Alesha Randolph (they/them/theirs) is a designer on the Concert Studio team, based in Washington, DC. This interview was taken on August 29, 2019 in Denver Colorado at our annual team hackathon (VAX).
Courtney: How long have you worked at Vox Media, and what does it mean to be a senior designer here?
Alesha: I’ve been here for three and a half years. To be a senior designer just means you’ve been designing for a while. It’s pretty much become your life, your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The air that you breathe, the water that you drink. So you’re tasked with some of the heavier designer projects, maybe not just a simple thing because you get more involved with a little bit of art direction, you have a little bit more creative license in dealing with the clients.
Courtney: Tell me about how your role has changed since you joined Vox Media.
Alesha: Even though my title has remained the same, my role has evolved as our team has continued to evolve, especially now that we are rebranding from Revenue Executions to the Concert Studio. We’re given a chance to reshape the team, so I’ve taken a little bit more of a leadership stance as far as making sure that team morale is great, and making sure that we’re thinking outside of the box on all of our projects, even the ones that may seem kind of cut and dry out of the box. Always looking for newer solutions and trying to encourage our more junior level designers.
Courtney: What’s your favorite part of that growth process?
Alesha: I think my favorite part would be the fact that there’s not really such thing as a dumb project or a dumb idea. If there’s anything that you feel like you want to work on, everyone’s like “Hey, let’s give it a shot. If it’s cool, it’s cool, let’s do it. If not, at least we’ve learned some mistakes that we know how to approach something of a similar instance, you know, in the future.” So we’re always growing from no matter what we try to do.
Courtney: What was your life like before Vox Media?
Alesha: Before Vox, I worked for a small, “boutique” ad agency. I was the entire product team, believe it or not, from concept to creation, from wireframing to designing layouts, to building the websites, and then shipping them. Coming here was exciting, to be a part of a very large product team. It’s been amazing!
Courtney: That sounds like a huge change! What part of that shift has kept you excited about working as a designer?
Alesha: It’s exciting because I know that I am having an impact. Visual communication is stronger than many people realize. Folks who are not designers may not realize that just the colors of different logos, different advertising — it’s just convincing them to buy things they didn’t even know that they needed. And even though I’m an introvert, I’m not really like a public facing person, visual communication gives me the opportunity to express myself and to communicate with people without being at the very front and center. Being in advertising means I get to communicate to millions and millions and millions of people. I think my first project working on the Revenue Execution team was a million dollar project that reached over a million people within the first 24 hours. It was amazing to know that I could have that kind of impact.
Courtney: Such a thoughtful perspective! So what kind of initiatives are you working on now or in the next few months?
Alesha: Right now, with the Concert Studio rebrand, we are focusing on launching new ad products. We are trying to finalize what our new Q4 ad product is going to be so that we can launch that big bright, shiny new thing to our clients and you know make more cool ads.
Courtney: What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
Alesha: Oh, I think my absolute favorite project was my first VAX project. Do you remember tōnr? It is still, hands-down, my favorite project from four VAXes ago, in Chicago. It’s an app with a variety of photo filters that amplify how beautiful a variety of skin tones are instead of washing them out. It’s still up and running, it’s still wonderful, and we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to further iterate on it. I ended up meeting with Instagram to talk about tōnr.
Courtney: That was a great one, and good to know it’s still in the works. Speaking of side hustles, tell me about your life outside of work — hobbies, projects, books, podcasts that you love or anything that you want to promote?
Alesha: I’m really into photography. It’s a brand new thing. I’ve been doing it seriously just for a year and a half now but it’s really taken off for me recently—I’ve been getting gigs faster than I can learn my cameras.
Courtney: What kind of gigs?
Alesha: Everything, from event photos—I’ve shot one wedding, I’m actually shooting another wedding next month—to some headshots for entrepreneurs ...kind of everything, everywhere. I’m trying to figure out what my niche is. I kind of want to get into product photography, so I’m starting to get my feet wet right now, there’s a little bit of everything.
Courtney: What is something that you’ve read, watched or listened to from a Vox Media network that you would like to recommend?
Alesha: I have two right off the top of my head, just because they were very recent. You’ve heard about the chicken sandwich wars that’s been happening?
Courtney: Yes! Tell me more.
Alesha: There is a chicken sandwich war that’s happening. So Popeye’s and this incredible chicken sandwich has pretty much taken over. I’ve had it twice and it’s been — wow. Eater has a fantastic article that is full of, like, all of the social media/Twitter responses, and it’s just hilarious. As if you needed another reason to be like “this chicken sandwich is the king.” That particular Eater article just shows you the world — the world, as a whole, is like “Popeye’s chicken sandwich should’ve happened.” I don’t know why they stopped.
Courtney: I think they want to keep the hype up, kind of like sneaker releases, where it’s super limited to try to increase demand. That’s a world we can learn a lot from if we want to generate interest and hype. There’s alway the next shiny, exciting release.
Alesha: You can always re-release a sandwich, just like Jordan re-releases his shoes. Now that I think about it, that is a great marketing ploy!
Courtney: Yeah, and I think Eater has a really great way of taking fast food brand activity and giving you the TL;DR on how that weird hype or trend is traveling, and why we should care.
Alesha: Yes, they did an excellent job at saying, “Hey we did our own taste test and we really think this is great, and this is what the Internet thinks,” so you can see everybody’s opinion.
Courtney: Switching gears, tell me where you would relocate your remote office, if you could go anywhere in the world. Wifi’s not an issue, time zones aren’t a thing.
Alesha: Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Tokyo. Eat the freshest sushi and sashimi and work.
Courtney: This is a big trend! So many of our product people would go somewhere in Japan. VAX 2020 should go international: check out The Olympics and then hop over to our annual karaoke night! Anyway, if we were to do a second interview later on, and we could dive into any topic, what would you want to talk about?
Alesha: I would love to talk about how video games have shaped how I view life and how I view my career in design.
Courtney: I love this, especially as we know that video games get a really bad reputation for influencing the youths in a negative way, which is often not the case at all.
Alesha: It’s like 99.9% not the case. It teaches you to keep going. Every time you die, you get back up and keep going.
You can contact Alesha and find out more about their design and photography work here.
Thanks to Anna Graves for transcribing the interview.