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Member Spotlight: Delanie West, Guild At-Large Director

headshot of board member Delanie West

Delanie West

Graphic Artists Guild At-Large Director

President, Black Creatives

Founding Chair, Women in Toys, Licensing and Entertainment Foundation’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee

New Jersey

The Graphic Artists Guild is proud to present our newest board member, At-Large Director Delanie West. Delanie brings to our Executive Committee a depth of experience and insight into diversity and inclusion. She is also a dedicated advocate for designers, and for the design industry as a whole. We interviewed her to get an understanding of her background, her inspiration, and her drive.

Delanie West is a leader for other creative professions who recognizes where her  creative energy comes from.  Watching the everyday mannerisms of her mother was inspirational: she emitted creativity in the simplest ways. “Mom nurtured and valued art. My mother attended an art school in New Jersey, and was innately creative.”  Delanie recalls her mother sewing clothes for herself due to the fact she was a tall woman, and at that time stores did not carry clothing for tall women. Delanie’s father was also part of shaping her design future. “He could build or fix anything and build creative things.” These early influences led Delanie into the creative zone.

An art friend of her mother’s and a Dean at her college were also instrumental influences in choosing her creative profession. “There was a Black male artist who was a professional artist; it was the first time I realized you could make money with your art. A Black man who looked like me and was successful was encouraging.”  While pursuing a degree in architecture  Delanie decided to change her degree to graphic design. The dean of the architecture department challenged her, “What are you going to do with a degree in graphic design? He wanted me to really think about what I was doing.” But she knew what she wanted.

There was a Black male artist who was a professional artist; it was the first time I realized you could make money with your art.”

Delanie West’s work experience shows just how remarkable she is. Her resume exhibits an expansive list of companies. After beginning her career at Trader Publishing, she moved on to Wilton Brands for about 15 years, beginning as an illustrator and working her way up to the VP’s General Manager of Product Development.  However, working as a ghost-designer for Martha Stewart was pivotal in her career.   While creating a product that would be released under the Martha Stewart name, Delanie realized  she  needed  to begin producing works under her own company name: Be Super Creative.  The name is both  a reminder to  her to be a cheerleader by advocating for others, as well as a “call to action.”

When you listen to Delanie’s responses to questions, it’s clear her word choice is  intentional. Her personality also comes through in her a down-to-earth and positive viewpoint – everything is calculated. “As a Black woman I don’t get passes. I’ve been told no so many times.” We asked how she kept that driving spirit for success: “I’ve got to make a living, I don’t have a choice.” She continued, “Everyone has challenges; existing is a challenge. There’s always a reason for misalignment. As a Black woman I’m just that much closer. It’s exacerbated as a Black woman; I have to be cautious of being identified as the ‘angry Black woman’. Every moment is communicating my presence.”

Everyone has challenges; existing is a challenge. There’s always a reason for misalignment. As a Black woman I’m just that much closer.”

As the At-Large Director for the Graphic Artists Guild, Delanie is also an active member on the Guild’s diversity board. In addition, Delanie is aso President of Black Creatives, the first digital community for Black creators, and has been a member since 2011. She serves as Board Director and is the founding chair of the Women in Toys Licensing and Entertainment Foundation’s, Diversity and Inclusion committee

Even during her time with Wilton Brands and Martha Stewart, Delanie helped nurture and provide mentoring opportunities to her fellow designers. “When you’re creating work for someone else as the hired gun, with the excitement gone, you have to reevaluate.” Imagine developing a cheap widget and bringing it to market under a private label;  you would begin to question what you’re even doing. “It’s a legal way of stealing equity.” Delanie stated, “There’s got to be a better way to package talent.” She believes today’s consumers are requiring businesses to do good.

…customers are expecting good things and consumers are driving these expectations on to business. This type of market gives designers the choice of who they’d like to work with, making it easier for creators to align with work we care about.”

Delanie points to businesses like TOMS shoes as an example of the type of company she would want to work with: “customers are expecting good things and consumers are driving these expectations on to business. This type of market gives designers the choice of who they’d like to work with, making it easier for creators to align with work we care about. The Creator Economy –that’s happening now, it has no gatekeepers.” The Creator Economy allows artists and designers to produce their original works and ideas on their own terms. (The Creator Economy is a class of businesses built by independent creators, self-employed individuals, vloggers, bloggers, influencers, writers, artists, and anyone else who monetize their knowledge, skills, or creations, along with the businesses that support them.)

Finally, we wanted to know what advice she would give to established designers: “Keep learning; don’t pretend you know it all. Be a peer mentor to younger designers; [otherwise] you’ll miss out on what you can learn from them. I’m really happy to be able to support the industry; this is where I grew roots and [I ]am proud to be a part of this creative community.”

Keep learning; don’t pretend you know it all. Be a peer mentor to younger designers; `{`otherwise`}` you’ll miss out on what you can learn from them.”


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