Jarrett Gilmore is a Freelance Industrial and Graphic Designer located in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is a recent graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Bachelors of Industrial Design. In his days at UL-Lafayette, he has designed a wide variety of products ranging from fashion, sports, automobiles and most things in between. Jarrett is also a member of the Zeta Xi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. When he is not working on sketches and concepts, Jarrett enjoys playing video games, superhero television shows, and spending quality time with friends and family.
Tell me about your early years and where you come from.
I was raised by a single mother in a small, rural town in southeast Louisiana called Albany. My mom always told me that I began to show signs of inept creativity at a young age. In particular, I have always enjoyed drawing cars, modifying toys, and also building bicycles and ramps in my backyard. My most memorable creation as a child was a functional, papier-mache replica of a crossbow that I saw on the television show Myth Busters. In addition to drawing, I also was a 3-year football letterman at Independence High School. I am the first man in my family to graduate from college, which makes me feel like a good role model for my younger sister and brother.
How did you first get interested in design?
Initially, I was introduced to Industrial Design (ID) by a friend that I met at orientation. He explained what ID was and I instantly knew that was the major that I should pursue. I love the principle that there is no wrong way of doing anything in design, as long as there is a justification of why something was done. I believe this gives me so much freedom to get as unorthodox as I want to when it comes to finding the inspiration that I then translate into my designs.
Tell me about the work you've done?
I’ve been a part of a wide variety of projects. Mainly, I use my design skills to bring concept ideas for local entrepreneurs to life, graphic design for various Lafayette businesses, and visual promotions for on-campus organizations.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
The proudest accomplishment of my career is graduating from college, especially since the odds were against me given my upbringing.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
The most prominent struggle of my career has been launching my brand in a city where design is not a highly sought-after field. I also feel that fighting off complacency will always be an ongoing battle because it is easy to get comfortable where you are as a person. I like to stay motivated by continually reading up on and researching what industry trends are in demand.
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
My hunger for success is intense, and I’m incredibly dedicated to making my family proud and showing young black men that there are other paths to success beyond the sports and music industries. I hope that as a black designer I can be an example to other people to think outside the box, follow your dreams, and exceed people’s expectations about who you should be. I love who I am as a person, and I like that I am not your average young, black man.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
I think my answer can be best represented in this quote from comedian Chris Rock, “The black man gotta fly to something the white man can walk to”. As funny as the quote is, it is sadly true. As a person color trying to break into a predominately white industry such as design, you have to really go above and beyond to get the same chances.
What are your biggest motivators?
My family members are my biggest motivators. I am so thankful to have a very supportive, close-knit family who has kept me focused and determined to be successful. They have always pushed me to see the world beyond my small hometown and to pursue my passions.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
To be frank, sometimes they don’t understand exactly what I do as an industrial designer, but they are definitely proud of my work nonetheless. I try to educate them as much as possible about ID since it is not a well-known career path in Louisiana. I’ve always found it funny how often they ask if I can design a t-shirt graphic for family reunions.
What do you love most about working in design?
I love solving everyday problems and bringing my ideas to life. Design has become my outlet for self-expression, a way to give back to my community, and a career all in one.
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
Designers need the same acclaim as other professionals like doctors, lawyers, teachers, etcetera. More specifically, I would like to see more people of color exposed to design as a career path.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
I think it starts with arts programs in schools. Many children of color go to underperforming, underfunded public schools. The first thing to be impacted by budget cuts is the arts programs. For example, while I was in high school, I was only able to take one semester of fine arts. It’s so important to foster creativity from a young age. I’ve always wished that I was able to get into design much earlier than I did.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
In the next several years, I would like to have completed a master’s degree program and begin the legwork on starting my very own design agency catering to everything creative. I’ll be the type of leader that tells his team what needs to be done, then get into the trenches with them to make it happen.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
I would tell them to prepare to work really, really hard. Remember that your designs are an extension of yourself and your brand, so always represent yourself with professionalism. Seek out a mentor within the field and build rapport with that individual, who will, in turn, help you develop your professional network. You have to be your own worst critic and biggest motivator at the same time. Constantly practice, stay abreast with industry trends, and never stop improving your skills.