The Importance of Vulnerability: Quinnton Harris Featured in Graphis Journal 370

We at Graphis are so thankful for our board members, we’ve deceided high time everyone met them!

Growing up just a few minutes west of Chicago, Quinnton Harris is a creative director and entrepreneur based in New York City. He is passionate about leading teams and developing creative talent. He specializes in building compelling and authentic brand experiences for companies and entrepreneurs. A graduate of MIT, Quinnton’s has excelled amongst the best of the best, serving as an art director at Digitas, lead creative for recently Procter & Gamble acquired Walker & Company Brands (makers of the brand Bevel), inaugural creative director at Blavity, group creative director & global lead of computational design at Publicis Sapient, and now cofounder and CEO of Retrospect, a creative and tech studio. 

Outside of work, creative expression always finds its way to Quinnton’s atmosphere. Whether he is creative directing photoshoots, organizing nature walks with his friends, or inspiring creativity and diversity through collectives like KOR photography group and Hella Creative, Quinnton’s impact is both broad and deep.

Here’s the chance to read some of Harris’ QA:

What do you hope to achieve as an Advisory Board member with Graphis?

Graphis is one of the most beloved institutions in the world for design in the world, and I have come to love its history, its owner Marty, and its global community. Graphis has enormous potential for its future, and I’m excited for how even more colorful it can become — increasing its representation of designers from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds will make Graphis the most comprehensive archival of modern design history in the world. And I’m so honored to commit time and energy to make the world’s best design and creativity accessible to people from all walks of life. Furthermore, as we become more of a digital world, Graphis has the opportunity to preserve and codify a sustainable relationship and elevated experience with the physical world, specifically print. I hope to work with Graphis to strengthen its connection to its global community, inject new ways of thinking about the overall brand experience, and build new pipelines for creative enthusiasts and professionals to participate in the vision.

What is your work philosophy?

If my work philosophy had to be summarized into one word it would be vulnerability, specifically the process of becoming vulnerable. There’s a deep level of introspection that I like to take when it comes to my work and when I’m working with clients and other colleagues, I really need to get intimate with the problem we’re trying to solve. I work to peel back my own biases to be as open as possible with what we are trying to accomplish — I believe I have to remove myself, then add myself back into the equation, which is a process of surrender. In practical terms, I start with questions big, small, tactical, and conceptual, and then I identify people who can answer them, whether they’re present with me or distant ancestors. It’s important to me that I consider people who have asked these questions before me. After I curate these people and their thoughts, I start the process of synthesizing their perspectives and making decisions. Decision-making in the design process is so important because the quicker you make a decision, the quicker you can get feedback from the audience you’re designing for, and that feedback lets you know if you are getting the desired result or if you have to go back and do the process over again.

What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?

Vulnerability is top of mind for me when it comes to doing client work. I’ve never been a very transactional person … I sometimes think when we’re overly transactional we might not see the humanity of the others. I put a lot of passion, a lot of love, and a lot of care into the things I do. And I like to care for my clients. When I had a vision for an agency a long time ago, I called it “Birth” and I thought of myself as a doula or midwife because I was essentially helping people give birth to their ideas. And there’s a level of intensity, intentionality, and nurturing that you need to have. The people you serve need to be able to trust you, be vulnerable with you, and be as invested as you are in what they’re asking you for help with. And so my greatest ask of my clients is to be vulnerable and to be willing and open to doing something they’ve never done before. By virtue of my service, they are not able to do what they want to do without me, and I am not able to create the things that I want to create without my clients. So, vulnerability and understanding needs to be at the foundation of our relationship. I think the other piece is trust, which is built over time and built very intentionally. However, I believe you can’t have that trust without vulnerability. A famous theologian named Michael Todd has a quote that I think about all the time — “Trust is lost in buckets and it is earned back in drops” — how do we make sure we honor this principle so that we don’t create distrust during this process?

What part of your work do you find most demanding and what part provides the greatest satisfaction?

For me, communication is the most demanding. What I mean by this is making sure that I am communicating my process and my intention at every step of the way because there is no space for distrust. I believe distrust comes when there is a lack of consistent and thoughtful communication. To be honest, I treat my work like any intimate relationship. I see a lot of parallels in my work to how I show up as a partner in my marriage, or even in my family, where nurturing good relationships is just as important as the work itself. The work, in many ways, is an output of the relationship and how it’s nurtured. Thus, the communication piece is the hardest thing for me, and oftentimes the most rewarding, too, because making sure that the communication is what it needs to not only ensure the product is delivered effectively, but it also creates some level of fulfillment that can be shared within the partnership. The greatest satisfaction that I get from my work is to see an idea come to life and then have an impact on people. I’m now getting more honest with myself because before, I just would say that “creating just to create” was enough for me, but I think I’m actually more driven by the response—did it have some meaningful impact in someone’s life? 

To learn more about Harris’ life and to see more of his work, purchase Graphis Journal 370 at graphis.com.

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