Well, my name is Bam. I’ve been designing professionally since 2010. I’m Philadelphia born and raised but currently reside in Brooklyn freelancing as an art / creative director. Over the course of my career, I’ve been able to work with a ton of brands and client’s like Comcast, KicksUSA, Revolt TV, and Grass Routes Podcast to name a few.
I pride myself on having a diverse skill set as it applies to design. I am traditionally trained in the ways of Swiss design (Shout out UARTS) but I have always had an appetite to learn more and better myself. My studies in print have since grown to learn about technical drawing which I’ve always kind of done, UI and UX design, motion graphics, digital media, apparel, footwear, and product design. I’ve worked to build a pretty diverse skill set to be the best that I can be and continue to attract opportunities. Aside from all the design stuff, I am a visual artist who paints and creates abstract inspired projects and I also produce music on the side.
I realized I wanted to design in high school. I went to a school called Episcopal Academy back in PA. It was a private college prep school and many kids were looking to either be athletes or go to the top liberal arts or science or medical schools. I wanted to run track in college but suffered an injury so I picked up art in my spare time.
At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I did know I loved art and wanted a career that would allow me to grow and also have some longevity while doing cool things and making enough money to provide for myself. After a quick search on careers in the creative field, graphic design spoke to me. Design is literally everywhere. From the street signs we read to the posters we see to the maps on the train and even the shoes we wear. That excited me and made me want to learn as much as I could to make my own mark.
My inspiration varies depending on my projects. Generally, I focus on being unique and work to create projects that stand out. I stay up to date on the latest trends but I don’t do whatever one else is doing. A lot of inspiration does come from things I enjoy. I love watching movies, music, watching a few key anime series, and just discovering great creatives. I’m inspired by the process and the thoughts that went into making something go from a simple idea to reality.
More times than not I care more about that then the final product because it helps you to better understand the How and Why of things. Aside from that, I pay attention to my surroundings. How trees might sway in the breeze, how homes are lined up on a block. There’s symmetry, color, shapes, typography, messages, and ideas all around us. Sometimes pulling our face out of a screen helps us see it. That’s honestly been more of my focus these days is literally paying attention to the world and what it has to offer.
Currently, I’m really enjoying designing apparel and footwear. I’ve been into sneakers for as long as I can remember so creating my own designs has been really fun. It’s a nice departure from all the professional work I do and allows me to think out of the box and stay true to things I like in footwear. I started a small concept project called SNKRLAB in 2016 and this year I am doing SNKRLAB 365.
This serves as a daily design challenge to get me thinking outside of the box while creating things I love and honestly hope to get produced. I am working to transition into the fashion and footwear space so this really helps with establishing a portfolio, exploring process, and design. Everything else I do I find enjoyment from but sometimes you come across projects that are pretty blah so outside of that it varies for me at times.
There have been tons along the way. Self-doubt. Sometimes jobs don’t pan out the way you want and sometimes you don’t even get the job you want. Sometimes with freelancing people low-ball you or just don’t pay at all. These days everyone seems to be a “designer” so over-saturation sometimes is tough. Many times you have disrespectful interactions with people just because they see you like a come up or a tool to help them. Creative Blocks. Social media and the dreaded comparisons and lastly, I would say having to prove yourself.
Self-doubt is something I struggle with often. I am truly unreasonably hard on myself and at times I tend to second guess myself and question if I’m doing things right. A lot of times it is social media or not getting a position or dealing with the day-to-day of freelance. I tend to combat this by being honest first and I’m like Bam you way too hard on yourself bro lol. And then I work to figure out why I felt those feelings and what things might have triggered those emotions. These are all tools I’ve used and learned from therapy. I went through a pretty rough two years with a mix of life + career issues. That really had me anxious, depressed, and mentally exhausted. I used the conversations I’ve had with my therapist to figure out ways to combat these things.
As far as jobs + freelance you just keep pushing. My dad has always told me to cast a wide net to grab lots of fish. I’ve used that advice to always have some sort of opportunity. Whether it be filling out an app, or working with a creative staffing group, or networking, or just doing my promo, I have always searched for ways to design and stay designing and never let certain things like not getting a job or a low ball offer halt my progress.
My vision is always bigger than what I face in the present day so I keep that in mind. To defeat creative blocks I step away from a project completely and refocus my creativity into something else. If I can’t design I’ll make or listen to some music, maybe research on dribble, or read something from Entrepreneur.
Sometimes you can get too locked into a project and just keep spitting out the same things or nothing good at all. A breather is so worth it and even better if it’s completely unrelated to what you are currently doing. You will always have to prove yourself and if you are Black you’ll have to do it and work 10 times harder. Proving myself has been a constant theme in my career and life. You win this war by being exactly who you thought you were. All the stuff you say to yourself in the mirror, the ways you big yourself up, and of your abilities. You have to learn to use people’s doubt as the fuel to keep you pushing and find your playoff mode. Unite your belief in self, with your talent, and passions and drive and you will not lose.
My advice for anyone just starting out as a designer is to:
- Make sure you love it because you’ll be doing this all the time.
- Learn as much as you can. Research designers that came before you and your peers. Studying contributions they have made, design styles, how they carry themselves, display or describe work.
- Network. Can’t stress this enough. 95% of my opportunities came from being my own hype man and advertising myself to the world. Whether it be in person or only you are the face of your brand.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from designers whether you know them or not.
- Really get to know the tools you’ll be using for design. Learn to work smarter and not harder.
- If you are freelancing learn about contracts, invoicing, project management, and research tools that can help you accomplish this.
- Stay organized, figure out naming conventions for your files, and know that you FINAL version will never be the FINAL lol.
Understand that this is a process. There will be highs and lows like anything else in life. You will be judged and more than others. Being a designer is a very public career in many ways. Just be ready for that.
In the next year, I see myself being more of a consultant who works with brands to produce projects. I’d even go as far as saying a Consultant x Pharrell or Ronnie Fieg or something like that. They are able to flourish in multiple fields, all while staying true to themselves. Their brand is also able to work with multiple companies who admire and respect their expertise. TO be completely honest I’ve never enjoyed being in an office or the idea of sitting in one place for 8 hrs or more. Yes, I’ve done it to make ends meet and to build my career but there’s so much to this world and I want to see and be a part of it.
On top of that Corporate is just that and comes with a lot and sometimes you know your talent and worth when others don’t. I don’t like being placed in a box and that’s honestly what I am working towards. Complete freedom. I am now freelancing for companies and I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep it that way. It allows me to work with and not for anyone, I can still make a living, and I work where I want. Home, Starbucks, the beach? So those are my first steps. As far as fashion and stuff I am taking FIT’s sneakers essentials course to learn more about footwear and the industry so I can really start getting my own designs out there.
This is completely unrelated to design but its an important thing everyone should know. I am definitely working to be more financially literate. That means learning about business from as many angles as I need, practicing better saving, handling debt, learning about grants and more. Finances are key to so many things so I am definitely working to get the money right. You aren’t really making money if you are in debt, are you?