May 11, 2020No Comments

Reflections of My Mother

Yesterday, we celebrated Mother's Day here in the US. I took time to curate a heartfelt message on Instagram with some of my favorites photos of my mother, Jacquelyn J. Eagle, and our family.

A young Jacquelyn Eagle feeding her eldest twin Quinnton Harris cake at his 2-year birthday party

My mother called me later in the evening to share that she loved the post. However I would have never guessed what followed our conversation. One minute after hanging up the phone with her, she texted me this note—

So over the years I have collected some of the most beautiful words that you shared about me. Today I have combined them, not in the exact order that you shared them, but in [accordance] with the flow and theme. The only thing that I changed is the very last sentence [And you'll understand why].

To my surprise, my mother had creatively strung together messages I've written for her over the past 5-6 years into a touching tribute. It's almost as if she completed the lyrics to a song I've had in my heart for years. I'm admittedly blown away not only by her masterful wordsmith-ing abilities but also deeply touched that she payed so much attention to everything I said over the years.

The reflection reads—

I am so incredibly proud of this woman. The evolution of Jackie J has been one of the most fascinating stories that I’ve ever witnessed and I am sure that the story of her life will be legendary for generations to come.

She is a different woman than when I first met her. She is stronger, wiser, braver and realer. She has gracefully transitioned from being my mom, to being one of my best friends. It’s been an honor to watch her grow up right in front of my eyes; something I only thought a parent would have the pleasure of experiencing. I’m sure most parents feel a sense of joy and honor watching their kids grow up before their very eyes. Well, I can honestly say that it’s been just as rewarding to bear witness to my mother transcendence to her rightful place as matriarch of our family.

Her beautiful soul is dyed with the vibrant colors of her experiences, her heritage, and her dreams. Her warm smile draws you in and her infinite wisdom keeps you hooked.

She is the hostess with the mostest, an intense scholar, a soulful craftsman, an iconic figure and an amazing storyteller.

She has dedicated her life to ensuring her children grow to be whole and peaceful men. And through the good times and bad times, she has always tried to be as honest as possible.

She shares her heart with us everyday to the best of her ability, and because of this, our family has been able to love each other unconditionally, talk openly about our struggles, mend broken hearts and invite others to share in this love.

It is her that I use as an example to love others. No qualifications. No earning it. No ulterior motives. Just love. She continues to show me what this life is all about.

She has been through so much lately, but she is always there for you with a smile and a cheerful word. She doesn’t wear her issues on her shoulders. She lets  the experiences of each day free her. She teaches me to reflect, be mindful of the blessings and to heal.

She shares stories of my family and my heritage. She is shaping the man that I am becoming. She is the OG. The Original Griot. She is wise. Full of God’s love.

She faces her fears every morning and she is dedicated to a life of love, faith and strength.

Her love walk with God and us has been truly a divine demonstration for what we should all strive for in life — a  generous spirit, a healed relationship to family, and a purpose driven life. Her life journey is a living testimony that love takes time, patience, perseverance and humility.

Her love has ministered to me through my darkest moments, and has encouraged in me some of my brightest moments.

She continues to be a light to me and my tribe, and I am one of the luckiest sons in this world.

She is one bad Sistah. The Matriarch. The Original Queen. A role model. My gift from God. My Mother... And she is my Maya Angelou now and forever!

Simply wow.

I am left speechless every time I read it. My heart is full of joy. A revelation of my mother vision of my mother fully realized. If you're curious, here are a few posts that my mother borrowed copy from:

And if this wasn't enough of a tear jerking, my mother wrote me another note today further expressing her gratitude toward me.

Quinnton you are the son whose spirit I crushed the most with my harsh, critical, fault finding attitude. I realized about 15 years ago that I was a very hurt, broken and fearful woman and I needed to change. To read these words from you is worth all of the challenges that I’ve had to face to be the woman that I am today. I’m so grateful that I’m not seen as that former mother / woman to my children or myself anymore. I hope that the woman that is showing up in your life now, continues to be all that you are experiencing and even more My King. ❤️🖤💚

What an amazing gift to receive from the woman that gave you life! Thank you mama.

June 19, 2018No Comments

Blavity, Inc. — Designing the Brand

When Morgan DeBaun and her co-founders Aaron, Jeff and Jon started Blavity almost four years ago it was a platform to unite and elevate the voices of black millennials. Since then, their company has grown to be the home to the largest network of brands that serve a wide spectrum of young people who lead multifaceted lives and have diverse interests. The business growth has commanded the market for black media in its growing reach of 30 million people each month, all while acquiring brands like Travel Noire and Shadow & Act while creating new ones like AfroTech and 21Ninety.

"We are a team that is as diverse as the audience we serve, working relentlessly from cities and countries around the world to disrupt and reclaim our narratives."
Morgan DeBaun

But it was time for Blavity to retell its story.

Blavity needed a new way to display its exponential growth, re-establish its core values and share its successes. Following in the steps of larger media companies, Blavity set out to forge a new identity as Blavity, Inc., an umbrella entity that pays homage to our roots, affirms who we are as a company and boldly charts a path forward.

The Blavity, Inc. Ecosystem

Five Brands of Blavity, Inc.
The five brands of Blavity, Inc. — each serve a specific purpose and audience. However at their core, they highlight vital qualities that our community hold in high regard: information, telling our own stories, wellness, innovation and exploration.

The creative team and I set out to create something fresh and bold for the company’s next chapter. While our ultimate deliverable was to design a corporate website, we knew we needed to nail down the visual and tonal strategy for Blavity, Inc. too. As a result, we pushed for a design language that felt authentic to our brand of media but was unique in its execution.

Our main objectives were: to create awareness for all entities owned by Blavity, Inc., showcase our approach to problem solving and reflect the authentic, creative perspective established within the brands in our portfolio. The audiences we targeted were potential partners and investors as well as young professionals and brand loyalists.

The Concept

After establishing the branding point of view, the creative team and I started the visual and tonal exploration. The grounding principles that led us were:

Corporate Meets Character — Traditionally corporate brand identities are conservative and sterile. Color palettes tend to stay within the blue, yellow and green family. What would it be like to re-imagine tradition through the lens of our vibrant, expressive black culture across the African Diaspora? What if we added a little more color to corporate?

The contemporary Black Dandy aesthetic as well as other West African fashions inspired our ideas for mixing traditional African patterns and shapes with Western culture suiting often associated with corporate culture.

Clean Aesthetics Matched with Artful Collages — We also searched for the right balance of abstract, avant-garde and realism. Our brands are grounded stylistically by lifestyle imagery and design elements. With the new concept, we wanted to steer Blavity, Inc.’s identity to be a bit more abstracted and aspirational.

Inspiring Artists
Mixed media artists like Willian Santiago and Neil Krug inspired our approach to creating bold and textured graphics that juxtaposes style portraits of people of color.

Pops of Color on a White Canvas — Color, contrast and proportion were all considered in the process. The designs on Blavity Inc., needed to stand out but also be reminiscent of art displayed in a gallery. How could we splash the right amount of color and not have it feel too cluttered or overly dated?

With the evolving visual concept we focused the brand voice to be direct yet approachable. We sought to use language that positioned our voice as authoritative while encouraging space for discoverability and transparency. We wanted descriptions like “confident”, “bold,” and “innovative” to focus our exploration and add more depth to the visualization.

The Design

After selecting a font palette, we created a new logo using our primary typeface TT Norms. We took design cues from the original Blavity branding while adding custom elements. The name “Blavity” is a very strong and iconic name, and we chose a heavier weight sans serif font that was balanced but had some character.

To round out the font palette we paired TT Norms with Miller Display. This serif font adds a bit of refinement to the palette and allows us the ability to add versatility and special emphasis in our type combinations. As we continue to build upon our media platforms, particularly for our editorial and content systems, we will develop strong practices surrounding typography as a team.

Typography for Blavity, Inc.

For the color palette, we evolved the historic black and white combination to be more vibrant and expressive. We chose colors that complimented a range of skin tones and developed a cooler palette that pushed past a traditional, minimal corporate color palette.

Color Palette of Blavity, Inc.

For Blavity, Inc.’s visual identity, we created our new interpretation of culture corporate. We wanted an aesthetic that artfully juxtaposed patterns and shapes from the Diaspora with modern design elements. We chose portraits to be the heart of the content, and we use high contrast black and white photography against vibrant backgrounds and textures to form a pop art and suprematism aesthetic.

As we designed the unfolded the experience online, we wanted our audiences to follow the Blavity, Inc. brand story. In addition, we aimed to establish our corporate presence in the media landscape to drive business development and strategic partnerships. From showcasing our best work to publishing our own press-related corporate news, curates a holistic snap of where we are and where we are headed.

Working Toward the Common Vision

Having joined in January 2018, this was my first large cross-functional initiative at the company. Alongside our Editorial and Business Development teams, I witnessed firsthand our deep commitment to growth as an organization. I can’t even begin to express how proud of I am of not just the work we produced but the process we underwent together to do it. For many of my peers, it was the first major branding exercise they’d ever been apart of at a company. Their willingness to learn about design thinking as well as ability to compromise while keeping us focused was extraordinary.

A major lesson I learned throughout the entire process is that perfection is the enemy of progress. Progress is progress. Having the right balance of business acumen and emotional intelligence helps you nail down the details while still keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Special Thanks

Thank you Morgan DeBaun, Jonathan Jackson, Jeff Nelson and Aaron Samuels for such a strong and clear vision. Thank you Lilly Workneh for being the giant whose shoulders we stood upon throughout the project. Thank you Simone for your stewardship and support. Thank you Sankara Sauvignon, Christian Jones & Cadie Obeng for being on the front lines with us in the final hour. Thanks as well to the engineering team for the all the late nights and weekends.

I extend a special thank you to my creative team Anthony Crawford, Hasani Tyus & Tyler Bennett  — you all are the heart and soul behind this project. Thank you for your commitment and patience over the past few months. There’s still much work to be done, but I am confident we have the special sauce to keep cultivating our ideas and bringing this dream to life.

Read our official company announcement here.

Project Team

Quinnton Harris — Creative Director
Anthony Crawford Senior — Brand Designer
Hasani Tyus — UX/UI Designer
Jonathan Jackson — Departing Chief Brand Officer
Simone White — Business Development
Lilly Workneh — Editor-in-Chief
Morgan DeBaun — CEO