I recently had the honor of doing an exclusive interview for Revision Path, a dedicated resource set on inspiring, empowering and educating the community of black graphic and web design professionals.
Designer and Revision Path editor Siedah Mitchum really made me dig deep into what inspired me to start my design firm, theComplex Media, and why I launched an online publication, Sinuous Magazine.
We also dove into some of my hardships, biggest business fears, what inspires me to keep going, and so much more.
Check out a couple of snippets below, read the full interview, and watch one of the most inspiring videos I can ever share with you:
A fear when it comes to the future of your businesses:
“The what if. “What if this doesn’t work?” “What if I fail?” It’s a toxic question, so it’s a matter of ignoring it, which is easier said than done…”
How do you manage to handle both businesses?
“It means I don’t sleep, I have very little free time, and I sacrifice a lot. Launching the second business has definitely consumed my life. My friends and family actually resent it a bit. But the year I launched the magazine, I saw a clip of Eric Thomas, the Hip-hop Preacher talking about “wanting success like you want to breathe.” I hear those words in my head daily and even play the video when I start to get weary. I want to be successful as much I want to breathe, period.”
Do you feel you had more obstacles to face in this industry as a young African American woman?
“I get his question a lot and absolutely. Young, means you don’t know anything. Black means you’re immediately inferior and you can only enjoy certain things designated as “Black,” which in the U.S., excludes the rest of the diaspora.
And being female means you only talk about Louis Vuitton shoes and lip gloss. I’ve spent most of my life proving I have a mind.”
Eric Thomas, The Hip Hop Preacher: “Want success like you want to breathe…”
As I recently watched a social justice campaign get criticized, partially for encouraging what some call “Facebook Activism,” it has left me puzzled.
Maybe these critics have never seen how effective just getting people to share your message can be or how difficult it is for many. Perhaps I “get it” because I use social tools to keep up and stay involved with the charities I support and the issues that matter to me.
Frankly, I avoid watching the news and wouldn’t know much of anything was going on without social channels. U.S. news outlets completely infuriate me and even after a few minutes of Al Jazeera English or RT, both of which I prefer following online than watching, I can’t take anymore.
When something really big is happening, it’s usually breaking on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and even Youtube before major outlets say a peep.
But I’ve considered that maybe I’ve only found value in social media’s role in driving my online and offline activism because part of my profession is in social media, oh—and perhaps an unhealthy addiction to the internet.
Through a skeptical view of social media, Morozov brings up several valid points, including the fact that these social media campaigns tend to lean in one direction—and often omit important facts that I’ve sometimes had to discover in my own research on any given issue. Read an excerpt:
Let’s not allow cyber-utopianism to prevent us from getting all the facts straight. The Arab Spring is not just about brave activists toppling ruthless dictators.
It is also about the complicity of Western ﬁrms selling surveillance and censorship technology to themost heinous regimes in the world.
It is about the ability of authoritarian governments to completely turn off the Internet with a kill switch.
It is about the despicable and unnecessary legalistic policies of sites like Facebook that insisted that no Egyptian or Tunisian dissidents could use their services unless they set up accounts using their realnames rather than pseudonyms.
It is about the embarrassing stance of Western politicians who showed that concerns about Internet freedom would always take second seat to broader concerns about “stability” – even if delivered by dictators – in a traditionally volatile region.
While appreciating his point of view, my eyes began to wander down to the comments—often my favorite areas on sites because those dialogues can be very insightful.
A long, but worth-reading comment by Ralph immediately caught my attention and I couldn’t help but to share his thoughts with you:
“When Typhoon Ketsana (Typhoon Ondoy locally) hit the Philippines, the damage was horrific.
More than 700 people died and the capita, l Manila, ground to a halt as it turned into a series of islands as the flood submergeds everything low-lying, rendering most roads impassable.
Government rescue and relief operations was spotty and ineffective. In the hours and days that followed, Facebook, Twitter and mobile phones helped organize civilian operations.
Thousands of people were literally saved by volunteers on surfboards, boats, dinghies and even makeshift rafts.
Personally, my college friends and I helped organize a relief drive, asking for donations thru Twitter and Facebook. We had only expected our college community to help out, but as retweets, copy+pasted status messages and shares spread, donations poured in from the greater metropolitan area, with people literally dropping off donations at our doors and rushing off home or to help somewhere else.
We actually had to refer and divert a major portion of donations to other relief centers as we were operating at full capacity in just a couple days.
In just six days, more than 14,000 packed meals were distributed to refugee centers and several tons of donations were sorted, packed and given to rescue and relief groups for distribution.
Not bad for social media. Again, the lowest common denominator determines what these tools can be used for.”
Lanaé has been featured on Mark Bailey‘s The Dogg Blogg to celebrate Women’s History Month! See below:
Continuing with The Dogg Blogg Women’s History Month Series this week’s feature is Lanaé (theComplex Media & Design).
I have always admired her work and was honored to feature her. What I most admired was her ability to transcend her knowledge of design and eye for that perfect look into many different mediums; from photography to multimedia to print and web design.
Some people have a way of looking at things in a way that inspires the right design and Lanaé is one of those people.
DOGG BLOG: I have always enjoyed your [Sinuous Magazine] because it doesn’t only focus on design but everything that is influenced by design such as photography, fashion, music, film, etc. What topic do you enjoy writing about the most?
Lanaé: Thank you so much, firstly. I think the posts that I get into the most are the controversial ones, the politics behind the music, art or technology. I’m from a family of debaters so I’m always ready to ruffle feathers! I get very excited and also nervous when they are about to publish. Next in line would be our creative features, I absolutely love showcasing the amazing work of others.
DB: You attended and graduated from The Art Institute of New York City so you do have some formal training. Do you find that you are still constantly learning?
Lanaé: Absolutely! Every single day, especially with the ability to connect with other designers on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, I learn something new constantly. I had taught myself HTML by the time I reached middle school so going to school for design as a young adult laid a foundation and opened my world. As design evolves, I keep myself submerged therefore learning is unavoidable.
DB: While in school did you see a lot of women in your field of study (Web Design and Multimedia).
Lanaé: We started out with a lot of young women, most of them being in the Graphic Design program, while there were just a few of us in the Multimedia and Web Design program. Most of the school assumed I was a fashion student. By the time graduation came, I was the only female left in my program. The ultimate goal with theComplex Media would be to provide a program that pushes more girls who are interested in design and IT toward those fields.
DB: From your obvious fashion sense to the clean look of your web and print designs, it’s obvious you have an eye for design. When did you decide to go into this field?
Lanaé: In my junior year of high school, I decided that I’d study design and get a job in that field to support myself through law school. However, once I reached New York City and the SoHo neighborhood that AINY resides in, my life was officially consumed with art. And as our final exhibition approached, our Advanced Typography instructor had a former student speak. He was a black 26-year-old Art Director at Sean John with a beautiful body of work and I immediately said, “that’s it, I’m going to do that… even in a field where Art/Creative Directors are typically no younger than 40.”
DB: If you aren’t afraid to give up your secret recipe, what are some of your favorite photography and graphic design software and tools?
Lanaé: I have no problem mentioning my most used tools, the software and tools really only make things easier, they in no way make or break good design. My Canon XTi is my baby and Photoshop is my most used software for both graphics and photo manipulation.
DB: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Lanaé: Everything I see or hear becomes inspiration. For instance, words on a page are no longer just words on a page, they are shapes on a canvas. I try to take notes of everything I see and like.
DB: What advice would you give someone that wants to turn their designer’s eye into a solid business.
Lanaé: As I’m also still a student in this area, I’d suggest having patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight without taking the necessary steps toward each goal. After 6 years in the design field, I still have to repeat this major rule to myself.