Marco Cheatham is a Designer & Art director at Aligned. A video production company based out of St. Louis, MO. There he is obsessed with design and his collection of hats and socks.
Cheatham enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, their new lab puppy Levi, and trying as many new restaurants and beers as he possibly can. He would not tell you his, but in school, he was marked as one of the individuals to beat. Very talented motion designer with an eye for design simplistic solutions for complex problems.
Tell me about your early years and where you come from.
I grew up in Waynesville, MO a small town just outside of Fort Leonard Wood. The youngest of 5 – I grew up poor with 3 brothers, 1 sister and mother who provided the best she could. She did a great job.
How did you first get interested in design?
Like a lot of people in this line of work, I started drawing at an early age – a lot of cartoon characters to be specific. When I learned that I could get paid to draw for a living I was pretty much sold. However, I did find out later there is a little more to design then just drawing.
Tell me about the work you've done?
I’ve done a lot branding, website design and currently motion design over the last couple of years. I strive to make things that are meaningful. I want to tell a story with the things that I create. I ask myself – does this have a purpose or a reason to exist.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
I’m just proud to be a designer. I think most of us want to make a “dent in the world.” Make peoples lives better somehow. I’m searching for that and enjoying the journey.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
One of the biggest struggles in my career and life has been overcoming my learning disability. In fact, this is the first time I’m speaking on it publicly. I always thought if people found out they would feel I was stupid but more importantly, it would make it a real thing. What I perceived as the determination not to let anything hold me back was really just masking my biggest insecurity.
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
I don’t look at it as trying to set myself apart. I just do the best work that I can and look for ways to improve. I am both humbled and inspired by the work of more talented people than myself.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
It’s been really positive for the most part. I have met a lot of good people, friends and my significant other in this industry. I have been exposed to new things and taken on new perspectives. However, I have become way too accustomed to being one of only a handful of people of color at any given design event.
What are your biggest motivators?
Friends and family for sure but also the world around me. You can find motivation pretty much anywhere but you also need confidence in yourself as well.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
Most of my friends do the same line of work, so they have a little more appreciation and understanding. My family, on the other hand, support me but for the most part, they don’t really understand what I do haha, but they are proud none-the-less.
What do you love most about working in design?
The struggle between hating and loving it. It’s hard even painful at times, but that kind of pain can only come from something I’m passionate about.
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
There is a misconception in our industry that to be successful; you have to work late nights and long weekends. I believe this type of thinking stems more from poor planning and communication rather than the demands of our industry. If the company doesn’t meet a deadline during working hours than that is a failure on them. They need to look back and think about how they can make a better decision in the future.
Late nights are sometimes unavoidable, and sometimes you might enjoy them if you really like the project, but it should not be the norm. Life is more important.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
We should be asking how do we expose more design to these communities. I think in today’s society, a lot of the problem stems from lack resources and information about the industry. Get them interested in design. I believe there are plenty of opportunities out there. At least, that has been my experience.
What are you working on right now, either for work or for yourself?
At work, I’ve been working on style frames for a few different clients.
In my free time, I’ve been working on creating a lifestyle brand called Good Form. That I can use as an outlet to develop things that I’m passionate about. I won’t reveal too much about it yet since I’m in the early stage, but I’m hoping to have things up and running by the end of the year.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
I will always be doing design. It’s such a big part of my life. I wouldn’t be the same without it. I don’t know in what capacity I will be doing design in the next 5 to 10 years, but I will continue to inch forward to finding a real sense of purpose in my work and in life.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
What I would tell anyone – have a passion for design, work hard, get involved in the design community, and you will be fine. Don’t just look for opportunity, create it.