Category Design

4 Corners: An Interview with Everton Wright

In October, we in the UK celebrate Black History Month. The tradition started 26 years ago and provides a small, but well established window of opportunity to focus on the achievements of primarily African and African-Caribbean people in the UK. Befitting this historical date in the calendar, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who I feel has made a significant contribution to the art and design landscape.

Everton Wright is one of a handful of designers of African-Caribbean origin who has successfully run and sold his own mainstream London design consultancy. He created highly influential, impactful and celebrated work, particularly in the fields of music and popular culture, that remains relevant and respected to this day. Wright is a man, who, through his thirst for the new, continues to evolve his art, which defies age or categorisation.Everton Wright

Everton Wright: Creative entrepreneur and artist

What’s your background?

I am a British artist, with parentage from Jamaica. My works is a conscious ‘mash-up’ of drawing and sculpture, combined with digital film and live installations. The work explores the intricate connections between the body and our experience of the modern environment, and this is communicated through bold interactive art, also using urban and rural landscapes as my canvas. I studied graphic design at Middlesex University, received a first class degree, and continued on to train as an artist in mixed media painting at Central St Martin’s College of Art, where I did my foundation. I also trained in film and video production at Four Corners London. As an award-winning creative director, with a professional background in commercial graphic design, I founded consultancy Creative Hands, which was responsible for creating some of most iconic and memorable music brands and imagery of the late eighties. The company ran for 17 years and was sold in 2004. Over the last nine years, art has become my focus, with the creation of Evewright Studio. I have participated in several group and solo exhibitions with my Walking Drawings project. In 2012 one of my ‘Walking Drawings’ installation prints was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art.Jamiroquai illustration

Jamiroquai illustration

How did you get started?

I started as a junior designer at a company called Design Solutions based in Soho in 1988. The best thing I learnt there was how to be logical with my thought processes when solving design problems. I had creative energy in abundance back then and being in such an environment helped me focus and taught me a lot about the process of how design and creativity was bought and sold. The industry was still very young and graphic design was beginning to be taken seriously by all type of businesses. You could say there was the beginning of bit of a design boom.Work for Talawa Theatre Company

Work for Talawa Theatre Company

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry?

There were not many black designers, let alone companies owned by black designers, when I started out. The industry is still very light in that regard today. So when I set up Creative Hands, it was quite a challenge getting started and growing the company. Overcoming some clients’ perceptions was another barrier we had to deal with. When clients saw the quality of work we produced they would call us in but when I arrived in the offices we had to first overcome the negative stereotype as black men. On more than one occasion a receptionist would mistake me for the courier picking up and delivering a package. I always maintain a high creative output and would always go the extra mile for my clients. The saying that you are as good as your last job ran true for us. We were based in the now-famous Hoxton Square area, but when we were there, only designers like Malcolm Garrett or Neville Brody were our neighbours. Hoxton was a place where not many people wanted to be but it suited me because it had an edge, which is still there today. I believe the Hoxton Hotel is where one of our old offices used to be. The challenge was to develop an impressive and diverse client roster, from music and arts to corporate. I was happy to say that I was able achieve that and eventually sold the company, successfully exiting, which for any business, especially design, wasn’t an easy thing to achieve.Work by Everton Wright

Work by Everton Wright

Who are your greatest inspirations?

Not quite everything, but there’s a lot! Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’a ‘Rumble in the Jungle’Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Ofili’s ‘Dung paintings’,  Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation movies, the Lucian Freud painting of the Queen, Neville Brody’s ‘The Face’ magazine design, Bob Marley’s ‘No woman no cry’, Francis Bacon’s screaming paintings, Damian Hirst’s Shark in a Tank, British landscapes –  especially the Scottish Highlands, Studio One Reggae, Peter Saville’s New Order Record sleeves, Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec 100 metre world record, Steve McQueen’s film Hunger, Turner nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, invisible Black People, my son and granddaughter. My influences are wide ranging I could go on and on. Art, art history, photography, film, sculpture, performance, typography, paintings, all types of music and sound. Drawings have been the foundation my creative practice and I am rarely seen without a sketchbook. Having a good foundation at St Martin’s really helped formulate the way I look at the world. When I started my degree one of my tutors gave me a book on Milton Glaser.  I just loved the way he was able to work between art and graphics, which gave me a much-needed doorway into how I approached graphic design. When I started to work professionally I have always incorporated the same ideologies, which mean you use whatever appropriate medium to solve a client solution. So even now my art studio works on a wide range of projects. I incorporate everything from film with sculpture and digital installation using coding, to creating public interaction projects with drawing and performance, to traditional design and print. It’s just creative expression to me, the medium I use is irrelevant.Red green experiments

Red green experiments

What is the project you are most proud of?

I find my current Walking Drawing films and project very special. I never try to look back at my designs; however seeing the Jamiroquai campaigns I produced still gives me a buzz. We designed the band’s first two albums in the ’90s and the branding became quiet iconic, it got our name out there. I recently moved house and found all the original artworks produced by hand with the mark up instruction attached, complete with a series of huge flyposters. The ‘Spliff Man’ poster for ‘Space Cowboy’ is still my favourite, even though I don’t smoke. That whole project got us noticed. It is much harder now for young designers with the scaling down of the music industry and marketing budgets. There are fewer places out there where talented young creative can get their work seen.Campaign for Jamiroquai

Campaign for Jamiroquai

What would be your dream job?

I’m lucky. I’m currently doing my dream job playing with sand and film cameras. Making art is the most interesting and engaging thing for me at the moment. I have always been a person who has enjoy the exploration of ideas and with the merging together of media in all forms it’s the most exciting time to be a creative – and especially an artist. Clients are also more open minded as to new ways to reach audiences with the exponential growth of new media. With Evewright Studio I am building a dynamic art practice and I am now working on a new series of Walking Drawings from Africa across the diaspora. It’s a challenge but I suppose that’s my dream project at the moment and I always go for that dream.Walking Drawing

Walking Drawing

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Graphic designers: Henry Obasi At PPaint; best animator: Osbert Parker (Bafta-nominated several times); illustrator: Benjamin Wachenje; advertising: Tre­vor Robin­son OBE at Quiet Storm; photographer: Franklyn Rodgers. Don’t get me going on artists or you’ll run out of space!Work by Everton Wright

Work for Darker than Blue

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Go for anything with technology, especially mobile – ‘there’s gold in them there hills’. Do what you set out to do. Then go do something else. Keep moving and keep innovating and don’t be afraid to be being creative. Clients expect designers to be a little crazy, that’s what they pay you for.Jamiroquai icon

Jamiroquai icon

What’s next for you?

I am a full-time visual artist working in a variety of media from sculpture to film and have been developing a series of installations call Walking Drawings, which I hope to exhibit next year. A Walking Drawing is a large-scale drawing undertaken by Evewright with a combination of freehand and mechanical tools on a vast landscape (canvas) of at least a quarter of a mile in the early hours of the morning. The drawing then becomes pathways and people of different ages, genders and cultures all dressed in black or colours are led on to it and invited to walk its lines in various formats and patterns. The public are invited to walk these lines to engage with, and experience a drawing in a new way to become participants in the creation of the artwork rather than an observer. This unique and evocative art installation consists of three films shot on Redcam, a series of 12 large scale prints and a floor installation sculpted with ten inch in height figures out of waste metal. For more information  and to see the film trailers go to: www.evewrightstudio.comand www.evewright.com And of course I’m designing all the print for the exhibition.Walking Drawing with horses

Walking Drawing with horses

Network:

THE U.S:

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 chronicles the vital legacy of the African American arts community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work and connections with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California. The exhibition presents approximately 140 works by 32 artists active during this historical period, exploring the rising strength of the black community in Los Angeles as well as the increasing political, social, and economic power of African Americans across the nation. Until 11 November at MoMA PS1. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY
Hours: Thurs–Mon, Noon–6:00 PM. For more information visit www.momaps1.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Stir It Up Film & Music Festival. A showcase of some of the best work coming from film and music industry professionals from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the festival offers performances, screenings and workshops. Additionally there are conferences on film and music, as well as other topics relating to Caribbean culture and world music. November 1, 2013 @ 8:00 am – November 30, 2013 Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

EUROPE:

Kehinde Wiley: ‘The World Stage’: Jamaica is the internationally recognised, African-American artist’s first ever solo exhibition. The exhibition features Jamaican men and women assuming poses taken from 17th and 18th Century British portraiture, the first one in the ‘World Stage’ series to feature portraits of women. The show runs until 16 November at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN. For more information visit http://www.stephenfriedman.com/exhibitions

AFRICA:

Afropolitain, a solo exhibition of images by Ananias Léki Dago presents works from three specific series that were developed over a six year period : Shebeen, Mabati and Bamako Crosses. While travel, or rather the discovery gained along the way, is essential to the work of Dago, Afropolitain is a visual notebook of encounters that have fed his numerous journeys. Documented in black and white, in these intimate experiences we see through the usage of acute details of the everyday, how Dago articulates his questions on the urban environment. Until Nov. 24  Fondation Charles Donwahi pour l’Art Contemporain  06 BP 228 Abidjan 06 Boulevard Latrille, face Eglise Saint Jacques Abidjan II Plateaux, Ivory Coast.  For more info visit http://fondationdonwahi.org/index.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

ICONOGRAPHIC: The first exhibition of my graphic poster art

As a budding design student, my first love was poster design. I used to pour over old Graphis annuals (many of which I later collected) inspired by the work of Shigeo Fukuda, Tommie Ungerer, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Herb Lubalin, Per Arnoldi and Waldemar Swierzy to name but a few. I often thought I could have been extremely happy if I just designed posters for a living.

A couple of years ago, I got to a crossroads in my life where I started to think about what I had done to date and where I was going. I reflected on my previous youthful dreams and the thought occurred to me “when was the last time you designed a poster?”

It was a thought that began to nag at me as I started to think about what creative path I might take next. Little signs and co-incidences appeared along the way, like the fact that I found out that I share the same birthday (31 May) with Jules Cheret; the French painter and lithographer who became a master of Belle Époque poster art and is regarded as the ‘father of the modern poster’

So eventually I decided to design a set of posters purely for my own pleasure and centered around my personal heroes and heroines. I then also built a small online poster store called ‘The PStore’ (an anagram of the word ‘poster’) to sell my own works initially, but maybe one day also the works of other artists and designers I admire.

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“ICONOGRAPHIC’ The first exhibition of my work will be at Art Dept at Clapham Picturehouse in London. This small exhibition of 25 artworks runs from 10 October – 10 November 2013.

The centerpiece of the show is a 70x100cm tribute artwork to the legendary and pioneering Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who would have been 75 this month were he still alive today.

For more information visit the online poster store at www.pstore.bigcartel.com to view more examples of my work and purchase prints.

4 Corners: An Interview with Archie Boston

As summer officially draws to a close here on British soil, we head to the sunny climes of the US and specifically Los Angeles to interview a man I am proud to call a friend and whose contribution to the design and advertising landscape is immense. I first interviewed Archie Boston two years ago, (in fact it was my first-ever professionally published interview) and discovered a man with humour, humility, passion, creativity and deep sense of integrity. Values that shine through in his body of work, and in particular a series of uncompromising self-promotional adverts he created with his brother Brad. Two years on, his courage and conviction remain resolutely intact, as I’m sure this interview will testify. Over to you Brother Archie…Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Archie Boston

Boston served two terms as president of the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles, is one of 35 design pioneers named by Graphic Design USA magazine and was honoured as Outstanding Professor of the Year in 2004 at California State University Long Beach, where he has taught for over 33 years. He published his memoir, Fly in the Buttermilk in 2001, created historical documentaries on 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers, in 1986, and is the first African American recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellows Award.Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

I received my BFA degree in Advertising Design with Honors from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California.  My first job after graduating was as an art director at Hixson and Jorgensen Advertising.  My second job was as a partner in, Boston & Boston Design, where I worked for two years, then returned to work at Ketchum Advertising as an art director for eight years.  I received a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Southern California in 1977. Then, I opened Archie Boston Graphic Design and became a Professor at California State University where I worked for 30 years until I retired from teaching in 2009.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

My biggest challenge was racism.  However, rather than be on the defensive, My brother Brad and I went on the offensive and published promotional pieces that were provocative, memorable, daring and different. That approach shock the establishment, but opened the door to many unbiased clients who admired our courage and worked with us in spite of what others thought. However, another problem was that there were many mediocre designers and clients who were afraid of working with a minority firm that they thought we were too talented for the work they did.We've Come Too Far to Turn Around

We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My greatest influences were art directors and designers like Georg Olden, Lou Danziger, George Lois, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Brad Boston, Herbert Lubalin, Jack Roberts and Robert Miles Runyan. My greatest inspiration was and still is Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior. I cannot think of any designer that was the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Great design is timeless.Christmas card

Christmas card

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

I am most proud of my first book, Fly In The Buttermilk, memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education. This book should be a must-read for anyone in advertising, design or design education. This book will be around for future generations of designers who believe in the gospel of good design. I am also proud of the interviews I videotaped in 1986 of 20 Outstanding Los Angeles designers, while on sabbatical.  Some of the designers featured were Saul Bass, Louis Danziger, Marvin Rubin, Jim Cross, Jack Roberts, Ken Parkhurst, Robert Miles Runyan and many more.Cover for Boston's Fly in the Buttermilk book

Cover for Boston’s Fly in the Buttermilk book

What would be your dream job or project?

This might sound wacky, but my dream project would be to spread the gospel of design spirituality throughout the world. We, as designers, don’t talk about religion and how it influences our creativity. Many of us think that it has no place in our profession. I disagree. I consider myself an apostle of design. Apostle means advocate, follower, believer, supporter, devotee, or scholar. Surely, after all my years in advertising, design and design education, I qualify for this position. So why don’t you follow me in spreading the gospel of design?Christmas card

Christmas card

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

I believe my brother, Brad Boston, deserves recognition because he was a better designer than I.  He was like John the Baptist.  He baptised me into design by making me do my assignments over as a student.  I followed his advice until it was time for me to step out in faith.  The rest is history. Marvin Rubin, my other instructor, at Chouinard Art Institute, who helped me to see the reality of the business, encouraged me to be daring and imaginative.  Marvin also rented Brad and I space in his office until we moved into our own. Nick Mendoza, my friend and former classmate, who founded the first Hispanic advertising agency in Los Angeles, Mendoza Dillion and Associates.  He went on to become a creative director at Young and Rubicam and from there to become an international director of television commercials. I cannot end this section without mentioning, Louis Danziger, my mentor, however, he has received his recognition many years ago and is still considered an ‘Art Center College of Design treasure’. Finally, I believe that God deserves credit and more recognition in this field.  You might think that he is not a person but I believe that He is in all of us.Work for Pentel

Work for Pentel

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

My advice is to be honest. Be happy. Be Yourself. Be courageous. Be imaginative. Be passionate about your work. Be the best that you can be.  Follow your intuition. Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Work hard. Read. Question the establishment. Don’t worry about being politically correct. Respect your teachers.  Enter your work in student design competitions, to find out what professional judges think.  Remember, throughout your career to always strive to do excellent socially responsible work.  And finally, don’t take yourself too seriously.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

What’s next for you?

Since I turned 70 years old last month, my perspective has changed about design.  I want to add spirituality to every aspect of my life, including my design.  I have created some controversial work that was not politically correct and in some cases blasphemous. However, I still stand by that work. Now, I see life differently.  I would like for future design generations to consider trusting in a higher power.  I believe that God has led me down my path and there were bumps in the road, but I never would have made it without Him.

Archie. The Apostle of Design

You can visit Archie’s website at www.archbosgd.com.

Network

THE U.S:

2013 Aiga Design Conference: Head, Heart & Hand will celebrate the best in design and explore three interrelated aspects of the profession: design strategy, social impact and craft. This event will provide a platform to the participants to discuss about some focal points such as design for social impact and design as craft. The conference will take place October 10-12 at Minneapolis Convention Center. For more information visitdesignconference.aiga.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival: First held in August 2007, the popularity of theCaribbean Sea Jazz Festival has soared since its inception. This two-day event will this year be held on the 4th and 5th of October 2013 on the small island of Aruba. Initially inspired by a number of other such festivals like the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and Saint Lucia Jazz, Caribbean Sea Jazz’s goal is to create a stage for local and regional music talent, showcasing them alongside big names in the Jazz world. Running on a small budget, this wonderful event is not just about music, but also exhibits the best of the Aruban community. For more information visitwww.caribbeanseajazz.com

EUROPE:

Afro Supa Hero is a snapshot of a childhood and journey to adulthood, shown through a personal collection of pop cultural heroes and heroines of the African diaspora. Jon Daniel’s action figures, comic books and games offer an insight into the experience of a boy of African Caribbean heritage growing up in 1960s and 1970s Britain, in search of his identity. Runs from 14 September – 9 February 2014. For more information visitwww.museumofchildhood.org.uk

AFRICA:

Ghana Fashion & Design Week: An impressive range of local and international designers and exhibitors will be participating in the upcoming second annual Ghana Fashion & Design Week. The event will bring together Ghanaian and International fashion, media and industry professionals and fans. Selected designers from around the globe will deliver an exciting selection of creative designer’s collection during the catwalk shows, with a diverse range of Exhibitors hosted at the contemporarily styled PopUp Exhibition Salon during the event. The event will welcome international press, media, and buyers. The catwalk show is scheduled to take place over two days from the 11-12th October 2013. For more informationemail:info@ghanafashiondesignweek.com

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT

‘Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny…’ This opening line to Bob Marley and The Wailers classic track, ‘Zimbabwe’ (from the album ‘Survival, 1979) aptly sets the scene for this month’s destination and profiled graphic artist.

Born in 1984, he is a product of his country’s Independence, which was realized in 1980. In his own words he was ‘born free from the segregation and colonial repression’ that blighted Zimbabwe’s past, but still ‘grew up in turbulent times characterized by the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions’.

Experiences like this must surely go some way to explain how his tender age belies the depth and range of his work. And the impact he has made not just continentally, beyond the land-locked borders of his homeland, but also internationally in North & South America, Europe and the Far East is equally impressive.

Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT, over to you.Sindoso Nyoni

Source: Kamo Mogashoa

Sindoso Nyoni, AKA R!OT, graphic artist/designer

What’s your background?

I am an independent graphic artist, born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am the seventh child in a family of nine. Zimbabwe is widely known for its unique craftsmanship in the arts, from sculptures, masks, traditional ornaments to music and drama. As well as Zimbabwe being a ‘once’ booming African economy, this allowed for me to be exposed to abundant forms of art and popular culture as a four-year-old in the late 80s. I was so inspired from all these surroundings, and it was then that I developed a love for drawing. I haven’t stopped since. This developed into creating my own limited series of handcrafted comics in primary school, right through to high school, where I took art classes at a Catholic institution in Bulawayo. It was here that I was first introduced to the art of communication design by a retired New York Graphic designer, who had relocated to the continent, to teach art. She gave me invaluable insights into the profession and I left Bulawayo for Johannesburg in 2005, enrolling in a four-year communication design course while working as a barman and freelance artist/designer in order to pay my way through college. In 2008, I graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a BTech degree in Graphic Design.Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

How did you get started in design?

After graduating, I moved to Cape Town where I joined an illustration studio as an intern and collaborated on projects for brands such as Fifa, Nike, Adidas, Smirnoff, HP, Shell and Audi. During my time with the collective I was part of the illustration teams on some Cannes Lion-winning campaigns. Prior to this, during my time as a student, I got into activist art and poster making. I became involved in exhibition showcases, and In 2010 I was part of the global Voices in Freedom poster exhibition alongside several international activist artists. After spending two years working as an illustrator, I relocated back to Johannesburg, where I spent almost two more years working as an art director/designer for an advertising agency. I continued to showcase art via invitational involvements and in 2011 I took part in the Piñatarama 2.0, (Art piñata) exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. I also got to exhibit frequently in group shows locally, and in 2012 I was selected as a participating artist at the Art Takes Times Square exhibition on New York Times square. In 2013 I took part in the Dizajn Afrike (Contemporary design in Africa): Dyalli Association exhibition in Croatia. This exhibition formed part of the ‘Week of Africa’ celebrations in Croatia from the 22nd of May. In the same year, Outdoor ad company JCDecaux, in association with Icograda showcased 50 posters by 50 designers on digital billboards in London’s Cromwell Road for World Communication Design Day. The world’s most promising design talent was chosen to exhibit their work created to the theme of ‘1Love1Word’. My piece, entitled Amandla – All power to the Dreamers, represented South Africa. In late 2010 I developed R!OT, an alias that explores a subversive African ‘street’ style under which I have been operating as an independent graphic artist and illustrator since.Adidas shoe-box work

Adidas shoe-box work

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

During the short space of time in which I have been operating as a creative, I have treated failures, challenges and obstacles as stepping stones to getting to where I would eventually like to be. The first obstacles encountered came early in my college years, when I moved to Johannesburg. I had to freelance and double up as a barman/waiter to raise tuition fees to pay for my degree. Once this was achieved the second goal was to step into the industry and make a mark or name for myself. This proved difficult, in an industry which already has so many gate-keepers. At that time not too many creatives of colour were prominently visible. So, getting some sort of recognition has been a challenging long process, but a challenge that I’ve learnt a great deal from. Growing up in the turbulent times of Zimbabwe inspired my artwork as well, which reflects the social wounds left by a bitter struggle against colonial repression and of course the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions. The link to social activism is what denotes my ‘African’ design aesthetic. By combining images and text to inspire people out of placidity my work attempts to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing issues in the form of visual art. Sadly most of the time our industry spends its time promoting commercial products rather than issues that really matter. This is compounded by the fact that as an emerging creative on your career path, in order to get noticed you have to have some big-name brands in your portfolio. In the professional creative industry, there is seldom any room for social communication. Briefs and concepts are often commercially driven, creating a dilemma faced by creatives today, ‘work for charities is cool but doesn’t pay the bills.’ I personally feel that it is a great value for creatives to know that they have tools and the ability to effect massive change, and not always within a for-profit organization. This is why I do not use my skills to support brands or companies that I feel have a negative impact on the world we live in. I feel that as creatives we have a duty to contribute to our communities using art that addresses social issues, advocates awareness and change, which can ultimately open minds to act towards making a difference.Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My mother is my ultimate role model. Her outlook on life raised me in the direction and career path I took from an early age. The arts and the various branches of creative activity have also always been a love of mine, with early memories of comic book art and vintage animation as influences. I respect and admire many international and local contemporary artists such as Jorge Alderete, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Thami Mnyele, Dumile Feni, Emory Douglas, Jean Michel Basquiat, ROA, Pierre Bernard, Jonathan Barnbrook, and Tomer Hanuka (to name a few.) I am particularly intrigued by artists that blend the digital and traditional processes successfully. I also draw inspiration from disciplines outside my profession. These include music, cinema and literary influences from African authors such as Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. The work of film visionaries such as Melvin Van Pebbles, Spike Lee, Emir Kusturica, Guillermo Del Toro, Lars Von Trier, Martin Scorsese and even the surreal work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, has also often left a profound impression on me. I studied Graphic design to attain a solid foundation in traditional communication design. I believed that understanding the art or skill of graphic design might inform more unique visuals to go along with what I would later specialise in.Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

What is the project you are most proud of?

I recently created a poster which was selected as part of the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection. The project aims to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and the pieces will form part of the facility’s interior design as well. The poster is part of a collection by designers from around the world who paid tribute to and celebrated Nelson Mandela’s contribution to humanity. My submission for the series is entitled The Boxer and is a depiction of a young Nelson Mandela inspired by the critically acclaimed Spike Lee film Do the right thing. The piece particularly pays homage to one of the iconic characters in the film, Radio Raheem whose story about life, and how Love defeated hate echoes Mandela’s philosophy on human rights, forgiveness and reconciliation which contributed to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa.The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

What would be your dream project?

I’m quite an avid film and cinema buff so it would be pretty cool to get to work on an important cinematic project. I’ve always been interested in independent cinema, so to be involved in a project of that nature is definitely on my ‘to do list’ for the not so distant future. I would particularly like to collaborate with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, who I feel is an all round interestingly amazing individual with an intriguing insight and outlook on life. In my opinion, he’s a very important creative.Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Fellow Zimbabwean (and Johannesburg-based) fine artist, Kudzanai Chiurai has been producing some really great provocative work in the past couple of years. I also admire the intricate and heavily detailed, artwork of illlustrator/conceptual artist and graphic designer Linsey Levendall. Soweto-born and Johannesburg-based Mzwandile Buthelezi, AKA Hac-One, is a street/graphic artist who is committed to growing authentic African design styles, and travels around the continent to build networks of creative people committed to using design to make a positive change. Loyiso Mkize is a young visual artist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa who uses art to enrich the world with visions that dare to break the world’s facade and inspire a greater tomorrow.Protect & Serve - a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

Protect & Serve – a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Contrary to popular belief there are no short cuts in this game and hard work always pays off, so pay your dues. I also feel that as long as you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to ‘work’ another day. Its all about creating the ideal job and not waiting for it to come. So in a nutshell, ’Go create!’Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

What’s next for you?

I’d like to continue creating, and be able to inspire generations after me to create.Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

You can see more of Sindiso Nyoni’s work at www.studioriot.com.

Network

THE U.S:

KKK – Kin Killin’ Kin is a powerful and thought-provoking series of images that reflect artists James Pate’s deep love and even greater concern for the epidemic of youth violence in the African American community. The exhibition runs until 20 November 2013 at The DuSable Museum of African-American history. 740 East 56th Place, Chicago, Illinois 60637. See more at:www.dusablemuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

New Roots: This exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah AnzingerVarun BakerCamille CheddaGisele GardnerMatthew McCarthyOlivia McGilchristAstro SaulterNile SaulterIkem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by the National Gallery of Jamaica curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and Veerle Poupeye, from an initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active there. Opened on 28 July at National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

EUROPE:

Ellen Gallagher: AxME at Tate Modern, London. One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have emerged from North America since the mid-1990s, Ellen Gallagher’s gorgeously intricate and highly imaginative works are realised with a wealth of virtuoso detail and wit. This is her first major solo exhibition in the UK, providing the first ever opportunity to explore an overview of her twenty-year career. Tickets Adult: £11.00 (without donation £10.00 )
Concession: £9.50 (without donation £8.60). Exhibition runs until 1 September 2013. For more information visit www.tate.org.uk

The AACDD 2013 Bargehouse Festival. From September 18 – 23, 2013 the Exhibition of the AACDD (African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora) Awards is the final accolade celebrating the best of the outstanding creative talent of black artists and designers of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 AACDD exhibitions. Visit The Bargehouse
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, 
London SE1 9PH. For more information visit www.aacdd.org

AFRICA:

Meaning Motion. How does movement make meaning? This question is asked by two highly innovative interactive digital artists, Tegan Bristow and Nathaniel Stern in the exciting exhibition. Until 18 August 2013 at Wits Art Museum, Corner Jorissen St & Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, SA. Admission free. For more information visit www.wits.ac.za/ons.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email .

4 Corners: An Interview with Marlon Darbeau

This month we head to the birthplace of steelpan and calypso music, Trinidad and Tobago. This vibrant melting pot of the Caribbean is home to a rich and diverse community of cultures primarily influenced through colonization and immigration.

It is also a culture steeped in the Arts. With many celebrated sons and daughters such as Nobel Prize-winning authors V.S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott; theatrical talents such as Tony Award winners Geoffrey Holder and Heather Headley; and the fantastic, globally-renowned, carnival costume designer Peter Minshall.

And in design terms, it’s no surprise that the practical crafts that are self-evident in the culture that surrounds the art of  ‘The Mas’ tradition of carnival should influence the work of Trinidad & Tobago’s professional designers.

One such creative is multi-disciplinary designer Marlon Darbeau, whose own family background of ‘making things’ informs both his professional and personal work. A man of action, let’s hear it in his own words…

Marlon Darbeau, creative director and designerMarlon Darbeau

Source: Kibwe Brathwaite

What’s your background?

I was born and have lived and worked in Trinidad & Tobago all my life. I attended John Donaldson Technical Institute and I am a graduate of the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago. I worked for about five years as a graphic designer at MDC Signs followed by three years freelancing. I then spent six years at CMB Advertising, before becoming creative director of Abovegroup, now AbovegroupOgilvy. I come from a family tradition of making things in a workshop at home. In the last six to seven years I have become very interested in how those traditions intersect with my practice as a graphic designer, and in using this convergence to formulate ways of making my work. This convergence has lead to the creation of self-initiated projects, most notably ‘Peera’ a reinterpretation of a traditional small bench, which has been exhibited at the Museum of Art & Design NY The Global Africa Project.The Peera bench

The Peera bench

How did you get started in design?

I actually started off soon after school, taking a course in fabric design which led to a few years of hand-painting T-shirts; really fun times. When I was around 19 and enrolled part time at John Donaldson Technical Institute, a friend stopped by my home where I had a small studio space in my father’s metal workshop. He happened to mention that the sign company where he had been working as a salesman needed a graphic designer. With no computer experience and my portfolio filled with drawings and paintings I interviewed for the job and got it. My training at school at the time did not involve any software tools so I enrolled in a short course to get my Adobe Illustrator skills so it was really on the job training. This is before plotters were introduced locally, so you outputted your artwork via a desktop printer then projected the image on to large paper on the studio wall, and then you would produce actual-size drawings for the production team. The great thing about being a designer in a signage workshop is that you are very much part of the manufacturing process. This has been a major influence on my practice as it taught me about the process of making ideas tangible.Alice Yard identity

Alice Yard identity

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I will say the most difficult thing in Trinidad & Tobago as a graphic designer is developing your own visual language. Unlike other places where you can see clear articulations of design styles, we have a sort of sameness. Operating in an industry with no professional design association can be hard. Where there is no collective agenda to improve design as a professional craft, designers, clients and the public don’t fully benefit, it’s a sort of hit and miss. I was not interested in doing things the way others were doing it, I believe design is a professional craft and I really wanted to develop a way of thinking and expressing ideas through client and personal work. That is very challenging when you are operating in an industry where the role of design has not been formally considered; it takes a lot to avoid being sucked into advertising despondency and economic necessity.

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I feel very fortunate to have met some really great people over the last 18 years, all of whom have been so influential. From Val Ramcharan, my design lecturer at John Donaldson who pushed me to explore and develop my design sensibilities. Graphic designer Richard Rawlins who basically said to me one day ‘ start making all those ideas you have in your sketch book don’t keep them locked away’ which lead to my first one man show ’EnRoute…of bridges and barriers’ an expression of design being used for more than just selling things, it was attempt to address social concerns. Back in 2008 while working with the likes of Richard Rawlins, Dave Williams, Daryn Boodan, Rodell Warner and Damian Libert, we became an informal but very active collective, each person having their individual creative ambitions yet were able to come together to develop our own practices while affecting our visual landscape, that was a significant moment in my life. The architect Sean Leonard, who has been a mentor and friend. The work of Stefan Sagmeister, Steve Ouditt and Christopher Cozier.Work for 12 The Band

Work for 12 The Band

What is the project you are most proud of?

‘Verb’, a multifunctional object I created and showed in New Orleans in 2009, is very close to my heart as I created that project while trying to design a symbol for myself. The object is a physical manifestation of the graphic I created, symbolising a dance between intent and intuition. Another project is Peera as it really solidified my way of working through process, resulting in my conviction to design BY MAKING.Verb multifunctional sculpture/furniture

Verb multifunctional sculpture/furniture

What would be your dream job or project?

I will love to design the identity for a football team as well as design and produce a project directly inspired by the mailboxes my dad manufactures.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

I think Gareth Jenkins and Alex Smailes deserve a lot of credit for what their company Abovegroup (studio with a focus on design and branding) did here at home. Most designers go to work for advertising agencies, which is fine, but there are so many who would love the opportunity to practice design in a particular way which the agency model does not facilitate, and these guys created a model that gave designers the opportunity to focus on design outside of campaigns. Their process opened a conversation about the improvement of design as a professional practice and lead to the transformation of some of Trinidad & Tobago’s small, medium and large organizations.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

’’Design is work.’ Don’t be afraid to explore it’s possibilities, care about what you do, work at your craft and be honest.

What’s next for you?

I am working on two new projects, a commission and a self-initiated project, really exciting.

You can see more of Marlon Darbeau’s work at www.marlondarbeau.com.Dishout salad servers

Dishout salad servers

Network

THE U.S:

Harlem Postcards commissions artists to photograph Harlem, and turns their unique depictions of the neighborhood into free, limited-edition postcards. Launched in 2002, this project was created to provide alternative, multifaceted views of Harlem, representing its complex and diverse history, and capturing the community in a critical moment of growth and change. Exhibition runs until 27 October 2013 at Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York. See more at:http://www.studiomuseum.org/exhibition/harlem-postcards-tenth-anniversary

Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) from June 27 through September 8, 2013, will feature more than 100 costumes by celebrated and original designers including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto as well as younger designers influenced by popular culture and the dynamic street life of Tokyo. For more information, go to www.seattleartmuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2013 Founded in 2006, the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora. The Festival also screens films curated from contemporary world cinema. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities. Date: 17 September – 1 October 2013. For more information visithttp://www.ttfilmfestival.com

Carifesta XI A Caribbean festival of arts and culture showcasing the excellence of the region’s peoples. This year has the distinction of premiering a new logo for the festival. Runs from 16 – 25 August in Suriname. For more information visit Carifesta XI website

EUROPE:

Origins of the Afro Comb:
6,000 years of culture, politics and identity
The 6,000-year history of the Afro Comb, its extraordinary impact on cultures worldwide, and community stories relating to hair today are being explored in this new exhibition Fitzwilliam Museum: Gallery 13 (Mellon) & 8 (Octagon) Trumpington Street,
Cambridge CB2 1RB. Free Entry. Exhibition runs from 2 July – 3 November 2013. 
For more information visit http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/whatson/exhibitions/article.html?3840

AFRICA:

Cape Town Fashion Week. From 8 – 10 August 2013.Hosted at Cape Town International Convention Centre. Convention Square 1 Lower Long Street Cape Town. South Africa. For more information on South Africa’s premiere film event visit African Fashion international website

4 Corners: An Interview with Lulu Kitololo

This month we focus on my hometown, London. As the first generation offspring of African-Caribbean parents born in the mid Sixties, I did not always find it easy to embrace my ‘Britishness’.

However, I’ve certainly never had any problems identifying myself as a “Londoner” – for London truly is the world within a single city.

Home to every conceivable nationality, this cosmopolitan metropolis pulses with its vibrant mix of cultures. And it is from this dynamism that the opportunity for new voices can emerge. New voices like those of Lulu Kitololo and her design company Asilia, whose work is not just resonating on these shores, but also beyond.

I have watched their work progress over the past few years with eagerness; appreciating its distinctly African roots whilst bringing a fresh modern approach and aesthetic.

It’s a design voice I really like, so let’s hear all about it from Lulu in her own words.Lulu Kitololo

Source: Jonathan Perugia

Lulu Kitololo

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I was always creating things as a child – constructing shelters indoors when the weather was miserable; making trains for my dolls out of fruit cartons; experimenting with food in the kitchen; ‘refashioning’ my dresses (much to my mother’s dismay) and; of course, making images on paper. My parents were generally very encouraging of these pursuits but, being that I excelled at all subjects in school, I don’t think they – and many others – were fully prepared for the decision I made to pursue a creative profession.

I went to art school, Pratt Institute in New York, not quite sure what to specialise in and I ended up pursuing a Communications Design degree with a major in Advertising Art Direction. Thereafter, I worked for a couple of advertising agencies but something about it just wasn’t for me.

I ended up going back to school, this time to pursue a Masters in African Studies at SOAS, University of London. It was a fantastic year – learning about African politics, culture, film and literature. There were several interesting responses I experienced from people at that time including, “but you’re African, why do you need to study Africa?” and, “what are you going to do afterward?”

At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do afterward but I was very content with what I was doing and had faith that a path would reveal itself. I stumbled across a design job with a sustainability communications agency, Futerra, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to combine my creative expertise with my interest in development. I worked there for over 3 years and then left because I yearned for the freedom of self-employment. I’ve since gone into business with a friend and our creative agency, Asilia will be celebrating 3 years later this summer. It’s been an amazing journey, creating a niche for ourselves on the back of our distinctive style; our presence in both London and Nairobi and; our journey into creating products as well providing creative services. I’m very excited about what the future holds for us.Film Africa print materials

Film Africa print materials

How did you get started in design?

The skills and knowledge I gained as part of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree have been invaluable. However, the most significant thing I learned during those 4 years was not explicitly taught and that was – how to be resourceful.

I think resourcefulness and experience are great tools for any designer. Experience is something that comes with, well, experience. From my 2nd year of university, I was taking every opportunity to gain work experience in my field. This involved seeking out internships and volunteering my design services to people I came across who were doing things I was interested in.Identity for Afri-Love - African inspired creative production

Identity for Afri-Love – African inspired creative production

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

It’s really important for me to do work whose subject I’m passionate about and, starting out, I didn’t always have this opportunity. In fact, there was a point where I was about to give up on design altogether, primarily for this reason. Making the decision to be self-employed was scary, for obvious reasons, however, the prospect of having more control over the projects I would work on, was very exciting… and has been very satisfying. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

In my personal experience, my background has never really felt like a barrier to getting into the industry and achieving my ambitions. However, as a company operating in the UK, I sometimes wonder if people’s perceptions of Asilia preclude us from winning certain projects. A lot of our work has had an African focus and my business partner and I are of Kenyan origin so, I think that some people assume that we only work on Africa-related projects. So this is the current challenge that I’m/we’re facing and the approach at the moment is to continue to focus on doing great work. I believe that we will continue to attract the kind of people that we enjoy working with.Afri-love - illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Afri-love – illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’m greatly inspired by craft traditions from around the world. I always find joy in the diversity of textiles, patterns, adornments and vibrant colour combinations and I aim to capture that same excitement in my work.

Discovering Chaz Maviyane-Davies was very inspiring and in particular, his insistence that design should express the context within which it’s created, in terms of speaking to its culture and not just emulating a Western ideal.

Marian Bantjes is another big inspiration. I love the playfulness, intricacy and amazing level of craftmanship in her work, as well as her sass and confidence!Spora Stories identity

Spora Stories identity

What is the project you are most proud of?

This is such a difficult question and the answer constantly evolves. One of the projects I’m most proud of is the work we did for the Film Africa festival. It was great to have such a visual project, in terms of our work being seen all over town and, the response we’re still receiving now, from different people, is really positive.

I’m also really proud of the work we did for the African Union Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). Particularly, the iconography we developed and the infographics we designed which, help to make a serious subject much more accessible to a wider audience.

What would be your dream job or project?

I think I’m living my dream job right now. Dream project? I would love to work with museums and cultural institutions like the Southbank Centre.Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

I’ve lately come across quite a few small, independent agencies in Africa that are doing some exciting work. In Kenya (and I believe this may be true for other countries on the continent), international advertising agencies (e.g. TBWA, Ogilvy etc.) have a kind of monopoly when it comes to the communications/design industry. It’s refreshing to see these smaller, and often much more creative, shops emerging and doing well.Legal Defence Initiative prints

Legal Defence Initiative prints

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Get as much experience as you can, start as early as you can and be creative about how you find it. There is a lot of competition in our field so don’t expect a long list of design internships and work placements for you to choose from. Think outside the box. I got one of my first opportunities by attending a networking event that had nothing to do with design, meeting a publisher and volunteering my services for his up and coming magazine.

Another important thing – never underestimate the value of experimentation and play. Some of the best ideas come from that.

What’s next for you?

Asilia is working on developing some design and digital products. Look out for our online shop and a couple of app launches in the next few months.

Network:
THE U.S:
AFRICOBRA: Art & Impact honours the Chicago artist group, AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). Exhibition is presented by 3 South Side institutions and runs from 26 July until 29 September 2013. For more information, go to http://www.dusablemuseum.org/events/details/africobra-the-dusable-museum-programming
THE CARIBBEAN:
Belize International Film Festival. This is the eighth edition of the festival focusing on films from the Caribbean and Central America. Date: July 11-15, 2013. For more information visit www.belizefilmfestival.com
EUROPE:
Design On Stage exhibition presents the best product innovations of the year. Red Dot Design Museum, Gelsenkirchener Straße 181
45309 Essen, Germany. Exhibition runs from 2 – 28 July 2013. For more information visit http://en.red-dot.org/5005.html
AFRICA:
Durban International Film Festival 2013. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, the Durban International Film Festival will be celebrating its 34th edition from 18 to 28 July 2013. For more information on South Africa’s premiere film event visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za  

4 Corners: An Interview with Gail Anderson

I love NY. The first time I visited the city was in the early 1980s when I was aged around 16 years old. My father’s side of the family occasionally held large family reunions either in the US or the Caribbean and so we went over to New York on our way to attend a reunion in New Jersey.

We stayed with family in Brooklyn, and I was fascinated with everything about it and the fact that it all felt so familiar. Here I was walking around the real life film set of my dreams with the soundtracks of TV shows like Starsky & Hutch and films like Car Wash reverberating around my mind.

From a design perspective, I couldn’t help but be consumed by the mega-brand bombardment that screams out at you on all corners. From the bright neon signs and huge billboard advertisements to the plethora of product packaging, confectionery and magazine covers that adorn the news-stands. It is with reference to the latter, and magazine design in particular, that I bring to your attention now.

Rolling Stone magazine was, and continues to be one of the most highly regarded and influential publications of its time. Working during the years stewarded by the prolific and distinctive art director, Fred Woodward, was an African American woman who has blazed her own trail as a designer, art director, author and educator. Her work is honored and celebrated in publications and awards annuals all over the world. And if it hasn’t been done already, her name should be lit up in neon on the side of a skyscraper like the signs that adorn her hometown, New York.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Gail Anderson.Gail Anderson

Source: Darren Cox

Gail Anderson, designer, writer and educator.

What’s your background?

I’m born and raised in New York, originally from the Bronx. My memories of the neighborhood I grew up in defy the stereotype of a crime-ridden slum. There were trees and houses with driveways, and kids on bikes. My parents are from Jamaica, so I am first-generation American, and first-generation college-educated, as well. I attended college at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and worked first at Random House, followed by the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, where I had my first exposure to editorial design. From there, I moved back to New York to work with Fred Woodward at Rolling Stone, where I remained for over 14 years. I served as creative director of design at SpotCo, a NYC-based entertainment advertising agency that focuses on Broadway for a little over eight years, and am now a partner in a boutique design firm that doesn’t even have a website yet (I still have my own site, gailycurl.com though it is hopelessly outdated). I teach at the School of Visual Arts in the undergraduate and graduate design programs (I’ve been teaching for most of my career).'The Next Queen of Soul' Rolling Stone spread

‘The Next Queen of Soul’ Rolling Stone spread

How did you get started in design?

I was fortunate to have a smart and plugged-in studio art teacher in high school, who sent me off to take weekend drawing classes at Pratt Manhattan, and made sure that I participated in competitions and exhibitions. She loaned me books about what was then called ‘commercial art’, and pushed me to attend the School of Visual Arts.

What challenges did you overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I was not a cool kid from the city, living in the East Village like most of my young colleagues right out of school. I was a dopey kid living with her parents in the Bronx. My hipness factor was extremely low. I didn’t encounter any real issues as a minority, though I was always the one people called on for ‘another’ point of view. That caused a good deal of eye-rolling when I was younger, but is something I’ve grown accustomed to in my dotage.'Chris Rock - Star' Rolling Stone spread

‘Chris Rock – Star’ Rolling Stone spread

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My friend and boss at the Boston Globe, Lynn Staley, was a huge influence. I feel like I matured as a young designer under her tutelage and was able to start my next job at Rolling Stone with my sleeves rolled up, ready to get my hands dirty thanks to her. Fred Woodward, probably the smartest man in magazines, and a dear and gentle soul, is my other strong influence, along with the work of Paula Scher.'Axl Rose Lost Years' Rolling Stone spread

‘Axl Rose Lost Years’ Rolling Stone spread

What is the project you are most proud of?

I’m proud of a series of subway posters I worked on with illustrator Terry Allen for the School of Visual Arts after President Obama’s first-term election. And I’m still fond of much of the old Rolling Stone work – it still holds up almost two decades later.Obama Lion poster (with Terry Allen)

Obama Lion poster (with Terry Allen)

What would be your dream job or project?

I got to work on my dream project about a year ago; designing a postage stamp for the US Postal Service. And now I serve on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, as one of the team of folks who helps decide what future stamps are on the horizon. I am honored to be part of the Design Subcommittee, and am looking forward to the challenge. My partner Joe Newton and I are currently working on rebranding a small art college in Pennsylvania. I’d like to do more of this kind of work, so I’ll put that in the dream category – more academic institutions.Emancipation stamps

Emancipation stamps

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

Boy, do teachers ever deserve more recognition and credit than they get! And more money, too!

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Be the first one in the office in the morning, and the last one to leave at night. Never send an angry email, and read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.Cover for New Modernist Type, by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

Cover for New Modernist Type, by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

What’s next for you?

I am heading to Italy with my sister and niece this summer. That’s about all I can think about these days.

Network:

THE U.S:

Gordon Parks – A Harlem Family: An exhibition honouring the legacy and work of pioneering African-American artist, photojournalist and true renaissance man, Gordon Parks. Exhibition runs until Jun 30 at The Studio Museum of Harlem. 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027 For more information, go to www.studiomuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

The Alliance Française of St. Vincent presents a Caribbean Photography Exhibition. Featuring the work of photographers from St. Vincent & The Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica. The exhibition will be open until May 31st, 9:30am to 5.00pm weekly and 2.00pm on Fridays at the Alliance Française, Carnegie Building (1st Floor), Heritage Square, Kingstown, St. Vincent. For more information email: afofsvg@gmail.com, visit www.facebook.com/afsvg or by call: 456-2095.

AFRICA:

Africa Day Celebrations. Artscape celebrates Africa Day with a concert featuring Bongani Sotshononda’s indigenous ensemble, The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, The SA Youth Choir and Khayelitsha Mambazo. 25 May at 7.30pm at the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town 8000, South Africa Tel: +27 21 410 9800. For more information visit http://www.artscape.co.za/show/africa-day-celebrations/665/

EUROPE:

Design En Afrique is an exhibition focused primarily on the design of objects used as support for the body. Runs until July 2013 at Museum Dapper in Paris, France. 35 bis, rue Paul Valéry – 75116 Paris. For more information visit http://www.dapper.fr

4 Corners: An Interview with Saki Mafundikwa

This month we take a trip to ‘The Motherland’, Africa. A continent, that certainly earns its status as the cradle of civilization due to the fact that most scientific research points to this as being the place of where Man first originated.
Historically, evidence of African art and design can be found within almost all cultures and societies across the world. From the tribal, geometric and abstract forms that inspired the paintings of Picasso and the roots of Modernism to the ancient Adinkra symbolism that is reflected in many European decorative design elements and fabrics.
For those of you unfamiliar with Adinkra symbols, they are a comprehensive lexicon of visual icons created by the Akan people of Ghana and Gyaman people of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa and devised to communicate proverbs.
They are just one of the many African writing systems that were highlighted by the distinguished Zimbabwean graphic designer, Saki Mafundikwa in his landmark and definitive book on the subject, Afrikan Alphabets.
And as this month celebrates the anniversary of Zimbabwe’s Independence, I can think of no more fitting designer to introduce to you today.Saki Mafundikwa

Source: Aahn Sang Soo

Saki Mafundikwa, founder and director of the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA).

What’s your background?

I’m Founder and director of the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA), a graphic design and new media training college in Harare. I was educated in the USA, with a BA in Telecommunications and Fine Arts from Indiana University and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University. I returned home in 1998 to found ZIVA after working in New York City as a graphic designer, art director and design instructor. My book, Afrikan Alphabets: the Story of Writing in Africa was published in 2004. My first film, Shungu: The Resilience of a People – a feature-length documentary – had its world premiere at 2009’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). It won the prestigious Ousmane Sembene Award at Zanzibar International Film Festival and Best Documentary at Kenya International Film Festival, both in 2010.

How did you get started in design?

I was a talented child and was always drawing, which led my father (a school teacher) to buy me a drawing book, crayons and water colours. I grew up in colonial Rhodesia and for Afrikan kids, art was not offered as a subject in the curriculum. So I taught myself drawing through observation. I looked everywhere: nature and everyday life. I drew my father’s charts for his history, geography and science lessons and discovered that I enjoyed lettering the most. It was only after my arrival in the States in 1980 that I discovered graphic design! I talked my way into the department without a portfolio. I never looked back.Identity for the Black Documentary Collective

Identity for the Black Documentary Collective

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

After grad school, I moved to New York and worked for a black-owned ad agency. They had hired me my last summer of grad school so I never went through the process of hunting for a job. I learned a lot on that job but after a while, the work wasn’t challenging enough so when they laid me off during a slump in business, I struck out on my own, freelancing for a variety of clients. I did a lot of book design, album and cd design and anything else that came my way. The main challenge I faced in those days – at least I thought it was a challenge – was I was always typecast! I always got ‘black’ projects from mainstream clients. Soon however I realised that it wasn’t such a bad thing because of the sensitivity I gave the work. I came to the conclusion that, in a predominantly white industry, to be called upon to create work for your own people is a source of great pride. Design is not very well understood in the black community, so to be able to create work the people could relate to was quite inspiring. This way, I felt, I could help our people understand and appreciate good design. One can draw from our rich cultural heritage in a subtle way and when the audience ‘gets it’, well, there’s no better feeling!Cover design for Thomas Mapfumo's Corruption album

Cover design for Thomas Mapfumo’s Corruption album

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My source of inspiration can come from anything or anywhere. Everything around me comes into play by keeping an open mind. My work has been influenced by a I draw my inspirations and influences from the great Afrikans from all forms of creativity. Bob Marley, Fela Anakulapo Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Kwame Nkurumah, Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, Cheikh Anta Diop, Franz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara… there are many!

The ancient Afrikans of antiquity who created civilization, mathematics, science and invented the alphabet in Egypt… yes, we have a glorious past and we can – no, make that SHOULD – learn from them. They are a source of great pride and inspiration and their accomplishments and contributions must be part of every curriculum in every school from grade one.

What is the project you are most proud of?

My Afrikan Alphabets book! As you can see from the previous question, I am a researcher and historian, especially OUR story! There should be more books, especially for the young ones, and our students. We keep talking about design being Eurocentric but without resources like textbooks about and by us, how do we expect the young ones to ‘get it’? We got it through years of study and research. We must provide them with the resources.Afrikan Alphabets

Afrikan Alphabets

What would be your dream job or project?

A design textbook for Afrikan students on the continent and in the diaspora. This would be a dream come true. I have already begun work on this project.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit.

All the Afrikans who invented writing systems whether living or dead. These people rendered the commonly held belief that Afrika had no writing, (the dark continent myth) moot. The two professors at Indiana University who took a chance on me and admitted me into the graphic design department without a portfolio: Professor Tom Coleman and Professor James Reidhaar. The head of department at Yale University School of Art, Alvin Eisenman is the one who pointed me in the direction of writing in Afrika when I was applying for admission to the Masters programme there. I had some amazing teachers along the way, and the best one is Bradbury Thompson who is the most humane and caring teacher I’ve ever had.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Always keep an open mind, if you don’t you block some blessings that might be meant for you. As the original people, children of the sun, we have such a rich bounty of inspiration: our music, dance and art – they are all connected, there is no separation. Sankofa: learn from our rich past in order to inform our lives today and the future.Identity for the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts

Identity for the Zimbabwe Institute of  Vigital Arts

What’s next for you?

I have made the transition to film-making seamlessly and am working on my second documentary, which should be out by year’s end. I have a piece of land outside of Harare where I do organic farming, rear cattle and goats and would like to put up some greenhouses for horticulture. I see a strong connecting line between all the things I do. The design school I run in Harare, the books I write, the films I make and the organic farming – they are all connected. Each one informs the other.

 

Network:

THE U.S:

Lois Mailou Jones – A Life in Vibrant Color: Born in Boston in 1905 and trained at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Loïs Mailou Jones began her career at a time when racial prejudices and gender discrimination were strong in American culture. This exhibition surveys the vast sweep of Jones’s seventy-five years as a painter stretching from late Post-Impressionism to a contemporary mixture of African, Caribbean, American and African-American iconography, design and thematic elements. Exhibition Hall at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. From 19 April through to 29 June 2013. For further information, go to http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/loïs-mailou-jones-life-vibrant-color

THE CARIBBEAN:

International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA), established in 1982 acknowledges and honors the accomplishments and contributions of reggae and world music artists, including: songwriters, performers, promoters and musicians.

For more information call: 954-251-1643 Or visit: www.irawma.com

AFRICA:
Marketing Indaba The fourth annual Marketing Indaba Conference, will take place on 15 and 16 May in Cape Town. And in Johannesburg on 29 and 30 May. For more information visit http://www.marketingindaba.com

EUROPE:

POINT is a two-day International design conference in London, which aims to celebrate “excellence in design and its influence in contemporary culture and society”. Featuring over 40 top speakers, the conference’s start-up theme is ‘authenticity’. 2-3 May at RIBA. 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD. For more information and speaker line-up visitwww.pointconference.com

Alan Fletcher’s Colophon Presented by the Wynkyn de Worde Society and St Bride Foundation. This talk is based around Fletcher’s largely unknown series of books Monographica, and hopes to give some context to their creation whilst at the same time offering an overview of Fletcher’s fifty-year career. Thursday 9 May 2013 at 7.00pm In the Bridewell Hall, St Bride Foundation. Tickets: £15.00. Friends of St Bride Library: £12.50. Students: £10.00 (bring NUS card). For tickets visithttp://www.eventbrite.com/event/5560798498

4 Corners: An interview with Michael Thompson AKA Freestylee

This month we head to the Caribbean, or more specifically one of its biggest islands, Jamaica. Last year was a momentous year in Jamaica’s history; celebrating 50 years of independence from Britain with global events, coupled with the most outstanding display of sprint athletics the world has ever seen at London’s 2012 Olympics.

In sport and music, there is no doubting the enormous impact Jamaica has made on the world, but what about in design?

Were he still alive today, I would have loved to have interviewed Wilfred Limonious; a designer and graphic artist who made a real name for himself in the 80s and early 90s with colourful, charming and characterful artwork for many Jamaican LP record covers – a sample of his work is shown at the end of this article.

Instead, we are extremely fortunate to feature the talents of Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Someone who I believe carries on in Wilfred’s tradition in championing reggae music, but with a strong, sophisticated illustrative style all of his own.Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Jamaican graphic designer and founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest.

What’s your background?

I am Jamaican by birth. I left for the United States in 1990, and worked as a freelance graphic designer with companies such as Citigroup, Sanofi Aventis, Bank of America and Estée Lauder. I am also a Creative Activist, using social design as a tool for awareness on a number of international concerns and solidarity. I am the founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest; a visual arts celebration of the positive impact of reggae music globally, and a platform to present a vision to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston, Jamaica. I have had a number of international exhibitions of my Freestylee work; one-man show and group exhibitions.Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

How did you get started in design?

I studied graphic design at the Jamaica School of Art. After finishing my studies my first work was in a small screen-printing operation operated by a Rastafarian by the name of Jah Ned. There I learned to experiment with simple silhouetted graphic design concepts suitable for screen-printing and poster art. It was after winning a poster contest to Cuba that I had a break and was hired as an apprentice with the Daily News newspaper in Jamaica. This was a big step closer to what I wanted to do: layout and design. In the mid ‘80s, I was offered a job at Paisley Kelly Kenyon & Eckhart Advertising in Kingston, Jamaica. Many years later, I joined a public relations firm Mike Jarrett Communications, also in Kingston, as an Art Director. My activist poster designs started in the late 1970s. My first activist poster was created after an incident in Jamaica called the “Green Bay Massacre”. This took place 5 January, 1978, where a number of alleged young gang members from a poor inner-city ghetto in Kingston were lured to a military firing range outside the capital where they were ambushed and executed by the Jamaica Defense Force soldiers. Back then, I had no computer so it was strictly hand-painted acrylic on poster paper. My recent episodes of creative activism started about 2008. I began the journey of Freestylee, Artist Without Borders, a new phase in my awareness activism.Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

As a young designer just completing art school and without job experience, it was not easy to find positions in Jamaica as a graphic designer or as an illustrator. I had to make connections and work my way through the hurdles by constantly improving my portfolio and finding other opportunities, and use this process to learn new things that later on I could apply to my creativity process. In 1978, I entered a local poster competition and won a place on the Jamaican delegation to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba. You can imagine the jubilation at the time. This was a massive event with youths from many countries participating in political and cultural activates. I entered again in 1982, and won another place, this time to Moscow, the 12th Festival of youth and students. These competitions and trips further sparked my interest in poster art. The colourful silkscreen and lithograph posters I saw in Cuba, created by ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry) and its sister offshoot OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America) made a tremendous impact on my work. If you are familiar with Cuban poster design you can see the influence in my Freestylee posters. It was an exciting and important time for me. The poster competitions and visits to Havana and Moscow created opportunities and opened doors for me in Jamaica, due to the exposure and publicity my works received. Moving to America I had to make new connections and start the process all over again. I had no computer skills to be a designer so I ended up designing T-shirts the old fashioned way for a small company called Wet Paint, in NYC. I later bought a computer and taught myself how to use this new technology. Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My source of inspiration can come from anything or anywhere. Everything around me comes into play by keeping an open mind. My work has been influenced by a number of artists, designers and events. The influences do not materialize from any one source. My visit to Havana exposed me to the works of designers in that country and the fine art of poster design. This was an amazing cultural experience that had influenced greatly my design aesthetics. Some of the Cuban designers who greatly influenced my own art are names like René Azcuy, Fabian Muñoz, Nelson Ponce and Eladio Ravidulia. Other contemporary socially conscious artist on my list are JR, Ai Weiwei, Banksy, these are the people I admire for the activism as well as their artworks as well. I also admire the creativity of Greek illustrator and designer, Charis Tsevis, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, love his fun colorful works. I am also influenced by Roots Reggae Artistes such as, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear. Their messages of truth, equal rights and Justice are ever inspiring and comforting.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I have no one piece to single out. Yes, some are more memorable of course, because of the impact the work has had. My Haiti Posters, designed in solidarity with the people of Haiti, devastated by the 2010 earthquake, are the ones I am happy to have contributed to the Haiti Poster Project. I am also proud of my Arab Spring posters supporting the grass roots uprising across the Middle East region to remove oppressive governments from their backs.Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

What would be your dream job or project?

I have already started on a dream project. The Reggae Hall of Fame. In 2012, I started a “why not?” campaign to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Interest in this led to my founding the International Reggae Poster Contest. Today, my partner Maria Papaefstathiou, and I have successfully launched the second annual contest in 2013. For the inaugural contest in 2012, we received 1,142 Posters from 80 countries. We also held two exhibitions of the top 100 posters. The first exhibition was held at the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the second at AKTO Design College in Athens, Greece. We also auctioned a selection of posters from the contest in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised over US$6,000 for an important Institution in the history of reggae music, the Alpha Boys’ School. Alpha Boys’ School is a Sister of Mercy run school for wayward boys in Kingston, Jamaica. This school is credited with shaping the musical journey of many of the founding fathers of Reggae Music. Raising money for this school is one of the contest objectives. I also had the opportunity to rebrand the school’s corporate image. The director of the school Sister Susan Frasier, decided to use one of my iconic Poster images to celebrate the school’s new logo.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

There are many in the field who deserve to be recognized in the field of graphics and poster design. For example, some of the new young Cuban artists who have taken the baton from the earlier masters. Today, access to the wider world is still limited to Cuban designers due to the limited access to high speed Internet and the embargo. Slanted magazine, from Germany, an independent publication on graphic design, typography, photography, and illustration— has launched a crowd-funding initiative for a project to expose the works of the amazing young Cuban poster designers through their magazine. I am delighted that they are reaching out to the young Cuban designers and giving them an opportunity to share their art on such an international scale. There are also other young artist and designers who are creating powerful designs and illustrations; Taj Francis, a young Jamaica illustrator is one to be applauded for powerful and dynamic illustrations. Dane Thompson, who is my son, for his urban design aesthetics that are outside the box. I find his creative visual expression captivating and fresh.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I am not always one to give advice, However, the best advice I can give is to be passionate in what you do. Open your hearts and eyes to the issues of the wider world. Educate yourself about the problems confronting a large segment of the world’s population; poverty, oppression and lack of resources we take for granted in the western world. We are designers and we have powerful tools at our disposal so lets use them to help bring about positive change and support those who are making a difference for the marginalized and impoverished people of the world.Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

What’s next for you?

I am looking forward to new opportunities for Freestylee exhibitions in 2013. At the moment, I am in discussion with a gallery in New York, for an upcoming Freestylee poster exhibition in Spring. On 14 April 2013, I will be conducting a talk about my work at the Allentown Arts Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I am also looking ahead for more creative activism initiatives that will make a difference, and to expand the International Reggae Poster contest campaign toward our objective the Reggae Hall of Fame Museum.

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Special thanks and credits to Maria Papaefstathiou, graphic designer and blogger based in Greece and to the record label, Power House and Christopher Bateman for use of the Wilfred Limonious artworks via the websites;wilfredlimonious.com and infinestyle.wordpress.com.

For more information Michael’s work visit www.freestylee.net

This month’s network of events

THE US

TYPO | San Francisco 2013: Part of an annual series of international design talks, TYPO San Francisco takes the theme of ‘Contrast and Compare’; inviting speakers and audience members to reflect on this idea in the design world. 11-12 April at Yerba Buena Center for Arts, 701 Mission Street (at 3rd Street)
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138.  For more information, go to typotalks.com/sanfrancisco/

THE CARIBBEAN

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Revamped and redesigned with a new broader vision, this premier Caribbean cultural event will showcase acclaimed global artistes and artisans over 13 days on a beautiful island in the sun. From 30 April to 12 May 2013. Visit www.stluciajazz.org for details.

AFRICA

Candice Breitz / The Woods. The first solo show of Johannesburg-born artist, Candice Breitz. Featuring a trilogy of video installations which look into the world of child performers and the performance of childhood in order to probe the dreams and promises embedded in mainstream cinema. Runs until 30 March at Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193. For more information visit www.goodman-gallery.com

EUROPE

Afrofuture: As part of Milan Design Week, La Rinascente’s flagship store will be celebrating the world’s original design festival Salone del Mobilein dynamic style for 2013 as it presents ‘Afrofuture’. Through media, events and performance, La Rinascente will demonstrate the exciting mind-shift in African technology and how it’s radically shaping new notions of design. Milan Design Week runs from 9-12 April. For more information visit www.afrofuture.it or contact Cristina@karlaotto.com at the press office.

4 Corners: US | Interview with Charles ‘Chuck’ Harrison

In February, the U.S. celebrates Black History Month. Therefore it seems very apt that we should try to make a little history of our own by introducing what is, as far as I know, the first regular column of its kind anywhere in the world, highlighting the historical and contemporary creative contribution of designers from the African diaspora. Each month we will focus on four key regions, with a view to expanding both culturally and geographically over time. The U.S. has a rich legacy of black designers encompassing all areas of the design spectrum. Pioneering admen such as Georg Olden, Emmett McBain, Leroy Winbush and Archie Boston; Graphic artists and illustrators such as Aaron Douglas and Charles Dawson; and designers such as Eugene Winslow and Charles ‘Chuck’ Harrison who I have the pleasure of introducing to you as our first featured profile designer. I sincerely hope you like the column and find it engaging, informative and insightful. And if you do, please help support it by sharing it with your networks, subscribing or posting comments via the design week site.

Charles ‘Chuck’ Harrison, African American Industrial Designer. Born on 23 September 1931, Charles ‘Chuck’ Harrison was the first African-American executive to work at Sears Roebuck&Company, starting as a designer in 1961 and eventually becoming manager of the company’s entire design group. Among his 750+ consumer product designs is the first ever plastic trash can. He also led the team that updated the View-Master in 1958. This iconic product sold with only minor colour changes for over 40 years and could be found in almost every US household and households throughout the world.

What’s your background?

I spent my early developmental years on a rural segregated college campus in Texas (Prairie View A&M). My father taught on that campus and I had an opportunity to be exposed to almost all aspects of life there.

How did you get started in design?

I was directed by an instructor at college to turn my attention to design in my first year of school. I had a little success academically and stayed with it. I gave it 90 per cent of my energy and interest and that carried me through school. I then continued to pursue the profession after school as there weren’t many other options open to me. Joe Palmer and Henry Glass taught me. They were both high-profile industrial designers who I was really energised to be associated with. They recognised and rewarded me with good grades and the opportunity to visit their studios. They were very accommodating and passionate.Chuck Harrison working for Sears Roebuck in the 1960sChuck Harrison working for Sears Roebuck in the 1960s

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

Getting through the segregated system in the United States and finding employment. Once I made my way through that I was able to proceed to develop a lifetime career. Other challenges were trying to live and pursue a professional career as a black person in America, which were really no different from those of any other black professionals. [For my design work] I needed drawing and model-making skills to perform and take a design concept forward to a client who would then accept it as an item that they would embrace, put it into their product list and support in their company. You had to be able to present what you’re thinking and convince a client that it’s worthy as a serious part of their company. Much like today. I had to rely on manual skills that people use the computer for today. You had to be able to draw well in order for your ideas to be accepted with little resistance and readily embraced and adopted.

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’d have to say Charles Eames for his chairs and furniture design. Elliot Noyes for his product designs, primarily typewriters for IBM. The directness, the images that they would put the products in. Simple, uncomplicated, clean forms with no superfluous decoration. I would adopt this in my work by keeping my designs as clean and pure as I could and keep the decorative components to the minimum; allow the form itself to be a strong image of the product – not decoration.

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

A plastic garbage can. A very strong form with a minimum of decoration, limited to texture, which is secondary to the form of the product. I enhanced the shape of the product, which allowed it the capability to nest, which gave it an advantage in shipping; it didn’t occupy a great volume and could be shipped in a small vehicle. It also didn’t require much warehouse space. The lid and the handle were moulded at the same time, which cut down on the tooling and moulding process. These considerations reduced the cost to the end user.The plastic garbage can

The plastic garbage can

What would be your dream job or project?

To connect with a manufacturer or company that could produce a product for public consumption with little consideration for profit margin but to give the the customer the best they could have in that design. To develop products for the severely disabled who need low-cost products to be able to live more independently; the need is there. That would be something I’d like to do, if the company shared my vision.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Follow this path for a life endeavour only if it’s sincerely for the love of it and you can survive mentally and physically and can distance yourself from the greed of financial gain.

What’s next for you?

Continue to be an ambassador for good design.Chuck Harrison with the updated Viewmaster

Chuck Harrison with the updated Viewmaster

This month’s network of events

THE US

Marvelous Color: An exhibition celebrating Black comic book super heroes can be seen through February 26 at the Caribbean Cultural Center, which is located at 1825 Park Av. Suite 602 New York, NY 10035. For more information, go to MarvelousColor.com.

THE CARIBBEAN

The 2nd International Reggae Poster Contest 2013 Call for Entries. Closing date: 30 March. Celebrating Great Jamaican Music with an overarching aim of establishing a Frank Gehry-designed Reggae Hall of Fame Performance center in Kingston, Jamaica. Visit www.reggaepostercontest.com for details.

AFRICA

Design Indaba Conference 2013. The best of global creativity all on one stage. Hosted at Cape Town International Convention Centre. with live Simulcast is hosted at the same time at various venues around Southern Africa. From 27 Feb – March 1: www.designindaba.com.

EUROPE

In Seven Days: The story of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign told in seven iconic silkscreen prints by Nicola Green, who followed Obama and his campaign team across America as this historic journey unfolded. Runs until 14 April 2013. Walker Art Gallery, William Brown Street, St. George’s Quarter, Liverpool. UK. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.

Special thanks to Joeffrey Trimmingham for his assistance with this interview.