Many people will see this title and think that it is an unnecessary piece of click bait! However I believe that my journey from graduation to present day in the creative industry is an experience shared by many Young creative black people.
When I graduated university in 2012 I felt like I couldn’t just leave university and walk into a job like many of my white classmates would and I wasn’t wrong. To keep things positive, develop my knowledge of graphic design and give myself the upper hand I stayed on to do a masters degree. I think this is because I knew it would be 10 times harder for me without it. While I was job hunting after completing my masters degree I can’t tell you how many notifications I received to congratulate my white classmates on nailing their dream job (I say white classmates when I should just say classmates, I was the only black person in my year)! Notification after notification rolled into my inbox leaving me feeling really frustrated and concerned that taking an extra year to study was a bad move. I couldn’t help but feel like my attempt to better myself had actually just putting me a year behind.
You might think that anyone in that situation regardless of their skin colour would be concerned. I don’t blame you for thinking that, at the time that’s exactly what I thought too. I managed to convince myself that taking an extra year to do my masters degree was not in any way shape or form going to hold me back from finding my dream job and that when I left university I would be the cream of the crop. That was until I actually left…
Jumping forward a few years (yes that’s right YEARS) I am now in a graphic design job. It took me 3 years total to find a design job after leaving university with a Masters degree. To give you some numbers: I was sending out at least 50 applications a week for the first six months after finishing my masters degree. That might not sound like a lot to anyone who is in a corporate position because one CV is more likely to be relevant to all roles applied for. That means you can send out at least 100 applications for the same role in a single day by hitting ‘quick apply’ in job search websites like Reed and Monster. I know because I’ve done this too. I’m not trying to make it sound smaller or less important than applying for design jobs because job hunting is a difficult process period. In the design industry we are taught that, each application and portfolio should be tailored to the position you’re applying for. Now imagine having to personalise every single CV and portfolio that you send out for a job role 50 times a week to 6 months and not hearing anything back… you have to wonder if there’s something else going on right?
Not only does it make you wonder, it reduces your self-confidence. You begin to question your abilities as a designer: am I good enough? Is my portfolio good enough? Maybe I chose the wrong career path? It really took a lot of work to undo the negativity that I learned from leaving university and trying to pursue a career as a graphic designer. I got to the stage where I could no longer function without having an income, obviously, so I applied for jobs that were irrelevant to my degree. Full-time administrative assistant, cleaner, volunteer… And believe me the job offers started rolling in!
When I finally had a job, but had been left with no self-confidence as a young creative black person. There’s nothing wrong with being a full-time administrative assistant, full-time cleaner or a volunteer. I actually really enjoyed working in some of these rolls. I gained some valuable skills that I can transfer into any position I have in the future: hard work, patience, good communication skills, Time management, organisation, teamwork and self-care… I just couldn’t help but shake the shameful feeling that I had spent so much money trying to improve my opportunities just to end up exactly where I didn’t want to be.
After three years of applying for design jobs, working for free, losing all of my confidence and going in and out of jobs unrelated to my degree I finally got to the stage where I said enough is enough. I don’t want to work for free any more because I am valuable, I am incredibly valuable! I have a Masters degree, my work is good and I will pursue my dream! If no one is willing to offer me the opportunity I will create my own and so that is what I did!
It’s funny how life works really, as soon as I stopped looking for a design job I managed to get an internship which has now progressed into a paid role.
At this stage I decided that my life goal is to open a design studio that helps young black creatives fresh out of university get their feet on the ladder. The first step of fulfilling this dream was to launch my own business and so Afro Glory Design was born. I work as a freelance graphic designer in my spare time creating beautiful logos, social media banners and other prints for my customers. I’m now in the second phase of my overall plan and have launched an Etsy shop, where people can buy my design work. Like I said before if no one’s going to give me the opportunity, I will create my own.
You’re probably wondering why race comes into this at all then? Well I don’t have any hard facts to support that it’s down to the colour of my skin but I will leave you with this: Think about all the campaigns that have recently launched, that clearly do not have a single black creative on their team (or not enough black creatives). We watched Shea moisture crumble after their insensitive and non inclusive campaign was launched. Muller rice have recently done a hop, skip and jump past the line of offence with their new campaign featuring large brown grizzly bears who all have racist Black stereotypes attached to them. The ridiculously racist comments that came from Alexandra Shulman in her interview as the ex editor of Vogue side by side with her 2017 team of all white people!… I think the evidence is just obvious and in the everyday.
Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! One day I will have my design studio and I will help develop, grow, encourage and support young black creatives into the design industry currently dominated by my white middle-class peers.
I’ve been placing my design work throughout this post for a few reasons:
- to show you that my struggle to get to this point in my career is not through lack of talent (well I don’t think so anyway)
- to show you how varied my skills are and to give you an idea of the kinds of jobs I have applied for in the past (literally applied for jobs on every branch of design tree)
- finally to show you that throughout the negative experiences I have never lost my passion for design and whatever your passion is you should never lose it! (if people won’t give you an opportunity, create your own)
I’d love to know what you guys think about my work! Please leave me a comment in the section below. You can click on any of the links under the images and it’ll take you to my digital portfolio so you can see more of my work. I’d also love to know what your experience has been like as young black creatives, tweet me @AfroGlory_ and use the hashtag #YoungCreativeBlack
Thank you for reading don’t forget to check out my other platforms you can find all the links below! If you’re preparing for Christmas definitely check out my new Etsy shop with beautiful Afrocentric Christmas card designs!
Please check out my other platforms 🙌🏾👍🏾