Tu & Seals: A COLORFUL Collabo
By Alixandra Rutnik on Apr 02, 2021
Two Young Guns winners team up on COLORFUL: A Prelude to Young Guns 19
The One Club for Creativity is getting ready for COLORFUL: A Prelude to Young Guns 19 – a brand new free-to-enter portfolio competition and creative grant exclusively for BIPOC creative professionals 30 years of age and under, created in partnership with famous designer and Young Guns 8 winner Rich Tu. When it came time to brand this new initiative, Rich joined forces with type designer extraordinaire and Young Guns 17 winner Tré Seals. Together they blended vibrant colors and fresh type to bring COLORFUL to life, and their invovlement doesn't stop there — they will both be on the COLORFUL jury too, alongside other BIPOC members of the Young Guns family.
We talked to Rich and Tré about the equality inside COLORFUL and the intricacies of their design.
Rich, you're not only a Young Guns 8 winner, but also you're one of the awards' biggest champions. What did winning Young Guns mean to you back then in 2010 and what does it mean to you today in 2021?
Rich: It was huge for me! At the time, it helped legitimize me in an industry that was just coming out of a huge economic crash. Winning Young Guns not only gave me the confidence to vie for roles that previously would have been out of reach, but also it opened a lot of doors, and put me in a larger conversation. I owe a lot of my success to the Young Guns community, so I love to give back whenever possible.
How did the idea for a competition COLORFUL come about?
Rich: With COLORFUL, I wanted to help build a safe space for early-stage creatives of color, and create more equitable conditions for industry awards. Oftentimes, awards can seem daunting or intimidating — they certainly were for me back in the day — so by cultivating a space within the BIPOC community, eliminating financial barriers, and adding a cash prize, I thought those were solid next steps.
It was a natural fit to bring this idea to The One Club for Creativity and flesh it out with them. They’re very tapped into the creative industry at large, and of course they are the home of Young Guns. I've already mentioned how much Young Guns means to me, and I've had the pleasure of hosting the awards ceremony a few times, so it made sense to tie COLORFUL to such a highly highly coveted award.
What made you reach out to Tré to help you with branding this project?
Rich: I’ve been a huge fan of Tré’s for years. He has a beautiful typographic sensibility, that speaks to history and social justice, with a ton of personality and confidence. I actually had the honor of presenting his Young Guns award to him on stage at Sony Hall for Young Guns 17. We follow each other on social media and occasionally would DM about collaborating. This felt like a natural project to work on together, and we did it fairly quickly too (less than a week, but don’t tell anybody).
Tré, talk to us about how you got involved with COLORFUL? You were asked to be on the jury...
Tré: Yes, as soon as I received the invitation to be on the jury, I fell in love with the mission and the thought that went into COLORFUL. Something tells me that COLORFUL will be a huge step in leveling the proverbial playing field for creatives of color.
Not long after that, Rich reached out about working on the logo together, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Walk us through the branding decisions and the lettering development. There is a hidden equal sign in the COLORFUL wordmark…
Tré: If I had to describe COLORFUL in as few words as possible, I would say it’s an equalizer for the design industry, or at least has the potential to become one.
"If I had to describe COLORFUL in as few words as possible, I would say it’s an equalizer for the design industry, or at least has the potential to become one."
On one hand, it helps solve the issue of diversity and representation in terms of who is seen as a winner in competitions.
On the other hand, it helps solve this problem of diversity and representation in design media, because it shines a spotlight on talented creatives of color that might normally be overlooked when only searching for unique designs and not so unique designers.
So based on this idea of COLORFUL being an equalizer for the design industry, I started with an equal sign. Imagine taking that equal sign, and sculpting it to form each character.But then, take it a step further and draw an invisible line through all of the characters. Like the space in the middle of the equal sign. Well, now the entire wordmark is a typographic equal sign.
It goes back to that idea of leveling the playing field for creatives of color. I think my type in combination with Rich’s colors and composition made that vision come to life.
The aim of the final COLORFUL identity was to highlight the commonality of all underrepresented cultures. Because whether you are black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, or the spectrum, we all want the same thing, because we all share the same struggle. We all want equal opportunity, equal access, equal quality, and equality as a whole.
"The aim of the final COLORFUL identity was to highlight the commonality of all underrepresented cultures."
Back to the competition itself, the prize structure is pretty unique. There's a $3000 grant for the top winner, plus free entry into Young Guns 19 not only for the winner and the finalists, but also for the first ten people to enter COLORFUL...
Rich: When I think back to my early days, I remember thinking about how far any amount of money could take me. That’s the big reason for the cash prize. I really wanted to create a grant that would help contribute to a creative’s quality of life, which in the end helps the quality of creativity. The winner can use the money to help finance a passion project, or to pay the rent on the studio apartment where they make their magic — both are important.
Now the free entry into Young Guns for the finalists, well Young Guns is $150 to enter — and more if you wait until the end and incur late fees. Being named a COLORFUL finalist should give these creatives the confidence to enter Young Guns, and by eliminating any financial barriers, they'll have no excuse not to ride that confidence into potential Young Guns glory.
As for the free YG19 entry for the first ten entrants — regardless of how the jury judges their work — that's to give these people the practice of entering prestigious award shows without the financial risk. They may not win Young Guns 19. In fact, they might even score poorly. But most people do not win Young Guns on their first attempt, and it's my wish that going through the process of entering will help them in future attempts, or in any other venue where they and their work can be seen.
Advice for the potential entrants, please!
Rich: Show the work that makes you proud. Be fearless in your approach, and bring your true selves to the table. If you do those things, then you’re already in good shape.
Tré: I believe that I won Young Guns, not because of my professional work, but because of my side hustle — my passion projects. I divided up my entries, half from Studio Seals (professional) and half from Vocal Type (personal). After I had won, I remember reading some of the comments from the judges, and the thing they all talked about about was Vocal Type. It was validation that Vocal should be my full-time job, and I made it so a few months later. So for all COLORFUL entrants — and Young Guns entrantys, too — I think you should have a balance between what you do professionally and what you can do when doing things for the love of it all.
Will we see another Tu/Seals collabo?
Tré: I actually reached out to Rich some time ago in regards to collaborating on a typeface based on some of his amazing lettering projects. We haven’t had a chance to start it yet, but hopefully at some point down the line. Maybe we’ll make a typeface out of the COLORFUL logo. Who knows?
Rich: Tré is an amazing collaborator. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg!
In closing, what does COLORFUL represent to you?
Tré: Personally, I believe Young Guns is progressively becoming more diverse every year. I think COLORFUL will have a greater influence on the larger creative community.
For design institutions that wish to make true gains in diversity and inclusion, I think COLORFUL can and should serve as a model for other organizations and competitions.
Rich: COLORFUL speaks to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These are all passion points for me, in both my professional and personal life. COLORFUL as a competition, represents what I’d like to see more from awards organizations, which is to celebrate, honor, and normalize (not stigmatize) seeing creatives of color in historically white spaces.
"COLORFUL as a competition, represents what I’d like to see more from awards organizations, which is to celebrate, honor, and normalize (not stigmatize) seeing creatives of color in historically white spaces."
COLORFUL is a first of its kind, by design, and it represents a first step of many towards a better industry.
The deadline to enter COLORFUL is April 12, 2021. Don't miss out on this awesome opportunity!