The importance of safe / creative spaces for lgbtqia students
The Importance A Safe Creative Space
By: Casey Stokes
Michael Jared solidifies his passion for personal projects and advocacy with an Instagram feed comprised of cool greys, sleek design, and modern photography.
His Instagram is packed with vulnerable portraits and architectural influence that showcase a brand that exudes confidence. You witness a commitment to his identity with a collection of 1300 posts that are dynamic but personable. His goal is to build trust with his followers by sharing content that is honest. His interest in many art forms is fluid through day-to-day thoughts paired with straight-forward captions. Pride can be found as a boastful badge of honor displayed under each picture showing solidarity to another passion of his and where his commitment lies. An excitement for inclusive perspectives in the LGBTQ community that is not limited to the social media sphere. As an LGBTQ community vet, he breaks down his vision for upcoming campaigns with the University of Louisville and the importance of a safe, creative space.
1. How important is it to have a safe, creative space that aligns with the LGBTQ community?
I do not think people understand the importance of having an outlet, especially when you are talking about an oppressed group like the LGBTQ community. When you talk about this group of oppressed people, and you add intersectionality of race, gender, and sexual identity, and how those identities coincide with one another, you get a lot of discrimination. Someone like me that is white and cis-gender has only been able to see very little. I can only compare my situation to other people and understand from an angle of privilege. I know its important through being an artist and being someone who uses creativity as a platform to therapeutically deal with things. Making something positive out of something negative is important both for successful lives and healthy mentality. I am a very personable person; I like talking to people, and I know that I can bridge gaps in a community, and or just be someone to talk to.
2. What does your vision look like in creating a safe space and how, or what is your plan to do so?
Having a foundation where people can come and find the community is such a powerful thing, it is not only responsible, but it's necessary for a mentality. I am someone who struggles with mental health, and it is very necessary to find a community or space that you can feel safe in. A community where people can legitimately understand your situation and what you are going through is very comforting, as is creating something beautiful out of a place that seems so ugly. A community can show you how to make positive things happen throughout life regardless. That's my life mantra, that's why I feel so strongly about things like this. It can really destroy someone, especially someone that is broken by being absent from a community, whether that be emotionally or physically it's better not to ever feel isolated or alone in your struggle. But when someone finds a community or comes into a community, these spaces can feel so uplifting, I think that is the single most important thing is making someone feel worthy and safe especially on a school campus. Especially considering the terrible things that have been happening with school shootings recently the public discourse is changing and people are much more reserved. So if I can be apart of that in any way, I will 100% want to.
I want to do as much as I can with the LGBTQ center here. It's a rich source of community engagement that has not been tapped into. I am very good at coming into
things and getting what is there and helping people see all of the opportunities that they can make. Especially being someone that is so versed with social media I feel that I am in a place to not only help portray a vision online but rather better communicate the vision of foundations to people and really make it more than just social media post, but rather a community outreach.
Communities like this are a great place, people want to help, people want to give back, and the LGBT center is a place of understanding and encouragement. It's a powerful thing that people don't really get in other communities. When you have people from all walks of life coming together, you get a broad, expansive understanding and also an acknowledgment of other people's perspectives and how it relates to your own.
Being a student and closely aligned with the vision of the LGBTQ center, I can provide a platform to bridge the gap because of my experience. A lot of the time people in school do activities or they join clubs, but there's no real direct correlation or communication between the
students, what they want and the administration. The most important thing is how they are going to make that possible with diplomacy. Brian Bufford, which is the guy who took me on, has such a good heart and I am glad to be working with him. I appreciate the work he does and the hear he has specifically because in the past I've had experience with LGBTQ centers that are backward. But I am just going to be really honest; if that were the case here, I would not do it. I'm glad that's not the case.
I am learning so much as a person going through this and meeting with people. I think going into this part it's important to say that I understand I am privileged, I identify as a man, I am white; there are so many things that have created barriers to my understanding that have been broken down through these interviews.
I've sat down to talk to people in spaces and gotten such a wide understanding about inclusivity. Coming into
spaces and using what I have to give back and to create a platform for people to stand up, speak out, is what's important to me. Often time people get into a loop where they talk about things but don't do anything
about it. It's almost as if it is a distant reality but forget it is a reality for people right now, especially in this political climate. You need to get up and do something; this is the time, it could not be a better time to speak out and to start a conversation, enlighten people and give a different perspective on something that could help someone bridge the gap of understanding.
Being wrong is a very powerful thing to embrace, and if I went into things thinking that I had all the answers, I would never grow. Often times people are very ignorant about things and don't want to learn because they are afraid of misunderstanding. Ultimately, that keeps them in this bubble of comfort. What people have to do is know how their privilege, identity and aesthetic play into an expansive degree of discrimination; More importantly the role they play in using their privilege and how they can better life for people that are born at a disadvantage. That is very important, and a lot of people don't understand that. Personally, I don't want to come into things ever thinking that I am not open to other
people. I want to always be able to receive what other people are saying and not create a wall because of my own experiential bias. This is something that has been so prevalent in my life, that I am so 100% passionate about. To my very core of humanity, I couldn't think of a better position for me right now, or a more pertinent cause to be fighting for.
3. What are important elements that align with your vision?
Definitely interviews, I am talking to people but aside from interviews, creating a space where I can come and receive what people are saying. My goal is to understand what people want in the LGBTQ space and what they want to see and being a voice for them.
Going to those meetings with the higher-ups in this program and saying this is exactly what they want and this is what we need to do. The need is there, and people want to do things, but they don't have a platform to talk to the higher-ups. Being a student, identifying as gay, I really have the opportunity to hear what they are saying and show that to the higher-ups in the program.
I've been reaching out to people through my Instagram as well, text and meeting in classes and talking to them. A big part of it is talking about how a lot of people don't even want to be photographed and remain anonymous. With this realization part of my campaign is realizing that I can't have a face to the name so, I am really focusing on the narrative aspect. I think this helps people understand because it's shown through a narrative that allows them to put a soul to an identity. Sometimes people don't get it
when you talk about race, gender, and sexual identity; they forget you have to consider discrimination in the workplace, school, and how that plays into hindering economic opportunities.
4. How do you include all aspects of the narrative when you think about inclusivity?
I aim to include different identifies and not doing all white people. I look at other people and research other inclusivity campaigns and this sounds very frank, but it's literally all-fair skin people and maybe one darker skin person. Why would someone do that, I don't understand like I genuinely don't understand it. If you're going to talk about people that are discriminated against you, need to start at the most discriminated first. On a surface level, it is very shallow. My goal is to literally look at the word inclusivity and look at how I can translate that into narratives and how I can portray that to a wider audience. So really talking to people about what they want to see in the vision of the LGBT center and lastly, how they want that to be portrayed.
5. Do you feel like you can understand and reason with them not wanting to be photographed and want to remain anonymous?
Absolutely! Oh my goodness! People are just not comfortable and don’t feel safe. It is to be respected when talking to people about identity. It is a very personal thing; it’s nobody’s business so, to even feel comfortable with me to talk about it is a privilege. You
should never pry or pressure someone into telling you they’re identity. Speaking from experience I wouldn’t have wanted someone to pressure me to come out before I was ready. Personally, I knew how my family was going to react. It’s a very important moral
aspect of this campaign. Knowing when to stop and knowing the boundaries especially people that identify with this campaign. The higher ups have good intentions but its hard to understand what these people are really going through. I do feel I have much more of an understanding when it is too much because I am going through these things as well. I know they care and want change but I know it's hard to get a comprehensive
examination of how important this is to them.
6. Have you ever thought about the importance and significance of even rehearsing where you have to come out to your family, what are your thoughts on that?
I've done a lot of thesis work on why it even has to be a reveal, and it doesn't really make sense to me. It's stigmatic, the idea of coming out is damaging to the LGBTQ identity. Automatically the notion is that "you are other" because it creates a dichotomy
narrative between straight and hetero-normative society. So when that happens people
automatically assume that someone has to come out to be taken seriously, which is wrong, you don't have to tell anyone your identity to be legitimized or validated, because it's no one's business.
It just continues the narrative that you have to come out to be comfortable with your identity. I do not ever want to ask people what their identities are but I will ask people what they feel comfortable sharing and we will just go from there. It is often a wide-spread misunderstanding between institutions especially institutions as sensitive as LGBTQ. Sometimes higher ups think about a lot and want to portray that in the best way, but it is limited. Until you have literally gone through things that people in the LGBTQ community have and understand from an age perspective or from a college perspective you are never going to fully comprehend all the things that go into it. You have to think about all the things behind what you're asking and how people feel comfortable.
7. How do feel like our demographic has played, or plays into your research?
I think Louisville especially is very modernized but the political climate in Kentucky in general and overall social awareness is very low. With this role, I am in a position where I have the ability to speak out. The most responsible thing to do is to combat that with an
opposite perspective. What I learned is, without an opportunity to look outside of what you know and what your experiences are, and include everyone you are hindering the message. The message of this entire campaign is to fully encompass what you are preaching, and it's just crucial for any campaign. Any aspect of society that needs change requires that you account for the unrepresented. It should be a constant desire to know how you can align with what you are trying to do to help get a better understanding of what the reality is for people. People don't understand that skin color and gender identity and especially sexual identity can literally change how people perceive you. How immediately when someone looks at you, they are going to have preconceptions, and prejudice and discrimination. This is
honestly just based on how you look or how you present yourself, and that's a major problem. The only way to combat that and to truly address that is to talk about it and discrimination that is happening in school and any structure of power. The important thing for me is to talk about and to understand that there are narratives being pushed and narratives being demonized.
8. How do you use your privilege in the communities that have the same privilege as you?
I have the opportunity to reach people that are like me because the reality is people that look most similar to you are most likely people that you are going to be around most of the time. I can talk to people that I am closely related to about the importance of other
identities and put myself into a context where I can bridge the understanding between the two. What I know and represent and what is being misunderstood. To talk to them about the importance of trans identity and gender fluidity and how other identities should not damage your own but rather strengthen yours. The only way that I feel I can address this problem is to talk about it as much as I can and try to get people even if it's just my mom or my brothers to listen.
The single most important thing for me as a person and as someone who is specifically talking about inclusivity and any foundation is that you need to look at the people that are underrepresented and that is happening for a reason. It's structural with gender and class that play into why people are being under-represented and you have to look at the narratives that are being pushed to do that.
9. How do you feel your brand on Instagram has played a role in providing trust in people and things like that?
I recently got into Instagram because it's a fun way for me to express myself and go outside my comfort zone. I live with a rare nerve condition so for me staying active is a very crucial part of my identity. I've learned to cope with things in addition to making art and expressing myself. It's a really positive thing for me, and I love doing it. It's really well received, and it's growing an audience, and it's really awesome to see people supporting me from afar. To be able to use a platform as simple as Instagram to reach people and talk about things that are important to me is satisfying. The identity that I display is exactly the identity that I am carrying over into this campaign.
My brand as a person translates to my Instagram well, which is what I want, so I talk a lot about sexual discourse, misconceptions of gender and how they play into acceptance and rape culture. I talk about experiences that I've had and how my sexual abuse has
lead me to a huge understanding that is a gray area for people and identity alone. My brand talks about issues that I see and what I want to get a better understanding of. The trust lies with how I have open dialogue and how I am willing to meet people that I meet on Instagram. I am also very accountable when people come to me when I am not doing something right or things they don't fully agree with. I love having those conversations with people about where we are and where we can meet in the middle because that is where growth happens. When I post on Instagram a lot of the times, it is just fun stuff. I
try to mix it up with real-world things, but I don't want to be depressing. I find balance when I talk about things that matter and what people aren't comfortable talking about; I think it pushes the envelope. It's literally a matter of perspective of how you allow yourself the comfort of talking to other people about their experiences and knowing it relates to your own on a broad scale.
10. I am excited I think this is going to be my final question. Where do you see yourself after you have completed the campaign, do you think that the campaign that you're breaking into will be the foundation that will carry the center, your perspective, and your vision?
The center is doing many amazing things and they have so many good things going for them. I am really just coming in and assisting. I believe, as far as my vision goes, I really want to hammer the fact that you will never fully understand someone's experiences no matter how woke you are or how understanding you are, you will never fully understand someone else's identity in relation to your own. That inclusivity is more than understanding, its equity, its understanding that things have to be treated differently based on the person that you are looking at. I strongly believe that my campaign, my art,
and my experience will push that but in general, it's never done. The most important thing that I have learned about creating anything is that from its inception if you put in good things, good things come out. You have to be comfortable, even if you are not satisfied at the end, knowing that you did everything and had good intentions in mind when creating. That will always shine through in the end result.
So, if I had to give an answer, I would say no it would never be done because I feel like the LGBTQ center is just an ongoing mission. They are always going to be pushing the envelope for the misrepresented and this is a brick in the wall on a larger scale of inclusion. I believe we still have a long way to go for equity to be achieved but it's doing your individual part. I am not trying to be cliché but it is doing what you can with the experiences you have had and giving back in any way that you can. That is the message I want to give aboard. I do not want to come across pretentious; I do not want to be masked in my privilege. I am striving to leave a message of understanding in the LGBTQ center. Pushing that as
much as I can to anyone that has the time to set down and talk. I will help to create a platform and literally show people that this center existing, helping one person, that's why it's worth it.
- Go follow Casey here
How to work with brands online and maintaining your identity.
I feel as if the biggest fear I had about working with companies is the fact that I didn’t want to come off on any of my social media as a sell out. I think a lot of bloggers and pretentious people who identify as “influencers” often times just take whatever they can get and honestly no tea no shade if that makes you happy then by all means honey go live your good life and get your money, I respect the hustle. I however just can’t get behind working with people, unless I resonate with them on some level. I try to work with brands that not only align with my aesthetic identity but also my brand identity, which encompasses a lot of my moral fiber appropriately.
Working with brands is a huge part of working online. I wanted to make this post to talk about how I retain my personal identity while simultaneously working with clients and brands to cross - promote and market their brand within my own work and context. Now I want to preface this by saying I definitely don’t identify myself as an "influencer” and I’m not throwing shade at anyone that does so let’s start from there. I have recently started working more in photography work and I find that my interest in fashion and editorial style fashion photography coincides with my artistic voice, this is what I focus most on in my social presence. I’m going to break down the process of reaching out and working with brands into three steps and hopefully this gives anyone reading it a better sense of how the process works and what you can do to reach the next level in your online brand or personal brand.
1) Build your brand identity
The single most important part of working with anyone is having a niche or aesthetic that makes you stand out. I like to think of it as a showcase of what your best work is or what you’re most passionate about as a person, artist, creative. Now when I say niche I don’t mean that you strictly have to stick to one thing, in fact I encourage anyone to work outside of what you’re comfortable with, because it will simply keep you interested, and growing as a person. In my own work I do mostly photography experimentation and I fuse that with my understanding of fashion, and illustration, in a way that makes my photography stand out. This allows for my voice to be heard while at the same time enabling me to work with brands that I believe in, that both align and break from those categories. The trick is to be able to work with companies in your main category of interest but maintaining flexibility to work with other companies.
Having a brand identity is important for consistency and building trust with your audience, you should feel confident that your work could be in a pile of photographs and someone that follows you could tell that you took a photo out of the hoards of other photographs, because that’s exactly what Instagram is like. You want to create an understanding of your intentions and your interests, both aesthetically and otherwise, through what you post while at the same time being genuine as a person.
2) Be confident and know your worth
Reaching out to companies should not be something that is done aimlessly, you need to research and have a targetted group or audience that you want to engage with each extension to work with a company or brand. I see it far too often happening with bigger influencers, people get lost in the consumption of brands and lose their own identity I have found it is reflected in their online presence. Now this is not to say that people can’t and shouldn’t change and grow in time because that’s just a fact of life, but rather to say that regardless of who you’re working with you should always think about how you are retaining your own identity in conjunction with working with a company. Audience trust is one of the most detrimental parts of being on social media and building an audience, when you work with companies and try to promote a brand you don’t believe in it’s very obvious and people will unfollow you because they can’t trust you. When reaching out to a company do your research on them and always ask yourself if you would buy this product, or if the product aligns with your morality as a person and your personal identity, it has helped me so much to ask just those two questions when deciding who to reach out to.
Knowing your worth is the second part to this step, I know being someone that has under ten thousand followers that a lot of companies will automatically say no to me when reaching out to work with them. I never would be the type of person to buy followers just to have a company send me something because that's not real, I see so many people that buy followers and their engagement is extremely low and it's just not believable. A lot of people don’t get that micro-influencers often have a more engaged audience of followers and although the numbers may not be as enormous, the amount of engagement per post is much higher, which is more valuable to work with online. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that there is a market for micro-influencers because the likelihood of engagement is much higher. This is why I encourage people to reach out to companies and to have a conversation, I think that brands are looking for confident people who believe in what their doing to promote their materials and often times that is enough in itself. If anyone of you are considering working more on social media I would strongly consider switching to a business profile on instagram, all you have to go is go to settings on instagram and select “switch to a business profile” you will however need to make a page on facebook in order to do so. Believe me it's worth the trouble.
Switching to a business profile will be able to show you analytics that will help you track and assess your rate of engagement which will help you track what type of content your users are responding to. I think social media is very intuitive, especially with the accessibility of this type of tracking information and technology, it makes it that much easier to grow your audience. I also use this information in my emails when reaching out to companies to explain engagement and combat common misconceptions about the importance of micro-influencing and how effective it can be.
3) Combine the brand identity with your own
So getting the material is one thing, but promoting it and incorporating it into your feed is entirely another thing. This is made easier by doing your research on the company, also more importantly this is where you can be creative. I find it to be a lot of fun being able to challenge myself to photograph material in a way that seamlessly integrates into my instagram feed. I always encourage people to stay true to number one and to maintain an aesthetic when considering how to photograph material. You should also not be afraid to break aesthetic limits from time to time, because the last thing you want to do is to be repetitive.
The end goal is to be able to reach a point in your online presence where you can build not only trust with your audience but a relationship. Building this relationship allows for you to create unexpected things that push your boundaries as an artist and creative while receiving support or criticism from people that want to see you do well. I feel as if I use my instagram following to engage myself as an artist, both with my work, and how it is perceived by other people. This has allowed for me to grow as a creative.
Just make work you are proud of and be confident with what you put out into the world because someone will appreciate it. It's your job and your job alone to make things happen for yourself.
So go out and make it happen.
I have been recently inspired to start my own photo project specifically focusing on deconstructing and exploring the narratives that emerge from living in a heteronormative society. Heteronormativity is not the sole inspiration for this project but more so that of my personal commentary on the damages of heteronormativity on the LGBT community specifically. I want to fuse my understanding of compositional layout in design and my understanding of color theory to convey a message through my photography, specifically to raise questions about what is perceived as normal and otherwise. I want to provide a platform for discussion and therefore proposing arguments on why heterosexuality has become the standard and why.
This photo series is specifically based in the structure of compositional space, the lines and the industrial nature of the geometric shapes are broken by the subject through contrasting organic nature. This break of geometric conformity stems out of the abstraction to what it is like being anything other than straight, I am addressing the necessity of other forms of identity being exposed to a majority audience to combat popularized stigma attached to the LGBT community. Through isolating the subject in my work I am discussing the discourse of exclusion and isolation experienced in society accordingly.
I chose to work in this photo project with the absence of color specifically to combat the cultural idea of rainbow colors associated with pride. In detaching my project from the narrative of pride I am focusing more on the composition and forcing the viewer to analyze the subject more within the context of its surroundings.
Vulnerability is multidimensional.
To be vulnerable is something that is often criticized by society, this is due to the way it is structured.
One of many ways we confine and associate acceptable behavior is to reference a binary system of characteristics assumed with gender identity. This is done in such a way that favors and appropriates the ability to be vulnerable based on the identity, gender is often associated to be synonymous with biological sex, when in fact this is not the case. By creating the dichotomy of masculine and feminine it is important to understand that one would not exist without the other, it is a counter narrative classification. One would not know what they are doing is not masculine without knowing what is considered feminine and vice versa, this cycle reinforces self policing within social discourse and further normalizes institutional discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
To be fearlessly vulnerable is the most defiant courageous act, crucial for progression as a society. Allowing oneself to feel emotion, especially in my own experience identifying as male, will not only counter characteristics associated with masculinity but create new ones through normalizing confidence free of pressures to conform to fit into a culturally constructed idea of masculine and feminine.
To be vulnerable can mean so much more than just what we associate with the word, to be vulnerable can apply to more than just a single category. Vulnerability is the ability to allow oneself to feel emotion free of pressures or biases, to let the walls we have constructed in order to protect ourselves down, to expose ourselves in our true humanity. I employ this idea in my fitness and through my artistic process, allowing myself to be vulnerable about my nerve condition, my anxieties about life and depression, taking precautions and necessary steps to protect myself and my body while at the same time discussing them through my creative outlets.
The most important part of deconstructing the idea of vulnerability is finding strength in the rawness of vulnerability. The importance of vulnerability is applied to my artistic process, finding strength in opposition. To be fragile in today's society is associated with the narrative of femininity mostly due to the fact that people want to reinforce the idea of women not being able to be strong, or that showing emotion is synonymous with being weak. I am simply employing my own experiences of gender bias and discrimination in this article. I am a cisgender white male and I acknowledge that my experience doesn’t compare to others, however, my perspective still offers a valid insight to the harm of institutionalized binary society and furthermore the demonization of not adhering to characteristics of masculinity.
In an effort to practice being vulnerable, I have been meeting up with people to talk about my experiences as an artist and the things that have not only shaped my aesthetic identity as a designer but my moral fiber as a human being. I was able to meet up with a friend that is collaborating with another local artist in working on a project similar to the Humans of New York series, implementing the same ideology and structure into Louisville’s diverse culture.
I decided to reach out and connect with him because I like the idea of exposing narratives in order to find common ground within and across different perspectives while at the same time explaining and offering my own insight from my own experiences and what I have learned from them.
These are the questions I was asked and my responses.
What's most important to you at this very moment?
“I think the most important thing in my life right now, without sounding very selfish, is myself and being able to have the confidence and drive to push myself past what I’m comfortable with. This can encompass a lot of things such as: who I want to date, how I portray my art work, the social factors that play into my artwork, and what I talk about.
What’s something that has changed the way you look at things?
When I was younger, I got injured by a local nurse. I went in with strep throat and instead of receiving a penicillin shot, the nurse gave me the wrong injection in the wrong place. The needle pricked a vein near my sciatic nerve and caused a blood clot to form. As a result, I developed one of the rarest, most unknown nerve conditions known to man. I think 1 in nearly 30 million people will ever be diagnosed with this yet alone be considered in remission from it. Essentially what the nerve condition did was cripple me from the waist down and I had to go to the Mayo clinic in Boston to receive around 6 months of treatment and physical therapy. I’m the only case in recorded history of a full remission and although I still have major nerve damage, I’m doing much better - over the hill and then some. It is truly a miracle. I feel like I not only look at myself differently but I have a better understanding with my mortality and mentality towards health.
Why do I think art is important?
I think art is a critique of things that are not talked about, it is a way for people to find something within themselves that reveals a bigger truth about an outward society. On a personal level, it is a good way for people to deal with things and make something beautiful out of something dark. On a global scale, with a growing population in society, the need for sustainable design is so necessary. If we don’t have programs and encourage people to pursue creative careers, then we are going to run into problems further down the line like we are already seeing with unsustainable design not being eco- friendly or user friendly. The way we impact our environment can be sustained and even benefited mutually with good design. Design is a way for functionality and aesthetics to merge.
If I could change one thing about the world?
I wish I could show people the difference between religion & ignorance because I feel as if the two are often assumed to be the same thing. I grew up in a church and when I decided to tell people I was gay, it was a very rough and abrupt isolating process for me, both with my family and my church.
It took me a long time to figure out that religion is not the problem, it is the people that interpret it as such that are the problem. Fundamentally, I think religion has great ideas and teaching people morals and lessons that make them better which is amazing and important. I would just want people to separate religion with interpretation and to have unbiased views between people, different religions, and different things that don’t always align with what you may personally believe in. Further more than that, just common respect for people that do not believe in what you believe in. I’ve found that even within my own experiences, when talking to people that have different views than I do, I try to come at it from a humanitarian perspective because I never want to tell someone that what they believe is wrong, however I do draw a line between someone believing in something and that dictating opportunities for other people on the basis of it not adhering to what they believe in. No on has the right to say that what they believe is superior to that of anyone else, faith is faith and it is just that; it should not be used as a divisive tool of categorization and isolation.”
It’s important to me as a human being and artist to share my truth and my experience in the world, in hopes that my experiences and outcomes will encourage someone else to be themselves. Besides just sharing my story I love meeting with people who are open-minded and willing to hear other perspectives. I jump at the opportunity to not only engage in conversation but also to contribute to Louisville based artists and creatives.”
You can check out my story and others here:
Louisville has a very close knit community of creatives. I feel as if Louisville, speaking from my own experiences, is a very approachable and collaborative community of creatives. I have been able to access opportunities for myself that I know would have been much more difficult in other places.
In light of recent career decisions and opportunities I have had the opportunity to not only further my ability to describe art but learn effective ways of engagement with its viewers. Working at an art museum for over two years now, I have been able to engage in conversations with people of all different backgrounds and age groups about their experience with art and more importantly how they interacted with the work. Engagement is something that people especially artist are always looking to work more on. I feel as if this is most apparent on social media, this is important because it is the foundation for any successful design or piece. Engagement is the end result for any type of design and should be considered as a major factor for anything that is designed or made.
The problem with this, especially in the design community is ego, a lot of people are afraid to make work and give it out because they feel that ideas and original content will be stolen and manipulated, and unfortunately this is more often than not the case. Which is okay. Because so long as you have the capacity to produce original designs and work, you will always have an advantage. Now this is not to encourage people to go and steal designs because you cannot get far in life on someone else's originality.
This however should not license artists and designers to shy away from social engagement and awareness in making designs. The important thing is to be comfortable enough putting material out that will cause a bigger impact and good for creativity, while at the same time furthering one's own process. One of the most important things in my process as a creative is social engagement and critique. I feel as if most, if not all of my blog, stems from that principle. In making this Zine project I am hoping to engage Louisville’s audience to deconstruct the anxiety and pressure that stems from the associations and legitimization of sketchbooks. In a digital age we see sketchbooks that are extremely well thought out and compositionally perfect, when in fact this is not a reality or even appropriate for the idea of a sketchbook.
Sketches, are an extension of quick ideas and thoughts that can be written down wherever you are without the pressure of people having to look at it, this stigmatic idea of a perfect sketchbook often keeps people from even pursuing a sketchbook. A sketchbook is not a place where perfect ideas flow from waterfalls, where perfectly aligned sketches and colors blend together in a beautiful homogenized array of glory. A sketchbook is going to be a headache it's not going to be pretty always, now that’s not to say that you can’t go back and expand on the ideas, that is the point of a sketchbook.
People often confuse and merge the terms illustration and sketch together, when in fact they are two very distinct things. When you see a beautiful sketchbook that looks like the artist spent hours on the composition, it’s because they did, that is not a sketchbook it's an illustration book. Sketching should be more practice for the artist, a place to purge ideas rather than refine them. Sketchbooking is essentially a record book for ideas that can be used as a reference and foundation for the expansion of bigger projects and concepts, as a tool for process not the end result. Now I say this to make a point, but on the same hand I also work extensively on the idea of process as works of art, finding the beauty in unrendered unrefined sketches and rawness of ideas. It all depends on your perspective and end goal for your work, I am simply making this blog post to help people get a better sense of sketchbooking as a basic tool.
I figured that I could contribute to deconstructing this idea of a perfect sketchbook by creating a little zine sketchbook that is seemingly recyclable, it doesn't have value per say. I even went so far as to incorporate prompts for people to follow along to. The instructions are meant to be for people that have a hard time with idea generation, and should not be considered if people already have an idea in mind for a sketchbook, but to help guide those who get lost in the anxiety of a blank page.
I am proposing the platform for people to simply just do it, to get their ideas out of their head onto physical pieces of paper and then encouraging them to adjust their ideas and expand from there. By providing a digital copy of my Zine on my website I am able to provide access to a wider audience that far expands the boundaries of just Louisville. I am not making this design for self promotion but rather to engage myself as a designer to test out my ability to engage with those around me through my website and social media. I genuinely want people to be okay with making things that aren’t perfect because the ability to fail is essential to make anything above average.
I want people to push themselves as creatives into creating things that make them uncomfortable, I want to push people to think about things that make them uncomfortable. This guerilla style of sketchbooking is such an important thing to address because I truly believe there is so much to learn from failing, from addressing what makes us uncomfortable and exploring it. I want to create a dichotomy between social media representation and artistic process, I feel as if living in a digital age pushes people away from artistry in a traditional sense. I don’t want to be a part of that by endangering and exoticising the idea of sketchbooks and I hope to combat that with my sketchbook project through encouraging people to get messy and learn from practice rather than immitation.
To be socially aware in society today is much easier than it has ever been, the access of educational resources is quite literally at the fingertips of millions of people across America. While clearly news stations are not always reliable or comparable, it isn’t the most difficult thing to get a general sense of the world at any given moment through the internet. Furthermore than current news, I think it is in most cases more important to reflect on history and how deeply embedded problems, created from the inception of the US, is affecting people now. Because how are we supposed to know what can be done now without addressing what has already been enacted?
To be, and stay, relevant in design, a designer must understand and analyze that their creation plays both a role of social legitimacy and efficiency of providing a platform for discussion and furthermore solution. Social legitimacy plays to how it can be used to better society in both its functionality and analysis of social and political discourse. Platform plays a role in providing the basis for critique and unbiased analysis.
Now I’m not saying that designers have to take a political stance in every single design that they create or even a social or critical stance at all, but rather to reiterate the importance of keeping the zeitgeist in mind when creating functional and engaging designs. Because to be frank, making art that is simply based on addressing the problems with society in any current time would be depressing and very taxing on both the artist and the viewer, but again this should not deter the action but rather provide a context for the time and place to formally and casually address them. No matter how you look at it, it’s simply just smarter to know your audience even before taking a stance to address an inequality or injustice amongst structures of power, because it will help you become a more engaged and aware design, this can be said for any form of design or artistic creation.
Designers in themselves are artists, the very act of creating something that allows for a more functional and effective use of elements of design to be received by the viewer, is by default also a platform to address the problems within the views themselves through art. Artists possess the potential to make people question hegemony and their identity. I find this to be one of the most exciting and terrifying parts of design. There lies so much potential in the ability to make people step outside their views even if just while looking at a design, poster, painting, magazine etc… It only takes a split second for a realization.
Social awareness is not common, even further equal or accessible. It is important to be reflective in your claims and identity, and to be open to being incorrect or wrong in your views, to adapt and evolve is human nature. Herein lies the problem of critical discourse in design solutions, to speak to broader messages that ones own identity and experience reflects views and assumptions is not always well received. I think that as designers and creatives people should be open to the opportunity of discussing their identity and be able to identify and deconstruct the experiences that have shaped that identity, then relating them to broader problems that are not simply narrative based, rather than being enthralled in your singular perspective.
In any facet of judgment it is important to analyze your situation in relation to others and furthermore to dissect the seemingly invisible laws of social equality and inclusion and why that might influence the discussion. In my own practice I work a lot with the idea of gender and appropriation of performative theories of gender and how they are received by society. What I aspire to do in design is rather than separate people based on their beliefs, but bring them together. I think that art allows for a neutral platforms of discussion.
This cannot be said for everyone because some people just don’t want to think outside of what they know, but regardless art can say things and make people feel things that make them question why they react to it the way they do, even without direct conversation. This is so powerful, to directly access the morality and social response to something on a seemingly neutral platform or otherwise, is to propose an immediate critique of ones views.Now this is not to automatically assume one platform is above the other in any way, but rather to propose that art can provide a point of conversation that can lead to an inflection of self identity on both ends.
Self awareness is the most important thing in society, it is the foundation for any form of change to occur. I encourage anyone who reads this to be more self aware, to be more aware of society and address the things you don’t understand or agree with, and be open to changing your perspective. People are always so afraid of being wrong or shifting their ideology, that’s the point of living and learning new things to adjust to that new knowledge and form new beliefs. Don’t ever be comfortable with what you think you know.
My new years resolution was to reach outside my comfort zone. This encompasses more than just pushing my creative bounds but also my social awareness and capabilities. This year I have rebranded my social presence as well as started a blog, in addition to these things, I have also been actively reaching out to businesses on social media. Using Instagram and other social platforms is a great way to create opportunities for yourself and furthermore to push your professional identity in business as well as push creativity through experimentation.
Dot Grey is a lifestyle, fashion and skincare company that operates on the basis of uniqueness and individual identity in a capitalistic society.
Being a sucker for good branding I had to reach out to them when I came across their page on Instagram ( you can check them out here ). The aesthetic of their brand stood out to me because of my current instagram mood is more neutral black and white tones. Their message of identity and individualism only furthered my interest.
Upon talking to the PR representative I was sent a chamomile face wash. I can't tell you enough that I was absolutely enthralled by the packaging and the product itself. Since I have relatively sensitive skin the Chamomile wash was gentle enough not to irritate my face but cleaned it in a way that didn't strip my natural oils. Definitely something I will be using in the future, and not just because it looks nice.
I am giving away a single use thirty dollar coupon code to one my followers exclusively because honestly who doesn't love thirty dollars off anything, plus why not try out a new skincare addition. I will be announcing that in the next couple of days on my Instagram page which you can find at the bottom of this page ( @itsmichaeljared )
I also teamed up with them to create a coupon code that is able to be used by anyone that is 10% off so If you're interested it honestly works for me so I'd recommend giving it a try.
In addition to loving the packaging I also wanted to take the opportunity to make a little experimental promotional video that they ended up using. Hope you all like it.
In a globalized society, today we face pressures to portray ourselves a certain way on social platforms. The use of social media in the past decade has grown from frivolous to necessary, especially in technological and design related fields. Today most employers will take a look at your social media profiles as supplement to your resume, or in some cases, before. Social presence in media is a tool that can be utilized for not only networking but business. I want to talk about how I balance social presentation in addition to retaining my own practice of design has helped me distance my personal identity from my social identity.
It is a struggle for me as a designer to maintain independent thought and process because of the over saturation of media and advertisements I see on a daily basis. Subconsciously I think it is important for creatives to be aware of how much aesthetic information they are allowing to influence their processes. Through utilizing my Instagram bookmark folders, I am allowed to save things that inspire me in a way that I can deconstruct from a design perspective. Social media is prevalent in every aspect of life today, when you think about all of the social interactions that people have today, chances are that some, if not most, got the information via email or facebook invite. Social platforms have allowed for a vast expansion to occur within communities, but also further isolated human experience and connection.
As a creative I think that connection with not only other people but the exponential world around me positively impacts my thought process and design solutions. I have created a hashtag project: #creativelyuncomfortable to push people that follow me on my social platforms to push their artistic bounds. I think that people often get so enthralled in consumer culture and media culture that they not only disassociate reality, but furthermore use these online personas as references and influences on their own lives. People are using social media to judge and categorize their own lives in comparisons to others, not taking into consideration the validity and importance of their own lives. Whether it's intentional or not, people subconsciously absorb and associate identity and presence based on what we see in media and advertisement. I believe this to be harmful because through categorizing and the hegemony of advertisement companies we are perpetuating prejudice and assumption of people based on their physical or social representation. The importance of social presence dictates opportunity and foundation for self importance and identity.
The most effective way of combating this notion of media manipulation is through my method of decompression. I encourage people to take thirty minutes to an hour or more if allotted, a day, to take a project on and do something that forces them to use their creativity to solve problems. In doing this, I personally have found that my design process has not only improved, but my vision and drive for design has been more engaged. To deviate from the schedule and strategy of everyday life can be liberating and fruitful for designers and creatives, or just anyone that needs to feel inspire. Social media has a way of influencing popular content and material, we have adapted to think that the response we get on social media profiles dictates the validity of the material itself. We should not place the creative legitimacy and integrity of our content and processes to people looking at a screen.
Social interaction and development allows for not only a broader understanding of creativity but engages social practice and discourse. The deconstruction of public discourse and interaction has proved to be a problem in cultural tolerance, leading to an increased anxiety about social contact. I believe contact to be our only true connection to the outside world, and I stress to anyone that reads this to push outside of their bounds.
Don't become a robot.
(Here's an example of one of my projects I made for school that I used a collage process to influence my design.)
Masculinity is a set of attributes and behaviors associated with males. This idea of roles and appropriation has continued to be a problem for the advancement of society. Hypermasculinity is something that affects everyone, it drives and creates categories for men and by default women.
Hyper masculinity is a set of traits that are stereotypical and enforced through exaggerated aggression, and behavior often mimicked from portrayals of male roles in society. Hyper masculinity is often born through the push of older generations and parents implementing their own views of gender ideology onto their kids.
We also see compartmentalizations of masculinity and gender roles in media, often sub-consciously recognizing and absorbing the unspoken roles and expectations of genders. This is harmful because it is robbing both men and women of their own identity and true humanity, through forcing them to confine themselves into these roles, which is separating them and shaming them for actions or presentations that push boundaries of gender. The fault with forcing people to define themselves by their gender and having that be the core source of their identity growing up, is that it shuts off opportunities for growth and expansion, and furthermore divides and separates opportunities for everyone from an early age.
Being someone who has grown up in a Christian family I know first hand, that gender plays an enormous part in how you grow up, and how you experience the church. I wasn’t ever one to fit into traditional activities myself. Growing up in the Church, I was shamed and isolated for embracing myself as a human first before my gender, this often led me to do things that were labeled as feminine. I did things like gymnastics and I liked art, but I had always wondered, even from a young age, why people judged me for pursuing my passions.
Rather than ignoring the questions I had, and accepting it, I searched for answers.
It wasn’t until I was in high-school when I realized the corruption and underlying misogyny in the Church and how it had not only stripped me of my self confidence, it had forced me to conform. To reiterate this is from my own personal experiences. I've come to the conclusion that I think the reason that religion is so popular is because it’s a way for people to find solidarity in what they don't understand. What better way to bring people together than to try to help explain life's most basic questions, why are we here? What’s our purpose ?
Now this isn’t me completely bashing religion, because I do think that there are valid lessons of morality and great people trying to do amazing humanitarian things, which absolutely deserves recognition. However, thinking more broadly, I think that there are major problems with the modern day church and its inclusion and understanding of people on a global scale. It boils down to a bias, regardless of religion. Fear and ignorance in the Church often overwhelms the scripture intended to be taught, in such a way that allows for manipulation. This reinforces discomforts and bias into the education of morality and social compliance, diluting the scripture and message itself.
Institutions such as the Church are allowed to continue their hold on people because of the desire to hear things that please or comfort its followers in times of struggle. I believe that religion dictates opportunities, and often times allows for a cycle of hatred and misinformation to control people's lives and families. These actions can be deconstructed and divided into the most basic forms of discrimination that can also be seen in the structures of society and politics.
Hyper-masculinity is born out of the ideology, religiously based or not, of people having to confine to activities, hobbies, and physical appearances that are deemed appropriate for them. Now what I am not saying is that religion is the problem, it's peoples interpretations and bias informing and molding the minds of young people to shame others unlike them, in the name of religion. This is creating a vice of fear and hatred for what you don't understand or experience.
I think that many of today's problems could be solved if we stopped teaching kids what they are supposed to act like and furthermore identify as.
Being gay is something that has really allowed for me to embrace my difference. However, I have found that the LGBTQ society is reflective of so many forms of discrimination. The intersectionality of race and gender bias and opportunity is reflected in my experience with the gay community, creating a disconnection and appropriation of the idea of a superior form of aesthetics. Aesthetics is emphasized in the gay community through what we are exposed to in media, people think that they are supposed to act, and present themselves a certain way to be wanted and loved when this should not be the case. The image of the gay man is demonized enough, often seen as a threat to the normality of heterosexual society and religion, in most places leading to execution. We should not allow for that same way of thinking to infiltrate our sense of community but rather find common ground in discrimination. Living in the United States is an opportunity, I am able to speak out about the importance of unification within communities such as the LGBTQ community rather than disconnection because of ignorance and misunderstanding. It's often forgotten that people in other countries are being persecuted and killed on a daily basis for their sexual and gender identity, this fear should not manifest itself in categorization but rather encourage people to speak out about injustices, both globally, and within our own country.
It's very disheartening to think that we are in a country where education is accessible and encouraged, yet we still find ways to separate and confide in the comfort of ignorance. We as a global humanity shouldn't allow for fear or misunderstanding to dictate relations with people. Especially with growing globalization and accessibility, there is no excuse for such an ignorance and discrimination to exist, and must cease to exist if we are to advance as a humanity.
I think that progression and modernity is something that drives the forward thinking foundation of communities such as LGBTQ. Something that really scares me is the intersection of discrimination and elitism in the community that carries over. Mostly through exposure to different cultures and ethnicities it is important to analyze them as it pertains to our own lives.
What I feel my generation as a whole is doing correctly, is addressing and challenging the structural bias of things like gender and religion. It is important to question and analyze these fundamental parts of American society, mostly because much of the majority of society just accepts it on the basis of it being all they know. I think that my generation is forming a sense of unity through rejecting accepted standards and coming together for the good of everyone; Dismantling discrimination and ideology that supports the idea of ignoring what is outside your realm of reality, such as gender identity, orientation, religion, education, and politics.
Not in aggression but rather for understanding.
Rather than exploring the bigger idea immediately, I encourage anyone who reads this regardless of identity, orientation, or class, to think of themselves and their situations, and how that might impact your way of thinking. Think of yourself and your privileges and disadvantages and why that is, then relating that to a global comparison.
I’ll leave by saying that I think that humans are very capable of being successfully tolerant, furthermore accepting of things they don’t understand, but it starts with the individual. I would encourage anyone who has doubts or questions to not shy away from the truth in fear of what you might find, but rather embrace yourself and be honest with what you don’t understand, approaching it from a place of understanding and growth.
I've found that having conversations with people you don't necessarily agree with can be daunting but also fruitful, it is the only way to bridge the gap between ignorance and understanding. We are all human and are more similar than we are different. Find a way to embrace and educate yourself on the differences, question your upbringing and allow yourself not to be ethnocentric in the way you perceive other religions cultures and beliefs.
It’s the only way to truly grow as a person and as a society.
PAIN AND GAIN
As some of you may know, I am very immersed in fitness and physical health. Living and growing up with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome forced me to keep physical well being in the forefront of my mind in everything that I did, and continue to do. Although my pain is dormant for the majority of the time, which is a luxury in itself, I still have occasional flare up episodes that cause my leg to spasm and swell, often times leaving my leg numb. This can happen at anytime, it's hard to know when because it will just randomly happen, but I take the necessary precautions to avoid it.
To describe the pain after a spasm, it's similar to when your foot falls asleep and starts to wake up just before the tingling sets in, it just stays that way until it passes. During the spasm it feels similar to needles poking your skin, it's as if someone's poking your skin with a needle, and it ripples like water throughout your leg.
Physical well-being is a part of everyday life and has helped me cope with more than just physical pain. Fitness allows for me to focus my feelings and energy into bettering myself, it's often times more of a psychological work out rather than a physical one. Especially with my nerve condition, stretching and keeping myself limber aids in my recovery and often contributes to the amount of pain I'm in at any given time, and my mental health stability.
It sounds so strange to say, but when I look back at the things that have happened to me, more so than just being diagnosed with this condition, I can't help but to feel anything but gratitude for the person it has allowed me to become. I've learned so many lessons about self-confidence and discipline through these experiences, however terrible they seemed at the time, and I came out on the other side stronger. Something that I don't always allow myself to keep in mind when going through new hardships.
My body allows for me to live a normal life, and I don't take that for granted. Every single day is an opportunity. I feel so humbled that I am able to live life to its fullest capacity, something people with this condition aren't allowed.
I just want to share my story in hopes of not only spreading the word about CRPS but to encourage anyone who's going through any type of hardship whether that be physical, emotional, or mental, to take the long term into consideration and to make the best with what you have. Believe me when I say there were days when I was in the hospital and I never thought I was going to walk again, doctors told me that wasn't going to be a possibility. People with my condition are not able to do the things I can do and my pain is nothing compared to those who still feel the full effects of the condition because of circumstance that held them from treatment.
If you're determined you can make anything happen, you can change your situation for the better.
You have the capability of turning something bad into something good.
Don't wait to take action until it's too late.
HEALTH AND HOLIDAYS
I think more so than any other time of year Fall is when I get sick the most. Here are some tips and tricks to stay healthy, hydrated and festive during the holidays.
1) Sip the tea,
I drink three to four cups a day of green tea when it gets cold. Green tea is full of Catechin's, a type of antioxidant that helps strengthen and protect your cells, it also helps keep your body hydrated. More importantly, Green tea contains healthy caffeine that allows for energy to be used, and is often used in fat burning supplements because of its ability to aid digestion and target fat cells. Most importantly Green tea has been shown to protect your body from various forms of cancer growth especially prostate and breast cancer. Just drink some tea during the holidays and it will not only help you maintain a healthy weight but it can help better protect you from illness. Plus Green tea is relatively cheap especially when you buy in bulk.
I definitely don't want to be the person that spends the holidays in the gym. Believe me I think after this year we could all use a good amount of food and presents. However, that doesn't mean that you can't do minor things to help your body stay in shape. One of the most common misconceptions of people who suffer during the winter are people who take the cold weather as an excuse to stay indoors and not exercise, when really this doesn't have to be the case. You can do little things like searching yoga morning routines, that fit your needs and schedule, taking five to ten minutes in the morning to stretch and wake your body up while your coffees brewing, it will make all the difference in the world.
Stretching especially is important during the colder season because it circulates blood throughout the body, allowing for colder toes and fingers to be less of a problem. Now if you're the type of person who feels the need to run in the snow by all means be my guest, that being said, its important to warm your body up before you exercise in the cold. Its imperative that you stretch and warm your muscles up before running because your body temperature needs to be semi-regulated. Also layering in advance before you run is important because you want to allow your body to expend energy as necessary, taking off layers as needed to maintain a healthy temperature when running.
It should go without saying but sleep is crucial to staying healthy during the winter. Your body needs time to rest so that it can be better equipped to acclimate to the temperature and furthermore fight the sickness that always seems to surface around this time of year. Don't forget to allow yourself some time to get some rest, even if its just minor naps here and there, your body needs it.
Water is the most important part of staying healthy and regulated during the winter. You can do things as simple as drinking room temperature water to stay hydrated, better protecting your body, and especially your skin and lips from cracking from dehydration. Dressing appropriately also has an effect on your body temperature, you can think of it as give and take, your body has to expend energy to make you warmer, so allowing more insulation by layering clothes allows for your body to expend less energy. The same goes for drinking water, temperature has much to do with digestion, your body has to expend energy to heat up or cool down water that you drink. So drinking water that is room temperature allows for your body to retain that energy and by default keeps you more energized and hydrated.
© VSCO Select Series 2017
P E R S O N A L - S T Y L E
It took a long time for me to be comfortable with myself in every aspect of being. I went through some very adult things at a young age, and I feel as if it really molded my mentality on abandonment, and furthermore led to my depression anxiety. Anxiety and Depression is something that I deal with to this day, I don't think you ever really get over depression. I think that style is another outlet for me that brings something beautiful and constructive out something dark.
My medical history with CRPS and not being able to walk for a year really put things into perspective for me, It planted a seed in me that I hadn't even realized until it began to grow years later, learning how to walk again gave me confidence and determination. The key step to take in loving yourself is acceptance, in all facets, being empowered in finding the beauty and uniqueness of yourself.
Learning to love yourself and to be comfortable with who you are is the hardest thing I think anyone can do, most people go through their lives masking themselves to appeal to a constructed audience; afraid of expressing themselves in fear that they will be rejected. Speaking from experience, it's a terrible place to be, learning to be confident in who you are is something that can't be taught; only shown through other people helping you find what's already there. It's the most liberating thing you can do.
I took me eighteen years to finally accept myself, like so many others I'm very much still on the path of learning. I've finally reached a place where I feel confident and encouraged to express myself.
I think that difference is what should unite, rather than divide. I think it's important to understand that it's how people decide to embrace those differences that divide us.
Fashion has always allowed for me to be unique, to present myself in my full humanity.
S E L F - C A R E
More often than not I spend my time going to school, doing homework, and get distracted with other responsibilities. I feel as if I speak for most college kids my age when I say that people tend to get lost in the pull of life, and forget the importance of taking time to live and to do what you love whenever you get the chance to.
I'm not saying quit your job, However if you need that shift go do it, just be smart about it. What I am saying is that it's important to take care of yourself in more ways than just physical health.
My nerve disorder forces me to keep my health in the back of my mind in almost everything that I do. The sensitive nature of my disorder has allowed for me to become more healthy, through stretches in the morning, or going to the gym and staying active. Even more importantly I focus on my mental health and stability dealing with PTSD.
However, I think that balance is the key to maintaining a schedule. I find that taking things a bit slower on days off allow for your body to recoup and prepare for the stress of the week. Finding some time to carve out in order for you to do things that you love, scheduling a meeting with an old friend, or just taking sometime for yourself to go and grab a cup of coffee and look at things that inspire your creativity, can really help you not only to be more functional at work, but help with drive in other facets of living.
The first thing you should do is find something that lets you decompress.
Being someone that enjoys art and design, I like reading magazines, I'll read almost anything that I can get my hands on, specifically ones that relate to my aesthetic interest such as Cereal Magazine, a bi-annual style and travel design based magazine that originates from the United Kingdom. I love the crisp and uniquely modern style of Cereal Magazine, I love analyzing the type layout and visual hierarchy of the pages. Even when I'm relaxing I'm able to use the knowledge and inspiration into something that engages me and drives my work, you're really able to mesh the two worlds together and make even boring tasks interesting.
Definitely take mental health seriously.