Revision Path's Maurice Cherry on creating opportunities and shining a light on others
Designer, podcaster, and pioneering digital creator, Maurice Cherry, joins us on Overtime. In this episode, Maurice shares what he’s up to at Glitch as the Head of Media and the history behind how Revision Path became a podcast and how it’s grown and changed in the last 5 years. He also shares the intention behind the 28 Days of the Web project—an initiative to profile different black designers and developers during the month of February.
Dan and Maurice also discuss what professional design organizations are bringing to the table and if our industry actually needs them. Maurice also shares thoughts on the work the AIGA is doing and how it could be improved. You’ll want to listen until the end to hear about the BIG project Maurice is working on next that includes hearing from the next generation of designers and he shares some super simple advice for designers.
Links Mentioned on Overtime
- Maurice Cherry
- Maurice Cherry on Twitter
- Revision Path
- Black Weblog Awards
- Where are the black designers?
- 28 Days of the Web
- Maurice Cherry to receive 2018 Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary
- Dear AIGA, Goodbye. by Timothy Bardlavens
- Design’s Lost Generation by Mike Monteiro
Dan Cederholm: Right now I’m on your page mauricecherry.com, which by the way is awesome because it’s got this crazy photo of you in the background that’s rainbow ish and it’s like a bad VHS tape but in a good way. But it’s cool because it looks like everything you’re doing right now. Which I think is like, I wish every guest I had on here had this because it makes my job easy. But, yeah, I mean, right now you’re head of media, right? At Glitch?
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, that’s right. I’m the head of media at Glitch. For those who might not be familiar with Glitch, Glitch is a community and a website where you can find and discover the best stuff on the web whether you want to build a simple app or you want to build a website or you just want to see what other people in the community have created, you can find all of that on Glitch.
Dan Cederholm: It’s super cool. I feel like the goal of Glitch is like lofty in a good way. Like it’s, how do we get people designing and developing apps, and sharing the code and having people be able to remix it. There’s a whole bunch of different things I love about it. But how did you get involved in it initially?
Maurice Cherry: Well, that’s interesting. So, I started out at Glitch as just a content marketer. I was just writing for their blog. Writing about different apps that people in the community have created. And when I say apps, I’m not necessarily talking about a mobile application that you get from the Google Play Store, or from the App Store. App, in this instance, I’m talking about an overall web based application or progressive web application or something to that effect. Where you can play it in the browser, you can play it on mobile, et cetera. And even play I think, is a bit of a stretch because some things are games, some of these are tools, some of these are back end things where you can make slack bots and Alexa skills and things of that nature. So, I started out as just a content marketer and then as I got deeper into the company and learn more about the product and everything I sort of branched out, started doing more design related things, and then now I’ve branched out into doing more media related things as the head of media at Glitch.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah. Which is awesome. I mean, aside from Glitch, which is great and then obviously probably takes up a lot of your time, but you’ve got these other projects as well. Revision Path for instance, you’re a podcast host as well, which is awesome for me because I can pick your brain at some point about how to make this show better because you’ve been doing that for a long time. Tell us about the motivation and inspiration was to put it out.
Maurice Cherry: Sure. The initial motivation and inspiration behind Revision Path actually came from a previous project that I started in 2004 called the Black Weblog Awards. What the Black Weblog Awards was a way to recognize and showcase bloggers and podcasters which were, they were around back then, podcasters and even burgeoning video bloggers to recognize the work that they were doing in a way that could just sort of showcase the diversity that I thought was present in the blogosphere. I don’t even know if people still use the term blogosphere anymore, but I’m-
Dan Cederholm: I do actually.
Maurice Cherry: … I’m bringing it back.
Dan Cederholm: Let’s bring it back.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. So, in 2006, I was working actually at AT&T as a designer and one of the new categories I wanted to add to the Black Weblog Awards was best blog design because I was designing blog templates, I had friends of mine that designed blog templates for movable type for back in the day for WordPress, et cetera, and I felt like we were doing great work, but just we’re not getting any sort of recognition. And I wanted to do something around what black designers were doing then, but I just did not have the time. I was working a full-time job, I was doing the Black Weblog Awards on the side and I was in graduate school. So, I had a lot of things that were going on at that time that I just didn’t have the bandwidth to pursue this other project.
Dan Cederholm: Sure.
Maurice Cherry: It wasn’t until seven years later in 2013, and by this time I had quit an AT&T, started my studio and I had just hit about the five-year mark at my studio called Lunch. It was at this point when I decided I wanted to kind of revisit this idea. Like, well, I’ve got the time now and I’ve got the space to do this so let’s get it started.
So, initially, Revision Path was just a series of long-form interviews like 1,000 to 2,000-word interviews with people. And that was a bit kind of hard to keep up because it was just me, and trying to get people to answer questions back and forth over email proved to be a bit tedious. It wasn’t until I want to say, it was like June of that year when someone who had been reading Revision Path contacted me and she said that she would be in town and wanted to know if we could record an interview. I had no recording equipment, but I said, “Sure, let’s do it.”
So, we met up, I remember exactly where we recorded. It’s at a restaurant here in Atlanta called One Eared Stag in Inman Park and we recorded the very first episode of Revision Path on my mobile phone at the time. I think it was the Google G1, like the very first Google phone. I think it was one I recorded on. I just had the phone on the table. So, like, the audio is terrible. You could hear every plate and fork clink and move and it’s really bad. I’ve kept it up just because I want people to see where this started and how it’s grown since then. But that was the beginning of it. So, once I did that first episode, it became a lot easier to schedule people for maybe 60 to 90 minutes and talk to them, rather than go back and forth over email over a few weeks to try to get a long form interview.
So, once I got about, I want to say maybe about 15 interviews under my belt, that’s when I initially just transitioned Revision Path over into just a podcast. So, we’ll kind of this hybrid mix of interview, long-form interviews and podcasts for about six to nine months and then I finally just rebirthed it as a podcast. That was in 2014. Ever since then, we’ve had weekly episodes with black designers, developers, creators, digital makers, from all over the world. Mostly, I think most of the guests are from here in the United States. We’ve managed to also talk to people throughout the Caribbean, throughout Europe, throughout Africa, Australia. I would love at some point this year if I could hit South America and Asia. So, we managed to really branch out into a lot of places. Again, these are weekly episodes. We are, I think over, I know it’s over 275 episodes at this point.
Dan Cederholm: Holy moly.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. So, we’ve been keeping it going for, it’ll be six years at the end of February will be our anniversary.
Dan Cederholm: That’s fantastic. Congrats, by the way. Cheers.
Maurice Cherry: Thank you.
Dan Cederholm: That’s a lot of episodes.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Dan Cederholm: What was it like starting it? Like, it started as a written interview and then went to podcast, but was it difficult when it first started or was the reaction to it initially, like, really, really positive and-
Maurice Cherry: Oh, no, it was terrible. When I first started the reaction was horrible because this was also at a time when conversations around diversity and technology and design started to reach a head, and so, what I started to get back was a lot of negative feedback about the show because people wanted to know why was I only talking to black designers. To which my retort would be, “Well, why is your show not talking to black designers? Like I could look through your archive page, and we’re not there. So, what’s that about?”
Dan Cederholm: Yeah. That’s surprising that there’s negative.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. We reached out to a lot of design show, some of which are still around, reached out to a lot of them, just not to try to get myself on the show, but more-so just to kind of say, “Hey, we’re here with this resource. If you’re looking for people, we’ve talked to these folks. So, if you want to talk to them, I can do an introduction.” Like my whole thing, when I started Revision Path was to make it be a platform for black designers and developers and stuff, period. It wasn’t a platform for myself.
So, I’m like, if I can get these other people on these other shows and then help increase their reach out into the community, then that’s even better. But no, we got a lot of negative pushback in the beginning. And certainly in 2014 and 2015 I was really trying to do a lot of just collaborating with other design podcasters because the show was new and I felt like I needed to do that in order to stake some claim of legitimacy as to what I was doing and what I was getting back was just a lot of negative feedback. You know, we don’t talk about race, like all this sort of stuff.
It wasn’t until 2015 when I presented at SXSW that the tide sort of turned. So, I did a solo presentation at SXSW called Where are the black designers. This was done in conjunction with AIGA, because also at the time I served on AIGA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. And so, being on the task force allowed me to gain access to certain archives and research that I was able to use in my presentation. So, my presentation wasn’t just where are black designers, we don’t see them? I backed it up with statistics and anecdotes and everything to show like, this is what the community looks like, this is not a new conversation. This is something that’s been going on for the better part of almost 30 years, and so we have to ask the question again, like, Where are we? Because it’s not like we’re just in the shadows or hiding, we’re here, but maybe you’re just not paying attention to us and clearly these are what the numbers are showing.
Like, the industry itself is not setup socio economically to allow black designers to become more integrated into the community than what they already are? Like, that’s sort of what the the basis of the argument was for the presentation.
Dan Cederholm: Fast forward to now 2019, do you feel like the climate is different or hopefully better, or worse? I don’t know. You tell me…
Maurice Cherry: No. I feel like people are more cognizant of the issue. I don’t feel like the underlying social economic factors have changed. I would wager. They’ve probably gotten worse under our current administration. Just in terms of economic solvency and stuff, but … For example, if pipelines are set up between design schools and companies, but these design schools have tuitions of $40,000 to $50,000 a year, but the Pew Research Institute is saying that the average black family only has X number thousand dollars of wealth, it kind of becomes a bit of a leap to even be in their presence where you can afford to attend the school to be in this pipeline to be part of the industry in this specific way. But that’s just one thing though, that’s not an excuse overall.
I mean, the good thing about this industry is that you can really become a designer just from your own bedroom and your own laptop. So, those aren’t things, those educational institutions and things aren’t stopping you from getting there, but I think when the issue comes from the industry, like, “Oh, we can’t find black designers. We’re looking at SVA, and we’re looking at Pratt, and we looking at these places. The question then becomes, why are you only looking at these sort of esteemed hallowed institutions and not in other parts of the community and other groups or things of that nature.
So, the other part of the conversation with the presentation was to show, hey, here’s where these pockets are and here’s where you can find them. It wasn’t just giving you a problem or presenting the problem. It was also presenting the solution as well. So, yeah, I gave them at SXSW and there were a lot of companies there that were in attendance. Although I should say the presentation itself was sparsely attended. I think there were maybe about 15 or 20 people there. SXSW has this really nefarious habit, and I’ll call it out, I don’t care because I’m not speaking of South by again. But South by has this really nefarious habit of putting all of the diversity programming in the farthest end of the convention center on the top floor, and so you really have the trick to get all the way to nine ABC, and the people who know this know this, you have to trick there and you basically have to camp out in that part of the convention center if you want to catch a lot of diversity programming.
Now, granted SXSW now has ballooned well outside of the Austin Convention Center. There are places that are all over the city. I would wager that makes it even more difficult because now you’ve got programming and all these other places, you’re never going to be able to catch everything at the same time. It’s kind of a big mess. So, my presentation had about 15, 20 people in it. Some people were asleep, some people just popped in to charge their phone.
Dan Cederholm: Oh, jeez. Oh, man.
Maurice Cherry: But for the ones that were there, they actually came to talk to me afterwards. So for example, Forest Young who’s the head of design at Wolff Olins, we had representatives that there were there from Facebook, from Pinterest, from, I think there was someone there from Dell. So, I got to talk to them after the presentation, and so they of course, wanted to know more and wanted to learn about what I was doing and things of that nature.
So, that was the turning point where I saw, “Why am I trying to chase these other design podcasts when I can just stay in this lane and just make my show the best it can be for what it is. So, that’s where my mindset changed to just focus on making the best show that I can with what I have, and then utilize resources from within that instead of trying to kind of seek this collaboration from the design community that I wasn’t getting. And what ended up happening was in years later, is that now those … Well, not those same outlets, but certainly other parts of the design community then came to me because they saw what I was doing and I didn’t have to seek them out.
Dan Cederholm: One of the themes that pops up on this show, actually, sort of unintentional, but a lot of successful designers and creative people, there seems to be a drive to share that and share what they’re learning and share like … Or just like, I’m hearing you talk about Revision Path and how you wanted to shine a light on folks that maybe didn’t have a light shining on them. Where does that drive come from in your life in terms of, you’re not just designing, you’re not just creating things, but you’re actually like, that has a purpose too behind it.
Maurice Cherry: Well, I feel like, there’s work out there for all of us, we just have to go and find it. And I think what kind of just ends up being that barrier is really just having the opportunity. For many of the people whom I’ve had on the show, just that interview is the opportunity to help elevate them to whatever the next thing might be because people may look at the show and think, “Oh, it’s just a show,” they might think that it’s small or whatever, but a lot of people are listening. So, they may find out about who you are from this show and want to learn more and then maybe that means they book you for a gig, or they want you to come speak, or they want to hire you, or anything like that.
I just feel like if I’m building this platform, and again, this not being for me because I feel like in my own professional life I think I was doing pretty good. I mean, I feel like we all feel like we could be doing better, but I think I was doing pretty good and so I wasn’t doing this as some sort of way to make myself look better. I’m like, there’s so many people out there that are in all different parts of the country, of the world. They just need somebody to know who they are and what they’re doing. So, this interview as benign as it may seem, is something where people can find out about what you’re passionate about. What your process is about and because it’s presented in this way that’s not a static website or a basic resume, people really get a sense of who you are as a person and not just as a set of hands that can do tasks. You know what I mean?
Dan Cederholm: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Dan Cederholm: Totally. I love that. That’s wonderful. That’s always been the most, for Dribbble for me, that’s always been the most satisfying part of helping the community and just trying to shine a light on folks. Not based on popularity or whatever, just sort of like giving people a platform, yeah, to get to the next thing. So, my hats are off to you. It’s awesome-
Maurice Cherry: Thank you.
Dan Cederholm: … what you’ve created. For so many years too now. I mean, its persistence.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I mean, right along with doing, and I should mention this, right along with doing Revision Path, in 2014 we also started this sort of sister site called 28 Days of the Web. So, with 20 Days of the Web, in February, what we do is we just do a small profile on a different black designer developer somewhere in the world. February’s a great time to do it. There’s 28 days so we have 14 men, 14 women, equal parody along the board. For leap year we throw in an additional person. So, we’ve done that since 2014. We’ll be coming up on our sixth installment this year, great class of people that are going to be coming up. I can’t wait for folks to check that out.
Dan Cederholm: So, I love that the name of your talk at SXSW was, where are the block designers, but then you’re like answering the question. Or you’re helping to answer the question by these things. It’s super great.
Maurice Cherry: Because I think, aside from in my presentation where I said, there are these Facebook groups and meetups and things like that, of course, I also plug Revision Path because I’m like, “Yeah, we’re also here,” but the purpose of the presentation wasn’t just to plug the show. It’s part of that, like, people certainly can check it out and people have checked it out, but it’s more so just to show that we’re in more places than you think. So, if you’re only looking in these one or two spots and not finding what you’re looking for, maybe you need to adjust your lens and look in other places.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah, open up your circle of whatever you’re looking through.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Dan Cederholm: Absolutely. You mentioned earlier, you mentioned AIGA and that you were on a, it was at a task force, I believe you said.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah. Then you also, I think it’s last year, you received Steven Heller award from AIGA.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, it was both myself and Allison Arieff, who’s a creative director, we both received the Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary.
Dan Cederholm: Cultural Commentary, right.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Dan Cederholm: Which is fantastic. Congrats on that too.
Maurice Cherry: Thank you. It’s the first time they’ve done it for a podcast too.
Dan Cederholm: Is it really? Oh, man, that’s awesome.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, because it’s usually a writing price. So, the first person who wanted won it was, who I think at the time was doing design writing for The New York Times. She might still be doing that. And then Allison does writing. She’s done books, magazines, et cetera. So, for me to have done it and it’s for a podcast, I think is pretty dope.
Dan Cederholm: That’s super great. Now, this is a leading question, but what’s your involvement with AIGA today?
Maurice Cherry: I’m no longer a member of AIGA. I recently discovered that my membership had been terminated about 10 days after I got my award, and I didn’t know this at the time. I did not know that at the time. I was still doing things with AIGA. I had been to AIGA headquarters, sat down with the then executive director, and her and I are still super cool and everything. So, it’s not like I wasn’t still doing things for the organization. I was no longer a member of the task force. That was something that I only did a three year stint with them. So, back in 2017, I was no longer with them as of I think July of 2017. But I was still doing things with AIGA, I was going to different chapters whenever I was in a different city, I will try to meet up with people from other chapters and just try to break bread and learn about what the design community is like where they are. So, it wasn’t like I wasn’t still doing things on behalf of the organization.
When I discovered that, it was a bit surprising. I only discovered it because I needed to change my credit card. I had to change my credit card information that I logged in and it’s like, oh, I’m not a member anymore. When I saw that, I had to decide if I wanted to become a member again. And with that I had to reassess what does AIGA, what significance does that organization have on my current life as a creative? Like, I’m not actively designing anymore. Now I’m working in media, but then as I think back to even the volunteer work that I’ve done, the experiences I’ve had with different chapters, et cetera, I had to think, is this something that’s really for me right now? And so I decided it wasn’t and I didn’t renew.
I know that they’re going through some changes right now in terms of leadership. I am not sure where they stand with that in terms of finding a new executive director. I think they have someone in the interim right now, but one thing that I certainly got from people throughout the time when I did serve with AIGA is questioning the importance of the organization to the modern designer.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah, sure.
Maurice Cherry: I think AIGA as an organization has always struggled with diversity, always. And this is not just from what I know right now, but even when I was doing my research for my presentation, I can see that they were struggling with it back in like the 90s. So, historically the organization’s always kind of had problems with that. One thing when I was on the task force we were trying to do was like actually have a diversity and inclusion fellow at headquarters. We had put together a proposal. It was me and a couple of other people tried to put together a proposal to hire someone to take this seriously. And I think they ended up hiring someone for a while, but they were kind of pigeon holed. They couldn’t really do much outside of that one particular role.
What I also found is that I think diversity and inclusion in terms of the importance with the organization changes with whomever is the leader. Whatever the leadership looks like. So, I would always have black designers asked me like, “Well, why should I join?” And oftentimes I couldn’t really give them a convincing answer. I mean, I can tell them why I was a part of it, but I can’t say that they would join and get those same benefits. Largely, people were apprehensive because they had bad experiences with their individual chapter. That includes me as well. They had a bad experience with their individual chapter that made them not want to become a member. I ended up getting recruited from the national board from someone else. Like my local chapter had nothing to do with my current involvement at the time with AIGA.
So, even, there are other issues that have come across with AIGA as to like, how do they view UX designers? I know that there was a conversation that went on maybe about a year or so ago between Timothy Bardlavens who does UX at Microsoft in Seattle. And the AIGA about kind of where the organization places UX designers in terms of whom they consider designers are product designers. Someone that AIGA considers, you know, when we look at a lot of where modern design is right now, it kind of comes out of Silicon Valley in New York, and it comes out of this very kind of product based mindset. Does that work well with an organization that’s mostly about print. Those are sort of the kinds of things that I was thinking about when it came time for me to renew my membership. Like, I don’t know if this is something that really serves me anymore as a creative and so I just didn’t join again.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah, that brings up a lot of interesting questions about organizations and their role and how they’ve evolved since, you know, from print days to current like design means so much. Yeah, so much more today than it did 50 years ago.
Maurice Cherry: And, AIGA is an old organization. They’re over 100 years old.
Dan Cederholm: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: Unfortunately, they have not really changed with the times that much in terms of being able to, I think really be a steward and a partner and a voice for modern designers. A lot of that, I think, just stems from leadership. I know I can tell you personally from just the times that I spent with the task force, there were lots of things that we tried to accomplish that we just couldn’t get done because it was just held up in red tape. There were webinars we wanted to have, and initiatives we wanted to do and things of that nature. Or we couldn’t even really tell people the stuff that we weren’t doing, because it would just get held up in some sort of way by someone else further up the chain at headquarters. It got to be very bureaucratic in a way that it shouldn’t have been because we’re all volunteering. Like, don’t treat us like employees. We’re not getting paid all of can walk off right now you would have nobody. So, let’s be cautious of people’s times, we’re all working adults here.
But I think, I just wonder like what design organizations out there are really I guess, viable for modern designers. I don’t know if there are any that really kind of, I guess, stake that claim, at least here in the US I should say that I think in Canada it’s a different story. I think they Have two agencies one is RGD and I forget what the other one is, but there are the certain kind of placement test that you take and so then if you’re a member and you have on your resume that you’re like RGD level what have you, that signifies to that employer or whomever that, oh, you come with this set of skills to the table, like I said-
Dan Cederholm: I see. It’s more of a certification-
Maurice Cherry: Right, it’s more of a certification and I know that Mike Monteiro for example, has been someone that has been trying to start this conversation about, should designers be certified? Mike Monteiro is also someone who has spoken against AIGA, and I sort of feel like now if you’re an AIGA member and you apply at a company, it really doesn’t mean anything. I think I said for recording you’re kind of like saying you’re a member of the subway sub club if you’re a member of a IGA. It’s like, “Oh, me too.” It doesn’t connote any level of your professional ability, your time in the industry, or your standards or ethics to that company. I think that’s in large part because AIGA has largely failed by trying to make themselves a part of the business design community in that way so that maybe, well, I guess maybe like HP and Adobe, maybe more design focused companies like that. But like, if you apply a drop box, or you say your AIGA member, I don’t know if that really sets you apart.
Dan Cederholm: You’re right. So, maybe there’s room for an organization that is more certification based or skills based, right?
Maurice Cherry: I think so, but then also, the question is, do we even need that? Sort of, as we spoke to before, the beauty of being a designer at least here in, and this is a largely US centric view point here. The beauty of being able to be a designer here is that you don’t need to have went to like a four year institution or anything. As long as you’ve got the skills, you can get ahead. Of course, you’d have to have the opportunity and work your way up, but the barrier to entry is not as high as it would be in other places. I mean, certainly I know from talking with designers in other countries where their design culture is not as, I guess, open to newcomers as it is here, or maybe it’s more commerce base. So if you get a job, it can only be in advertising. You’re not necessarily a freelancer or something to that effect.
So, we, I think we kind of have it made here, and that way and that we really, if you have, good skills with Sketch or with Figma or a Photoshop or what have you, and you’ve got a good portfolio and you apply somewhere, you can probably get noticed, whereas in other places, that might not be the case. And so, while we think about the viability of design organizations, the question also should be at least here, is that something we really even need? What are the needs of the modern designer that a professional organization can advocate for? Is it unions? Is it fair wages? Is it fair hours? Like what are those things.
Certainly if you’re like an architect or a doctor or a dentist or something, you have your governing licensing body organization. You’ve got, AIAE, ADA, AMA, et cetera. If you’re just like a product designer in Austin, like, who’s advocating for your work as a designer in that way. So, I think those are questions-
Dan Cederholm: Well it’s good that we we can’t harm people with bad design.
Maurice Cherry: Well, Now that’s a conversation we want to have. We can certainly have that conversation because certainly I think if there’s anything that we’ve seen within the past two and a half years, is that design can be weaponized in a way that can have disastrous results nationwide.
Dan Cederholm: It’s true.
Maurice Cherry: Fake news.
Dan Cederholm: So, you could use that as an argument that it would be helpful to have some certification.
Maurice Cherry: I think so, but these are conversations and questions that are kind of, I think worth asking. People rag on AIGA a lot and I get it. I get it, I do, but then also it’s like do we even need an AIGA like organization, and if we do what are they going to be tasked with helping us with as designers? Is it just so we can be taken more seriously or are there needs that we have as a governing professional body that a professor organization can advocate for?
Dan Cederholm: That’s an interesting question. To switch gears slightly, you, I think you mentioned earlier before we started recording that writer, about writing, and how important writing is and that more writers should be designers or maybe be considered desires, but I wonder if we could go there for a little bit because I thought that was interesting.
Maurice Cherry: Sure. So, this was something which really came to me, well, I’m not going to say it came to me when I got the award. That’s not true. I used to teach design back in, oh my god, like 2010, 2011. I actually used to recommend one of your books to my students. I told you this earlier. I used to recommend books, but I would always stress to my students, then that it was important for them to at least be able to write and communicate their ideas. It’s not just enough to be able to design a website, but like content is part of that. Content has to fill in the gaps between your pretty images and your nice layout. So you have to consider that as you design and they just even think about it, but in that respect, we’re looking at content as a utility.
Now, when I won the Steven Heller Prize last year, that got me to thinking about, what are the contributions that designers are making towards like the corpus of design history? Certainly as I’ve been podcasting and I’ve been talking to many people, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of design luminaries like face to face. Of course, Steven Heller, for the eponymous award. Debbie Millman, Paula Scher, Eddie Opara, Seymour Chwast.
Like, I’ve gotten to meet Susan Kare. I’ve gotten to meet like some of the titans of design. People that have tons of books written about them and they’ve written tons of books. They’re in magazines, they’ve done interviews, et cetera. I’ve gotten to meet them, and it got me to thinking and this might be a little more of it, but it’s like, okay, who’s going to be the generation after them? They’re not going to live on forever, maybe, of course, their work will, but who’s the next generation of designers that are putting out the books that are writing this sort of stuff because a lot of what we’re doing is digital. So, of course, we’ve got, all this digital ephemera with websites and things of that nature, but who’s writing books? I think Timothy Goodman is writing books.
I’m trying to think who else? I don’t know. Jessica Hische probably, but like who is out there like putting out Sagmeister, of course Sagmeister is, but who is the next generation of designers that are creating works that are going to illustrate what it is to be a designer at this time whether that’s expository things like tutorials, or whether it’s more didactic things like textbooks, or essays, or things of that nature. So, that really got me to thinking about really, I think, just people of color in general, and how are we contributing to that. I mean, we have this digital medium, that’s the internet and that’s great, but like there’s still libraries and there’s still schools and things of that nature where maybe it’s not really being used as much as we’re using in a major metropolitan areas, and also in other countries that work could be translated in some sort of way.
So, one of the projects that I have for this year which I guess I can talk about here, it’s starting to materialize is that I’m working on putting together a digital anthology of design writers of color. We’re going to start out with just one version. Hopefully it’ll be, I hope to have it released by the end of this year, but start out with a few people. And I want them to just write about, well, we’ll see what they write about. I’m not sure what they’re going to write about. I don’t want them to just do tutorials. Certainly I don’t want that, but I want to be able to start finding out who that next generation of people are, or at least inspire the next generation to start putting work out there.
One thing that I used to do on Revision Path is that we had a blog and I would hire writers to write about design topics. We had, I think, during the tenure that we had our blog, I want to say we had about 15 to 16 writers. So, they were putting out original pieces, maybe every week, maybe every month, something like that. But the work was out there so people could see like, oh, these are designers that are writing. Maybe they’re writing about a project that they’ve worked on, or their writing about entrepreneurship, or they’re writing about branding or anything, but they’re just putting something out there. I want to be able to create a platform, at least to start off, that will allow me to find who that next generation is that’s going to be contributing to design history in that way.
Dan Cederholm: Wow. That sounds fantastic.
Maurice Cherry: It’s a big project. I’m really looking forward to really getting it started. I’ve just been right now getting my footing with things that are going on at work, but certainly, I think by March we’ll start kind of really like putting it out there so people, if they want to get involved can find out more about it.
Dan Cederholm: That’s amazing. Another great question. You’re asking all sorts of great questions. What’s the next generation of leadership in design? So much has changed. It’s moving so quickly. It’s hard to it’s hard to even imagine. But I got to end with a question for you about advice for, because you’ve been in the industry for a long time and and you’ve put a lot of teams together. You’ve been in charge of putting teams together, and just like, what sort of advice for up and coming designers out there to move ahead?
Maurice Cherry: I feel like the easiest advice I can give is to just keep all of your stuff up to date. Like, if you’re on LinkedIn, if you’re on Dribbble, for example, make sure your contact information is correct. Make sure you’re putting out whatever the latest work is. I actually set a calendar reminder for myself. You mentioned my now page on my website. I have a calendar invite to remind myself every month to update something. Like make sure the contact form on your website is working. Make sure that the email is spelled correctly. That is if you want to be contacted. Don’t get me wrong. I know there are people that are in positions, and maybe they’re happy where they are, and they don’t want to be bothered. And that’s fine, at least say that. Not accepting solicitations.
Something to that effect, but certainly I know this from just doing the podcast and trying to book people. It’s always amazing that people feel like they’ve been hidden in some sort of way. Like you’ve got a website, you’ve got to LinkedIn profile, et cetera. I contact them and they’re like, “How did you find me?” I’m like, “Well, your information is out there on the web? Did you not want to be found?” I would say if there’s one piece of advice I would give is, is make sure your contact information is up to date. If you want to be contacted. If you don’t want to be contacted, certainly, at least say that much, but I’m wondering how many people might be missing out on opportunities because they don’t even know their contact form doesn’t work, or they’ve misspelled their email address and wonder why nobody’s getting back to them about stuff.
I certainly I know that I’ve talked to designers where that’s been the case, and as soon as they fixed it, stuff started pouring in. It’s like, just check your stuff. I mean, we don’t always know, we’re not keeping an eye on our websites 24/7. At the very least, just set a reminder for yourself to just check everything and it’ll probably take you five or 10 minutes to do. Check your LinkedIn, check your website, check something else, check your Dribbble, your Behance what have you, and just make sure that it’s up to date. Make sure your contact information is up to date and just keep that up to date.
Dan Cederholm: I love it. It’s so simple, but so crucial. I have to agree too. Nothing drives me crazier than finding someone somewhere and maybe they go to their Twitter page for instance, and there’s nothing else about them on Twitter. Like there’s no link, there’s not even a bio. There’s just sort of a dead end. And like, I guess, trying to avoid creating those dead ends.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. And like I say, if that’s intentional, like maybe say that, maybe make it a pin tweet or something, but just have something in a way where if you want to be contacted, that’s great. If you don’t want to be contacted, that’s fine, too. It really doesn’t take a lot of time to do. And I think it’s just a simple piece of advice that I would give. I’m not giving anything like super lofty because I still feel like we’re all out here trying to figure it out because this community and industry changes so much. The one thing you can at least keep control over is how people contact you.
Dan Cederholm: I love it, Maurice. Man, this time went by quick. There’s so much more to talk about. So, we’ll have to do it again sometime, but thank you so much for being with us today and sharing a little bit of your story.
Maurice Cherry: Oh, Dan, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.