Q: Hello Sabrina! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Hi! Sure thing! I am a multidisciplinary designer and art director with a love for storytelling and editorial content. Currently I am an Interactive Art Director for Scholastic working on new digital products for our classroom magazines. I enjoying designing sites that help others learn and grow.
Q: What is your role inside of AIGA?
For the past 4 years I have had the privilege to serve as co-director of the AIGA NY Mentoring program, with my wonderful friend and peer Anjali Menon. Previous to this role I was fortunate to mentor several students over a period of six years. I’m passionate about mentoring and elated to share some of the things I’ve learned about effective mentorship.
The AIGA NY Mentoring Program has a long history in NYC, spanning 20 plus years with the NYC Department of Education and The High School of Art and Design. What makes our program unique is our focus on building relationships between students and mentors around the local design community. We are constantly improving programming to focus on exposing our students to various forms of design and providing them with opportunities to explore and excel in their design career. As an example, we have successfully worked with the AIGA NY Board to introduce scholarships, create more workshops for students such as our own college night and programming throughout the year that is always free and/or low-cost.
Q: Can you tell us about a time when you were a mentee? What about a time when you were a mentor? Was there any interesting story or piece of advice that you found in both of those experiences?
Years ago I worked with an amazing Photo Director who mentored me when I first entered the field of editorial design. One of the best moments of advice was her showing and guiding me on how to speak about my work, and the importance of doing so. Her remarks were “if you do not know how to speak up about your work no one else can do it for you”. This stayed with me and helped me to find and refine my voice over the years as a woman, designer and Afro-Latina.
As a mentor one of the best moments I experienced was telling my mentee “I don’t know” — it was the answer to a question which honestly surprised him. He was really surprised by my honesty and I was so proud to be able to share in that moment. It was a true moment of empathy and one where we learned together about something new. The mentee shared later with me how this changed his perceptions of mentors having to know it all.
Q: What do you do outside of AIGA?
Outside of AIGA I also volunteer with Bronx Narratives, an online and physical magazine sharing stories to increase positive awareness about the Bronx, NY. When I am not volunteering I am reading, traveling, drinking coffee and trying to get back into painting.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
Ever since I was in elementary school I knew I wanted to be in the arts. I drew and worked on my own story books and loved to go to the museum. Once I got to high school I learned about graphic design as a career and at the time, I remember collecting magazines and thinking this is what I want to do.
Q: What’s next?
Learning more about new platforms and trying new mediums for design. I started out as a graphic designer who focused mostly on print. Since then I have learned how to transfer these skills to a digital platform, which has been a great experience. I would also like to partner with groups that are creating inclusive experiences. As this school year is my last with the high school students [I have been working with] I have been thinking of more ways in which the work and skills that I have can be a positive impact to others. I plan to continue learning more about ethics in design, and trying to make things that create value while learning in the process.
Q: What’d you like to see more of in our industry?
Open dialogue on learning, mistakes mades and sharing career paths and transitions.
Q: In regards to your note about mistakes, why are we as designers so scared of failure and imperfections at times? How can we challenge this mindset?
This is a great question–so speaking for myself I can say I used to be afraid of failure because I was always comparing myself to others–their work and their achievements. Time and experience have taught me to no longer focus on this, as my best moments of growth occur in those moments of uncertainty, failure and doubt which comes with change. Around 6 years ago I created a project with a friend in WordPress; I was just learning code at the time and we went through a lot of trial and error. Eventually we stopped the project as we were no longer able to sustain it, and initially I felt like I had failed. Later on over the years I realized it was because of this project that I continued to work and learn in WordPress and HTML. This initial project was the base of other projects to come which helped to expand my portfolio and skill set.
My advice on how best to challenge this mindset is by doing: try different projects, go to new events, and rely on your support system. Create the community that you feel is lacking and ask for help. I have learned so much by asking others and listening and learning from their experiences.
Q: What’s your advice for the next generation of emerging designers?
Read, ask questions and learn about everything that you are curious about. As designer I believe we can learn more when we go outside of our immediate fields of just design and ask questions about the things we care about deeply.