Hello Maurice! I believe many people may know you through your Revision Path podcast, but can you give us a quick introduction of who you are?
Sure thing! My name is Maurice Cherry, and I’m a designer, podcaster, and long-time creator on the Internet. I serve as marketing, design and communications lead for Glitch, and I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of Revision Path. Most people also know me for creating the Black Weblog Awards, and just recently I won the Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary from AIGA.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? When did you know that design and tech aligned with your journey?
I wanted to be a musician and a writer. I’ve been writing for as far back as I can remember—I have old stories that I wrote back in first grade. When I got to middle school, I discovered the trombone and went on to play in marching band, jazz band, symphonic band… you name it. Even with these two interests, design and technology were always around me. My older brother is a very prolific artist and painter; he definitely has the creative edge in the family. But I was into tech—I had a Laser 50 computer and a Pre-Computer 1000 as a kid, and I taught myself BASIC, which I was also able to use to make graphics on the Apple IIe whenever I was at school. In high school I discovered the Internet, and then I taught myself HTML and how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. The rest is history!
How did you come up with Revision Path? What have you learned along the way?
Initially, I had the idea for Revision Path back when I was doing the Black Weblog Awards. In 2006, we had a “Best Blog Design” category, and I knew that there were other Black designers out there doing amazing work that were not getting any type of recognition from the design community at large. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really act on this idea until nearly 7 years later—by then, I had the time and resources to start the first version of Revision Path, and I’ve just continued to iterate and grow it from there. Along the way, I’ve learned that it’s important for designers to do three things: answer emails in a timely fashion, write and share that writing as much as you can, and be yourself. You would be surprised how many opportunities present themselves when you do these three simple things.
What are some of your favorite quotes and anecdotes from your Revision Path interviews?—Can you share ones that match the lens of emerging designers/people starting out in their careers?
I always remember the Revision Path interviews where I feel like I made a genuine connection with the guest and I felt like the guest was authentically themselves. Most recently, I’m recalling my interview with Sean Fahie, an Atlanta-based author, designer, and illustrator. For emerging designers or people starting out in their careers, I’d recommend the episodes from Lisa Babb, Eddie Opara, Gail Anderson, Ariem Anthony, Jacinda Walker or Tory Hargro. It’s hard to pick just a few episodes though! I think they’re all brilliant and the guests are all worthy of learning more about at whatever point in your career you are.
You have built a really incredible community of supporters. Can you share your perspective on what community means to you on a micro and macro level?
Community is important to me on a micro level because it takes more than just me to bring Revision Path to people every week. My editor, our writers, and our community admins also help to make Revision Path what it is (and hopefully what it will be in the future).
On a macro level, community is important because Revision Path helps to discover, inform and unite Black designers all over the world. I can’t tell you the number of people who have written to me who have started to find community of their own because of someone they heard on the show. The fact that the show is inspiring others to seek out community in their own locales is inspiring and humbling.
For anyone looking to grow a community, I think it’s important to deeply nurture the people who are already supporting you. Make those people your adoring fans, and then they will help bring in more people to the community that share your values. Don’t try to grow too fast without adequate community support either! The admins we have are also active supporters and patrons of Revision Path, so I know they have the best interests of the community at heart with what they do.
On that note, you’ve also been able to build in a sponsorship model. Can you tell us more about that?—particularly for folks who may be interested in starting their own venture/entrepreneuring their work in some way?
Sponsorship is tricky when it comes to supporting marginalized communities or causes like this. On one hand, you’re grateful for this level of support because it allows you to further your mission. But on the flipside, sometimes people view sponsorship as a negative: people will think you are being helped too much, and in turn, will not want to support you because other people are. It’s a very bizarre thing which I still don’t understand, but because of this, I’ve always tried to have multiple streams of support for Revision Path. Outside of our corporate sponsors, we also have community sponsors via Patreon and PayPal. We have a job board too, so companies can post their listings, advertise them to our audience, and in turn that becomes a way to sponsor Revision Path. We’ve tried other ventures in the past such as a merch store and subscriptions, but those didn’t work as well as I anticipated. For those who are interested in starting their own venture like this, I’d recommend starting small. Don’t try to accomplish too much right out of the gate—build your community, test what works, and repeat from there.
It seems like you wear many hats. If you had to pick, which hat is your favorite?
Host. I think I get the most from Revision Path when I’m talking with someone and just following the flow of the conversation. You can’t really plan that, so it keeps me on my toes.
What does the average day/week for Maurice Cherry look/feel like? How does it differ from when you started out in your career?
Well I get up around 6am, and I water my plants, make some tea, and get ready for the day. I start work at around 7am, and I check my email and plan out my daily agenda. Sometimes that means I’m heads down with work and other times I may be in meetings or have to interview someone for the show. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do the interviews for Revision Path as part of my job, so I don’t have to try and squeeze it in on the weekends or after work. Once work is done, I’m either headed to an event that night, doing some other work for Revision Path, or just relaxing. Probably the biggest difference between now and my early career is that I don’t have to commute! (If you know anything about Atlanta traffic, you know how much of a blessing that is.)
What would you say to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to stop trying to chase a definition of success that doesn’t look like yours. There’s a whole empowerment industry that preys on young people—men and women of color, specifically—and pumps them full of this idea that success is all about financial prosperity. Sure, we all want to be paid at the end of the day, but are you happy? Are you loved? Do you feel that what you say matters? Take time to really search yourself and discover what success means for you. It will save you a lot of headaches.
What would you say to emerging designers from underrepresented demographics?
You’re not the only one out there. There are others out there who want to see you succeed. Break out of your bubble and use social media to find the community that you seek. Write and share your writing—the corpus of design history needs your perspective and your voice.
What is the best advice you’ve received and the best advice you’ve given?
The best advice that I’ve received is that karma is real, but it’s not always your job to serve it. Sometimes, the universe has its own way of working things out. (I know that sounds pretty hippy-dippy.) The best advice I’ve given to people is to find out what your personal definition of success looks like. Oftentimes, we can get caught up in what other people’s successes are without taking that time to look within and ask ourselves what makes us most happy and fulfilled at the end of the day. I tell that to people all the time.
Is there anything else that we didn’t touch on that you would like to talk about?
No, I think these have been very great questions!
What’s next for you? For Revision Path? For the industry?
We’re really working to build out the editorial arm of Revision Path so we can become a true design media platform that centers Black designers and creatives worldwide. We have the podcast, but we’ve also got a staff of four writers, and I’m really working hard to make this as sustainable as the podcast. (That means we’re looking for sponsors!) I’d love to bring on another editor and someone to create graphics so we can increase our output.
In terms of what’s next for the industry, I think designers should start looking at AR/VR/XR; the mixing of art and code is really big right now, and creators are making some really fascinating stuff by melding these two disciplines.
Diversity and inclusion are still topics which are important in this industry; they may not have gotten the same level of attention as those in the tech space, but the problem is no less insidious. Focus on equity. Work towards freedom.
Maurice Cherry is a pioneering digital creator—a hybrid of writer, editor, producer, designer, and curator—who is best-known for the Black Weblog Awards, an online event that celebrates Black bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters. Other notable projects of Maurice’s include the award-winning podcast Revision Path and blog 28 Days of the Web. His storytelling projects, design work, and advocacy have been recognized by Apple, NPR, News One, AIGA, HOW, Print, The Dieline, Creative Market, Buffer, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Recently he was named by Graphic Design USA Magazineas one of their “People to Watch” for 2018.