Representation Matters: Q & A with a Black Graphic Designer

In 2004, Baryl J. started her own business making stationery, but it wasn’t until a few years later when she was shopping for birthday invitations and could find none to represent her dark-skinned daughter that she refocused her business model. It was that moment when Be Celebrated Printing was born—featuring designs that prominently featured Black people. Now, from her home studio in Atlanta, Georgia, she designs and creates printables, stickers, logos, invitations, t-shirts, bags, you name it—that celebrate Black culture and everyday life. 

Baryl is what we at PicMonkey call a “Power User.” Why? Because she uses PicMonkey for 100% of her design work. On top of that, she boldly uses her voice to bring both attention and action to her mission of promoting more Black representation in design—including calling out PicMonkey to do better in this area. We're excited that she is now working with our design team to create new graphic sets. 

We spoke with Baryl to learn more about her business, to find out why representation in design matters, and to hear her advice on being your own boss. 


PicMonkey: Hi Baryl! Thanks for speaking with us. Tell us a little about yourself and your business.

Baryl J.: Hi! Sure—I graduated from Stillman College in Alabama with a degree in religion and philosophy with a minor in psychology. A few years after graduation I started a family and became a Keisha-of-all-trades working a plethora of jobs from retail, call centers, leasing, theatre ticketing, and even fast food. But the whole time I had this side gig which was graphic design.  

You could say that my business, Be Celebrated Printing, was birthed out of pain, in a way. Up until I started my business, I was in a place where I felt that I was not being celebrated, only tolerated. So now my mission is to create the joy of being seen and celebrated for other people through every design I create: magnets, shirts, gift wrapping paper, wedding invitations, posters, pillows, buttons, labels, stickers, a duvet, thousands of digital designs, the list goes on!

PM: What made you decide to run your own business?

BJ: The lack of positive Black images in mainstream stores. Even searching online, I was failing to find simple clipart with Black people on it. PicMonkey allowed me to create my world from scratch—circle by circle.

Also, to be absolutely transparent (because I know this will help someone out there): back in 2014 I knew my marriage was about to end. So, the urgency for me to get serious about trying to work towards a full-time design business was increased. I needed something in my own name, something that was all mine. 

T-shirt designs by Baryl from her Amazon store

PM: Tell me about how you use PicMonkey in your work.

BJ: PicMonkey is bae! I literally have designed my world from this website. I use it daily for at least 6-8 hours a day. Then once I got an iPhone with the PicMonkey mobile app I could move even faster. I juggle projects for about 10-12 customers a week.

PM: What are some of the challenges that you face as a business owner?

BJ: The challenge is most of my clients are passionate new business owners. They are experts about their product, but unclear about their branding. They don't know what they want yet. You can follow their design details to the letter and they will still make several changes. I don’t mind anymore because no experience is wasted—I’ve learned that I can always repurpose and adapt unwanted designs for other projects.

PM: What is the best part of running your own business?

BJ: I am the CEO and the janitor—I have learned to be a Swiss Army knife. I design, print, ship, plan and host zoom events, and teach tutorials. As a creative and a mom of two daughters, Sky and Auddy, I didn’t always fit in a traditional work setting, so working for myself means I call the shots and make my own schedule. 

An example of how Baryl started with an existing PicMonkey graphic from the Sports & Fitness set, and then modified it to her own design.

PM: You called on PicMonkey to increase racial representation in our in-app images and graphics, and that’s a project we’re working on with you right now. What do you want people to know about why representation is so important?

BJ: Celebrating and promoting Black positive images is my life’s goal because of the lack of representation everywhere. It is important to have Black people seated in the boardroom, the design meetings, the marketing meetings, and included in ads. Most of the issues where there is an outcry for more representation are a design failure that could have been prevented if there was a Black person present saying, “This imagery is not authentic to the culture.” 

Growing up, I could only use the brown, orange, and tan Crayons to concoct a version of my light brown skin. At that time the Crayon company didn’t have a clue why including a spectrum of brown was important to people of color. So, as a small child being ill-equipped to see yourself in the correct light is damaging to your sense of formative identity, and can lead to issues of low self-esteem and body dysmorphia.

An example of how Baryl uses PicMonkey graphics to create her own images; here she’s using Brushstroke graphics to create locs.

With PicMonkey, I have worked with this platform for so long that I’ve learned how to add or create Black features in my designs. To have more ready-made graphics where Black people see themselves represented is the goal. 

PM: Last question, can you share any of your tips or learnings from your business that could inspire other small business owners?

BJ: Yes! Ask yourself: “What do people always request from me?” If people always ask you to edit their resume, make a certain cake, braid their hair, sing at their wedding, help with their money—then your audience is providing a spotlight on your chief gifts that you could develop into a business. PicMonkey can be the tool to help propel you into any and every business you want to start.


To see more of Baryl’s work, check out her Instagram @becelebratedprinting or visit her Amazon store.

 

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Sarah Gonzales is the content marketing manager at PicMonkey. Over time she’s evolved from a cat to a dog person, a Diet Coke to a La Croix person, and a heels to a flats person. However, she will forever remain loyal to the LA Dodgers, coffee, and Mac products. She’s still deciding if she’s a city or a country person having sampled both after living in Alaska, Los Angeles, San Francisco, (Alaska again), and now Seattle.