Katie-Mae Jones noticed a lack of ethnic diversity within the arts, primarily within Manchester’s art school. After years of studying she felt it weird that she hadn’t been shown or taught about the work of many Black and Minority Ethnic designers. Katie gathered together a group of graphic designers (Haseena Ali, Paulina Zawadzka and Lauren Goldsby) and FRESH magazine was born, which aimed at showing the work of BAME art students. Already making waves, it has now nominated for the Young Talent category in the Spins Awards 2018. We spoke to Katie Jones about the magazine’s conception and its wider context within the world of design.

What was the initial realisation of the lack of ethnic diversity?

It was when I first started an Art Foundation at Manchester School of Art and I really expected to see loads of people from all over the world, like loads of different backgrounds and what not. But instead, I felt like I stood out based on my cultural identity.

Have you completed any projects before to delve into the issue?

I actually haven’t. This is the first time I’ve had a proper personal connection with a project. I always avoided the issue because I didn’t want to be seen as being ‘the angry black girl’. But now I couldn’t care-a-less. I think if there’s something that doesn’t sit right with you, you’re basically part of the problem if you’re doing nothing to change it.

Do you feel it has helped, noticing the possibilities of a collaboration?

Absolutely. Since starting this project it’s been crazy how many collaborative opportunities have come about. People have been so supportive. We’re currently hoping to collaborate with ‘Seat At the Table’, as we share similar views about diversity with this project and we’re excited to work on something with them. Seat at the table is for black creatives, they’re aiming to put on crit sessions and hold discussions/debates.

Who inspires you?

I’ve been speaking to an inspirational graphic designer called Samuel Carter, It’s one of those things I think wouldn’t just be beneficial for students of colour, but for any designer. There’s also a woman called Otegha Uwagba who wrote a book called ‘The Little Black Book’ and it’s like a handy guide for the entrepreneurial ‘creative woman’. To cut a long story short, I really want ethnic minorities, like myself, to feel as though they belong within the art school. There were times when I felt that I shouldn’t be there, and I don’t think anyone should feel like that. So it would be amazing if FRESH could make even one person feel more comfortable with-in themselves.

Do you think your own projects will have the same effect on others?

I hope so, but I think I’ve learned more about the actual power of design since starting FRESH. I’m currently working on a brief designing an Adidas campaign. I’ve chosen to look at how we as a society can help and support refugees around the world. So I would say my work is steadily getting more political. But to answer your question, I hope people like my work and the style of work I do. But it can be a simple as knowing that a designer of colour came from the same background (Manchester School of Art) as you. It makes you feel like you can do it too. and if I can make someone feel like that then the job’s a good’en.

What else is in store for FRESH?

We want to start bringing people of colour into the art school to give lectures and talks. By this, we mean, designers, artists, photographers etc... Students need to see people they feel as though they can emulate. If the university won’t do it, then we will.

Advice to others with an idea for something they believe in, but no confidence to begin?

What’s the harm in trying? Literally, if you believe in something and you want to get a project started, just start one. What’s the worst that can happen? I think the world would be a better place if people had more confidence to make changes or statements of things they believe in. My advice is to get a calendar and get organised.

Has this project influenced anything else in your life?

I honestly think that FRESH has kind of changed who I am in a really good way - as dramatic as that sounds. I’m so much more pro-active in speaking to people and asking people their thoughts and opinions. This project has made me very aware of the people around me and how willing people are to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
This project has also shown me the huge number of talented designers - of colour - that are actually out there. It’s been hard finding them, but they are there and they deserve to have their work shouted about.
Fiona Finchett