Kacey Morrow is an Associate Professor at Western Washington University, teaching in the Department of Design with a focus on motion graphics, digital video, web and interaction design. Her award-winning experimental videos have appeared in numerous film festivals and exhibitions nation-wide including the highly-acclaimed Seattle International Film Festival.
You have such a wide variety of projects under your belt—graphic design, videos, putting together film festivals and textbooks—what’s the biggest challenge of taking on so many types of creative work, and how do you balance it all?
It makes it easier to take on different types of work when you can find connections between them. That is why graphic design is infused in all the work I do, but so is my love of film. For example, I co-founded a film festival while designing the brand; co-authored a textbook about producing television while designing the cover; illustrated a book about acting by Kathleen Turner-and designed client work for the local Bellingham non-profit, Pickford Film Center. All of these projects keep my interests closely intertwined.
The biggest challenge of taking on so many types of work is keeping a healthy work-life balance. I maintain a healthy schedule that works for me and am learning to set more boundaries. I’m okay with being kind of a “master of none” and continuing to be versatile and adept at many things. This keeps me more informed, challenged, and energized throughout my career.
Women make up over half the graphic design industry—61%—yet are paid less, and often represented in small numbers in senior positions. How can women advocate more for themselves and support each other in this industry?
I teach my students to always negotiate when entering into a new position. I also teach them to value themselves and what they do. It is tough enough being a female in any industry, but many times young designers are taken advantage of and design can be undervalued. We arm our students with the knowledge of industry practices, how to write a contract and invoice properly to protect themselves and justify their work. This helps build their confidence, directs them to stand up for themselves and work with the right people.
The other key way for women to support each other is to give each other opportunities, and build each other up. This newsletter interview is a perfect example of that. This is giving women in design a platform and voice. Almost all of my design and creative opportunities have been from working with other women. These have coincidentally been my most rewarding experiences.
Recommendations come from word-of-mouth, people sharing work on social media, or just putting yourself out there and continuing to create. We also need to continue to support women of color and those in the LGBTQIA+ community. According to the 2019 AIGA Census, 71% of US designers are White/Caucasian and 76% don’t identify as LGBTQIA+. This is a problem that needs to be shifted within the design industry and design education.
What is the most important bit of advice you would share with aspiring graphic designers as they work toward being professionals?
To do what makes you happy and keep that in check throughout your career. Try new things, challenge yourself, and get out of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with smart people and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Maintain confidence and value yourself. Become a mentor and give back to your community. Travel, read, watch, observe, discuss, participate.