Bringing back the Ascenders competition for the third time, we caught up with Anthony Bryant, one of this year’s judges.
We reached out to the Brooklyn-based art director to provide some words of wisdom and inspiration for the upcoming class of Ascenders.
We sent out a questionnaire to some of our judges and past Ascenders as a light-hearted Proustian exercise. This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
What was your very first job?
Summer camp counselor.
First design job?
Digital designer at Createthe Group.
Did you go to school for design? If so, where and what was your major/concentration?
Yes, I studied Graphic Design and Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz.
What was your earliest design class?
My earliest design class was Architecture and 3D Modeling in high school.
Name one of your favorite projects from early in your career.
Designing for Dante Fried Chicken. I worked with quite a few people who turned into close friendships that last to this day.
Are you embarrassed by your old work?
Often times yes, but looking back at old work is a great way to see your progress as a designer.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have more fun and don’t take your work too seriously.
If you could change one thing about your career trajectory, what would you change?
I would seek out more mentors.
What is a barrier to entry facing today’s designers that you might not have?
Today we’re bombarded with information and noise. It can be difficult to find your creative voice with so much information at our fingertips. We are so often influenced consciously and subconsciously by the information around us, which can make it more difficult as a designer to put your specific point of view into practice.
What is something that today’s young designers have that you wish you had?
I would say their knowledge of technology and how to adapt to its changes.
What top 3 traits are you looking for when looking at young designers’ work?
The most significant trait for me is a clear point of view and the most impactful work is rich with meaning. I love work that also has unexpected qualities. This leads to the third trait, originality, or rather, work that doesn’t try to “look” like a familiar design.
What are 3 things that you hate seeing in young designers’ work?
This may sound cliché, but plagiarism. Poor use of color, and dare I say gradients.
Name one way in which you continue your education.
Collaboration! I learn through working with others. I’m an active learner, so I find I retain what I learn best directly from other creatives.
If you could change careers, what would you do?
I would love to paint fishing boats in Senegal. They’re so beautifully done, and the idea of being out to sea in a boat you’ve painted sounds ideal to me. Not a career in the traditional sense, but if you’re giving me the option to change why not?
What is your favorite job you’ve ever had?
Most recently working with the *New York Times* for a few months. I could be curious, read wonderful stories from writers, and work with super talented and thoughtful people. I did help that it was short-term job, so it never lost its novelty.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I found a graphic design job on Craigslist (yes, I know) designing WYSIWYGS in a Wall Street office. Just typing the work WYSIWYGS makes me nauseous from experience. Thankfully the job only lasted for a couple of weeks
What is a job you’ve had that would surprise people?
Cookie deliverer. I could elaborate but it’s self explanatory.
Which of your peers do you most admire?
All of my close friends really. It’s been beautiful to see how we’ve all grown into our lives and matured.
What do you wish you were better at?
Can I say graphic design? I wish I was better at graphic design.
What in your career are you really good at?
Great timing of bad jokes.
How do you define a successful career?
The first step is knowing what success looks like specific to you. From there, you can set a path to achieving your goals.
What tools do you need to have a successful career?
Community (I know this is not a tool). Determination. Kindness (underrated). Work ethic.
What food must be accessible to you in order to work well?
Who do you consider your teachers?
I love working with youth. I learn so much from them.
If you could collaborate with anyone (that you haven’t worked with yet) who would it be?
Kehinde Wiley, Rihanna, Steve McQueen (the director), Mike Tyson.
Any books, films, or albums that have defined or changed the way you think?
Sun Ra for sure. The College Dropout. bell hooks. The film Sans Soliel.
What hobbies keep your sanity intact?
Rock climbing and chess.
Do the above inspire your career/practice, or do you compartmentalize to get away from it?
Not at all, which is why I love hobbies that pull me out of my creative practice. It’s really vital for me to have a break from work.
How much sleep do you get?
This is getting personal. Maybe the question should be, “How much sleep do you wish you got?”
How necessary do you find “routine”?
Routine is the backbone to my process. Constants allow for more automation and less unnecessary thinking on my part. So when I do need to thinking and develop ideas my brain is a little more clear.
Would you like to retire?
Absolutely. And young(ish) hopefully.
Anything that worries or frustrates you, looking at the future of design?
I’m worried about the need for more “content” which then creates more design, and oftentimes it’s bad.
What excites you about the future of design?
I really love new technologies like machine learning, and how you can bring creativity into that space.