Daydreamin’ by Chandler Johnson

Day 35 — Poster posted on March 9, 2024 (Final Poster)

Chandler Johnson

Pronouns: he/him
Located: Kansas City, MO

Tell us about yourself:

Hello. My name is Chandler Johnson (aka Kalimizzou). I am a versatile media cultivator. I love being creative and designing new things with people. My creations explore all parts of the social condition, from text to audio to visuals to the web. I’m fascinated with how the world works and want to produce products that enhance our way of life. I’m the founder of Pick Progress. Also, I’ve been a communication instructor, co-founder of the podcast Loudspeaker, and do freelance work for various clients.

What is the inspiration behind your poster design?

I fell asleep beneath the flowers
For a couple of hours
On a beautiful day
I dream of you amid the flowers
For a couple of hours
Such a beautiful day

I feel like the stars are calling me… I feel like Gordon Parks is calling me. I feel like Lupe and Kendrick called me.

Before we started this year’s poster series, I spent some time near Gordon Parks’ hometown. Gordon helped change the landscape for Black creatives, beginning in the 1940s. One of my favorite images he created is “Boy with June Bug.” Parks wrote a semi-autobiographical story of an African American boy growing up in Parks’s hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas; the photo essay illustrates experiences both positive, such as the moment of summertime leisure pictured here, and negative, including the impact of racism on the boy’s family.

Ever since I saw that image, I’ve loved the idea of lying in a field and imagining. So, unlike my first poster, which proposed the idea that dreams were like constellations, this time, I’m returning to the clouds with a semi-portrait of me catching a butterfly that represents this project (or seeing a dream finally realized). Dreams do come true.

Boy with June Bug, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1963 by Gordon Parks

Why do you love being creative?

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved dreaming of new possibilities and figuring out ways to make those ideas a reality. I have VHS tapes of little me acting like a news anchor and doing half-hour segments of yesterday’s news. I still have examples of elementary school art assignments where I tried to figuratively color outside the lines and do something more extraordinary than the assignment required. I still have most of my college notes because I love reliving the moments when I learned something new.

The late great basketball phenomenon Kobe Bryant once talked about his love of the game in a way that compelled him to wake up at 4 AM to work out and practice. As I’ve gotten older and been able to define my passions better, I realize that the opportunity to be creative every day is my lifeblood. Like Bryant, I wake up at three or four in the morning because I have an idea I’m trying to figure out or put on paper.

Additionally, my passion for being creative makes me hungry to catch up to the greatness of my creative colleagues and friends. Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t go to college for design; instead, I double majored in communication and electronic media/journalism. If creativity gives me life, communication is my love language. The seven years of college and graduate school helped me understand how to communicate through graphics, images, and websites. So, much of my creative work primarily focuses on conveying the message or core goal to the audience before incorporating any artistic choices.

All of this explanation is to say that I love what I do. I still work in all the mediums of graphic design, photography, video, and web design. I have been fortunate to travel to other countries for work and create design elements for significant events locally. I have seen websites I’ve made do so much good for specific underrepresented communities, and I’ve created social media assets for small businesses to bloom toward their full potential. If I stopped right now, I could say that I have lived a full life in this creative world, but as long as I have breath in these lungs, I’m still pursuing these creative dreams.

Tell us about your experiences in the design world…

As a Black creative, I have lived with the paradox of Double Consciousness in workspaces. W. E. B. Du Bois coined Double Consciousness to describe the feeling of People of Color (POC) splitting their personalities, perspectives, and experiences to fit in white-dominated spaces. I have been in plenty of meetings where I have spoken up with ideas only to receive silent responses in return. I have sat at my desk only to hear everyone else being asked out to lunch, leaving me to eat alone. I have had ambiguous conversations about not having the right ‘tools’ in the ‘toolbox’ for the position, only to watch my non-POC equal receive the requested opportunities. All of these moments leave me straddling a fence where on one side, I’m questioning if the lack of engagement is because of my current abilities as a creative or if it has to do with my skin color, whether intentionally or subliminally.

I have also been blessed to have people in my corner supporting me to accomplish many things. As a Black creative, you must constantly be on your Hustle & Flow. You have to be willing to hustle and diversify the ways you acquire opportunities. You have to be ready to make opportunities for yourself, whether creating your own freelance business or something else. At the same time, you have to be willing to flow with things. Sometimes opportunities are not going to work out in your favor due to systemic issues or someone’s personal opinions. Regardless, if you can immediately pivot to turn those lemons into lemonade, your cup will eventually runneth over.

No matter what your hustle & flow looks like, the truth is that it’s hard out here…

How can we create a more inclusive design world and ensure that Black people are represented?

Creating a more inclusive design world starts with asking tough questions, exploring the core problems, and being transparent with solutions. Like most things in our history, the design world has a history of many inequities for marginalized individuals. If we cannot admit past horrors, we will never move forward to promising solutions. So, we must dive into our hiring practices (especially when it comes to department leads), we need to look at our education pathways to understand what’s holding people of color back, and we have to discuss value/compensation for Black creatives. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In general… How can we make more equity or equality for us?

As Sam Seaborn said in The West Wing, “Education is the silver bullet.”

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