Interview with Monna Morton
Monna is a gifted artist and a talented designer. She was a professor of mine (Advertising 101… go figure) and I found her real life stories about clients and projects she was currently working on to be fascinating. She was my most grounded teacher and gave me real insight into how ad campaigns are created and executed.
Tell me a little about your current position.
I am the Senior Designer/Art Director for a small consulting firm in old city. I design, develop the concepts, and oversee the production for clients such as PHL Airport, SEPTA, and a few arts organizations.
How did you choose your career?
I only wanted to do two things in life: ballet and art. I was intrigued with advertising by watching Bewitched. The character, Darren Stevens, worked for an ad agency and it was so exciting to me.
What skills do you possess that are valuable in your profession?
The ability to see design in everything. A few weeks ago I was walking through 30th Street Station and passed by a fruit salad vendor where two tongs used for serving were hung side by side and formed the letter M. I feel design is the ability to look at the ordinary and make it into something unique.
What do you wish you knew (but didn’t) when you first contemplated this career?
To be honest, I did not notice that all the shows I watched about advertising and design featured white men. Not that it would have changed my mind, but I would have been better prepared for the racism.
What was one of your biggest successes? What did you learn from it?
I have had some projects that were incredibly successful; right now my favorite is the graphic I designed for The Colored Girls Museum Festival. It was a solo project that won two design awards last year. I learned that I am good at this!
Are there any trends that excite you?
The simplicity of retro design I see in type and imagery here lately.
Have you been able to stay passionate about your work? If yes, how?
I am always passionate about my work. When I start to feel down I go back to my creative arts roots. I paint, draw, work in clay or copper... whatever moves me.
When I start to feel down I go back to my creative arts roots. I paint, draw, work in clay or copper... whatever moves me.
Did you ever hit a hardship that made you think you’d never make it?
Yes, I was told very early in my career I wasn’t good enough. I was depressed and wondered what to do, so I just worked harder, created and designed anything for anyone who would ask me. I made church flyers look like ads for major magazines!
Are there advantages to being a woman in this field? Disadvantages?
I am currently in this conversation with a group of designers. There is still a huge gap in the world of art and design for women, with women of color having an even tougher time. I have not seen any advantages for women, other than when you own your business you qualify for DBE status. There are some phenomenal women designers across all racial lines, but it is still a male dominated field of business, from my observation.
Do you have any words of wisdom that you think might help other women navigate their own career paths?
Do the work!!! Always be prepared for whatever comes. Put out every effort to be heard, and seen, be sure of yourself and what you are presenting. Don’t shy away from criticism, whether it is of value or not, there is always something to learn from it.