Inclusive Principles for Design Teams
With Raquel Breternitz
Steven Wakabayashi: We’re really excited to have you all here today and have a really, really fun and engaging presentation with Raquel here, who is awesome.
Just so kind to extend her time tonight for us.
So we have a great talk for you tonight. And we’ll have a Q&A portion at the end for people to ask any other questions. And for those of you who are new to our organization, we are QTBIPOC design, which stands for Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color Design.
And we are a space that uplifts queer BIPOC folks within the creative industry, through mentorship, networking, and educational events such as this that you’re attending. We have lots of fun, exciting things planned for the rest of the year, as well as 2022. And I’m just so excited for those of you to join us today. We also have another, QTBIPOC superstar to help present, some work and some life experience as well.
And yeah, very new to the space as well. We were founded about a year ago and so far everything’s been going really great in the organization and just folks joining our space.
So with that. I have a really great chat with you all tonight. I want to quickly introduce my speaker for the evening. Raquel is an award winning designer, speaker and writer, passionate about inclusion, accessibility, keeping tech human focused. At least this is what I got from her website and has previously led design at many great and large institutions, both in the corporate space, but as well as the nonprofit and activism space.
And I’m just really excited to bring her into the space to share with you all the breadth of knowledge, life experiences
So without further ado, welcome Raquel.
Raquel Breternitz: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Steven Wakabayashi: Awesome, we are as well. I’m going to stop sharing and the floor is yours.
Designing & Politics: Designing for the Warren Campaign
Raquel Breternitz: Alright, I’m going to share my screen. How’s everyone doing? I’m so excited to be here and I love that this group is here, that it exists. I think it’s so special and pumped to be here as a fellow queer person of color and designer.
So today I want to talk a little bit about designing for Elizabeth Warren. I had the, the honor and the exhaustion of getting to serve as herr design director for her primary campaign for president in 2019 and 2020. And I’m just going to kind of go over what that experience was like, what we were trying to do there and what it has looked like for me since that experience to try and continue to be involved in politics and also deal with the aftermath of being involved in politics.
And then I’ll kind of open things up for a Q&A, but I definitely want to be very. You know, approachable to everyone, answer questions. So feel free to drop things in the chat or even interrupt if you want. And speaking of interrupters, there are three cats in this household. one of them, the center, one is mine.
Her name is Artie. There’s also Kevin on the left and Mr. Chunky Douglas on the right. I cannot guarantee you that one or all of them won’t just run into this frame at some point. So if you do go ahead and wave. Oh, I also want to acknowledge that I am in Austin, Texas, which is on stolen land from the Tonkawa. They lived in central Texas as well as the Comanche and the Apaches moved through this area. So, acknowledging where we are today,
Let’s jump in — design and politics. I gotten a lot of reactions when I’ve told them, told people that I’ve worked in political design. And a lot of the times people can assume that it’s very glamorous and there’s something about it that is, but I want you guys to see what I look like pretty much every day.
Not my best let’s say. Very much, you know, in a dark warehouse, in the corner of Boston, just wearing my caps and trying to get things done 24 hours a day. And it’s a good reminder I think that even the most exciting same things from the outside are always just experiences from the inside and can also be exhausting as well as glamorous.
But moving to just design and politics in general, I think for a long time, the relationship between a political campaign and design has been very much a contractual relationship. And what I mean by that is very much agency driven. and there’s been a lot of really amazing work done that way. Some that you may recognize is, you know, AOC’s awesome kind of first big run.
This work was done by an agency in New York called Tandem. And then also during this primary campaign, The an agency called Hyperakt did this sort of amazing sort of grassroots design toolkit for Pete Buttigieg and Blue State Digital is another agency that made the first logo for Warren and some of the first pieces of work for Elizabeth Warren.
So very much kind of that old school model of a campaign exists and runs on its own as its own self. A design agency exists and runs on its own as its own self. And they, you know, kind of throw things over the wall to try to get a brand done and get your message out. but there’s also a really amazing kind of legacy, especially in progressive political spaces of pushing design forward.
Obama’s kind of hilariously called like the first internet president. And part of that reason is because of when he ran. But part of that is because he was one of the first, political candidates to really take technology and design very seriously. And you can see that in like how big of a splash, if you guys remember, I don’t know how old everyone is, but if y’all remember the Shepard Fairey hope poster and you know, I’m sure even now you’ve seen a million copies of that since, Shepard Fairey also kind of revisited the style for the Women’s March a couple of years ago.
The Obama logo was kind of unheard of comparative to previous political logos. Very much a word like a graphic mark instead of like a classic sort of surf texts. And the Obama administration is one of the first administrations that also brought in a technological expertise and presence to the white house.
So there was a kind of digital presence to the white house. He had a creative director, a wonderful woman named Ashley Axios. If you don’t follow her work, I recommend it. Enough about Obama, but I will say that there is a really good progressive legacy of taking design and taking technology seriously.
And that’s something that I really wanted to help bring to the Warren campaign as well.
Design as a collaborative partner
Raquel Breternitz: And so, one of our main goals coming into that campaign was to switch, to having design as more of a collaborative partner, approaching things differently. And that was not just me as the design director but also the kind of partnership with upper leadership, like the chief mobilization officer, whose name is Katelyn Mitchell, she’s now running Mobilize, which is a progressive tech board, and the primary goal is to bring design in house. And that may sound surprising. sometimes in-house, I think, less so these days, but certainly when I was coming up in-house was thought of as less prestigious in some ways than agency.
Especially in the brand sense, but what we were able to do is to kind of push the needle forward on design by bringing things in house, because we had, I mean, this was at the end of the campaign, but look how enormous our team is. We had a team of like, I think up to 11 designers, including sort of illustration and motion and, print and UX and all of the different types of design you could possibly need.
And because of this, we were able to really reach out to every other team on the campaign and collaborate to be brought into the room sooner and start to have something to say, you know, in the, earlier more strategic parts of deciding, you know, what are we doing? What are we putting out there instead of, you know, getting a paragraph of text and being asked to put it on Twitter, which sometimes can happen.
And, you know, that is an indicator of. Not the best relationship between the larger political org and their design team, no matter where it situates, it was also allowed us to be so much faster. and as one can imagine, speed is really, really important on a political campaign. so we were able to turn things around, you know, in a matter of hours because someone could walk over, ask us for it and we can put it out.
So, as you can imagine what you did a ton of stuff. And, the campaign was longer than six months, but six months covers about the time since when I joined, inherited about three designers and grew out the design team to what it was at the end when we shut down after Super Tuesday. So just to get a sense, this is kind of a screenshot or some of the slides I put together at the end of the campaign of sort of the design top lines, all of the things that we accomplished, that we can talk about moving forward.
And also, this is just a short amount of all of the different mini brands that we built. And basically what these are, is kind of individual versions of our larger brands that we built for each individual plan. If you know anything about Elizabeth Warren, you know, she has a plan that was her whole thing, and they were really wanting to put out a new plan weekly, if not biweekly, as much as possible.
And so we got really fast. Finding ways to create sort of a system in which each plan could feel like itself and also feel like part of the larger family. And I feel really proud of the work we did. I think we were really successful in doing that. You can see here kind of how differently different plans were able to look while still being in the family.
And so, for example, the, you know, plan for cannabis. Obviously brings that green color to the floor. But also kind of pops of our secondary colors. When we wanted to talk about white nationalist violence. We wanted to come with a very different kind of feel and I very much didn’t want it to be kind of traditional, expectations of how you would show something, sort of all black and white.
I put my foot down and very much did not want to show any sort of harmful imagery, but still give the sense of this is something very serious that we want to talk about. And so we brought in this sort of gritty paint, swipe texture that we didn’t really use anywhere else, but felt right here and this like copper color that most of the time was a secondary color, but felt right as kind of not a harsh, angry red, but still something that you’re taking seriously.
And then of course the blue new deal is one of my favorite plans. really amazing, amazing plan by, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, who is a climate scientist, wanting to augment the green new deal with kind of a plan for the oceans as well. She’s so smart, highly recommend looking her up. And we’ve got to make a lot of fun, little fishies, which any point you can do fishes, you should. That’s one of my design principles.
Another thing that we were really trying to do is to bring representatives of the artistic community and representatives of our supporters in to do work for us as well.
So it wasn’t just the in-house design team, but also collaborating with a ton of different artists. And we made a point to only reach out to artists of color and women and, non-binary folks, and really give an opportunity to uplift artists that I admired artists that were supporters of Warren. And a lot of the times we just came to them and said like, here’s some Warren quotes, but do whatever you want.
And we were able to come up with like really fascinating different things. Our first one was, you know, this awesome kind of trail of letters here on the top left. And then as we went forward, we were able to do even like weirder and weirder stuff. Trap Bob was one of my favorites. they did like all of these wild graphics that we were able to put on our Giphy and then also on, different t-shirts so really good way I think to come at design as community as well.
At least so we hoped.
Owning and expanding the design system
Raquel Breternitz: And part of the way that we were really able to do this was to do have really strong design system. And this is another thing that, we were really trying to push on this campaign. Obviously there are brand systems for every, hopefully most, every brand that you encounter. But I was really hoping to bring a pushup perspective of having worked at IBM at an enterprise, and having these very robust component libraries that let us mix and match. As well as kind of, you know, here’s our colors and our fonts, and really bringing together that modular aspect as well. And that also allowed us to move very quickly and make really great different styles of work, without having to reinvent the wheel every time in like two hours when we need it.
And so a little bit of a kind of glimpse behind the curtain for that included, making time. A lot of my job was making time, which is very hard to do on a campaign, but I felt really valuable. So, one of the things we did was to have. A weekly meeting where we looked at, like literally like every tiny element within our brand system.
What it’s about things that we do with it, things that we don’t do with it and how we want to grow it, if we want to. And what we were able to do with this is keep growing that brand system and keep, staying kind of really fresh with it, really on top of it. And owning it as a living system, as a shared living system, amongst the design team, instead of just like one static thing that we’re given once and never changed.
And I thought that also allowed us to really evolve the design over the course of the campaign, which is really cool. We also, you know, one of our first and foremost things that we wanted to be very certain about doing was to bring in accessibility and to really care about accessibility and every element of the campaign.
There’s a lot of obvious things that we can own as the design team. For example, the color contrast accessibility here, where we went through and really saw like, exactly, exactly which color combinations of our brand color system fit, which, kind of standards of the WCG as well as the ones that don’t pass so that we shouldn’t use them, which was really helpful.
We kind of had these print outs everywhere. So you could. Glimpse that at a glance. And then other teams started asking for them too, because every once in a while, they had to throw something out that didn’t have time for a designer to look at it. And maybe it was just an email or maybe it was a video and it’s, you know, just make sure it’s accessible.
And you’re good to go again, a big win for the design system, because as long as they’re staying within those guidelines, for the most part, you could put things out without necessarily needing a designer on it, unless it was obviously one of the more complex, the more interesting projects, like from any brand for a plan.
So that was cool too. Cause then my designers could really focus on the work that needed them instead of having to do like 500 endorsement graphics for one state for a whole day. Which sometimes you have to do, but obviously no one’s favorite project. We also wanted to really bring in examples on how to use the topography because it was kind of a.
A complicated typographical system. we, the original type was drawn from kind of the old school protest poster is, I don’t know if y’all are familiar with, like, I am a man poster from the civil rights movement. war is over if you want it from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a few other kind of old school union posters, you can see that kind of old American wood type infants, inspiration, I think in the main font, which is Ringside.
But we also wanted to mix it up with a serif, especially for online reading those long plans. It’s really helpful to have a very readable serif for that. And we very purposely picked kind of a serif typeface from a Black American designer, which I thought was really cool and it’s a great font, very easy to use, but we wanted to make sure it really mixed well with Ringside, since it is very much like a thick, or really a bold, thin headline font with this like lighter airier serif font. You can really like make something that feels very off. If you’re not thinking about your topography. Well, I’ll stop there because I have a problem where I will digress and talk about typography for three years.
But you know, designer. But yeah, we wanted to give a lot of examples, not just for sort of Junior designers that also for onboarding new designers and again, a handoff to, other teams that don’t have designers or states teams that maybe just have one local to the state volunteer designer and letting them, or helping them to make work that felt of a family with the rest of all of the work.
Raquel Breternitz: This is really just a point where I get to brag about some of my favorite stuff that we did. I hope you’ll indulge me. but what was really cool about what we ended up calling scrolly telling, which is really like an interactive digital storytelling piece, similar to what you’ll find often on like the New York times.
We really wanted to pitch something that felt like it was a cool new digital thing from a brand or the New York Times, and not from a political campaign and the best opportunity for that was the ultra millionaire tax or the wealth tax that Elizabeth Warren really talks about. And the basic ideas, if you take, you know, the 2 cents off of every dollar above like 500,000, I’m sorry, 500 million, really the most, most wealthy, like not your rich uncle, not even Madonna, like just Bezos level wealthy. You can actually fund a lot of the really popular social policies that the left wants, and hopefully lots of people want.
And so we were really trying to tell that story of like, what is wealth, And what is like ultra wealth and what does it mean to tax them? Because those are kind of complex things that we want to really help people understand kind of from the very beginning. And it got a mention from the Center for American Politics and Design, which is awesome.
One of my bucket list Item. It’s still there, by the way, if you ever want to look at it, it says elizabethwarren.com/wealth-gap. We also were able to expand once we built the first scrolly telling we were able to kind of rework that same design work to kind of make her About page much more cool, much more interesting, and also tell the story of where she grew up, the things that she experienced, and the people she met and how all of those different things have shaped her policies.
So when she talks about universal childcare is infrastructure, she can talk about how the only reason she was able to go to college become a professor at Harvard eventually is because her aunt B came over and helped her raise her kids when she had to go through a divorce and be like a single mom.
Kind of amazing, right? These like human stories that are why she cares about these dense plans that you might not really think about other.
Marrying illustration + animation
Raquel Breternitz: I also really wanted to bring in the marriage of illustration and animation. And again, all of these like really beautiful digital, first exciting images and graphic elements that you may not see in a typical political campaign.
Again, taking inspiration from sort of media and advertising to bring those techniques into telling our story of our policies. and so we made an ad about toasters and an ad about the blue new deal. I think I can play the toaster one a little bit, just so you get a sense of the animation and I want to shout out the illustrator was Grace Abe. And the motion designer was Laura Puerette I’ll show my whole team and their names in a bit, but just not fill that dream team. And they were able to feed off each other’s creative energy in a really great way. And tell the story that Elizabeth Warren tells on her campaign trail in a really kind of a exciting way.
Let’s talk about toasters. One day as a young mom, I was making toast for breakfast. I got caught up doing six other things and totally forgot about the toaster until the bread was literally inflamed and my curtains were on fire.
Toasters are a lot safer now that’s because of federal agency called the Consumer Product Safety Commission said enough and started requiring timers and automatic shutoffs. Now you can’t buy a toaster that has a one in five chance of burning your house down. But get this leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, banks could offer you a mortgage that had a one in five chance of putting your family out on the street.
Predatory loans may not set houses on fire the way a toaster could, but they sure can blow up a family’s life. So I had an idea for an agency that would protect families from financial ruin. It was an uphill battle, some called it an unwinnable fight Wall Street spent millions lobbying against it, but we got it organized.
We won and President Obama signed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into law. Now, all consumers, whether you’re a veteran or a student are caught in the middle of a scan, have a champion in Washington, the CFPB has returned $12 billion directly to consumers who’ve been cheated. We can make our economy work for working people when we get out there and fight for it.
Super inspiring. I love it when she tells that story. There was also kind of this — I won’t show the whole thing, but Blue New Deal ad as well… And both of these ads actually won Graphis awards, which is awesome because those are typically reserved for advertising agencies. And so again, really showing what you can do when you bring these techniques over into political design and bring your perspective as a designer, you know, as visual communicators over into a political message that really matters to you.
Both of these also I’ll bring them up on my Twitter. they’re online, so you can watch the mental, if you would like. I also acknowledge that I know that it says CPFB and not CFPB in this file. You know, even moving fast, sometimes we mess up.
Having fun with merch
Raquel Breternitz: And of course, you know, modern day campaign needs merch.
And, we were able to really have some fun with it. I think one of the biggest moments that our campaign kind of made a splash was with the billionaire tears mug, which we actually wanted to put out throughout most of the campaign and finally found the right moment for it when Leon Cooperman and I think was his name.
I forget his name. I’m sorry, but he was a billionaire. So whatever. This billionaire cried on TV about the wealth tax plan that I mentioned earlier, and we knew it was the right moment out. This billionaire tears mug You can also might recognize this baby already over here with her Persist cat collar, absolutely necessary.
I agree, Steven. We also had a dog collars, and dog bandanas, as you can see over here. And I wanted to bring in a little bit of my experience later on with ed Markey, who is the Senator from Massachusetts. He is the first person ever to beat a Kennedy in Massachusetts, which is awesome. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about that, but it was really bringing the power of grassroots and youth organizing to fight for what you care about.
But we were able to also to do really fun, cool merch for that, including this great picture of him in his like legacy kicks. Like from the eighties and this shirt, with his Boston accent, Tell Ya Fatha, when he was calling out Joe Kennedy III for, you know, taking money from his dad to win the election, instead of actually caring about things that might get people to want to vote for him, take that with a grain of salt.
Raquel Breternitz: That’s my bias, but the voters did back me up on that opinion. And let’s talk about Liberty green, which is this what we named this mint color that was everywhere on the campaign? Not seafoam, not pastel green. We named it Liberty Green. And the reason for that is because it was actually taken from a Pantone swatch check of the Statue of Liberty, which I thought was super cool that was done, by Matt Ipcar, who was on the Blue State Digital team and was kind of my mentor throughout the campaign, really wonderful kind of executive design director.
And really what we wanted to do is to bring in a fresh new color to show who we are, show progressivism and kind of shake up the red, white, and blue. We still had sort of red, but it was a brighter red and we still had blue and it was kind of a deeper blue than you typically see on like an American flag.
And then instead of pure white, we had this Liberty green color. And, the funny thing about it is that this kind of mint. Was meant to just be a kind of a little spot color, just kind of here and there, like a fun, little, additional color to brighten up the designs, but people just really loved it and gravitated toward it.
And like really, it was kind of volunteers and organizers who started buying that green t-shirts and wearing them to events and like painting their nails this color, and like really just going wild about it, that we realized like something is really resonating with people about this mint green color and started to use it more and more and more until it came through really represents our brand.
And I thought that was really fun. The Hunter Schwarz is a kind of political design blogger. He’s a fun read if you’re interested in this kind of thing. And he wrote a great little piece about it as well if you look it up. And yeah, I think kind of an important thing that we all discovered, directly after the campaign shut down, like maybe literally a week or two, suddenly we were all in a pandemic.
Digital organizing during the pandemic: the Ed Markey Campaign
Raquel Breternitz: Just starting to find out what that looked like, what that meant, and, you know, everything’s shut down. Typically our campaign would have sort of pivoted itself to start doing on the ground work for Biden and trying to get, you know, the democratic nominee elected in really traditional methods, door, knocking, volunteering, all of that kind of thing.
And suddenly all of that was totally turned off for us. So what do you do? Well, you have to really trust your digital team and you have to really start leaning there and realize that, you know, there’s this sense of traditional and politics like a traditional field organizing. And then this is like new upstart of digital organizing and digital organizing is very much considered sort of the redheaded stepchild.
And that priority for the campaigns that really succeeded, at the end of the year had to flip. And you really had to bring a lot of the things that we were talking about of like, you know, bringing imagery that was meant to work on social media first, instead of on TV. Really thinking about what’s going to play on Twitter, what’s going to like get onto people’s Facebook feeds.
You have to start thinking about that and how you’re doing your visual communication. And that just became huge in the pandemic, and that was kind of the core philosophy of the Ed Markey campaign. So after the Warren campaign, I was still in Boston, unfortunately, apologies to any Bostonian’s. And I saw this great campaign coming up with Ed Markey and if you don’t know who he is, which just fair. he is the less famous Senator from Massachusetts. Warren is his colleague. And he is also the less famous co-author of the Green New Deal. So he actually helped author that with AOC and she does a great job of making it a real conversation.
But he was really coming as a great example of a very old school politician who is a liberal, but has deeply evolved based on responding to his constituency. And a lot of that has been responding really well to the youth vote and what the youth vote cares about, which is in large part, the climate, but also really important things around sort of, of course, immigration and, Medicare for all, a bunch of really, really progressive policies that he has really evolved to take on and really champion, which I really admire about his campaign and a lot of how we were able to really succeed, you know, in the middle of a pandemic against a Kennedy was to be digital first and to really, really listen to our youth organizers.
And so what I was doing with this campaign was basically volunteer, leading their group of all volunteer graphic designers. And that was mostly, you know, kind of design students who are in college and wanted to be involved, but we were also involved with kind of the Sunrise Movement, which is another youth led climate movement who do amazing digital work.
If you don’t know who they are super recommend, looking them up. There’s this great ad that kind of made a little bit of a shockwave at the time, that you can find if you search for the Green New Deal maker, done by some of the guys from the Sunrise Movement that kind of remixes some of your expectations of what a political ads look like and what a politician should say, which I think is great.
There’s also like just so many weird Twitter accounts and fun, random memes. And, you know, I, I would say I’m an older millennial, and so I learned a lot. I learned about, for example, the difference between a thirst trap and a fan cam and a lo-fi edit, which are all forms of videos that you can find online and all distinctly different.
There was a really fun interaction where a political staffer took this video here, with the like glitch text, which was a, I found out lo fi edit of his original kind of eighties congressional ad, sent to lo-fi music and glitched out and made to be kind of fun and cool. He called that a thirst trap and the internet really let him know how wrong she was about what exactly it was.
It really cracked me up. I highly recommend looking up the marquee verse even now, because it’s not only super fun, but a really great example of how to engage the youth vote and like bring them to actually have an impact in the political sphere. so really cool. There’s also kind of some fun, again, I’m bringing back the shirt because there’s reactions because, recently the New York times wrote a piece about a different candidate for mayor.
There was another mayor election happening in Boston. Right now. I support Michelle Wu. If anyone would like to know more about that, happy to talk about it later, but in this mayoral race, there’s another Boston candidate who is really using her Boston accent. And they’re talking about the Boston accent as an entity in politics, which is really fun.
And the shirt that we made during the Markey campaign, when he kind of had a great debate moment talking about, you know, "Tell ya fatha!" John Kennedy II to stop, you know, putting a bunch of his family money into the campaign. The shirt kind of took off in other ways as well, even got sort of a house speaker in trouble.
Cause he took a picture with someone who said he had a shirt that said, Tell Ya Fatha on it. And didn’t realize that it was a criticism of John Kennedy III. So memes can have political impact. And if you have, you know, skills, I would even say in memes, you can use those. Like, I want people to realize that you don’t have to like be a policy memer on the hill to have an impact in politics.
You can literally do it by trolling Twitter. And there’s a lot of really great people who have done exactly that.
Meet young people where they are and bring your values
Raquel Breternitz: Finally, I think it’s really important to remember that the way to really win a campaign I think is to, you know, meet young people where they are and bring your values. The reason and Marcie was able to do all of this meme stuff is because he let his youth organizers do it.
He didn’t sit there and try to do, you know, "Pokemon Go to the polls." If you guys remember that from Hillary Clinton. You know, you’re, if you’re faking it or if you’re just like trying to force yourself into something, you’re not, you’re obviously gonna come off as inauthentic. It’s not going to work. What really matters is that you’re fighting for the things that people care about and letting them bring their own way of fighting for it themselves.
Personnel is policy
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. Very cringe. Finally, I want to kind of give a moment to. Really shout out my amazing design team because I’m telling the story right now, but it is not all me. And in fact, it’s only maybe 10% me. It’s mostly the absolutely incredible design team that I was able to hire and, kind of let do their thing.
Elizabeth Warren has this great thing that she always says, which is personnel is policy. It really matters who you hire and who you have working for you if you have working beside you. And when you guys become hiring managers in the future, I hope you keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide, you know, what design job to take, even if it’s not in politics or nonprofits.
Look around, see who’s going to be around you because that will be kind of the biggest indicator of whether you’ll be successful and also whether you’ll be happy. So finally, just want to shout out my team had these amazing designers. I had three senior designers who were different platform leads.
So Judy owned print, Eric owns social media, Stacy owned ads. And then Victoria was my superstar UXer who owned pretty much all of web. Absolutely incredible. Grace was my illustrator. Laura was my motion designer. I had a couple of mid-level designers, Colleen and Riz is there, especially with. story to me because Colleen went on to be the Design Director for the Ossoff campaign, and Riz went on to be the lead designer for the Sunrise Movement.
So really awesome to see kind of my mid-level designers go on, learn so much that they were able to lead their own teams in the next round, My associate designer was Morgan Searcy. And my design intern was Emily, who is now working at stark, which is a really awesome accessibility plugin that I just can’t say enough good things about.
Getting involved & making an impact
Raquel Breternitz: So really important people to keep an eye on, get to know and see what they’re doing next. Cause they’re all gonna, you know, keep doing amazing things. And finally, you know, I was in kind of a sad place when the campaign ended, because Super Tuesday was an unmitigated disaster, for sure. And then, you know, a couple of weeks later it’s a pandemic and the Bernie campaign shuts down and I kind of lose hope for, you know, from my perspective, a progressive voice in the white house.
And it seems really hard to be able to organize, to get by then in the white house. And I’m feeling, you know, this is me, but I’m feeling ambivalent about him because I’ve been fighting for all of these policies that he’s unsure about, but I sat down and I said, listen, I have a little bit left inside of me and I need to do something.
And I can’t door knock, physically can’t be going door to door. And also it’s not one of my primary skills. You know, despite the fact that I’m giving this talk today, mostly a shy introvert and not really great on my feet in terms of answering political questions. But what I was able to do was to kind of partner up with developers and try to kind of do some different things, make a relational voting app.
I made this kind of vote with group where different kind of, I wouldn’t say celebrities, but like known influencer level type individuals can ask their followers to make a pledge, to vote with them and then gives, all these sort of instructional support, how to vote in your state when to do it, how to register all of that good stuff that can get in the way.
So I say this to say, like, find the space that needs you, even if it’s not your job. And find small ways to bring those skills that you all have as designers. And most importantly, our perspectives as Queer Trans, Black Indigenous People of Color. I don’t need to tell anyone that there aren’t enough people with our perspectives and politics, but it’s growing.
And the more pockets that we find to push yourselves in there, the better, because it is a perspective that is desperately needed. And lastly, I do want to say that fighting for a better world applies to campaigns, too. What I mean by that is that, join a union and join campaigns that have unions. And even though you’re on a campaign and there’s this expectation to work 20 hours a day and do everything you possibly can because it is a mission that you believe in and it isn’t your typical full-time job. It’s still important to take care of you and take care of yourself as a worker, even on a campaign. This is something that, again, a meme account right on Twitter called the Organizer Memes has been really championing in a way that’s really admirable to me because if we’re fighting for a better world on campaigns, on non-profits even just, you know, in a startup that wants to improve lives for people.
We have to start with fighting for ourselves too, and we have to live our values inside of our own organizations. And I think this is super important, because it is a recipe for burnout. You know, there’s this great writer called Anne Helen Petersen. She wrote a big, big book on millennial burnout that came out, I think last year.
And she talks about how, you know, you have this like cool job, right? You have this passion job. But the kind of double-edged sword about that is it’s a really easy way to be exploited because you care so much. You’re not going to say no, you’re not going to sit down the same kinds of boundaries that you would for, you know, a retail job.
If you have the ability to set those boundaries, right? And so that happens a ton, especially the younger folks on campaigns and in the field. And I’m really happy to see, people like Organizer Memes and other kind of progressive campaign workers fighting back to really establish, you know, better working conditions, even in progressive spaces.
And so as you all go out, if you are inspired to involve yourselves in politics, I want to remind you that you can also not only bring your voice and your perspective as QT BIPOC designers, but also as workers. And I encourage you to do that. Thank you so much. I will finally stop talking now.
Steven Wakabayashi: That was so good. so much relevant advice and just, I’m so blown away by myself to the it’s just so blown away by just the beautiful work and just, also just honoring other people in your team, I think is a practice that I don’t see that often. And I just really appreciate you taking the time to do so.
And, yeah, just, just phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. And. Yeah. And as a QTBIPOC leader in the design space, you know, again, there’s not that many of us in the space and, I think what you’re also doing is just really pushing the boundaries of our expectations and where we can go.
And so just from the community, just thank you so much for representing us in such, such an amazing, powerful way. Even I really appreciate. and we have plenty of time for questions. I have some, I wrote down that I was like burning, but want to also provide the space for folks who want to ask questions as well.
If there’s anything that you want to ask, you can also feel free to message me and anonymously, or just like on your own, if you want it to be asked anonymously too, if you’re shy. But, yeah, we’ll give everyone a few minutes. Just like, think about questions that you may want to ask.
Process & Inspiration
Steven Wakabayashi: Let me start off with maybe some that I wrote down. The first one is just around process. I know you talked a little bit about fonts. I’m also very obsessive with fonts myself, and I’m always curious of just like, what is your process of finding the right typography and just all the bits and pieces that go into making a brand? Yeah.
Raquel Breternitz: A huge question. Luckily, I had a really solid foundation to build on from Blue State Digital when they kind of made the Warren logo mark, they brought in all of this awesome inspiration that I mentioned. From sort of early Americana and civil rights protests. And, actually something I didn’t mention is also Wonder Woman and early comic books, which is where we got kind of the half tone, which I really love that texture that we used. As a tiny, tiny nod to another powerful woman leader in cartoons.
And so, really when I came in, you know, the brand system was: the three colors the blue, the red and the Liberty green; Ringside as a font; and halftones. And that was what we had to use. And we got pretty far with that, but it did get to a point where we were doing so much work and we really needed more to work with.
And so, there was a whole process of gathering colors, again, from that same kind of source of inspiration. Looking back through also FDR, a lot of the old FDR, print work because, with his new deal, he kind of had a, a huge, progressive revitalization of the American economy post- the Great Depression, and Warren takes a lot of inspiration from him as, a former politician in that sense.
And so yeah, going back and looking at those things, thinking about what else we can bring in and pulling out colors and then really being intentional again about making sure those colors work in a lot of different contexts. And enough accessible contrast. And then the secondary font was also. We really got to a point where, we just had this like bold, all caps font for everything we were doing.
And there’s a lot of shouting and politics. It’s true, like that did us a lot, but it did seem like we were just shouting and every piece of work and we needed to bring a little bit more emotional nuance, especially as we started to talk about more things like foreign policy or even telling more of Warren’s personal stories.
And so the practical aspect of wanting a font people could read the plans on the website for and a font where we could whisper, you know, or at least talk to in a normal voice. You know, an inside voice as well as just shouting, led us to looking for a good serif. And then from there, I really wanted to get an American designer.
And I really wanted to get a typographer who wasn’t assists straight white man. And really bring that representation in the same way that we were trying to do with artists collaborations. And that’s how I found the typographer that built Freight Text. And try that a few other fonts as well, some great, sort of indie woman designer typographers as well.
But that is the one that really just felt right. You know, there was like a whole week or two of just a million screenshots and random Figma designs and like trying to see how things looked. And eventually the whole team got to a point where we’re like this, this is it like this feels right. And that was pretty much the process in general.
I think it’s very similar to your typical process. Just probably a lot faster, by necessity again, just really trying to be intentional about who we were as a team who we are as a campaign and like falling in with kind of Warren’s, ideals about what America could look like and for whom. I especially wanted to be as inclusive as I possibly could.
And I think I, you know, I didn’t miss the. I missed the highest mark that I could have, but I think I was able to really, push it forward in a way that I hope was somewhat successful.
Working with diverse creators
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, just like just one more add on question to that. I think it’s beautiful that you’re doing the due diligence work of looking at who creates the typography.
And sometimes we can create really beautiful, accessible stuff. And what we don’t realize is just this entire system of different tools and different pieces that we use. Sometimes we continue to uplift certain communities more than others. And you continue to perpetuate in the work. I’m just curious. What helped you to actually find fonts and typographies? Because sometimes the font collectives are just very white themselves, very cis/white/hetero. It’s like, like most of font creators look exactly the same. Yeah. Yes.
Raquel Breternitz: Yes. And I was just going to say, you know, there was a rule on the campaign, where any merch or print that we did had to be with the union shop because we strongly supported unions as a campaign.
And I wanted to just take that principle and expand it towards like, exactly like who are even the typographers that we’re giving attention and uplift to who are the artists or collaborating to. And frankly, like partially I’m lucky because I have been a queer person of color in the design space for a long time.
And I have faves that are my people. Or like, I was really able to bring like a list of illustrators that are all like people of color and women, because I already had people I loved. With typography it was a little bit trickier. And honestly it came down to just research. I had like 50 tabs of fonts that I thought were nice.
And the first step was like, well, is this a decent serif? And the second step was who made it? And sometimes I couldn’t find it. And I had to like eliminate those two. And also like searching Twitter for indie typographers was actually really helpful. Twitter is like a hellscape, but it also can be very helpful, especially in these instances.
Another like great moment of kismet was when this great hash, I came across my feed just as I was trying to find, an illustrator for black heritage month. And it was black artist create, I think was the hashtag. And so I was able to just scroll through the whole hashtag and try to find illustrators whose style fit what we were trying to do and reach out.
And that was honestly luck. So it was a little bit about intention, a little bit of like just elbow grease research and a little bit of luck.
Bridging graphic design and UX workflows
Steven Wakabayashi: It looks like we have a question from Aria. Aria. Do you want me to ask her, do you want to ask the question?
Q&A member: I guess I could ask you. Can you hear me? Okay. Okay. okay. So my question was, was what was it like bridging workflows of people on a team doing graphic assets and those doing more like the UX and website based things? And if there were any challenges surrounding like getting people to sort of follow similar ways of working or any challenges around that?
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think there is like, you’re hitting on the very big truth. There’s like a huge difference between kind of sitting down and doing UX work and putting out like five graphics on social. And I kind of bridged that into a few ways.
One again, that design system really helped. In addition to the design system, I was also, critiquing and approving every single piece of design that went through my team. And so I was pretty much able, you know, to act as the catch of like, Hey, this is actually a little off-brand or like, I actually saw a different designer solve this problem, like this.
Like, would this help, especially for the more visual, UX things, you know, some of the webpages are basically big advertisements in a sense as well, just for a plan, or an endorsement. And so that helped a lot. And then I also, you know, my UXer Victoria, again, a superstar, and she was really cool because she kind of acted as the liaison between the design team and the technology team.
So, half of the time she was collaborating with the graphic designers. And half of the time she was over on the other side of like literally the other side of the office with the tech team, like collaborating with the developers. and I think that really helped a lot too, cause she was able to come back and be like, Hey, they’re struggling with this, this and this.
Like, can we find a different way of doing this visual or vice versa? And I also really wanted to keep things open, not just silo people on different things, even though she was like the UXer, she also contributed to like several different visual campaigns. if she was interested a couple of times, I let you know, if we had a little bit more time, I did this thing where teammates who wanted to, could just pitch an idea. And then we all showed it to each other, voted anonymously and went with whoever won the vote. And so she actually won a couple of those and did one of my favorite actual endorsement campaigns, which was the Women’s Wave, which were all of the women that won, a seat in office after Trump was elected as part of that kind of progressive wave, who endorsed us.
And she did like the mini brand for all of that. I digress, but anyway, I think it was really helpful to not keep the UXer in the corner as well. And even like a few of my graphic designers that had some web experiences could come in and help her if she had a bigger project or like just give a different perspective, really keeping those walls open.
But for the most part, I let her own her process and she was able to like, kind of be this sort of bridge. And then I was kind of the filter on top to just make sure that everything that’s going out from the campaign hits all of the approvals and matches the design systems. So I had by far the most boring job of the whole group.
Did that answer your question? I hope so.
Q&A member: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much. It just reminded me of like, sort of what I do day to day at the, I’m technically a visual designer by title, but I kind of dip and dabble with like developing stuff, graphic stuff. And since it’s a small agency, I kind of do everything.
So everything you said just really resonated with me. So thank you.
Raquel Breternitz: Awesome. Great.
More on building design systems
Steven Wakabayashi: Thank you, Aria. And then we have another question from Shelly. Shelly, would you like to ask, or do you want me to ask it on your behalf?
Q&A member: Oh, yeah, I guess I can ask it. So, yeah. So, speaking of like your design system, so I just wanted to like, learn a little bit more about like how you, your team actually went about establishing the design system.
Like, I know you took the big lead on that, but I’m wondering if you had any more collaborative aspects to it such as was it like one person just taking the lead in trying to figure out everything? Or was it more of like people getting together and trying to agree on things from time to time? I kind of ask just because I’m currently trying to establish a design system myself and running into questions of getting started in the right place.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. cool. I’ll try to be helpful. I think, I do think it was very helpful to like kick off the design system and have that base for it to have been led by again, Matt Ipcar at Blue State, he really owned that process and then brought collaborators in until they were ready to like really finalize it.
However, once it got to me and my in-house team and we were expanding it, I let it be a lot more organic. I did mention, we have kind of, we had those weekly meetings to kind of revise and review the design system. And that really started out just because I was onboarding. And I was like, tell me about all the choices you made that I didn’t wasn’t here for.
And then that kind of became a natural progression into like, okay, what choices do we want to make next? And from there, like, it really was up to, you know, one designer was really into typography, so he would bring up a lot of typographic stuff and often it would, you know, I would put it on him to propose options.
Another designer kind of came up with, different ways of, of building out the halftone and eventually like clarifying the illustration style. And it was really just like, what were people into, what were people thinking about and who stepped up to like work on things. And then again, when I finally hired an illustrator and a motion designer, they owned sort of their standards.
So the illustrator created her own illustration styles standards based on what we had built already and how she wanted to expand it. And then the motion designer kind of worked with the video team to really delineate how things moved. so that’s, I don’t know how helpful that is for starting up.
I think what I would say is like, have a decider, especially when you’re starting, because you could get stuck designing by committee forever, but then after a while, you can kind of relax those standards and let people own what they’re passionate about. And I think that makes a stronger system and like really having a way for even people that aren’t on the system team.
We didn’t have one, but a lot of places do contribute and find ways to kind of bring up like different usages or different needs, and not just like keep it in a tower. is that helpful?
Q&A member: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful. I’m sorry. You might’ve if like, just tack on one more question. I think I forgot to ask in the first place, but, like just as you were building it out, like where you rolling it out, like gradually the design system or, like was there, was it like you’re building along the way and just people were adopting it along the way as well. And they had to make changes along the way.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. I was mostly along the way, but we did for major things like the secondary font and the secondary colors. we had like a moment where like, okay, like we are basically publishing version two to everybody. Here’s what we’ve decided. Here’s how, like, here’s examples how we want to use, come to us with any questions, like things that think.
We’re bigger, a trickier. We had those kinds of launch, mini launch moments. Otherwise like it was like, we decided to only use the green border on these types of plans. Like that kind of stuff. We just decided as a team and like did, you know? Nice.
Q&A member: Yeah. Thank you. That, that was actually super, super helpful. And I think I’m going to try to bring those things back to, I guess.
Steven Wakabayashi: When the doubt just comp it out, right? When in doubt, put things together and sometimes with branding, you never know where you’re going to get into. Throw things together, maybe mock up a webpage mock-up merchandise, markup, all the different themes that you would touch. So you’re able to pressure test if the brand can be viable.
Cause that’s sometimes where I see a lot of a waterfall style design systems fall apart is so much into the typography colors, all these things. But as soon as the kind of the artifacts of what you create with it goes beyond the bounds of what was expected. And for example, going from web to apparel, for example, or web to print or print to web, there’s this difficulty of sometimes extending patterns and extending backgrounds and stuff like that.
And so it’s just exactly, exactly. It’s just like, what is this big kind of this Eagle eye view of all the, even the possibilities where it’s going to touch, and then you’re using that as a way to help pressure test some of the, even the edge cases that might come out.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah, Steven, I love that. I pulled up here the screenshot of the brand overview, just as a small example of people in a look of like, like we have this like green emphasis board, or there are, don’ts like, we don’t use it when we’re doing full breeds or print at home because it would also have a white border outside.
It like, definitely like we started creating rules based on things that we saw in the different mediums that worked or didn’t, So highly agree.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. And I absolutely loved your creative process too where you’re gathering so many inspirations from disparate pieces. Oftentimes for example, I see digital teams as they’re creating digital projects, will look at other web sites, as case studies and, and sometimes we’re so overtly prescriptive with where we’re getting our inspiration from that oftentimes we sometimes, totally forget about what we’re truly inspired by, what we’re truly moved by. And just like how we create a vision board, can totally do the same as a brand or a project and just get the little bits and pieces of things that inspire you, whether they’re illustrations or movements or organizations like you’ve highlighted Raquel.
There’s so many bits and pieces, or even like magazines and, comic books that we can pull little bits of inspiration from. And the way I would also like to think about it too, is it’s just like a pot right we have to let it simmer. We have to just let all of those ingredients simmer. Sometimes what we get out of it is something that we wouldn’t have expected.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. It’s definitely a way of bringing fresh blood into what you’re designing and you’re not just, it’s almost like artifacting a JPEG, like you design off a website, off a website, off a website, and you just like get lost instead of bringing in new things.
Steven Wakabayashi: I love that point. Yeah. I know some designers I’ve worked with too are really inspired by Pantones and the names of the Pantone colors too. And so sometimes I worked with this one designer who I literally had the Pantone book and would flip through it and just see what would come up to him as he was looking at the different colors.
And it was just an interesting perspective too, of utilizing all the different pieces and being inspired in a way that was different. , Ivan, do wanna ask you a question or do you want me to ask it for you?
Q&A member: Yeah, it was just really quick, like, you know, do you have your design system published online somewhere?
Because you know, as a designer I’d love to just take a look at other people’s design systems.
Raquel Breternitz: Yes. I do. And let me copy this link for you and share it. It’s just in a Google doc for a share as a shareable thing, but, and hopefully you guys can access it, but yeah, I’ll definitely share it. Would love any thoughts on it even at this stage, because you’re always learning.
Q&A member: But yeah, appreciate it. And thank you for the presentation. It’s really great. Like inspiring things to.
Raquel Breternitz: Thank you so much. Appreciate that.
Q&A member: It says we need access.
Raquel Breternitz: Oh, they might’ve shut down the access. Okay. I’ll follow up and see if somebody somewhere will give me a little bit of limited access for y’all and if so, I’ll tell Steven. But unfortunately the nature of politics.
Navigating the industry as a QTBIPOC designer & the importance of rest
Steven Wakabayashi: Any other questions? I have, I have some questions related to our community. Especially, you know, doing this work, just overall the broader realm of digital design is very cis, hetero, white- centric. And my question is just how, like what kind of verbalize it. What has helped you to navigate it, especially as a QTBIPOC company in this space and what are some things that just have come up for you that you’ve learned more about whether it’s your identity or just the way you collaborate, work with people and just hold yourself in these spaces.
Raquel Breternitz: That’s a huge question and I will answer adequately, but, I do think like the number one thing is, is community. And so you guys are all, sorry.
Y’all, I’ll just use my Texas roots to good here. Y’all are all a step ahead being a part of this? I think like very much, I, especially my early days in tech, I made a point to go to a lot of events, like Lesbians Who Tech, that not only like were full of lesbians, which is always a great place to go.
But also they were very intentional about not just being like white, cis lesbians in tech, and really making sure that their events are as diverse as anybody would want them to be. And as their community is, and really just finding technologists and designers that were doing the kinds of things I wanted to do that I could reach out to, or that I could just watch.
And that kept me going for a long time. I think, I think something that I’ve learned really in the past couple of years, as well is, you know, I’ve been a bit of a, of a passionate hothead my whole life, and I’ve put a lot of my energy into the things that I care about, especially in terms of making the world I want to see and fighting for accessibility, fighting for diversity, fighting, by, you know, often the leadership of whoever I’m working for to do better.
And I, I don’t regret that. I value very much that part of who I am, but I do think I definitely hit a wall at one point. And I realized that I was giving more than I was being given. And I couldn’t do it anymore. And I had to learn that it was okay. And when it was okay to just step back and like, decide, like I don’t have to fight this battle.
And I’m disappointed that no one else is and I’m going to come back and have something to say about that, but maybe not right now. Like maybe right now it’s okay to like go home at five and care about something other than my work and play with my cat and like, hang out with my girlfriend and draw and read and like watch six episodes of _Buffy_.
Like that’s okay too. And it sounds really trite, but honestly, like that has been the biggest lesson of a pandemic for me. You’re not failing if you’re not fighting the a hundred percent of the time. And in fact, you might be failing yourself if you are fighting a hundred percent of time. Rest is just as important and worth prioritizing.
And that’s why I always put this mention at the end of this talk to like organize in your organizing your non-profits and your campaigns, like join unions, go work for places that treat you well. And if they don’t and you can, like, you don’t have to fix it, like you can just leave. And I think that’s like a huge thing that I learned is like, even if it’s only been three months, if it’s really completely awful and you don’t see it improving and you can’t fix it leave, it’s okay.
Like, you’ll be okay. And it’s honestly a huge investment in yourself. that was me talking to myself, but yeah, I think that is also something really important that I’ve learned. And acknowledging that like, sometimes we have to stay in job to have the job, but even then like, You can do the bare minimum for awhile too, and that’s still okay.
And that’s in fact great if that’s what you need.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. And just echoing Aria, 1 million claps to all of that cannot be said enough. How important rest is. An Instagram account I’ve been following and loving lately has been the Nap Ministry. I don’t know if anyone follows it here by amazing black women that centers this concept of rest in the concepts of race and socio dynamics as a, as a way to protest against industrialization of labor.
And especially when it comes to it for myself, I think it’s really easy. I catch myself when I create these narratives, right? Oh, I shouldn’t leave a job so soon. Oh. You know, if I’m the leader I have to do X, Y, Z, all these things. And oftentimes we forget where these narratives come from. And then I think it just, it’s really up to us to, as a part of our decolonizing efforts to walk back and fight against some of these narratives that have been put upon us implanted in us, that ultimately don’t care about our social wealth.
Because it helps support this larger system of overwork underpaid under-recognized labor. And yeah. Beautiful, beautiful, projects that they even put onto. And there was a project that we recently had roof installation. Do you see that one where they, they just set up a bed and had black folks come asleep in the bed, paid them to sleep in the bed and had a whole community around it, really thinking about ways to create an art installation that was impactful plus also equitable for the community.
And so, yeah, it’s, I’m right there on the same page with you, Raquel, it’s taken me a long time to figure out this importance of rest and stepping away.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. And I, I do, I feel that we are in an era or a period of, of rest as necessity. Not just because of what we’ve all been through. Like, we need to grieve and we need to heal, but also because we are going to be asked a lot as things come and we should be ready for it.
And that requires rest as well.
Steven Wakabayashi: Exactly. And the statistic I like to go back to is the Advocate recently published a month or two ago that, 33% of gen Z identify as queer non heteronormative. Yes.
And if we look at the US Census, it’s about four or 5%, And so it’s like 30, 29, 30% difference. It, it could be even bigger than that, greater than that. And as we start to unravel and dismantle some of these structures, we’re recognizing that the future is a lot more queer than we realize. A lot less of this structured binary form of existing.
And I forgot where I was going with this. I think it might come back to me. But it’s just this concept that, oh, going back to when you mentioned, like we’re going to be front and center and utilized by some organizations. As our population continues to grow, a lot, organizations are gonna to reach out to us, want to partner with us, want to work with us, but we should stand our ground and ask for our worth because we are basically the future.
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. Yeah. I want to share this is actually from a different talk, but it’s another thing that I have been thinking a lot about, and that I’ve used as a leader in tech and design, as a framework to think about how I wanna approach work and it’s essentially an anticapitalist framework, or at least I’m trying to make it.
And so basically when I think about like the levers of capitalism, and this is from obviously like Marx and Chomsky and all those white dudes, but basically described as like individual competition. So it helps, you know, for workers to be fighting each other. To incentivize self exportation. Honorable or a badge of honor to like work harder than you should or more hours than you’re being paid for. To privatize socially produced goods. So not to have people share things as a collective. And to reduce the dignity of work. And so when I think about these things, I think about like, how can I come with the opposite of that to the way that I work. And what that looks like for me, at least if Keynote will let me go to the next slide here, is instead of individual competition to really prioritize collaboration. To really share credit which you’ll see, like you saw, like, I shout out my team and I do it because they’re awesome.
And I also do it because again, I, I want it to feel like we have an embarrassment of riches. We’re not competing for greatness here and of course, transparency and open communication. so I’m not hoarding things in order to get ahead of it, whether that’s information or skills or anything.
Incentivizing self exploitation. Like I will not work after like my work hours and I’d get mad if I’m a manager in my report to do.
And it’s important to fight against those examples too. Take your vacation. If you’re in an agency just bill 40, you don’t need to tell them that you spent 15 minutes looking at Twitter and put that in your time sheet. DOn’t let your manager tell you to do that. That is another personal experience.
And instead of socially produced goods, this is like more about kind of software teams, but let the teams that are building the thing own their own decisions and take feedback from the people who will be using the thing and like totally upend the triangle of power from the CEOs and the stakeholders saying like, this is what everybody wants to instead, like here is directly what we’ve heard, the people we’re serving needs and what we’re going to build because of it.
And we’re just letting you know, that’s again, really hard and like different organizations, but I think that’s another really like much better model of work. And finally to like help bring back more dignity, find ways to maximize creativity, allow for time for play, allow for time for inspiration, exploration, and still have time to like, do things that aren’t necessarily like work-related especially like in design space, in a creative space.
This is something that we can really own is like, Creativity comes from so many different places and inspirations, and sometimes you have to like be fiddling or bored and that’s when like something interesting happens. And if you can make and build the space for yourself to have that, you’re going to be able to be so much more creative than you like. Who would have thought you had, like, could be able to, especially if you like to be put out putting something or being, doing something relevant at every moment.
And of course, like refusing unethical business goals, you know, there’s, there’s a whole larger conversations about like the consequences of like attention algorithms, for example, or, you know, contracting with ICE for another example, that I won’t get into, but obviously another great way to like, again, like frame dignity and also like positive impact to the work that you’re doing. so random digression here, but it felt relevant to share.
Steven Wakabayashi: Thank you. And all of this makes me think about one word that pops up to my mind is just this aspect of sustainability. Sometimes we fail to recognize, you know, oh, I’ll just do that one thing or doing this and squeezing that out and doing this. And we oftentimes forget the precedent that we set in doing that work.
So just like the whole concept of going back to the word boundaries, when we keep pushing this line little by little by little, we end up pushing ourselves to a place that becomes totally unsustainable. Well, it started off as five minutes after the work. Now it turns into the five hours after work and it becomes expectation right, then the norm.
And at the end of the day, a big part of at least my reckoning . I don’t know if this is yours as well, Raquel, but it’s coming to realize that I’m just a human being. I am, you know, I need sleep. I need to rest. I need to take breaks. I can’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the closer I am with the humanity of myself allows me to have more compassion and more grace with my work.
And that has been really the, the key pillars to help me establish boundaries and expectations. ’cause. Yeah. Cause sometimes it’s the, it, what people are trying to fight us with are like this game of logic sometimes, right? It’s like logically, like, no, no, no. It’s like five minutes or don’t you want to be better or the concept of hustle culture.
You know, hustle work hard and it’s just, we can’t fight ourselves in the game of logic sometimes with this because the whole structure is so illogical, but yeah, it’s just, I think this is so good. We all need to make this a poster to post on the walls.,
Raquel Breternitz: Sorry it’s not it’s not beautifully designed yet, but please screenshot away. Yeah, your point about logic. I wanted to say, you know, something that I’ve, I’ve mentioned in chat, I’ve been reading this book called the Queer Art of Failure. That’s something that he talks about is like how we accept things as rational but they aren’t actually, we just have all decided and accepted it is.
And the sustainability is a perfect metaphor for that too, because like, well, like, okay. So as a metaphor, the sustainability of forests, there was a long time where people thought in forestry that like the best way to have a strong, healthy forest is to kill everything else in the forest and only have like one crop of timber and you have that one perfect crop of timber, and then you have the timber.
And what ended up happening is that it was actually destroying the forest killed the ground, and in farming, like it’s kinda called monoculture. Like you, you burn out basically the ground, right? Like you get to a point where there’s no more nutrients. And the reality was that like forests are one of the most incredible self connected organisms of symbiosis and like, ah, you can nerd out forever, highly recommend if you’re interested to like, read up about it. But the forest need every element, including like the decaying logs and the fungi and the like birds and whatever. And like imagine telling a tree, like it’s illogical for you not to be in a perfect row of all timber with nothing else.
Like we invented that logic and it’s actually, it is highly illogical from a like forest perspective to ever try to do that. Like if a tree could speak back, it would be like, are you crazy? You’re killing me and you’re killing the ground. And I think we can apply that to ourselves. To like this sense of outside, like expected structural logic is actually not logical or rational at all.
And to try to treat a human being and a complex social organism as an automaton is frankly absurd. Absolutely.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. and Aria also wrote. Adopted scheduling, working blocks and breaks in the word calendars to create this symbiosis, right? This diversity within our day. We have to eat. We have to go to the bathroom we need to walk.
You need to look at the sky.
And a question that I’m just like overtly rational sometimes and logical and a question that’s helped me, kind of fight some of these things, these, these irrational thoughts, it’s asking myself in this situation or in this pattern who truly benefits the most. And we can even apply that in this structure where, for example, individual competition, incentivize self exploitation asking ourselves who benefits the most in the system by doing that and even hustle culture, Thinking, okay. But who truly benefits the most within the system? It’s when we’re a piece of this puzzle that uplifts these larger forces or these larger surfaces that depend on people to be hustling, to be using services. And yeah. Sometimes I have a whole list actually like questions and statements that kind of helped me break out of this.
These patterns, sometimes we just need that little jolt. What’s this?
Raquel Breternitz: I feel like you’re giving this other talk for me.
This is the one I should’ve given maybe, but I love this. This is a reporter that posted this, like, what is the machine that did this to this person? And the like larger question is like, what does the system value? And like under that is like who’s left out? Who’s benefiting? And I think those are just some of the most powerful questions that we can ask anything.
Steven Wakabayashi: I think that’s great. Yeah. Yeah. One of my friends, who’s a psychiatrist has a saying where we’re all hallucinating. We’re all seeing reality and the way that we see it and when some of our realities align, we call it, or some of our hallucinations aligned, we call it reality. And oftentimes we over-index on when too many people have a shared hallucination.
And then we say that this is reality as is, and yeah, it’s this whole like very meta conversation around just like, what is real and what is not real. And, yeah, sometimes I’d like to think now it’s just the lease attached. We could be two things, and this is also very Buddhist in a way. The less attachment we have to things allows us to be more open to what we haven’t seen yet, or we haven’t experienced yet.
And a future that we don’t quite know just yet. Yeah, yeah.
Raquel Breternitz: Sorry. I accidentally, but someone in chat wanted to see it. So I thought I’d share
It’s by no means complete. And I would love recommendations to add to it as I continue to build my case against tech capitalism in my own mind.
Steven Wakabayashi: Well, the book that we’re doing as a part of our book club, we just finished reading Design Justice or continuing in the next two months. That one just, I think, sets really great principles.
Perspectives into design and design culture. and a big part of the book is dedicated also to, proper accreditation and credit as a form of, protesting in the system where it’s one winner take all, which is really fascinating. Also Ruined by Design. That’s another book that’s really great, and that talked about ICE and now Microsoft has contracted out with them .
And yeah, I think the more examples that we can arm ourselves with of how design has been exploited as a practice, to do these things also, at least for myself, a good reminder that, if we don’t check ourselves, we end up playing into the system that can potentially truly harm and hurt people in communities.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. So last question I have for you. How can people follow you? What is the best way to continue following your work and all that you’re doing?
Raquel Breternitz: Yeah. I spend too much time on Twitter and I’m just gonna own that. So, pretty much if you ever want to chat or reach me, you can, at me, my Twitter is raqueldesigns, but I’ll type it in as well.
Oh no. I love it. I, yeah, that’s really the main way, but you can also, you know, always, if you prefer, you can email me, I’ll put it in the chat here. I’m now on the QTBIPOC Design Slack. So, feel free to hit me up there as well. And, yeah, my website is raquelbreternitz.com.
It’s pretty boring, but there is an Easter egg of my cat. If you can find it.
It’s not that hard, but it does make me happy.
(Portion on corporate ethics 👀)
Steven Wakabayashi: well, thank you so much, Raquel. Quick little announcements from our end. Since it’s short, I won’t hop into the slides, but we have a next, a UX nights happening in November, which is all about Money, Money, Money, Money. How to, write up contracts, how to write up different, things to help situate your business, your creative business in a equitable fashion.
And then, we have our Slack that we have attendees join from our community. It’s a totally safe space. We only allow in QTBIPOC folks. So, not that much activity, but anyway, feel free to ask any questions. You’re going to have everyone answer it, which is really nice. And with that, again, if you haven’t joined yet, Kenny has posted the link into our chat with, application to fill out your information so we can send you the details.
And with that, we wrap up for the evening, such a heartwarming talk with the community. And thank you, Kenny. yeah, looking forward to having future conversations. Raquel, we have to bring you back in the future and have another talk with our group and yeah. I’m sure. It’s not just me. If I speak on behalf of everyone here.
Thank you again for the work that you do and really helping set a precedence, especially as a creative leader in this space, with things that we want to see more of. And so so much appreciation.
Raquel Breternitz: Thank you so much. This is such a special space and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it today.
And I will definitely be around the Slack so we will not be strangers.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes, yes. And so with that, we close for the evening. Everyone have a good rest of your night, take care, stop, and, have a great rest of your week. And until next time, bye.
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