Hi Andrew! You’ve had an impressive career path, from working at Essence to starting your own design consultancy. What have you learned along the way that you think would be beneficial for an emerging designer to know?
Looking back at my creative path, I’ve grown the most in the area of surviving the business of design. As a young designer, I was most focused on creating good design and what company I was working at—not what I needed to do to continue as a working designer especially later in my career.
Diversifying what you do as a designer helps ensure that you’re of value not only to yourself but to companies and clients. Learning new skills and processes helps keep your mind thinking, keeps your soft skills flexible and positions you as a person of value for clients and businesses to depend upon. Understanding the value of what we as designers bring to the table and not compromising that value helps you grow from a commodity to a much-valued resource.
What was your experience like starting out in the industry?
Starting out as an emerging designer was scary as hell. Not only was I worried about being a good designer, I was worried about what obstacles I was going to hit being a black man in a mostly white creative world and whether I would be seen as a team member or just the token face for whatever company to say they are “diverse.” Another concern was how far could I advance as I hardly ever came across a design head that looked like me starting out. Fast forward almost 30 years later and that has only slightly changed.
The best thing though for me as an emerging designer was that I was very willing to take risks on my career path. When I accepted a job at an adult publishing company, many folks thought that would dead my creative career. The exact opposite happened and I became an art director over four monthly titles two years after I was initially hired there. From there, my path led me to Essence Communications, McGraw-Hill, Black Enterprise, CMP, Nielsen, CUNY City Tech and launching my own studio.
You have served as a design leader in multiple capacities, from working on the AIGA National EMERGE team to the National Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. What keeps you going?–What’s next?
Design still feeds my soul because each day there are new ways to express visual language. Seeing how the medium shifts yet the basic structure of communication design staying true to its core is exciting even if I can’t wrap my head around how it’s done at that moment. The excitement of figuring out how and why these new mediums work is thrilling.
There’s also the excitement of new mediums bringing exposure to previously unheard voices to the forefront. Helping to bring those voices to the front of the line is like having a superpower and it feels good to use my experience and skill to help someone else be heard. That need still burns bright.
Andrew Bass is the founder of Straight Design consultancy and art director and production manager at RIMS (The Risk Management Society). He has also taught at CUNY New York City College of Technology and art directed at Nelson Haymarket Media as well as Essence. Andrew also serves on AIGA’s National Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and AIGA’s National EMERGE Team.