3 women in design you should get to know

Grand Rapids is a design city teeming with talent, and in honor of Women’s History Month and West Michigan Design Week, we chatted with three that you may not know, but absolutely should have on your radar.

We asked these talented women to tell us what is on their minds about design, their careers, and what they do here in the city.

Adriane Johnson, Owner, Rebellious Creatives

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?

Born Adriane Latrice Johnson in Saginaw, MI I grew up having a very colorful and animated imagination like many children do, but I took mine for what it was and ran with it only to become an adult that has a wild and colorful imagination to come up with unique ideas and designs for advertising and web designs as a career. I always had the mentality that I wanted to be an owner of a business or a designer of a fashion brand, so I spent a lot of time coming up with designs for clothing and logos for my business I wanted to run.

My actual first logo design was printed on a refrigerated truck for our family business called the Louisiana Cajun Restaurant. I drew a catfish flipping out of the water with the name over the top of it during junior high school. After that, during my high school junior year I came up with a logo and fashions for what I called “Diamond Bee Wear,” so I drew a bee that had diamonds for eyes and wings that were shaped like diamonds as well. 

The importance of design to me is to be able to convey a message to the viewer’s eyes. This could be through an illustrative drawing, a mix of photography and a unique font, painting, drawing, writing, etc. Without design, life would be pretty boring, colorless, and flat.

Adriane Johnson, Only You Can Program Your Future, Goalcast Contest Entry.

Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?

I am the owner of Rebellious Creatives, a web design company for small businesses and startups. Seeing as Grand Rapids has become an incubator for people to start their own businesses through certain programs, grants funded by the city or philanthropy, I thought I would find my own way of giving back in providing affordable design services that are personable and hands on when it comes to working with new clients and building a lasting relationship, while growing a business for myself.

As a WoC, what current issues are most pressing to you?
To be fair, there isn’t anything pressing me personally, because I usually get what I want when I go for it, and if I don’t get it, then it’s not for me and I am not for them. My time is precious and isn’t to be wasted on the foolishness of others personal prejudices or hatred. But as for those who do experience issues depending on what the subject of the matter is and I get wind of it, I will find a way to get the message out, find resources to help correct the situation or make sure I am present to stand up for someone else, because sometimes you need reinforcements and to know that you are not alone in the fight for fairness and equality.

Adriane Johnson, Business Page Cover.

How has Grand Rapids faired in helping support you as PoC?

Support can be obtained in any city really. It’s the people in it that make the city what it is. I think that’s the main part that some people miss when talking about what a city has to offer. I think we are trying to do better when it comes to POC in business ownership, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Not only am I a woman of color, but I also represent the LGBTQ community, so I can be pulled in either direction when it comes to who is being faired the least or the most. Without the people, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, gender or disability status, you don’t have a city.

FB: @rebelliouscreatives, IG: aj_rebels2016, www.behance.net/AJohnsonDesi

Sam Cornwell

Sam Cornwell, Designer, Well Design Studio

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?
Design is important to me, and should be to everyone, because of how large a role it plays in our day to day lives. It can be a powerful force that influences, inspires, and engages. I always strive to be a positive influence in this way. 

Sam Cornwell, CivicTheatre Annual Report

Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?

I work full-time at Well Design Studio in downtown GR. Well Design Studio is a community-minded studio, meaning we make a conscious decision to use a good piece of our design power to improve our community.

Sam Cornwell, ToFro Business Card.

What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?

As a recent graduate, my career path has many years to grow. Now working as a full-time designer, much of my immediate struggle has been keeping myself inspired and creating really good work that gets recognition. I have found that keeping open interests in things such as reading, movies, and handicrafts keep the creative juices flowing more than anything else.

Instagram: samcornwelldesign and welldesigngr Portfolio website: samcornwell.co and welldesignstudio.com.
Naomi Silas

Naomi Silas, Principal Designer and Creative Director at Seventh Creative

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Why is design important to you?
Design is important to me because, it’s something that exists that most people don’t even think about. Everything around us, is designed. Something that is designed well can be beautiful, inspiring, fun or solve real world problems.

Where do you work and how are you involved in the local community?
Currently, I am the Principal Designer and Creative Director at Seventh Creative, an independent design studio. In other words, I’m self-employed... with plans to grow. I’m also the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for AIGA West Michigan. I lead a great committee, and we are actively working on creating an inclusive design community in West Michigan. We also advocate for Designers of Color, and work to expose youth to design in underserved communities. I have a personal goal to advocate for authentic representation in media. As Creative Directors, Art Directors, and Designers we are decision makers in what a campaign or advertisement looks like, and that can be good or sometimes disastrous.

What has been your career path, growth, and obstacles?
Can we talk about the wage gap? According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas make 55 cents for every $1 that a Caucasian male makes. Caucasian women make 77 cents, and African-American women make 64 cents.

My career path has taken a lot of turns. I graduated from college in 2008, and I always say it was the worst time to graduate and start a career. I was laid-off [from] a paid internship, and like so many other people couldn’t find work. Most of the positions I’ve held have been contracts. I’ve been on great teams and worked on some amazing brands, but being mostly in-house I didn’t have much opportunities to grow like I knew I could, which lead me to freelancing and starting my own company.

How has Grand Rapids faired in helping support you as PoC?
Grand Rapids is sometimes a bubble. As someone who’s not from here originally and as a POC, it’s sometimes hard to feel welcome. It’s sometimes hard to feel like you have a seat at the table. I constantly feel underestimated, but I love surprising people.

There are places that, I’ve definitely found a place at, like AIGA WM and Little Space Studio (creative co-working space). Those have been insurmountable in advancing my career as an entrepreneur.

I’d like to circle back to representation in the media, and if anyone has any questions about what that means, please reach out to me. Or if you’d like to know how you can design for inclusion, I’m here to help.

@seventhcreative on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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