makes it out into the world, some of it doesn’t. I need to get on that.

Dwight Battle: Yeah.

Maurice Cherry: Well just to kind of wrap things up here, Dwight, and this has been a great conversation by the way, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?

Dwight Battle: You can find my work at You can find me all over various social medias at Dwight the mayor, and that’s Twitter, Instagram, Dribble, LinkedIn. All those links are on my website too.

Maurice Cherry: All right, sounds good. Well, Dwight Battle, I want to thank you just so much for coming on the show. Like I said, when we met back in 2016 and I heard about your story, and even hearing it again now, I think it’s really important for folks to know, as you said before, that any of the success and things that you see in the design field, in tech, none of it is unattainable. You don’t have to follow a specific path of this school to this company, to get what you have to go. I think you’ve been a prime example of someone that has really worked their way up through the ranks, paid your dues, learned as you went, made the road by walking to get to the success that you have today. And I hope that that becomes an inspiration for people that are listening.

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

Dwight Battle: Thank you for having me. I had a great time.


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

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I first met Jordan in our Slack community, and ever since then, he’s been a part of helping foster Revision Path’s community. Currently, Jordan works as a research coordinator for the MyPEEPS project at the University of Washington, and helps use his skills in UX design and research to help social impact organizations and projects.

We talked about his current work at UW, and Jordan shared how he fell into UX design and research by accident after years of work in public health. From there, we talked about our experience meeting at XOXO this year, and had a great discussion about the importance of queer people in design. Jordan is committed to creating great design for social change, so definitely keep an eye out for more of his work 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.
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!
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!

One of the brilliant things about design is that there’s no one “right” way to enter the industry. Career paths aren’t linear anymore, and no one demonstrates this more than Sabella Flagg. Her journey has a designer has literally taken her around the world, and now she’s settled in Seattle as an interaction designer for digital agency Artefact.

Sabella and I talked about what interaction design is, and she shared what prompted her move to Seattle after spending time teaching English in China. Sabella is also a fine artist and photographer, and talked about her dreams of having her own gallery exhibition, and her motivations for growing as a designer. Learn more about Sabella in this week’s interview!

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


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.
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!
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!