By Janelle Ward | The Atlanta Voice | Word In Black

This post was originally published on Atlanta Voice

Spelman College freshman Cadence Patrick’s design was featured on an assortment of Target’s journals and clothing items, which were sold within stores across the country. Photograph courtesy of Cadence Patrick.

(WIB) – When Target hosted its annual graphic design competition for HBCU students last year, Spelman College freshman Cadence Patrick said she knew she wanted to participate. The computer science major from Oakland, California has pursued art as a method of self-expression for years, but is now turning to use her talent to inspire others to tell their stories and tap into their own creativity.

To enter, she, and other artists attending historically-Black colleges and universities, submitted designs to commemorate Black History Month this past February. With her submission being selected for last year’s competition, Patrick’s design was featured on an assortment of Target’s journals and clothing items, which were sold within stores across the country. Winners also scored an opportunity to work with Target’s in-house product design team, serving in a six-week apprenticeship to learn more about graphic and digital design.

The Atlanta Voice sat down with Cadence to talk about her artistic background, how competing in Target’s design challenge influenced her as an artist and what she has in store for the future:

The Atlanta Voice: How did you find out about Target’s HBCU Design Challenge, and what inspired you to participate?

Cadence Patrick: I found out about Target’s HBCU Design Challenge through Handshake! Handshake is an app for networking and career opportunities for college students that Spelman encourages students to use. I received a message promoting Target’s annual challenges for HBCU students, and when I saw the Design Challenge, I knew I wanted to participate.

CP: I attended Oakland School for the Arts in Oakland, California for middle and high school, where I studied Visual Art and Digital Media, respectively. There, I developed my artistic skills as my passion for art and design grew. I’ve always loved art and creating, and using art as a form of expression is very important to me as a Black woman. Now, as a college student, I thought the HBCU Design Challenge would be an amazing way to spread a positive message with the world, so I decided to apply! When I submitted my design a year ago, I hoped that I would have the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others through my art. I’m proud to say that my design being featured in Target’s 2023 Black History Month Collection has brought joy, positivity, and inspiration to others, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. It’s an honor to be a part of this collection, and I’m so glad that my design has resonated with so many people.

AV: When selecting a college to attend in high school, what about Spelman piqued your interest?

CP: Spelman stood out to me because not only is it the #1 HBCU, it’s also a women’s HBCU. This unique combination of factors interested me—I wanted an undergrad experience that allowed me to grow and begin my career in an environment that was both supportive and challenging, and Spelman seemed like the perfect balance of the two. Spelman College is an incredible place for young Black women to pursue their goals, whether that be in scholarship, entrepreneurship, or creativity. Being at an HBCU was important to me because it removes a lot of the possible obstacles that many Black students experience at PWIs, often being underestimated or overlooked for who they are. At Spelman, there is an understanding that every student is already on a path to excellence, and that kind of support and motivation is crucial for Black students, especially women, making their impact on the world.

AV: In what ways can you pursue your love of visual arts as a student attending Spelman?

CP: As a Computer Science student, there are few major-related classes that have artistic elements. However, Spelman’s recently established Interactive Media minor allows me to build those skills alongside my technical ones. Classes like Digital 2D Foundations and UX Design Applications will allow me to incorporate artistic development into my college career. These classes only comprise a small part of Spelman’s Art & Visual Culture department, giving students majoring in artistic fields the opportunity to create incredible work. Spelman also has a fantastic space on campus called the Innovation Lab, where students create anything from video games to laser-printed business cards. The Innovation Lab encourages creativity, experimentation, and thinking outside the box, and gives Spelman students the tools and materials to do so.

AV: What is the inspiration behind your winning design?

CP: My HBCU Design Challenge design, titled “Black Futures are Bright,” represents the bright futures of Black youth with endless possibilities, and the fact that we have the power to shape our own futures. For this piece, I was inspired by my younger brother, who is the subject of the artwork. He is one of the most creative and imaginative people I know, and I’m so proud that I was able to use him as the inspiration for a piece with such an empowering and uplifting message. I hope that my design makes people everywhere—especially young Black people—feel represented and empowered. I’ve already heard stories of teachers, kids, parents, and grandparents wearing my design, and it makes me so happy that my design is making a positive impact in people’s lives.

AV: How did it feel to learn your design was chosen for the competition? Have you seen any of the new merchandise inside physical stores around Atlanta?

CP: It was an amazing feeling to hear that I had won! I was in shock when I got the email—and a year later, I still can’t believe it! I have to pinch myself sometimes; I would never have believed that something that I created would be in Target stores all across the country. It’s been amazing to see the shirts, onesies, and notebooks in stores in different cities and states! I’m from Oakland, and on the day before the shirts were set to be released officially, my mom and I went on a bit of a road trip to try and find some in-store. We visited ten targets in the Bay Area—and at the very last store, we found the shirts! That moment that we first saw them in the collection was really fulfilling. It was like a dream come true.

AV: As one of Target’s winners, you were also able to learn about the production process when it comes to creating new merchandise. How do you plan to apply these skills as you continue designing in the future?

CP: As a Product Design apprentice working with Target’s Multicultural Design Team, I was able to work with some of the tools that they use to take designs from a digital file to print-ready apparel mockups. I used Adobe Illustrator quite a bit, which was great practice as someone who is interested in design-related careers. I learned a lot of new tricks and ways to use the platform that I’m already using in my own work now! I was exposed to different areas of the process, including sketching, 3D modeling, and color matching. These new experiences gave me an insight into the world of product design, which is an area that I’m interested in working more in. It was also a great learning experience to work on a team with other designers, especially across time zones. I’m so thankful for the experience, and I’m so in awe of the incredible work the team does behind the scenes to produce Target’s collections!