Skip to content

The Transformative Power of Transparency in the Business of Design

An illustration depicting a surreal scene where an African American designer stands on a vibrant, red-roofed house amidst vast blue waves, holding a periscope with a flag that reads "Please help us"

“Isolation in a Sea of Sameness” – an African American designer symbolically stands above the waves of creative monotony, searching for connections and support in the vast expanse of the design world.

You don’t know what you don’t know.
— Said, Everyone

TLDR: As an African American graphic designer, relocating to Austin revealed the transformative power of transparency. This shift, marked by open knowledge exchanges at AIGA events, inspired my commitment to share a transparent coaching model. The model fosters trust and collaboration within the community through open dialogue about business operations.

I NEVER thought I would live in Texas. Our close circle calls it things like Wonder bread Land, Austinlandia, and a few other colorless adjectives that describe the lack of Black cohesiveness and presence.

I understand why people love and hate Texas at the same time. However, Austin is different.

When I arrived here via Katrina in ’05, a lot of people were adamant about helping newcomers. One of the first things I noticed was how freely our siblings from another color shared information.

Truly, I had a moment when the dawn of enlightenment hit me, and I saw where I used to be from a different perspective. Though New Orleans seems to be a place where everyone gets along and lives pretty well, the truth of my experience is that the more fortunate people did not share information with the less fortunate people.

I had never thought of this before until I moved to Austin. It never crossed my mind. And, I never thought of how important it is to share how much you make, how you became successful, and the hardships of life—just everything is to build a community. Doing so just felt more real, and the information grounded me.

Trust me. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of wealth through this exposure. I mean, I saw homes with motes and shit, and the places tucked away in West Austin were jaw-dropping. Despite all of this opulence, many people just gave me the answers to any question I asked. 

And, if y’all know me and my questions, you can imagine I said, “Oh, I like this game!” ⛳️

Not too long after my move, I attended an AIGA business series event. Flush with insurance money of a house purchased 3 days before the storm, I could afford to spend a few dollars to try AIGA one more time.

It was a small group of us in that business series—no more than 16—and we sat down with business owners to hear about their stories over breakfast or lunch and then we would ask questions. I was floored by their answers. At that moment, I truly understood:

  • How much money and fortitude it takes to run a business.
  • How businesses are funded. (This was HUGE because I thought most agencies just made money from their own work; that’s not always true.)
  • What books you should read to learn about how to run a business.

I almost hate to admit that it was life-changing.

The transparency from those business owners and their open book approach was better than any business class I never had in college.

Watercolor detail of a book cover showing the title "The Business Side of Creativity" by Cameron Foote, with vivid pink and blue watercolor smudges at the edges.

Unleashing Potential: The Artistic Touch on ‘The Business Side of Creativity.

I started reading Cameron Foote: The Business Side of Creativity in ’06 and began looking for a job because I realized how unprepared I was to run a business. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I read every book Foote wrote—actually, I studied every book he wrote:

This was before the age of coaches, courses, and influencers.

There was no “easy” way to get this knowledge, and when people ask me or talk about coaches, I’m like, “Okay, first, you need to read because it’s really not that hard if you are serious.”

Part of what I was reading focused how to structure your business. The book asked, “Are you a coaching, chain of command business or associate business model?” And, of course I’m like WTF are you talking about Foote?

Then, I learned and decided  we would have a coaching model.  Based on my experience with sports, I learned I have little respect for someone who coaches and cannot show me the receipts of their skills. And no one is real about their work until you show people the stats.

These encounters were more educational than any formal business class. They shed light on the realities of running a business and the capital needed to stay afloat, and they informed me about the unexpected sources of funding many companies rely on. I was introduced to works like Cameron Foote’s The Business Side of Creativity, which became my bible. It taught me the intricacies of the business before I ever thought of running my own.

No one takes your work seriously until you show people the stats. Our organization shows stats that prove the money is where the mouth is. There is nothing to hide. This information is for YOUR growth so everyone can understand they are working with a profitable business. We show them they are not in the dark about their struggles, and they can clearly understand the overall picture of operations. This instills trust–as well as collaborative lending and problem-solving. And that’s why I risk, really nothing, to share financials with my contractors or our collective.

What we do here has to be real, and nothing is more real than being transparent and having the receipts to back up your business.


Leave a Comment

Related links

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Scroll To Top