Welcome to Workin Process, the podcast that asks the hows and whys behind creative work. Take a ride with me designer and educator George Garrastegui. As I learned from my guests, there's no one way to being a creative, but endless possibilities fueled by passion, determination, and of course process.
And that was today's guest for Ritesh Gupta for teachers, a Wieden Kennedy alum, a former director of two Shark Tank companies and specializes in product design, project management, branding, and growth analytics for mission driven companies who recently rebranded and rebuilt realme a podcast studio and app with mother design, felt not heard and incredible internal team. It's a beauty number one and Apple's podcast charts, and was featured in it's nice that as well as print Mac, and brand new named it one of the top 10 word marks in monograms of 2021. And before that, reteach worked for and with Sagmeister Walsh, Cooper Hewitt, Disney, and Hungry Harvest. Currently, he's a senior director of new product ventures at Guenette, USA Today. We'll get into some of that, but I want to focus on his support and championing of the shift in design. To include more advocacy, accountability, and access. British has been helping change the landscape with his volunteer work at where all the black designers, a nonprofit design advocacy organization, and with his upcoming venture as founder of useful school, a useful fun, affordable 10 week product design virtual program catered to the people who need it, ushering in more diversity, autonomy and practicality into the profession. or teach. Welcome to the working process podcast, man.
Thanks. Happy to be here.
Yeah, thank you for carving out some time of your soon to be very, very busy schedule.
Thank you. I really appreciate it.
So I want to get into all your branding and design career. But first, let's do a rapid fire q&a session. You're ready.
You got it. Let's do it.
All right. So first is a series of this or that questions?
Coffee or tea?
Okay, toaster a bagel?
Bagel. And specifically has to be a plain bagel not toasted.
Ooh, plain not toasted? Yeah, I
got to get a baseline. Whenever I go to New York City bagel spots. I have to understand the basics before I start putting on a bunch of future Mall. Okay,
okay, I got you. I got you. Branding or product design.
Oh, come on. Now. They're basically the same thing. I'm gonna I'm gonna keep it low. I'm gonna make a little spicy. Also, I'll say product design.
Volunteering or founding
is another difficult one. Because I'm in really in the space right now. I would say founding
cool. RGB or CMYK.
RGB actually has given me a lot of problems in the past, especially when we try to convert it into the printing landscape. So I'll keep it also spicy. I'll say CMYK. But my first love is RGB. Got it? 5050? A little bit of both. Yeah, a little bit of both. And that's on the situation. Got it. Got
it, of course. And so now quick word association, right. So the first thing you hear when you when you think of these words, creativity,
For some reason the first word was obvious. Cool.
people of color.
And last but not least, process.
Nice, nice. I like these both little things, because they're kind of instinctual. There's not really a time to react, there's just time to answer. I know, sometimes we want to make it perfect. But I think some of the things are just, it gets us loose before we gonna get into really what you're all about. And most of the time when I'm interviewing people, right? I don't really know you. And it's a way for us to kind of break the ice. So thank you for that. Right. And so now I think I want to really get into a little bit of your origin story. And I want to learn about your introduction into art design. Where did you grew up and where you were creative or an artsy kid?
So I grew up in a town called Temecula, California, which for some reason is referenced a lot on SNL. I don't know why, but they always have references to Temecula. So, it feels kind of good, but also reminds me of where I grew up. And I actually didn't really like where I grew up. There weren't a lot of kids that look like me. I was like only one of a couple of brown brown kids, specifically Indian Americans all through 12th grade. So it wasn't until UCLA where I actually saw a lot more folks that that look like me. I was a creative kid. I grew up playing a lot of music. I started out playing trumpet, but I use that as a pogo stick, and I broke the I broke the bell, and my mom was super pissed. So then she said, alright, well, if you want to continue doing music, which I wanted to, you're going to have to find another instrument. And we're not going to pay for it. So the school luckily had an oboe. But everyone in my class was really annoyed by the sound I was making from it, because it's kind of annoying sound, especially when you're first learning but and it gets only really beautiful when you become an expert. Then I moved on to bassoon, and the person that I had a crush on in middle school was not into that at all. And so I moved roughly quickly away from bassoon, and the jazz band was actually having auditions for bass guitar. So I switched over to bass, played that in jazz band. And then I found a really big love for drums. And I've played that up until this day, I was in the drumline played competitively doing competitions all over California. And I played tenor drums specifically, which are these kind of six drums and they're about 3040 or so pounds that you were in the front of you, but it's really, really hard on your back. But I did I love I fell in love with it, I got addicted to it and continue doing playing drums through through college or I ended up becoming kind of a section leader drum drumline captain at the UCLA marching band played at all these football games. And I was I was able to be really creative, we're able to have fun with with what we're playing, performing all the emotions and everything you really want to connect to the audience and write look right in their eyes and really connect emotionally. So that was a lot of fun. When it came to creativity professionally, though, it was not actually something I ever considered. I mean, we like to joke in kind of the Indian basic community that you only have like three paths of life. And it's pretty true for a lot of traditional Indian families. And the three paths are number one, a doctor, number two, an engineer, and number three a failure. And so for me to grow up in an environment where I was encouraged to do creativity, but it was more or less relegated to a volunteer activity or an as almost like an afterthought. I never really actually consider doing and pursuing any sort of creative field until I realized that I can make money doing it, and a good living, as well as knowing that I can make impact. So knowing something that I make, that my parents would use or know exactly what I would make was really important to me, not only for that validation, you always kind of want validation whenever possible, especially with parents within Indian families, you're always trying to please your parents and your family. So it was really kind of a long journey for me to realize that I was more suited for a creative role, specifically with visual and other sensory design. And that didn't happen until until well into college. That didn't happen until I started an advertising. And it didn't happen until I started having mentors kind of come to me and say you can really, you can really kill it in the space, just just keep going. And I'll help you.
So with that, did school or family play a larger role in you becoming a designer or you kind of self taught?
My parents actually were a big inspiration for me. They're both serial entrepreneurs. And they actually work together, which is very rare for for entrepreneurs. Not only do you have one entrepreneur family, but two, and not only did I have to but they're my parents. And not only that, but they actually work together to actually partners and they invent companies and spin them off and all that kind of exciting stuff. So the creativity really came as inspiration from them. School I didn't really learn too much about being creative. I was an economics major and and also did accounting and I took the the once in a while kind of class that could have opened my eyes but because my family was pretty diligent about what I was studying, I couldn't spend a lot of time like learning some of the classes that I wanted to really take. UCLA has a great design Media Arts major, and I was really interested in it but I wasn't able to. I wasn't able to pursue it. I didn't really know too much about it. So it was probably my family. Number one, just the inspiration to take risks. And then number two, I actually started an organization and entrepreneurship organization on campus. And when I started creating the ads and figuring out how to target the college students that wanted to be part of the entrepreneurship organization. Once I created the organization and wanted to figure out how to target them through Media Writing on chalkboards and Guerilla Marketing writing on the sidewalk at UCLA, and all that stuff. I realized I really had a knack for it. And so I actually straight up called Saatchi and Saatchi and left them a voice message saying, Hey, I have no idea if I'm good for this like, program that you have, like an internship program you have. But here's my info. I'm really excited about it. I just don't know too much about it. So would you be willing to just call me back.
So you just cold call the agency,
I just made a cold call at Saatchi and Saatchi. I have this personality where like I'm not super afraid of walking up to somebody or cold calling somebody even if they're quote unquote, unreachable or can't talk to them for some reason, like I just have a drive in me to do that.
So with your cold calls Saatchi and Saatchi, Was that your first creative job? Or did you stumble into something else.
So it was actually my first creative role. I was an intern. And I did it for about a summer. And at the time, the their main client was Toyota. I was an account management intern. And two weeks into the role I said on board, Can I switch to a different department, HR was somewhat open to the idea. But I just really kind of paved my way. And so I just kind of happen to meet some folks like in the strategy world, as was the as well as the creative side, they were on different floors. So at the time accounting account management was on the fourth floor, and the creative teams were on the second floor, and it was dimly lit. So the cranes can be quiet and do their magic. And so I was always like, interested in that. So one day, I just went down there. They're working really late at night, I was grinding on a project and I just happen to go down there on a Razor scooter that they had around the office. And I met who at the time was basically the head of creative, Andre Lemuria. I asked him I was like, Hey, I'm about to get ordered dinner and some snacks. Do you? Do y'all want anything? And he and some of the folks that he was managing and like we're in the office grind on a project like Yeah, dude, I would actually love some corn nuts. And not just any corners, but I want like these barbecue cornets. So a fellow intern and myself, we went to like three or four different gas stations in the area to like, find these, these these damn coordinates, because I really didn't want I didn't really know who these people I was talking to, at the time were in their position and stuff. But I just didn't like want to disappoint them. So we busted our asses to try to find these coordinates. And luckily, I found them. And he was like, super impressed. He's like, are you serious? I was like, I was like, kind of joking. So what happened there was, I mean, there's obviously a lesson of just like, it's not always bad to work late, because other people that are working late with you like they might be just willing to talk and like want to just like Gab, you never know who you're going to talk to. So always take that leap in that initiative if you're down. But number two is I just like ask them. I was like, Hey, What are y'all working on. And they said that they're working on a huge campaign for Cameron. It's one of the biggest campaigns they've worked on. And they started telling me some of the issues that they're they've been having. And I said, I can help with that, like, oh, you need you need to write some some copy lines, you need me to research facts and give you the source of those facts. I'm economics major, like I can totally do that. So eventually, the creative team, like I started working with them on the second floor, rather, on the fourth floor, I was still getting my account management work done. But they just like started advocating for me. And then they at some point, they actually advocated for me to extend my stay for another couple of weeks, because they needed me on a project. So I, I'm really grateful for that kind of experience. On the flip side, the data analytics team was on the third floor. And that's where the kitchen was, and was relatively loud and stuff like that. And I saw one Indian dude. And he was the only lady knew that I saw in the building. And I walked up to him, I was like, hey, Indian, like, you're Indian. Like, can we like talk about that? Like, you're the only person I've seen as, you know, kind of this company, like, I would love to talk about that, like, what is it like and stuff and I think he's all thrown off by like, my energy. And but he was really open. He's like, Yeah, I mean, I'm on the data data analytics team. And I am one the only folks here but it's like, really creative and interesting. So that's what a light bulb went off. And I said, Oh, I can be brown. I could do account management and like do clients and like, put together decks or whatever needed to be done, but I can also do strategy, and I can help out with with data and I can help a copywriting and that's why I started really falling in love with like that kind of intersection of all that stuff. So it
just seems like a lot of like Kismet moments happening right? And it seems like between the fourth and the second floor, the third floor like there's little moments of finding yourself. When did you consider yourself a creative?
I feel like I could consider myself a quote unquote creative. Once I had a an official job, where like creativity, I was doing something creative like 80% of the time and what's that essentially meant was I probably considered myself to be a creative or creative. When I went to widen, I, that was my full time role. I was very creative, I was able to be really creative at Saatchi and Saatchi, I was able to be very creative at Deutsch the wide and felt like I made it, I went across country, I got the offer, I went across country within a couple of weeks, settle down in New York City. I was at fucking widen, and I was meeting all these amazing folks. And that's when I felt like I was a creative.
I mean, it seems like you're the ability to put yourself out there and be in the room. And notice that sometimes being there late at night puts you into places where there's a comfortability factor. There's all of us camaraderie, we're all achieving the same goals. So where we're no longer looking at each other as like, well, you work here, and I work there and I do this, but also your ability to take the initiative to find those BBQ nuts where it's like, you're going to make sure that at least you're going to put in all the effort to try to find them, right, maybe you don't. And that's okay. But the fact that you did, probably also puts you on that extra level where people go, this person is going to go that extra mile for the project for the team for that. You're cold calling Saatchi and Saatchi, you're going across country to you know, widening Kennedy, you're working with Sagmeister Walsh, you're working with mother design, right? You're just presenting a brand new conference like these are not small feats, right? What do you think has helped you get to that level? Because I think there's a level in there. We don't all get to do that we get to do maybe one of those things. And it seems like you've, you've been lucky enough and fortunate enough to kind of do a lot of those things.
So there's a lot of advice and insights I can kind of give related to that question. So one anecdote I'd like to share that kind of helps answer your question is that at one time, I was at a job interview for an agency. And at the end of the interview, I actually gave the interviewers, a MTA card, a subway card, and the card had one freeze, it had money on it, it had a one subway ride. I think at the time, it was like 275. And like for a ride. Plus the cost of like the card itself was like $1, or something like that at the time. So around four bucks per per card, which is expensive when it comes to like just giving out a gift, especially when you think about as a business card. But I had my contact information stuck on there with like a sticker, kind of makeshift. And it had my contact information on it, of course, my name, my phone number, my email address, and some sort of tagline. So something along the lines of like whenever you're in a pinch, use me. And so the idea was that when the interviewer ran out of subway rides on their card, they could remember Aha, reteach, like he's super useful. And he and they would be able to like use the card that I gave them, whenever they're like in a pinch, because there's never a good time to run out of a swipe or, or money on a car, especially the subway and you see the car, the F train going and leaving the train station, you're like, Fuck, I should have put more money on it. So it was like those types of things that I started doing with people or for people that started setting me apart. Now, I do want to be clear, I did not get that job. I actually was not right for it at all. And they took they told me straight up, like, Come back when you have something different. And I'm actually fortunate that I that I did not get that job. So I would not have been happy. But the point being is that I'm now in contact with the folks that I gave those cards to. And they remember that. So that's one example. When it comes when it comes from making the jump to widen to working with Sagmeister and Walsh and mother, there were a couple of experiences between them that I want to kind of highlight. I'm a huge shark tank fan. And so when I saw two ideas, Hungry Harvest and pet play on Shark Tank, the following day, I just straight up cold emailed them. The cool thing about that is that yes, they're getting a lot of buzz and but there's a surprisingly little number of people that actually hit them up and say, hey, I want to work for you. And not only that, but hey, your website sucks. And I want to help you redesign it and not only am I going to get your website like look better and feel better, but I can guarantee you it's going to turn into sales. And so that's when I realized I could really pitch in cold emails and like just one line like Hey, I saw you on Shark Tank real quick. concept. By the way, your your website's like is really not up to snuff. And I always ask a question at the end like a yes or no question. Like, do you want to hop on the phone tomorrow? So it's like very easy, yes or no. And so I did that twice. And I got both the gigs. To a degree that actually, I almost made up a job for myself in the sense of, they were looking at the time for specific things. But I was like, no, no, I'll do that stuff. But I want to add more on top of that. So the learning there is, especially with startups, I always encourage people of color to not just look at what the what the job description is, but to Morfitt in a way that really suits you. Yeah, of course, you might do the stuff that's like on the paper. But eventually, you can start like adding things to it. And one of those things for plate was leading a rebrand. And luckily, we had a lot of investors that were very down for very creative work and Sagmeister. And Walsh was a perfect fit for the for the company at the time. Realm did something similar, where they were technically hiring a UI or UX designer, but I said, No, no, I'm much more better suited for as a in a product role. And oh, yeah, of course, I'll do the UI. And of course, I'll help with the UX and stuff. But I want to be at a slightly different level. And I'm also going to help you lead your rebrand because I'm not feeling the brand right now. And I would love to redo that. And I was very clear during the interview process that how much budget do you have her rebrand? What kind of work? Are you inspired by? Like, how cool can we take this? So that way before I even like, accepted the job offer continued, I wasn't wasting anybody's time. And I knew exactly what kind of work Molly, for example, the founder at Rome, formerly cereal box really wanted.
So is that really, you coming down to do enough research of these brands to understand not only what the brief is, and the fact that their stuff just doesn't look up to snuff, and they need to take it up a notch, but how you're able to one decide, yeah, there's all these lists of things that you think you need. But also, I understand that there's a whole nother level of things that I'm also willing to, to do to get you to the point where you need to be, that doesn't seem like something that is, you know, obviously, it's not job description wise, it's it's in the realm of going above and beyond. But it's also in the realm of understanding, you know, how sometimes clients don't really know what they need. They just think they need an updated photo, or just a logo and or, you know, one little component is going to make the whole thing feel fresh. And designers come to the table and go Well, you know, yes, that would enhance it for a week. But if you're looking to make money to change the game, to do any of this, you need to do a brand audit and really consider, right, it looks like you're bringing this insight to them where they really had no body doing that work for them. And as a designer who's coming to wants to get the business. You're doing so much more than just design? It seems like you're almost, you know, I had one one guest who basically said, I'm making it easy for you to say, Yes, I'm doing all the work that you should have been doing. And all you have to do is say yes, and we can make this thing happen. Is that how do you how do you get to that point, because that doesn't seem like those things don't fall in your lap, you're making it sound very simple in the way that these things happen. You know, I love the little snippet of the ability to ask a question at the end of an email, right? It gives them something to do so they're gonna have to respond to you. It's an easy way out, or it's a it's a connection in. But it seems like there is this ability for you to foresee what what people don't see in themselves, and start to look at those things and offer suggestions in a way that connects you to people, right? Like the way that you're looking at the MTA swipe pass is like, if you're in a pinch, I can help that that like marketing speak of this metro card is allowing you to reach out to me or I'm helping you it's a great way for for people to use that. And so I'm seeing this ability to get from point A to point B, but how did you learn a little bit just to go back to research like that? That doesn't come naturally.
So I would say it comes somewhat naturally, but it's mostly a learned behavior. I would say that. Typically, most designers when you're talking about creating a new app or a new world, or a new startup, whatever your might, you might be designing including legislation or something. Typically, those folks are relatively separate from a data focused individual. It's relatively rare to have a designer who can speak or is even interested about speaking both design and data. And what's interesting is that we have a decent amount of research that shows that the better the design, the better your stock price, or better your performance will be bottom line, Mackenzie ran a very large study about this. And as, as proven that out, I spoke a little bit about this brand new and I encouraged everybody who was watching to just take a screenshot of the slide that I showed, and use it during new business pitches. Because the more we can demonstrate to the whole world, that there is a an ultimate benefit monetarily in addition to social etc, we're all going to be better off for it. So why keep that? Why keep that deck slide to myself. Now, I have been fortunate enough to work with folks that already know the value of design. And they know the value of branding, they know the value of like a really great fluid user experience, just because it's the right thing to do. And a lot of the founders that I've worked with, and the folks that I've collaborated with, they understand how frustrating it is to have a poor user experience like an onboarding flow that's asking too many questions or a site that's loading longer than three seconds, any of that stuff. So they do know the value design intrinsically. But to be able to go to a team, especially folks that control where the budget goes to be able to say I did an A B test. And it increased conversions, like signups on a checkout page by 10%. And that means at our current rate, that it's going to equal another $333,000. That's a really powerful and really exciting thing that a designer is able to say. So they don't have to just rely on some of the stuff that's typically designers typically known for related to beauty, or fluidity. But now we're able to also talk about it from a from a monetary point of view for the people who need to hear about the monetary point of view. But being able to combine the both those things have allowed a lot of the companies that I've been fortunate to work with and seen just around the world. Absolutely kill it, and absolutely crush it.
Right. And I mean, there's definitely an intrinsic value as to why design is important, right? And when you when you come down to the accident zones, and you know, in the red or in the black, right? Like where if it's, if design is gonna make you money, yes, please, you know, somebody who's looking at that. And sometimes, that's the language you need to hear, you can put all the bells and whistles is gonna look amazing. Look at this beautiful color, it's gonna function, this button is gonna be the best button ever. But it's like how much money is gonna make? Okay, cool. Now I'm down. Right? It definitely seems like your ability to one navigate between the fourth and the second floor without accounting was in the third, you've added to your design experience with these exponential experiences, the ability to go a little bit further for that design team to connect with that other Indian person on the on the third floor to learn about well, data is important. There's all these things that that kind of just working together. And it's funny, because it seems like there's a lot of similarities from what you've been doing with larger well known agencies, and some of these small startups, can you give me one big similarity or difference that you see working from a startup or working for a large company.
So the main similarity that I see, especially with the places that I've been able to collaborate with, like Sagmeister, and Walsh and Mother design and some of these other folks, contrary to historical relationships, the incentives have really been aligned. It we're not trying to make work just for an award. The similarity of between these agencies, as well as the startups of both being, like, emotionally invested in the success of a company is something that has huge interest to me. And that's one of the reasons why I really love working at mission driven startups and for and consulting for mission driven companies and things like that, even as little as type consulting, because of that kind of symbiosis, I guess. Traditionally, the incentives have been very misaligned, you know, an external partner might just be interested in creating like really creative work. The startup is really trying to raise money and doing whatever they can to like show really positive investor metrics. But now, those two worlds are, are evaporating and they're and they're becoming like one. So that's a similarity that I've seen, but in the past has been very different
and started touching on what we're going to shift into right mission driven. And it might have been probably two years ago and 2020. In the lovely June when I think I first just learned about you because of the where all the black designers conference that happened, right, the virtual conference that was just that, that awakening that everybody needed to come back to dealing with originally Cheryl Miller's stuff, then Maurice cherries stuff, and then Mitzi and Garrett, so this this, you know, ongoing, unfortunate thing that where are the diversity in an industry that's been going on for this long? How did you get introduced to Mitzi and Garrett and to become volunteers part of that movement.
So when the conference was happening, the first conference that is, I tried my best to offer interesting or additive information in the chat, the chat was blowing up, it was crazy. Right? That's not even including when Roxane Gay showed up as the special guest I'm talking about before that people were going crazy. And it was both black folk and non black folk. And because I'd done a little bit of research in this space, taking AIGA and Google Design Tensas. In presenting that, and I had some slides, I was able to pull over on that. So as interesting discussions were happening from the panelists, and the moderators, I was able to drop in some of that stuff into the chat, and people seem to see people seem to enjoy it. And I realized that evening after the conference had had wrapped up, that there was this pent up kind of need for the community to do more needed moderation. Mitzi and Garrett needed some support, they wanted some support. And so I reached out and ended up becoming a volunteer, mostly because I wanted to help. And I didn't want my assistance to be some sort of one day conference, and then ghost type of thing, as actually has happened with a lot of non black folk. And so I knew that the organization had a lot of staying power. And the other volunteers really welcomed me with open arms. And I'm proud to say that we had our second conference last year. And it went off great. We had even deeper discussions that some of the discussions that we wanted to touch on more from the previous one, and we had some really amazing panelists, I was fortunate enough to moderate an ally focused panel discussion, which we felt was important for allies to hear, while and while still centering black folk, that was actually a very difficult, difficult conversation. Because the way that where the conversation went from one of the panelists, it became a little difficult. So luckily, I was seeing in the chat that people were respectful of how I was approaching the topics that came up, and that re energize my interest in helping. And I realized that I'm relatively good at helping somebody, even in a public space, that and being in the Sunday, I might be vulnerable, and thinking on my feet. And that's when I realized, wow, I really want to, I just really want to keep going with this. And I wasn't even doubting that I would stop being a volunteer, anything like that, before the second conference, this just got me even more fired up. So we have a lot of really exciting news coming out, hopefully, in the next few months about the future where the buck designers and I
and I just as a viewer of that particular panel, you know, I definitely can understand how to navigate sensitive topics, and be respectful to all the people involved, and also stand your ground, right, and make sure that you're not going to kind of acquiesce to anybody who's been doing it for a long time, and just be like, well, that's the way it is, you know, you're challenging respectfully, and also trying to teach and hopefully get through. And sometimes in a moment, it's not something that that is you're able to take in, you know, hopefully, that that individual, you know, was able to, like think back and be like, Oh, I understand. And that's that's all we can do right is to is to kind of like, just bring it up, because if we don't bring it up, then that systematically just continues to happen. So I definitely think your ability to think on your feed, but also feel that support that was happening in the chat to be like, you're going the right direction. You know what you're not trying to call the person out, you're trying to support, but also forcefully enough to be like, this is kind of a big deal. We need to address this situation, right? And so anybody who was listening to the conference probably knows, you know, so we don't need to go into it. But you know, that was just definitely something that kind of sparked my interest too, because I think that's a very hard thing to do. It's easy to get frustrated and maybe take it to a place where does it need to be, you know, especially in public for. And I think that was a just another interesting thing and the fact that it reenergized you to kind of be like the work still needs to be done. And what I'm doing is helping support this larger mission. You know, as I kept on doing research for you to kind of like dig into some questions, like we mentioned before, I always want to, you know, ask my guests things that are not necessarily the same things you're going to get, you know, I don't want to ask you the same question that this other article asked you. But I think I read in, I think it was your dye line article feature, where it says that you mentioned that you mentor other designers, which I think is awesome, but really, that you focus on typefaces by bipoc creatives. So here's a two part question sort of, how important is that to you? And then beyond the big names of like Joshua Darden and Trey seals, how do you find these typefaces that are by bipoc designers, because for myself, I've looked in like searching just kind of like rudimentary Google searches of like, black designers, typefaces, or Latin does, you know, it's, it's not easy to find.
So finding, finding and utilizing typefaces from folks that are traditionally underrepresented is really important to me. Because as we do that, and focus on it more and more, we are literally giving more visibility to folks that traditionally aren't being seen, because literally, this typefaces are being read by millions and billions of eyeballs every day. And there are phenomenal typefaces that have been done from people who are of color, or other identities that deserve deserves to be seen, at the very least, going to those foundries or looking at the work from specific designers, considering those first, and then going the more common routes. And at least giving them at least the first what I would say in I guess real estate terms, a term I just learned today, right, a first refusal type of thing like give give the traditionally marginalized and underrepresented type designers, the first stab like the first chance, and what that requires is a putting the onus on the person who's selecting the typeface. It takes a lot of work to do that there are amazing resources, that letterform archive, for example, has that was actually started by the question of where are all the black type designers from Bobby Martin. And there's now a really beautiful resource of black type foundry owners as well as black type designers. Trey seals from vocal type is obviously on there. Joshua Darden, one of the first black type designers in America, one of the most renowned folks, he's obviously on there. And there's a ton of other incredible folks, when it comes to tie faces from women, or typefaces from East Asian women specifically, or something like that. There are also resources out there typer grafica, has done some really great work in interviewing Native American designers, specifically who are interested in type. And those are other great resources. So the onus is really on spending the extra, I would say, double the time that you think would consider finding a typeface, if it takes you traditionally 10 or 20 hours to find a typeface, consider around 40 hours to find to go that extra length to find the fonts that really that feel good and feel right for the project. And I'm not saying you have to use a cortical diverse type, just for the sake of it. And don't care about how it looks and don't care about any of that, like all the all of the story around who created it, the sense of craft, the aesthetic, and the feel, and how well it jives with the rest of the branding, all that stuff has to be taken account. So I would start with the with the identity of the designer first and then move on to the more literally aesthetic decisions and go from there. So that's one thing that I love to do. And that bonus also is on the client, if there's a client that their a type designer might be working with, or typography is working with. It's also up to them to say, talk to me about the fonts like teach me a little bit about typography. Because and I talked about this during type type directors club. When a lay person types in cool fonts or beautiful fonts or something like that. There's very poor resources out there that show up on the first couple of pages of Google search results. So the lay person traditionally doesn't know about East Asian like specifically Filipina based fonts or something like that the average person is not going to know that. So it's it's often on up to the designer and the client to work together and educate each other about the story of the fonts that they chose. Who's doing it, what's their identity? Why this typeface outside of the aesthetic decisions. Now, most lay people aren't going to know the story like most people aren't going to know, Joshua garden did Halyard or Joshua Darden did another typeface, but it's really, really important for the industry, to at least come to reckoning with how we're choosing fonts and how we're choosing and selecting the visibility that we give.
I agree, I think that type is such a language that designers own that the ability to control that. And the aesthetic of that is one of the things that we're able to make sure makes or breaks something, you know, we talk about maybe the ability to be in the room or something type choices is where we get to shine and how a page looks. Those are the decisions that we tend to make that make or break things. And if we can include type designs, and illustrations and things from people from these marginalized groups, but it's not even to only include them is to, it's to really include the nuance that these typefaces, and these designs bring, because the little idiosyncrasies that they bring is cultural, that makes or breaks sometimes the work that you you add them to, when you think of a tray seals, design and vocal type. I mean, I think I just bought the book, the Spike Lee book, and he designed the typeface throughout the whole entire book that's based on you know, radio, Raheem aims for finger rings, right love and hate. And to think that that forefinger ring, which is in the 80s, and any jeweler would have created that typeface, and nobody would consider a jeweler or a typeface designer, right, traditionally, but now Trey is making a whole entire foundry and type family off of this one aesthetic and making it beautiful, and also doing it for people like us who grew up with Spike Lee and do the right thing. The movie is kind of just in our wheelhouse of like that his representation and the conflict and the day and a hot summer day, right? Like, all of those things matter. So when you look at that typeface, there's so much weight behind that, versus just selecting Times New Roman, doesn't mean doesn't have its place. But I think there's so much history and stories with other other typefaces from designers that are there, that it elevates, and works with you, you know, with the projects you put them on.
And something I also want to add, I want to give a couple of different nods to some folks that I think are doing some interesting work. Future fonts is a place where I found a lot of traditionally unreleased fonts that aren't on Adobe Typekit or somewhere else, I found a lot of the future fonts, by the way, the URLs, future fonts that XYZ I go to, they're oftentimes, and you could find the people of color that are on there. And you could see a lot of fonts are in development. And they're not even perfect, and they're not finished yet. And some of those fonts are going to take years to get done. If not, they might not ever be finished. But they'll allow you to test them and use them in different ways. And I love you utilizing that. And then Juan Villa Nueva, who was actually on the panel that I moderated. He's doing a lot of great stuff within the within the bipoc type design community. And he's got a really great fund that he's raised. And he's he's he's worked with incredible up and coming, folks who traditionally wouldn't go to the Cooper's of the world or or another another type spot. The other one that I've been really loving is his sharp type. And they have a scholarship and the the Mallee scholarship, and some of the typefaces that are coming out of the finalists. And the winners of that scholarship are absolutely incredible. And they're all people of color, and women specifically. And I really appreciate that approach to sponsoring folks to release fonts that that deserve to be released. And I think it's doing a great job of of centering women and also specifically people of color women who are people of color and who are also not identifying along the binary and they're, they're, they're non binary etc. So I'm really loving some of the some of the platforms that deserve to be more recognized.
So as we're starting to think about the idea of diversity in typefaces, the ability of how we advocate for how something so important starts to creep into their mind their mindset, the way they need to think about, you know, approach. You're starting to come up with a new idea right after volunteering for where all the black designers there's now this new thing that's going to be starting in you said February when we talked earlier. It's called the useful school. How Did the idea of the useful school come about?
So after I did my talk at brand new in 2019 in Las Vegas, I talked to two individuals. And both of them were really hype about the stuff that I was sharing and the kind of changes I was kind of advocating for within the space. And one of those folks was named Forrest, who at the time was the chief creative officer at Wolff Olins. And he was there to do the keynote about the Uber rebrand and like I was, I was fanning out like crazy and to talk with him and have him give me a really big nod towards saying literally reteach you better do this, like, I know, things aren't like, super clear at this point about like, specifically what you want to do. But you You better do, you better do this, like you better help help push some of these ideas that you're talking about. The other individual that was really hype was DeRoy, who's from hyper X. And for full transparency, that was an agency that I've been trying to, like, work at, or work with forever. So for him to be like, also a speaker, and me able to finally speak with him and him giving me some love for what I was saying was was awesome. And so as I continued in the conference forced and I continued to stay in touch at the after parties in Las Vegas, and we really became really, really good friends. And I eventually came to this idea of, Can I do the following? Can I, as the main individual, create impact where there's more representation within the design industry? Okay. Yeah, probably aren't. What does that look like? Well, I started put thinking through some ideas, but the one that really stuck with me, is an online platform that taught zoom classes. And to help people who are not in the industry, enter the industry, and to help the folks that are currently in the industry to thrive, meaning get promoted, salary increase, open up their own studios, what have you. And where it really became interesting was that I wanted to be as accessible as possible. So I wanted the price to be literally pay what you can, which I had never seen, like in some sort of like online school or anything like that. So it was pretty radical at the time, I'm a pretty big Radiohead fan and some of the fan of some of the bands that have done pay what you can for albums, but I've never really seen it done in the school space. And then, of course, I wanted to send our people of color. That's what I was talking about. That's what a lot of folks were really giving me like a lot of nods. And so I said, Okay, I'm going to do practical classes for people of color, they're going to be 10 weeks zoom classes. And the price you tell us it's pay what you can. And if you can't pay, don't worry, somebody will cover the tab, whether it's another individual or it's a company.
I mean, that's, that's amazing. I mean, like you said, I don't think I've seen a pay what you can model for education, right? There's always a strict, this thing costs x amount of dollars, because we need to pay and, you know, make sure we monetize this. And what I'm hearing is the idea that the monetization of a concept is not the important part, it's the who needs to get this knowledge is really the important part. And we'll figure out how to monetize that, you know, with the support from other people to help fund this or just allow people to be totally transparent and honest with what they can afford. You know, one of the things I did notice, right is this online platform that you're talking about focuses on product design, as that as a very specific type of design, right, not advertising, not graphic design. What was the decision making process that took you to go to that specific route, when you're looking to give more people access to the industry.
So number one, it was a space where I had a lot of experience, I built my first app with a really awesome set of folks that I knew from college a long time ago, I knew I loved working with engineers, and I learned I knew I loved UI. And I've been kind of doing that through all my experiences through that as well. Number two, I knew that there was based on the data that there was a really poor level of representation from people of color within the Digital Product Design Space, specifically in the US. And I also knew that a lot of digital product designers can make a decent amount of money doing it. There's obvious value to digital product design. It's a core part of the product, and not to intellectualize it or get whacked poetic or something. But I really wanted to have the products that we use every day, be built by people who also use the products every day. And I wanted there to be more representation specifically within that space. And then the kind of cherry on top was once I started sharing the idea around with folks, they really love it, too. I knew that I had a lot of folks on my network that were down to come aboard and speak. And I also knew that there's people really cheering for me from the sidelines, even people who aren't digital product designers. So it was all of that kind of validation that helped me kind of be interested in doing this first, could I have done a branding class? First? Sure, I have just as much experience, you could argue if not more in that space. But I had to make a decision. And I said, You know what, I'm going to try digital product design for all of those reasons. And what's great is that branding, has the process for me to choose digital product design, I could have easily done branding, as well. And I know just as many folks in that space, and have been getting just as much support. And so I'm happy to say that I'm very seriously considering doing other classes outside of digital product design, including branding, and other related fields. Well, that's
great. One of the things that sometimes you have to make a decision, right, it allows us to be like, you know, sometimes the deadline is what makes us stop working. All right, we just we have to hand it in, we have to submit something, right. And making a decision, I think is like that is a really important one. Because I think the world we live in today, everything is kind of in our hands. So product based is is kind of maybe the first place we understand design. And then these other things are what are ancillary parts of it that we learn about later. But the intimacy that we have with our phones, or tablets or computers is really where design has its most impact.
The other thing I really cared about was being really specific about the quote unquote, product market fit, if you want to use that kind of like entrepreneurship lingo, where I didn't want to drown in opportunity, in a way I didn't want to, like just go so broad that people didn't really know where this kind of school fit in. So it was really important for me to see, let's say, okay, these are practical classes for people of color. And they're for beginners and advanced folk. And I want specifically to focus on a sliver of the creative industry, I don't at this point, I'm not ready to be able to say, these are practical classes for people of color, and their 10 week, creative classes on Zoom, I'm not ready to say that cast that wide of a net, I wanted to be as specific as possible. And as I'm getting more and more interest, and putting folks on the waitlist for other classes, that helps me kind of manage the growth.
And that's smart. I think trying to tackle too much will just make this not feel impactful. And I think that's one of the things you keep on saying is right, like how in design, can you create impact. And I think focusing on something that maybe other people haven't is where you find your niche, and doesn't mean that you haven't done all these other things, obviously. But this is the opportunity that presents itself and make sure that you stand out. And I think the best part of that is the name and the idea that it's practical. It's about function, it's about making sure somebody either gets that interview understands how to connect with people, you know, learn something directly, right? It's not about theory, you know, it's not about this, right. And sometimes you just need that, that course that understanding that really just gives you that bridge, that connection to hear this is what can happen if you do these couple of steps, right. And sometimes practicality is is something that we don't always offer, you know, as an educator, right, we're kind of like, always wrapped up for me in the idea of there's practicality. But then there's also all these other, you know, soft things that are that are all worked together, right. And I think there's the focus that you started to bring up is to make sure that this is a specific thing that I'm talking about. And this is what you're going to get out of. And I think when you look at the website, and you and you read kind of you know, a little bit of the breakdown, there is clear goals and what you're going to achieve, which I think makes it very simple to understand why this is different and important for that group of people. So even though you know, we're saying that, right, and I'm an educator, right? And we're talking about how we like to teach, right? So I caught something on your on your write up, right? Like, hey, sure, we'll teach you this stuff in design school, but we'll also focus on the stuff that they don't teach you. So I know because there are many institutions where learning can't cover every nuance of the fast paced tech world. What do you think are some of the things that institutions in education really don't teach students?
So there's a there's a variety of things that are in the useful school curriculum that I think are way outside the way wheelhouse of a traditional design education. First of all, all the classes are trying to center people of color as much as possible. So we talked about typefaces earlier, I want to challenge folks to be creating projects like for example, an invoice that they can build other clients that only uses typefaces from an identity that they identify with. And I think having that nuance of the process is very different from a traditional design school in that way. The second thing is we're going to be teaching a lot of the practical things like how to do deceptively simple things like answering an email from a recruiter, the difference between an external recruiter and an internal recruiter who oftentimes have very different incentives for wanting to reach out and hire you. I've been burned multiple times in the past where I had dealt with a lot of predatory recruiters. Well, where they'll ask me, How much money are you making right now? Or like some other insignificant things that actually make it worse for me, when I actually continue on in the field, like when I continue on in the interview, and what ends up happening is a lot of these predatory recruiters, they end up asking a lot of folks like how much money they're making just for research, they're not really interested in hiring you or asking you questions that actually matter. They're interested in doing research for themselves. And once I realized that, I'm like, Shit, I'm going to tell as many people as I can about this type of work that is happening in the industry, that's predatory, but also racist, and excluding POC and causing POC to when they are interested in pursuing a creative field to get really turned off. So the intersectionality, the responding to networking, reach outs, and all that kind of stuff is all stuff that's traditionally not covered, that we're able to cover with both the guest speakers that are at the top of their game. For example, Mitzi who works at Spotify, barman vet who leads brand new, all these folks that can offer really practical info on how to get a job. So for example, Armen, who knows about literally every rebrand that's happened since he started, he can offer really practical knowledge of what are some people of color that you'd like to mention to the students who have like really killer portfolios like, well, who, how they branded themselves? And who do you like from a branding point of view, Mitzi can walk through how she got her first job, like at Spotify, and that's like, no feat, no simple feat. She's also an incredible black woman, and like having students be able to see that they're successful black women in the tech space, doing creative work is really, really powerful. So talking about having her talk about was the case study that Spotify recruiters asked about, like, what were some of the questions that that folks should prepare for? This kind of stuff isn't really shown in an easy to access way on YouTube or anywhere else, like this kind of knowledge should be pay what you can, this type of thing should be available to as many folks as possible now. So we're starting with these kind of 20 person cohorts. But I would like to really expand this thing in a really big way.
Wow, that definitely seems like something that just personal experience, is what's going to bring the elevation to what the the people who are part of this, you know, first cohort, the access to the people that you have, but also the experiences that they're able to bring, it's like a perfect moment of, you know, because you've been able to work together with so many larger companies and keep these relationships, because you have this ability to just kind of like innately cold call and ask the question, and some people are just too scared to ask, right? Because of fear of just not getting the right answer or fear of rejection. You know, you seem to just be like, well, if they say no, they say no, but I'm going to ask anyway, those are definitely, I think the benefits for something especially like this, that the practical nature is really going to come from that. Right. And I think like you said, that's probably the thing that most educational institutions can't offer. Because they're just systematically in a different mindset. They're not really coming from working individuals in the field at the moment, it's a little bit, you know, these people are a little bit distance, always good to have a little bit of both, like support from the people working in the industry currently. And then the traditional, a little bit more of just, you know, systems thinking that helps support some of those things. So considering, you know, obviously, we're talking about access and opportunity, you know, what other ways do you think the industry and schools can support this kind of education outside of the traditional systems?
Yeah, so And before I answer that question directly, you're selling useful school great, like I want to take the class like your if you want to sit in with when I'm pitching sponsors like companies You want to sponsor and stuff? You're more than welcome. Yeah, you're making this thing sound great. We're hiring for you for sure. So I think there's a lot of things that traditional institutions can do. There's a really big need for us to rethink the entire curriculum that we've been teaching for 50 plus years. So Dorita install is doing some great work at OCAD. There are, there's a lot of divestment and unlearning going on. In some of the Southern California schools, there's a lot of interesting movements going on. However, based on what I who I've spoken with, I've been on multiple video chats. I know a lot of folks in the future of design in higher education community. And these are folks that are administrators, faculty, members, professors, all they run the gamut, who want to really actively change what we're teaching and everything. And what what I'm realizing is, there's a really high number of folks that are very resistant to the change. This is everything from how we're teaching, to what we're teaching to who we're centering. And a lot of folks within institutions not been willing to move, much less move at the pace that we want to happen. There are light at the end of the tunnel, like I said, Dorita install, and a lot of other folks that are really pushing, but there really has to be major changes. So what I would recommend for some of the individuals that are working at these institutions, especially the people of color, useful schools here, like if you want to help out in any sort of way, whether monetarily or or teach a class. That's obviously doors are definitely open. I would obviously say like advocate very strongly for unlearning, and redoing a curriculum, even if you've done the same curriculum for even one or two semesters, to have honest conversations with the graduates of the class and ask them what are things that they wish were in the curriculum? What are the things that they actually hated, don't do it when the students are actually students, because there's obviously conflict of interest. But when you're talking to the alumni and people who just graduated, be a steward, like, reach out to them and not in a in a non spammy way. And make sure you're getting the really active feedback. Because if we're not getting feedback from the people who have gone through our classes or something, and we're teaching design, we're hypocrites, we're, we're, if we're not actually taking into account the feedback, and everybody wants to do that, whether you're an artist who's creating stuff at MoMA, or, or creating practical classes, you want to be getting feedback from folks and getting a pulse. So if you're not doing any of that, and you're not completely fulfilling the loop, and just doing whatever curriculum, you just no has been done, you're really doing yourself a disservice. And the institution as well as the students
agreed, I think there needs to be a lot of homework done for for people to do that. And I think part of that is, is to act like educators are not the the end all who know everything. There's always learning. I love that I learned from my students about some topics that are new, that I have no idea about, and they put me on, right, I think that is one of the best parts of being an educator is being accepting and willing to learn about this, because as the fast paced tech always changes, we're always not going to be the ones who understand that the new things going on, because it's really not created for us. It's created for that younger generation who is actively pushing it working on it. And they're doing iterations, right? Like, you know, when you hit when you talk about Spotify, right? Don't they talk about like, every two weeks, they're just doing updates, things that you don't even notice are happening. They're doing it because they're, they're understanding users and adjusting for that, right. So I think for us in that fast paced world, we're not going to work at the speed of every two weeks. But the idea that we do need that feedback, and we do need to consider adjustments and nuances, and it's tough. But I think that we got to go back to the idea of why we're doing it in the first place, is to make students prepared for what they're going to be dealing with. If we do that. I think that puts us in a better position.
Absolutely. And I would also say that radical change on the financial end has to has to be done on the institutional end as well. Of course, there's loans, many of them are predatory. There are income share agreements, where you don't pay a single dime in the beginning and then after you graduate and get a job you end up paying some of that money back. Those are also relatively unregulated and and predatory. And so what I'd like to see is more models that are alternative versions of payment that aren't so predatory, because being able to do that is going to be attractive is going to give institutions, similar application pools that useful school has were because we have that financial barrier, essentially eliminated. And it's truly putting the power in the hands of the individuals. With the of course, the support from sponsors and individual contributors, were able to attract heavily marginalized and deeply underrepresented populations to be part of useful school. And we're welcoming all ages as well as as well as identities, which is really exciting. So what I'm seeing in the applicant base on useful school is, is a whole different world from the applicant pool in the public data that I'm seeing in a lot of a CAD design schools, it is a it is a totally different ballgame, which is very exciting for us. So school, to be able to help some of these a cat schools conquer some of these challenges, that there there is room for each of us to play. But there is so much value in us working together and helping solve a lot of these problems that have traditionally not been solved.
And I think that's that's part of the point. I think, usually, entities like this have been pitted against each other. It's either or, and I think it's it's, it's great to consider this as an end, you know, that that's going to give a more holistic approach to any of these people doing this is to understand history to understand current, you know, trends and events. And I think working together like that is going to make one just the students, you know, people learning, you know, more effective at their jobs and actually enjoy it right and not feel like they went to school spent all this money on something that's already outdated. So as we're starting to, to end up, I have a couple final questions. As a designer, what are you still inspired by,
I'm still really inspired by a lot of the apps and websites that are making, making interesting waves in the in the impact space. So an example of an app that I've recently come to fall in love with, is called Be My Eyes. And essentially, what b My eyes is doing is connecting blind folk, with people who can see to help the blind folk achieve some sort of task. So the way it works is that a blind person will sign up on the app. And then on the other side, a person who is able to see signs up on the app. And whenever a blind individual needs help putting up a picture or reading a menu or reading a recipe, they put a call out to all the folks in the Be My Eyes community, of which there's hundreds of 1000s. And the first person to respond, gets to have a call with that individual. Now, what's interesting about it, is that there's way more people that are willing to help that than people that need help, currently, so what's happening is, there's a lot of excitement for the person who can see, to be at ready at a moment's notice and like swipe the notification when there's a call to like really help out. And so what I really love about it is, it's not a crazy technology, it's pairing individuals together that that need it. And there's excitement from the people who are able bodied, to like help. So that's like one example It looks so there's tons of them. Some are on Shark Tank, some are that I've seen like online, but like these types of companies are ones that people love working at because it has so much staying power. And like they're really helping solve a problem. So I'm really inspired whenever I see products and apps like that, because it re energizes the people that I'm working with and gives maybe engineers or designers a new perspective on something that they might have gotten stuck on in the past, they get reinvigorated. And they really love solving these types of problems. And you can make money doing this type of stuff, you can make money running these types of companies. So it's really important for you, as in the audience who's listening to not only come up with an idea, but come up with the business plan, come up with a business model that you think could actually support it, rather than only relying on Angel investors or VC money to like give you money, try to start making money immediately. Rather than waiting for millions and millions of folks to get on the app like that's one thing that I get really excited about is apps and startups that are able to monetize and make impact and not rely on external funding to grow in a big way. Now, I'm not saying useful school is going to turn away investors or anything like that. So if you're listening, I'm super open to having that conversation. But I think there's really something really interesting about having a person of color, create something with very, very little monetary resources, put it out into the world and just check out the reaction and that's essential. What I did, I announced useful school in December. And because of the traction on LinkedIn, and, and on Instagram, and what the emails that I've been getting, that really energized me, and it wasn't a lot of monetary contribution that I had to make in the initial in the initial phase. So that's what gets me really excited, low effort, high impact. Now, useful school is very high effort at this point, but starting out like the nugget and starting to put the idea together low, low effort,
and I think that that's just kind of like, you know, how we need to think about it. So you know, you do a lot of different things. You're, you're a founder of a company, you're volunteers, you're you're sitting down and watching Mark Cuban and Shark Tank and looking at who to cold call next. But let me ask you what part of any of these things were part of that process do you still struggle with,
I would say the part of the process that I get struggle with is not the creative one. In terms of like building something, or optimizing something, it's actually getting paid. So I've been burned multiple times in the past, of doing the work, above and beyond what was agreed to, and not getting paid. And I've had to come up with creative ways to get paid. So an example of that is half my upfront half money when I'm halfway done. And oftentimes, I will beat the deadline that they that they put out for me. So if it's due, if it's due in a couple of weeks, I'll do in one week. And that way, they get really even more excited and saying, Wow, I can't believe I just saved a week, yeah, I'll pay you the rest of the money, or creating a fake email that's like accounting at whatever. And it's run by me, but I'll just reach out to the person say like, Hey, like following up here on the account fortyish. Like, can you please remit payment, that kind of thing. So there's like, interesting ways that like, folks can really be empowered to, like, get their money and get paid. And so I really, obviously, always think about creative ways to like get paid, but I, I do not do any more projects where I don't get paid at least half upfront, because the incentives are aligned, I don't get ghosted by the client, or whoever it might be, or the project doesn't take like way longer. And if not have no no fault of my own, or like any of the things that like occur, like, if you're not willing to pay me, before I start the work even half or a third or something, I know something's up like you're either not trusting of me, or like you don't believe in the work output where I haven't done a good enough job like selling myself, or I haven't done a good enough job proving the value or the speed or what you're going to get. So it's a really big signal to me that like, we need to jump on another call. So let's just talk straight up. And like having all of that stuff be within the lane of within the lane of money has really forced me to not only level up my game, creative creatively, but also selling myself doing better reach out emails, following up and making it really easy for a creator to pay. So I would or a client to pay. So I would, I would say that yeah, the getting paid is something that I can always be working on. Ever since I like did some of these things that I had mentioned, I haven't had a single client be have an issue paying or anything like that. And that's been I've been really fortunate. But that the payment stuff is something I definitely struggled with a little bit in the past.
Yeah, and thank you for bringing that up. Because I think that's one of those things that we really don't talk about the idea of, you know, it's doing the work, it's doing it on time, it's your reputation and things like that, but then it's getting paid, right, we do this for, you know, some type of exchange. And usually it's money, you know, so thank you for just, you know, sharing with the fact that that's always something that is a struggle, even the people who are doing, you know, big time branding, projects, things like that, it still happens. So I think those little nuggets of creating a fake account, as an accountant is is great. I'm going to share that with my portfolio students. The other
thing I want to kind of talk about is if if you're on the client side, you want to make sure that you if you're not in control of the budget, like I've been in the situation before, like if you're not in control of the budget, and somebody else's, you need to make sure that you're not the middle person, where you're just you're, you're neither of the folks the person who's paying and the person who did the work is like you don't you do not like keep them separate and be the middle person because then it reflects on you. You want to just connect them directly and let them handle that stuff because you do not want to be associated with anything related to the finances you want to be associated with the actual creativity in the output of work. So that's another thing I would love for up and comers to to really make sure that they're they're dealing with and like they know that they're very, very clear payments. For the person on the client side, like that you're working with, and very clear payment terms for the agency, and you immediately when the project starts, put them together and get out of that conversation, because you do not want to associate with it,
you know that, then you're just be caught in the middle and always, you know, never really having control of any of that. So no need for that. So, finally, what advice would you give a younger teach entering the industry today?
I would say, and this is this is difficult. But I would say two things. Number one, there's not going to be a lot of people that necessarily look like you. But like, you can definitely be part of that change. And that could actually affect your mental health. So I've had mental health issues, you should be aware reteach, like, in five years, like, you're gonna have these, not everything's gonna be perfect and easy as like college or internships or something you're going to struggle with physically or mentally, and you need to have that support, you need to make sure you have built a support system around you, whether it's mentors, the institutions, that you're part of anything. That's number one. And number two, I would say that you want to work backwards, like what you want to be able to say, in like five years that you accomplish that what would make you really happy and just work backwards from there. So for example, like, if you're, if you'd love to work at a mission driven startup, or for like an online school or something, do what you can, today to like, plan out what what that what those things you're going to build in order to like make that happen. And if that requires you going to the company or the organization or the institution and say like, Hey, I'm not asking for a job right now. But in five years, I would love to work with you. I know, it's a really weird thing to say, but I'm reaching out now. And I just want to know, what are some of the steps you recommend I do to like, get the opportunity to work with you? And it's a very heavy question. And it's a question that really puts a lot of onus on the person answering it. So I don't like recommend just going out to everybody, like 1000s of people just answering this, because it'd be mayhem. But if there's a couple people that you really, really want to work for or with reach out to them and say like, Hey, like I'm interested in potentially working with you. Again, I'm not looking for a job right now. Because oftentimes, people the first time they they reach out to somebody, they're like, Hey, do you have a job? Or like, can I work for you? And sure, I understand like that, that mentality. But you should also be realistic of like, Hey, if you want to eventually be a senior product designer somewhere, and right now you're like a junior product designer, it's gonna take a little bit of time to like, get to that point. So why not like made the connection? Ask them for like some checklists. Or even better, say, like, hey, via email don't even require like a chat a lot. Oftentimes, people like asked like, Hey, can you hop on a phone call, and like, the person has no idea what that phone calls about, just say, via email, or via LinkedIn message be like, Hey, these are a couple of steps that I'm thinking about, like, creating a new logo for myself that like, feels like really optimistic to match my brand. Create, like something on Webflow, like, create a portfolio on Webflow that has a couple of my key projects with a case study. And then ask the person who might be helping you like, Hey, do you think that's enough? And if not, they're probably going to, like, give you a couple extra tips, or give you at least some resource to like look at. And then the best thing about it is, once you're done finishing all that stuff, you go back to that person and be like, Hey, I did it all. Now what type of thing and and that person gave you the signal and not just be like, Hey, if you do these couple of things, you're going to be closer to working with me. And so then it's like, Oh, shit. Now the now this potential person could have given you enough advice, or they're going to tell you, Hey, I actually want you to do now these next couple of things. And so what ends up happening is you now have a potential mentor, and is relatively low effort on like both sides, you're you're not doing like these video chats, you're not doing like these onerous things, you're like very clear on what you have to do. You're obviously doing most of the work. And eventually, that person might become a sponsor for you, they might say like, Hey, Spotify, or Nike or Apple or whatever, I've been working with this person, just like casually mentoring them for the last like, six months, six weeks, year, or whatever. And they've actually done a lot of stuff that I recommend they do. And so I know that they can get the work done, and they can get it on time. They might be a little wet behind the ears or, for lack of better term. But I think we should give this person a shot. Or I think we should give this person a shot. So that's like something I would love to see happen more often on to change the relationship and change the dialogue between the person who wants to get from point A to point B, and the person who's already at B and wants to help that person who who's starting at A. So those are the couple of things that I would say to reteach.
Nice. It seems like once again, practical advice for something and putting a lot of the effort on the person who's wanting it to gain the information and making it easier for that, like you said, that person who's in point B, to oblige, where it's if it's low stakes, it's a lot easier. And I think one of the things I want to take away was this cold call emails with a question, giving that idea that it needs to be answered either negative or positive. But it needs to be answered. Right, which I think sometimes we just open ended don't really give the other person a job to do. They'll just be like, okay, cool. It was a good email I got and you don't know how to respond. Giving them a clear question gives us the opportunity to actually create a one on one. Well, I have they asked me a question I have to answer. Even if I don't want to be part of this, at least I'm going to give them that, that satisfaction. And so lastly, can you tell our listeners where they can find out more about useful school you and ways they can support?
Yeah, absolutely. So you can find useful school on the interwebs. So we've got www useful school.com Super easy. And Instagram is useful. school.com, D O T CLM. And if they want to reach out to me directly, they can just hit me up via email, reteach ri T sh, at useful school calm. And if any individuals want to do the following things I super welcome it. So if there's any potential students that want to be part of useful school and take any of our classes, please don't hesitate to apply. And let me know like what kind of classes you're interested in. Number two, if you're fortunate enough to have some some money to contribute, consider going to our gift page and and contributing, you're going to be able to sponsor the folks who aren't able to pay and you're going to be really making a huge difference in somebody's life. And then number three, if you're a part of a company that is super Designer Friendly, and very inclusive, and wants to become even more inclusive, then please consider sponsoring, email me at reteach at useful to school.com for some really interesting partnership ideas that I have, that a lot of other companies have been really interested in. And I'm really glad to say that you'd be joining the ranks of Mother design standards, manual order, and a lot of others that are going to be posted and publicized very, very soon. So you're going to be in really great company. Outside of that. If you have anything. Any advice for me, feel free to hit me up in the DMS either personally on LinkedIn, on Instagram, or email me
perfect. I'll put all that info in the show notes so people can reach out to you. You know, when this comes up, you know, I am so glad to get you on the podcast because this is something that I focus on as well, you know, acts as an opportunity for emerging designers. I was so intrigued by your concept. And of course, its practical nature. We need to meet creatives, where they are and offer them opportunities to grow and expand. And I see useful as an outlet to have that happen. You know, I hope that anyone who looks to dive into product design, go check out the opportunity. It's a beautiful website, but it's also an impactful one to really get you to understand and delve into this world. And I know there's going to be future cohorts. Once again reteach thanks again for this chat and I look forward to hearing about all the great outcomes what's to come from useful.