06.14.22
Kaleena Sales + Omari Souza | Audio

S10E0: Introducing Our Minisode Co-Hosts


In addition to our regular episodes for Season Ten of The Design of Business | The Business of Design, you’ll be hearing bonus minisodes from Kaleena Sales and Omari Souza.

Kaleena and Omari discussed their design philosophies with each other. Omari explained his as a part of his life philosophy:
I think my life philosophy overlaps with how I practice design. In many of the conferences that I speak at, and a lot of the writing that I do, whenever I speak under more personal lenses, I often reference my mom and her perspective that the life that you live isn't your own. And the good that you do is the rent that you pay for the life that you live while you're here. And I kind of extend that to design. Design is the field that I practice in, the field that I organize in, the field that I use to pour into others and try to make change in various different ways.
And Kaleena offered a broad look at the question of what is included in design:
I just believe that design is broader than the use of modern digital technology. It's really about the fact that there's been centuries of people that have designed the landscape and the material culture that surrounds us and that it's important to honor societies and cultures that have been overlooked, and that it's important that we begin to correct false narratives about what is deserving of our attention. And I believe that in order to benefit from good ideas or ingenuity, we have to make space for difference. And that might mean that we challenge the notion of a universal, aesthetic standard.

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This season’s theme music is from Mike Errico.

TRANSCRIPT

Omari Souza
Welcome to The Design of Business...

Kaleena Sales
...the Business of Design— mini-sodes! I'm Kaleena Sales.

Omari Souza
And I'm Omari Souza.

Omari Souza
Hey, Kaleena! How's it going?

Kaleena Sales
Hey, Omari. How are you?

Omari Souza
Not too bad. Not too bad. So why are we here? And what are we going to do today? What is even in mini-sode?

Kaleena Sales
That's a great question. We're actually going to be doing a series of mini episodes for Season Ten of The Design of Business | Business of Design podcast. So we'll dissect Kevin and Dana's conversations and interviews that they share, add our perspective through the lens of culture and through the lens of our roles as design educators.

Omari Souza
And rather than being a full podcast, we kind of consider ourselves to be the Costco sample bite of what's being done by Kevin and Dana.

Kaleena Sales
I like that.

Omari Souza
I think we should go and introduce ourselves. So Kaleena and can you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you're from, and what you do?

Kaleena Sales
Yeah. So I am a design educator. I've been teaching design for about 13 years now, and so I've been teaching at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. And TSU is an HBCU, a historically black college and university. So we service predominantly black students. And this year I'm actually the chair of the department, so lots of new responsibilities and sort of figuring it all out. Aside from that, I actually I've been doing a lot of writing, so I'm a design writer and author and I do illustration work on the side. So what about you?

Omari Souza
I mean, before we go to me, we have to continue putting some respect in your name. You don't just write, you have a couple published books. Can you drop, can you drop some titles?

Kaleena Sales
Yeah, well, my most recent project was Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Non-binary field guide for graphic designers. And there's a a bunch of coauthors on the book, Ellen Lupton being one of them, and so many other amazing designers and contributors. And I'm super excited, actually, now that you've given me the opportunity, I'm working with Princeton Architectural Press on a new book that will come out next Fall, so Fall of '23, and it's tentatively titled Beyond the Bauhaus. So I'm super excited about that. I appreciate the opportunity to share that. But yeah, let's move to you. Tell me about what you've been, what you've been doing, what you have going on.

Omari Souza
Bronx native, first generation American of Jamaican descent, design researcher, also an educator in the Texas area and lead organizer for the State of Black Design.

Kaleena Sales
Can you tell us a little bit more about the State of Black Design Conference?

Omari Souza
Yes, the State of Black Design Conference is basically an amazing get together of designers of color. Once a year, we typically do a series of speakers that talk about the intersectionality of race and practice. We also host a career fair where sponsors come looking for talent, and we typically have students from across the country. We've been lucky enough, a few years, to have students from across continents come and attend and participate. Over the past few years this year we actually had Nikki Giovanni, Jelani Cobb, Sekou Cooke, and Saul Williams be present, as well as several other amazing design leaders— Kevin Bethune as well. So yeah, next year we plan on hosting the next State of Black Design on TSU's campus in your backyard with you, Kaleena. And I'm definitely super excited about that.

Kaleena Sales
I'm so excited for that. That's going to be amazing. I want to know a little bit more about where you grew up. We've talked, you know, quite a bit, but there's a lot that I don't know about you. Can you give us a little bit more information about where you grew up and then also your academic background?

Omari Souza
I grew up in in the Bronx, most notably the section of the Bronx in the northeast area called Co-Op City. It's roughly about one square mile, but 50,000 people live within that one square mile. I went to high school in New York, of course, until to my dad was deported my junior year. Prior to my dad's deportation, I went to the High School of Art and Design, which is an extremely popular art school in New York City. I finished off my high school education at Buffalo's Academy of Performing Arts in upstate New York before going to Cleveland Institute of Art for undergrad and Kent State University for grad school where I received my MFA.

Kaleena Sales
Nice.

Omari Souza
How about yourself?

Kaleena Sales
Well, I grew up in Nashville, which is where I'm currently living, so it's really, really nice to be home. And I appreciate the fact that I get to teach in the same city where I was born and raised. So I went to Tennessee State University, where I'm teaching for undergrad, and I studied studio art. And at the time, graphic design was sort of just getting started in our department. And so I took a few classes and I called myself a graphic designer and sort of concentration. But really what I learned at TSU is a lot of studio art. And so I was doing painting and drawing and, and all of those things. Somewhere around my junior year, I decided that I wanted to pursue advertising as a career. And so I went to grad school at VCU's Brandcenter, which is which was formerly the Adcenter. And I fell in love with their program. And it's an incredible master's program. And I learned a lot about just, you know, how to-how to think and how to solve problems and, you know, really be conceptual and work with teams. And I just gained so much from my experience there. And then I started teaching or actually I started working as a junior art director immediately after that and then got into teaching and then went back to school again because I love student loan debt so much. I went back and got another masters, an MFA this time, at Savannah College of Art and Design. Both programs were instrumental in just sort of the way that I think about design, but in very different ways. I would say SCAD gave me all of those technical skills that you need, you know, when you're wanting to work as a designer and their program is set up— the curriculum is really strong. And VCU's Brandcenter was super nontraditional. So I think they balanced my education, you know, well. So I'm really grateful for those experiences. What did you think you were going to do when you were an undergrad? What was your— did you stick with one major the whole time or did you change majors?

Omari Souza
I changed majors. I bounced around a whole lot. I initially went there thinking that I was going to study graphic design, and then I fell in love with video, and then thought that video was going to be the direction that I was going to go. And then I fell in love with photography and thought photography was the area I was going to go. And you have to study there for about two years before you get a chance to choose your major. And they had this very convoluted major that no longer exists. It was called Time— technological integrated media environments, which was just a fancy way of saying digital arts. And that's what my major was. I went back to get a master's in design from Kent State, and that's where I actually fell in love with design research. They had an amazing design research program. All the teachers there did a really good job of kind of instilling in me a love for design, and design research.

Kaleena Sales
That's incredible. So what did you do as your first job out of college or out of grad school?

Omari Souza
Out of grad school, I actually went directly into teaching. I got a job at La Roche College, now La Roche University. But prior to grad school, my first job out of college was I was a debt collector. I couldn't find a job in industry. I graduated during the recession of '08-'09. So my senior year I got a job offer from a company called NYC and Go, which is a nonprofit in New York City. I thought I was moving back home. Soon as the recession was announced, I immediately got an email that my offer was rescinded. I was I was lucky enough to to last minute get a internship with Vibe magazine. And I was told that if this internship went well, that it could lead to a job. And halfway through the internship, Vibe went out of business. So here I am back in New York. I felt fortunate to get the internship, which wasn't paid. And yeah, before this thing could have manifested or matured into a job opportunity, everybody lost their job, everybody that was there. So I ended up moving back to Buffalo, New York, with a cousin of mine, and the only thing I was able to find was a debt collection job, and I worked that until my first design job, which wasn't even really a design job, I was a webmaster for a radio station in Cleveland.

Kaleena Sales
I feel-I feel like there's a lot more there, but— but no I think that, you know, it's so funny, we all have our well, those of us that are, you know, old enough to have been working or going to school or something during that time— we have our recession stories and my gosh. I, yeah, I, I was- that was during the time I was working in advertising and I was I had just sort of moved up the ranks a little bit from junior art director to art director. I was pretty happy with like my career and things were going well until I got a phone call that said we're downsizing, and you can go home.

Omari Souza
Mm hmm.

Kaleena Sales
So, yeah, it was. It was a rough go. And, you know, you think about things in hindsight. It gave me about a year after that to sort of regroup and kind of think about, you know, the direction of my career. And, you know, it gave me an opportunity to jump into some part time teaching and, you know, started off kind of my first job in education. So everything sort of works out and you know.

Omari Souza
Yeah.

Kaleena Sales
But yeah, that was a rough time.

Omari Souza
Yeah, it um— I know it's not completely design related, but I saw a meme the other day and it was, it was talking about how my generation is tired of living through unprecedented times.

Kaleena Sales
Yeah. And then if you couple that with, you know, experiences with, you know, identity and, you know, social, political and all of those different layers, you know, it's definitely been a challenge to sort of navigate the industry or navigate careers in general in life, right. But, you know, I think it certainly gives us a lot to talk about, especially as we anticipate reflecting on the conversations that Kevin and Dana will be having and, you know, adding our perspective, even just based on the experiences that we just shared, right, and I think that a lot of people share. So, you know, speaking of design, do you have a design philosophy?

Omari Souza
Ah— yes and no. I think I have a life philosophy. And I think my life philosophy overlaps with how I practice design. In many of the conferences that I speak and a lot of the writing that I do, whenever I speak under more personal lenses, I often reference my mom and her perspective that, you know, the life that you live isn't your own. And the good that you do is the rent that you pay for the life that you live while you're here. And I kind of extend that to design. Design is the field that I practice in, the field that I organize in, the field that I, you know, use to pour into others and try to make change in various different ways. So that's that's really while it may not be as as design forward, as some other philosophies, it's it's really my M.O. It's how I operate in many things.

Kaleena Sales
And I love that. And I think, you know, design that's what connects us here in these conversations. But, you know, before we're designers, we're just people. And I think that that's something I'm really specifically interested in, is just really the human kind of experience and what our kind of personal lives bring into the design conversations. And so just like that, you know, advisor mantra from your mom, you know, it impacts everything that you do, including design. So I love that.

Omari Souza
How about you? What's yours?

Kaleena Sales
I had- I had to give it some thought, but I would say that, you know, I just believe that design is broader than the use of like modern digital technology. It's really- it's really about the fact that there's been centuries of people that have, you know, designed the landscape and the material culture that surrounds us and that it's important to honor societies and cultures that have been overlooked, and that it's important that we begin to correct false narratives, you know, about what is deserving of our attention. And, you know, and I believe that in order to benefit from good ideas or ingenuity, we have to make space for difference. And that might mean that we, you know, we challenge the notion of a universal, aesthetic standard. So, yeah, so I would say that's that's my design philosophy kind of in a nutshell.

Omari Souza
Yeah. I mean, I think design is a very powerful tool. I think a lot of people struggle to define it as as they should because it's so broad. But I think really anything that curates life, human existence is something done by design. And I think as designers we are very human focused. So this ability to practice cultural relativism and be able to study, observe, comment and share on culture is is is extremely important. And to the point of of what you've mentioned about the importance of differences and expanding what we find and don't find important, that's in reality how a number of our design related movements came into existence. The Bauhaus was revolutionary for its time due to the fact that there were a number of people coming together and doing something that was unheard of. It was a different. It broke the mold of what visual practice looked like at that time. So yeah, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I feel like it's extremely important for innovation in our field.

Kaleena Sales
Yeah. And we, you know, we have to expand definitions, I think, of design and also, you know, I think about my students, a lot of them are first generation college students and are sort of trying to figure out where their voice fits, you know, within the design conversations. And I think that, you know, if we do a better job of either redefining or expanding the definition of what design is, more people, especially from marginalized communities, will see themselves represented. I was talking to a student about braiding hair and, you know, kind of just letting them know, like you're doing design right now, like that's what you're doing, like, look at this, you know. And even honestly, the way that we work ourselves through social and economic hardships involves creative problem solving and design. And so I think, you know, it's important for us to discuss, like, those transferable skills because it opens the door for other people to feel included, so, yeah. So, you know, I was going to ask you, I was going to sort of pivot to the next question, which is, you know, why are you doing this podcast? But I feel like a lot of what we said probably is the reason why, right?

Omari Souza
Pretty much, yeah. Doing good, paying it forward, wanting to expand conversations, being inclusive of others, being able to contribute to current discussions that are happening with the industry. Throwing insights in that may not be explored currently, all of these things are reasons why this opportunity was too good for me to pass up.

Kaleena Sales
Yeah. Ditto.

Omari Souza
So Kaleena, again, I'm so excited to be working together with you. To reinstate expectations over the course of Season Ten, we will pop in to share with you some summaries, critiques, expand and explore on topics that Kevin and Dana have gone through, as well as sharing some of our own personal stories and perspectives on things that are happening in the design industry.

Kaleena Sales
What I'm most excited about is really learning from Kevin and Dana and the guests for Season Ten. I'm excited to listen to the content and to think about it, and yeah and dissect it and sort of put our own kind of perspective into the atmosphere and sort of reflect on those things. So yeah, I'm just excited to learn. I think it's going to be an incredible season.

Omari Souza
Likewise.

Omari Souza
The Design of Business | The Business of Design is a podcast from Design Observer. Our website is D B B D dot design observer dot com. There you can find the complete archive from past guests and hosts. So listen, go to D B B D dot design observer dot com.

Kaleena Sales
And if you like what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find The Design of Business | The Business of Design on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you listen to podcast.

Omari Souza
And if you're already subscriber to the podcast, tell your friends about the show or go to Apple Podcasts and rate us, which is a great way to let other people know about the show.

Kaleena Sales
Between episodes, you can keep up with Design Observer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Omari Souza
Our producer is Adina Karp. Design Observer's executive producer is Betsy Vardell. Our theme music is by Mike Ericco. Thanks as always to Design Observer's founder, Jessica Helfand.

Kaleena Sales
And of course, to our counterparts, Kevin Bethune and Dana Arnett.

Omari Souza
See you next time and talk to you soon.

Posted in: Design of Business | Business of Design



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