Women Lead: Celebrate! Featuring Candace Sanders

Celebrating the Achievements of Local Women in Design

Women Lead: Celebrate! is an ongoing series of mini-features and highlights to celebrate the many achievements of local Women/Woman-identifying Designers and Creatives in our Cleveland community. Are you a woman/woman-identifying designer or creative and would like to nominate yourself or someone else to be featured? Email cmadrilejos@cleveland.aiga.org

Featuring: Candace Sanders
Designer, Photographer + Art Director

Current: Fellowship at Soujourners Magazine located in Washington D.C.

Past: 2019 Kent State Graduate, Visual Communication Design + Sociology

Cleveland Connection: Born and raised in Cleveland

Designer and Cleveland-native, Candace Sanders, spoke to AIGA CLE: Women Lead from her apartment in Washington D.C. where she is currently living and working.

Candace is from Old Brooklyn and attended Cleveland Public Schools before her enrollment at Kent State University. She is a 2019 graduate with a major in Visual Communication Design and a minor in Sociology.

Design Philosophy & The Future of Design
Like many designers, Candace loves to make things cool things. At the same time, she aspires to create work that connects with people, creates communities, and amplifies diverse perspectives. She is drawn to work that reflects real-life situations and the universal human experience. This philosophy comes to life in her love of branding and editorial design because they both integrate many expressions of creativity and creative disciplines into one vision. Candace’s definition of design is about inclusion and expansion, not about limitations.

Her hope for the creative industry as a whole is that we will begin to recognize the structures our industry has maintained for so long. She challenges us to take an honest look at how the structures and systems have left out and sidelined people.

The current trajectory of a “successful” design career does not allow everyone to thrive equally. We need to start with the recognition that talent is not always synonymous with a degree and that the recognition of talent doesn’t always need to come from an institution. Much of the great design work throughout history didn’t go through the traditional academy.

As an industry, we have a tendency to praise those who are part of the institutions’ design canon which, in many cases, is so limited. We are taught about the same five design leaders across all design communities, while many other talented designers doing important work lack representation. To create a more equitable design future, as an industry, we need more levels to aspire to, not just those at the top.

Recent Projects

Sojourners Magazine – Fellowship, Online/Multimedia, Social Media, Print Publication
Sojourners Magazine is an organization with a focus on the intersections of faith and social justice. Candace is part of the team that manages the magazine’s online, social media presence and contributes to the print publication; where her photography, video editing, and design skills are an invaluable asset. Later this year, she will transition into the role of Assistant Art Director for the magazine.

Soujourners – July 2020 Cover; Illustration by Dave McClinton

Soujourners – August 2020 Cover; Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria

Sourjourners – September / October 2020 Cover; Illustration by Tracie Ching

Sourjourners – September / October 2020 Issue – Illustration by Nick Blanchard

The Business Xelerator – Brand Development
The Business Xelerator is a platform that focuses on the creation of businesses outside the system of white supremacy. It provides end-to-end business support to empower Black & Anti-racist entrepreneurs in their journey to build impactful and profitable businesses. Candace’s approach to the brand was a collaboration with her client to reflect their desire for the course to have a ‘gamified’ feel without relying on the clichés of a gaming culture such as a controller or a loading screen. The brand reflects leveling up, making an impact, and resourcing yourself so you can be a resource for your community.

Social Media Image for BusinessXelerator

Social Media Image for BusinessXelerator

Social Media Image for BusinessXelerator

A digital space curated by Candace along with friend and artist, Bri Robinson, with the intention to create “A digital respite for Black community healing and creative expression.” The purpose of this space is for “Black creatives to come together and take a break from the news and celebrate Black creativity and joy.” The ethos is to be able to share without any type of constraint. This time of social unrest and injustice is impacting Black creators mentally, psychologically, and emotionally which in turn affects creativity. This space provides support to those looking to sustain creative energy during a time when they may feel drained.

Collage by Bri Robinson. Instagram: @breeawntah

Other examples of past student work:

Zimba – Snack Packaging Concept

Amandla, Awethu! – Custom Typeface


Past Projects

UHURU Magazine – Art Director
During Candace’s time at Kent State, she was involved with the student-run publication UHURU Magazine where she learned the intricacies of layouts and closing the gap between vision and execution. Through the collaboration of students and staff, UHURU Magazine aims to represent the authentic Black experience on campus and beyond. The publication focuses on maintaining a perspective on the diversity of Black identity and explores topics and conversations that stay true to the work of Black students and leaders.

Uhuru Magazine – Spring 2019 Issue Uhuru Magazine – Spring 2019 Issue – Features

Motivations & Inspirations

Social Justice
Candace believes that the power of graphic design to make information more accessible for people to consume has played a large part in the mobilization of the current social justice movement. This distilling and clarifying of information have funneled people into being part of the movement and moved them to action. But let’s be clear, she’s doesn’t mean just making an over-designed concept poster that is just another image to look at. She feels there is a place for that as long as it’s tied to groups and organizations doing the work and isn’t just more images to look at. To move beyond the phase of sharing and transform ideas into action is where the power of design intersects with activism.

Here are places Candace looks for inspiration and guidance in her social justice work:
  • Jen White Johnson(@JTKnoxrocks)
    Currently creating work centering Black Disabled Lives, and also a professor teaching design at Bowie State University.
  • Antionette Carroll (@antionettecarroll)
    Creative Reaction Lab’s mission is to educate, train, and challenge Black and Latinx youth to become leaders designing healthy and racially equitable communities.
  • Vanessa Newman(@fiveboi)
    Building communities for Black designers. Vanessa created #DesigntoDivest to provide professional design work to Black organizers, collectives, organizations, and other movement builders.
  • Annika Hansteen-Izora (@annika.izora)
    Creative Director of Ethels Club: A Black-owned social and wellness club designed to celebrate people of color, online and IRL.
  • Jacinda Walker (@magentaprints)
    designExplorr: A social enterprise whose mission addresses the diversity gap within the design profession.
  • Maurice Cherry(@mauricecherry)
    RevisionPath: An award-winning showcase of the world’s Black designers, developers, and digital creatives. The first podcast in the Smithsonian NMAAHC.
  • Kojo Boateng (@kboateng) and CRE8 DC
    A local creative community in DC hosting events to connect local designers and creatives together.
  • Shani Peters (@shanipeters) and Joseph Cuillier (@josephcullier)
    The Black School: An experimental art school teaching art and radical Black history.

Poetry is an important source of inspiration for Candace. She sees design as a form of visual poetry that can translate ideas into inspirational imagery. She references Brian Collins from COLLINS and his emphasis on poetry as a means to impactful visual creative ideas.

Other Areas of Inspiration

Illustrators / Photographer / Fashion Bloggers / Independent Publications / Apartment Decor (specifically the creation of a cohesive space) / Archival Instagram
  • Brick Magazine
    A bi-annually released 260 -page print publication that “documents the current landscape of hip-hop and its ever-expanding cultural reach. The magazine pays respect to hip-hop’s pioneers, shines a light on forgotten heroes and celebrates the most cutting-edge contemporaries.”
  • BlackArchives.co
    “Founded in 2015 by Renata Cherlise, Black Archives is a collaborative multimedia platform featuring archival histories and modern-day stories from across the Diaspora.” 

Creative Sparks
From a young age, Candace knew she wanted to be an artist. Like many digital natives, computer tech was part of her daily life while growing up. She was immersed in digital art through her passion for the online Sims community. By age 14 she was creating custom content utilizing self-taught skills in 3-D modeling and Photoshop for fun. But the creative influence didn’t only come from gaming, she also comes from a family of photographers. Candace remembers being fascinated by her Aunt’s collection of cameras. At 16, while Candace interned at The Cleveland Museum of Art and the International Women’s Air and Space Museum, this same Aunt took Candace to purchase her first camera which sparked Candace’s interest into a lifelong passion.

Path to a Creative Career
Like many creatives considering a career, Candace had to balance her passion with the reality of finding reliable work. And also, like many individuals starting college, she wasn’t set on one path. She worried if she attended art school, she would be boxed in with less flexibility to change her mind. After shadowing at Kent State’s VCD Day, she knew it was the place for her.

Candace came as a recommendation from Cleveland Photographer and Stylist, Alyse Nelson. (Thank you, Alyse!)

Follow Candace’s Work: @dontcallme_candy
By Webmaster
Published September 30, 2020