Hi Kyle! Can you tell us more about your experience of being an emerging designer?
There is always a moment of hesitation when embarking on something new, and we ask, “Am I doing what’s right for me?” I think I’ve always been at the front of the race to experience something new despite that hesitation. College was no exception, and being involved with organizations like AIGA while design was (and is) at the precipitous of change was both fearful and curious.
I joined the Fall of 2014 just to understand what it meant to be a designer. This part of my journey wasn’t overly exciting by any means, but it gave me some exposure to designers like Tim Goodman, who were young and eager just like I was. It wasn’t until 2015 when I really became fascinated with design as a career after attending the AIGA National Design Conference in New Orleans. For the first time, I was seeing inclusivity as part of the discussion, concerning race, gender and equality within design.
That last note speaks a very important topic. Can you elaborate on it?
2016 was filled with complaint after complaint of my own doing, asking why my peers did not feel the same sense of urgency that I did for political justice. While their concerns surrounded approval from authority, my concerns surrounded asking more questions rather than defining immediate solutions. During Trump’s election, there was more of a call than ever to inspire for change. I applied to become the Student Representative for AIGA West Michigan, and was surprised to be welcomed on board with an opportunity to mold the position from the ground up.
From face value, a lot of my time was spent talking with students, organizing meetings and events, to create a culture that felt inclusive. Students wanted to know that they were being heard, and I did what I could to represent that voice. Behind the scenes was much more chaotic. I was balancing Presidency of my own AIGA student group, classes and work all while being a present part of the West Michigan board. Looking back now I’m not sure how I did it, but the result of that hard work was evident.
You’ve since moved to New York from West Michigan. How’s that transition been?
Now, New York is on a whole other level. West Michigan is a giant support system, so as you grow and expand in your career so does your network. In New York, every day you start from scratch, meeting new people and learning of new opportunities that come and go in the blink of an eye. It is the most nerve racking experience to have indulged in, and having the hesitation to move into the chaos would be an understatement. But, to a certain degree isn’t that exciting? Not knowing what’s around the corner is both fearful and curious, and venturing into the unknown is what design, and by extension AIGA, is all about.
What kind of advice would you give to an emerging designer who’s about to move to another city or region of the country? What should they be prepared for? Is there any good advice you’ve been given/that you’ve come across that you’d want to pass on?
Deciding to move to New York took years of internal back and forth. Most certainly the cons exceeded the number of pros as I went from leaving the safety net of my community to explore something unknown. Like mentioned before, I was starting my career completely over, forcing myself to meet new people and embrace a new community. Volunteering through networks like AIGA NY has definitely helped with the transition, but it has ultimately been out of a curious mind that I was reaching out to strangers and going to events.
The best piece of advice I could give is do the research, but at the end of the day just go for it. I am now 22 years young, I had nothing holding me back so despite any hesitation I just went for it. If New York isn’t for me, I can always move back, but I never would have known had I not tried. It sounds like a cliché but it’s the truth.
Can you share more about specific projects that you worked on either inside of your AIGA student group or AIGA WM?
I’ll be vulnerable for a second and say that I have a ‘proof of power’ complex; that’s just to say that when in a position of power, it tends to go to my head. It’s honest, but I would think most people have this complex and just don’t like to talk about it. In terms of the role within my AIGA student group, it wasn’t so much that I felt powerful, but I was part of a transition of making the group more involved in the community and active in the West Michigan chapter, so I felt like one of its parents.
Two of the biggest accomplishments to date has to be the student trips to the national conferences. The first was to the Vegas conference in 2016 where we brought students in hesitation not knowing what the response would be from the administration. 25 underage kids in a city known for its indulgent nightlife… it was a hard sell, but that trip really laid the foundation for the 2017 Minneapolis conference where we brought 28 students.
My work both in my student group and for AIGA WM was never glamorous. I came into both positions very much like how I came to New York, scared and starting from scratch. Rather than being the activist I wanted to be, I was building a foundation of information so that when other people stepped up to the plate, they would have something solid to step onto. That was the design parent in me I guess.
You mentioned that the New Orleans conference really changed you. Can you tell us more about that?
Looking back, the conference was amazing. The theme was a divergence from design and an inclusion of culture. I never really appreciated it during the moment since I was still learning about the industry, but that conference was one of the first times that an inclusive culture was being talked about at such a large scale to thousands of designers at once, so it was pretty impressive. The graphic identity was so captivating I remember trying to pay attention to speakers but was in awe of this system of interlacing photography, illustration, art and music. It really spoke to the nature of New Orleans (a hub of intermixed identities that all somehow work in unity).
To be honest though, my experience was held mostly outside of the conference atmosphere. I think the discussions were good, but designers are perfectionists, so a lot of their conversations were buttoned up into a script that they read from. I’m not a fan of that. If you can’t openly speak about something without reading from some pre-written papers, then why are you talking about it?
Outside of the conference was just how I described the identity, a mix of culture that interlaces and somehow it just works. French cuisine with a southern flare, architecture of several different eras, it was all fascinating and beautiful. I spent a lot of time walking and taking photos of abandoned buildings from Hurricane Katrina. That’s what was so transformative for me; to see the devastation that was left but knowing that there was a thriving community behind it all.
What kind of community building and/or social justice-relevant work are you doing right now?
Right now it’s just about having the conversations. There is more political outreach happening in New York then there ever was in West Michigan, so rather than acting upon feelings I’m taking the time to listen to new perspectives and understand other points of view. Recently, I went to an event hosted by AIGA’s Eye On Design founder Perrin Drumm, where she spoke on starting a design union. The conversations were great and I’m starting to understand more about gender inequality within design after listening to a few stories. These conversations are happening more frequently and becoming more public so the next step is to ask “Ok, how do we fix this?” The transition for equality is slow, but it’s exciting to be active in the conversation.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kyle Rice is a Multidisciplinary Designer, with experience in web, print & business. He has traveled all over the country, absorbing design strategy with an open and curious mind. Currently freelancing for Plural NYC, he handles internal and external design work with an aim to minimize clutter, design cohesive identities and build systems beyond the traditional.