Week One – I’m Habitually Late – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week One – I’m Habitually Late

Hey Internet! My name is Ashley Trent, but people usually call me Ash and that’s how I like it. I am a student at Henry Ford College and this Fall I will start my third year. My major is Graphic Design, and although I already have my own freelance graphic design business, I wanted to get ahead in a highly male-dominated industry. I specialize in branding and marketing (the visual part, anyway) and when I thought about my career as a designer, I was often at a loss as to how I could turn my work into something that would Do Good for the world, give back, make it a better place – all the good stuff. This was something that kind of troubled me because I didn’t want to simply become part of another disposable industry, especially given that a lot of design ends up being print media.

One day it came to me out of the blue: I live in an area where the residents of our local major city have encountered quite a bit of marginalization, to say the least. A lot of people don’t realize the extent of the battle that the residents of Detroit (between city limits and the gentrified, shiny areas downtown) have faced since the fated summer of 1967 (and, realistically, even before that). Our society is super attached to its bizarre “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality, and while it’s all well and good to pretend that America is a meritocracy, we also kick down our marginalized when they’re trying to do exactly that. In Detroit, specifically, the residents who have dreams of starting up their own businesses and doing the work required to pull themselves up from the impoverished, unequal roots from which they’ve grown are often faced with… some extra barriers. This includes acquiring loans to start their businesses with, and even if they do qualify for these loans, they’re extremely extractive – if you’re not sure what that means, just think about how pleasant extractions sound coming from your dentist and imagine instead of teeth we’re talking about everything you and your family have. You can also click on the link I put in there if my example makes you uncomfortable.

Once funding and all that paperwork and red tape are out of the way, it’s not quite smooth sailing. Branding is an extremely important part of a business’ start and its success. Nowadays, you can find people to design a logo on Fiverr or you can make your own on Canva. However, these sources are not always of the highest quality or created with the amount of training and research required to create a cohesive and successful branding image, and that would be all well and good for those dreamers who aren’t picky if not for the fact that the prospective customers and clients you need to attract to start making profits are, um, a bit judgmental. Branding is like the presentation of food; if you don’t like how it looks, you don’t want to eat it – or invest in it. Business owners in Detroit have enough to worry about without the quality of their branding coming in and overturning everything they’ve worked so hard for. So this is how I intend to make the world a better place as a brand designer: making sure I provide quality brand design at a cost affordable to the people who are working so hard to build themselves up from the uneven footing they never should have been on in the first place.

With all this context, one can probably understand why I was totally psyched to be accepted to work with the Detroit Community Wealth Fund, whose mission is to provide non-extractive funding to cooperative businesses started by the marginalized people in the city. This organization is run by three incredible and driven women who, much like myself, aren’t letting any Detroiter’s dreams go down without a fight. I highly encourage everyone to check out what they do, even if just for the benefit of going to sleep tonight feeling reassured that this world is on the right track with women like these at the helm of something that will undoubtedly become a huge stepping stone for the people of our beautiful, mighty riverside city.

I greatly look forward to the experiences, connections, and relationships I build through this experience this summer!

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