We are thrilled to have Ashley Fletcher join our community as one of the two 2018/2019 AIGA DC Design Continuum Fund Scholarship recipients. Ashley Fletcher is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). With her passion for design and social change, she wants to promote African American creatives and mentorship for youth interested in design.
Congratulations on being selected as a recipient for the Design Continuum Fund Scholarship! How does it feel?
It feels amazing and I’m still in shock! This is my second time applying. I’m really grateful and excited for this opportunity. I know the scholarship gets a bunch of applicants. To know that my application stood out means a lot.
You mentioned it is your second time applying to the scholarship. When was the first time you applied?
Last year I did MICA’s post-baccalaureate program which is now the Masters program. So I applied [to the scholarship] when I first applied to MICA for that. Then I applied again when I decided to get a Masters of Fine Art. So perseverance is definitely key.
What made you want to become a designer?
When I first started undergrad [at Salisbury University], I studied business administration with a minor in marketing. I wanted to do a lot of the advertising and marketing components of business. At the time, my school did not have a marketing track, so I had to do basic business.
Originally it started with yearbook [in high school] which pushed me. It made me realize that this is something I was good at and what I wanted to do. I went to Gettysburg Yearbook Camp, which was really interesting. This was something I never did before other than my interest in fashion magazines and going through those in my mom’s salon. The camp pushed me to look at the layouts and composition of publications. It made me realize this was something I could do.
I took a safe route going into undergrad because I was unsure if i could do design because I did not have a traditional art background. I wasn’t the best. I wasn’t Picasso. But I had to make the change [away from business] because I realized I really wanted to do [design] and this was something I had to get over the fear of doing.
Tell us a bit about the projects you have been working on while attending Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
My projects now compared to undergrad focus on representation, social change, and design for good. In the last year at MICA starting in my post-bac, I was able to do a lot of interesting projects. I was able to focus on representation for me as an African American designer and an African American artist. There weren’t a lot of resources in undergrad for me that said that this was something I could do and accomplish.
So I created ARDOR magazine, which was one of my biggest accomplishments. It’s a publication that highlights African American creators of color. It reinforces the positive narrative of African Americans and African American artists. That was a 120 page publication. I covered renowned artists and had a local segment that covered artists from MICA, Baltimore, and DC. It was a cool opportunity for me to create something that encompassed me and my identity.
For our thesis show, I did a branding for Cado & Co, a fast casual restaurant. This project discussed the accessibility of plant-based and organic healthy foods in fast-casual and fast food dining. This was an opportunity for me to create something that would be available for people across the US to eat healthy and provide a positive plant-based lifestyle. For the restaurant branding, I did things like screenprinting and menu design. I always wanted to do branding and this project helped me incorporate that into social change and design for good.
Are there any projects outside of MICA that you’re working on? You mentioned you have a passion for representation and social good.
So this past summer, I was working with some nonprofits. I was able to work with Design Fest, which is held at MICA, but it works with local organizations in the Baltimore area. I worked with Mikey’s Miracle Foundation and helped them revamp their brand along with other small businesses.
My goal this year is to mentor high school and middle school students for design to let them know that this is something they can do.
So what’s next after school? Will it include a social impact component?
Afterwards, I would like to start my own branding and advertising agency. I want to include mentorship as a big aspect of it for middle schoolers and high schoolers. I want to make sure the projects we’re working on include social change.