How did you get started in graphic design?
I started as a computer lab monitor for a work study program at Loyola University in New Orleans. This gave me 24/7 access to the visual arts computers and programs. I also worked at Kinko's in the graphic design department while still attending college and primarily designed resumés. It was kinda boring.
I freelanced and provided artwork for cultural promotions in the AA/Black community. I also provided illustration and design for the Hospitality industry in New Orleans. By then I had a few really cool clients and I was doing work I was really proud of.
Then Katrina happened. I took a year off to paint and learned to program.
I became art director and designer for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas and designed for over 21 stores. Eventually, I took a gig as Interactive Marketing Manager at the hotel and conference center at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve been here for almost 10 years—I NEVER thought I would be at a gig for 10 years.
A few weeks back, margins received an email from designer Terrence Moline, the founder of The African American Graphic Designers (AAGD) Facebook group.
AAGD, accompanied by the newly launching website AAGD.co, is a vibrant collection of designers, storytellers, and resources. Once Terrence got in touch, we talked about all things diversity and inclusivity. With our shared interest in diversity and discussion, I was excited to learn more about AAGD members, the organization’s evolution, and the way Terrence’s own artistic background spurred the leadership role he’d now taken on in AAGD.
Stemming from a love of music, poetry, and community engagement, Terrence’s involvement with AAGD was sparked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His work shows an earthy fusion of painterly expression and clean linework—a fitting companion for the resourcefulness and variation mirrored in AAGD’s membership. We caught up with Terrence to chat about his background, his group, and his plans for the future.
Why do you think you choose design as a career?
I have to shout out High school Yearbook—11th grade. That’s when I figured out that graphic design could be a career.
I’d always known I was a creative and wanted to make sure I chose a career where I could use my skills to generate revenue. I was a double major for a while in music and design education and eventually realized that design was a better calling. I still LOVE music.
Honestly, I’ve been a storyteller and illustrator for a very long time. I always appreciated commercial art. I treasured my father’s Blue Note album covers.
My first paying job was for my cousin, that’s when I began to understand I could make money from my work. It was flyer for a club on Downman and Dwyer in New Orleans called “The Web” or the “Spider’s Web” and that started my cursed relationship with flyers and promotional work.
Why start AAGD? What were other design groups missing or what do you wish they’d understand about the design community?
I started AAGD for a couple of reasons: primarily, it is my responsibility—my generation's responsibility—to provide a community that did not exist for us. Additionally, didn't see a place where AA/Black designers can be celebrated and encouraged. I wasn't finding a lot of places where we could connect and collaborate.
As for other groups . . . well, I like the other groups and I'm glad to see some of us working towards the same goals. But they’re missing a few things. Some miss an authentic connection with community, others keyword strategy, marketing, mission, and decent design.
I wish they would understand that for everyone who joins their group—they should look them up and engage. I find the most amazing creatives when I take the time to look people up.
How do you think diversity impacts graphic design and other creative fields?
There is no evolution without diversity. Humanity is blessed with multiple cultures and various hues for a very natural reason. We have the opportunity to see the world, projects, and community from different valid perspectives. Narratives and problem-solving are richer endeavors when different perspectives are honored.
Do you have a particular process when working on a design project?
Yes, I’m a nerdy researcher, who once did slam poetry (please, don’t snap during this part). I normally write about what I want first. I try to think of what I would do if I wasn’t me. I try to start large and imaginative and then shave it down to simplicity.
Currently, I’m producing fewer sketches, providing a richer story behind the sketch and spending a little more time on the presentation.
I send [the sketches] out for review and wait for feedback. I want my design work to be a beautiful harmony of research, target audience insight, brand requirements, client desires and feedback, then my input and style—in that order.
How did your process lend itself to the creation of AAGD?
I started with community building and did not attempt to design an amazingly fancy website. And I have a healthy amount of content that I’ve been developing. Again, I chose to write first. I see so many people pushing out ideas that look great but they have little connection to a community and the content gets stale after awhile.
AAGD is definitely a creature and a brand created through researching, interacting, and building relationships with members of the group.
In facilitating conversation within the black design community, are there common experiences you’ve found that African American designers often encounter?
Absolutely: being the only brown person struggling to fit in a pool of otherness. (See Sly and the Family Stone's song, Underdog)
What’s next for AAGD?
Primarily, we want to further extend the promises of our mission:
To spotlight, connect, and encourage African American/Black graphic designers and visual communicators in the creative community.
For the community, the focus will be on collaboration. We want to better build our pool of qualified designers and clients We take in work opportunities and distribute it to members of the group. We also want to build a strong mentorship program, because we receive several requests for mentors.
We would also like to build stronger relationships with creative students in high-school who need exposure to graphic design as a career.
Edited by Alicia DeWitt
and African American Graphic Designers (AAGD)
“Narratives and problem-solving are richer endeavors when different perspectives are honored.”
What's in your margins?
What’s in my margins? I think I’ll continue to work towards a black belt in jiu-jitsu, I’ve been at it for 3.5 years and it’s my 4th martial art. It helps me think and problem solve in ways that have not occurred before. It opens new pathways.
I think we, as creatives and designers, need to diversify our challenges. This forces us to see the world from a different perspective. Plus, being choked is a definite deadline. It forces you to make decisions, quickly.