Meet our THRIVE Speakers: Antoinette Carroll

On February 23, AIGA Raleigh is hosting our first conference, THRIVE, a one-day supercharged creative conference that will inspire the creative leaders of today and tomorrow with a powerhouse of speakers. We have assembled a line-up of speakers from all over the United States to change the way you think about yourself, where you live, and the impact you can have on both.

To introduce you to our speakers, we asked them to answer a few questions. First up, meet change champion, Antoinette Carroll. Antoniette is the president, CEO, and founder of Creative Reaction Lab in St. Louis, which was born in response to the unrest in Ferguson in 2014 following the fatal shooting of a young unarmed African American Michael Brown by a police officer. Creative Reaction Lab educates, trains, and challenges youth to co-create solutions with Black and Latinx populations to design healthy and racially equitable communities. Antoinette has served on the board of AIGA Saint Louis for several years in various roles, most recently as president. She was also the founding chair of the AIGA Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.

Please describe an experience you’ve had in your life that’s led you to feel more empowered as a creative.

In 2014, I was working as Head of Communications at a local diversity and inclusion organization called Diversity Awareness Partnership. During my tenure in this position, the unrest in Ferguson began due to the murder of a young African American male named Michael Brown, Jr. To address the community fragmentation, lack of solution development, and limited engagement of the creative industry, I decided to host a 24-hour challenge called Creative Reaction Lab. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it had to be done. Using my platform to organize creatives around racism in the St. Louis region created a spark that continues to burn in me today. Now, Creative Reaction Lab is a flourishing nonprofit organization creating a movement of a new type of community leader – equity designers. More than ever, I’m empowered to use my creative intuition to address the human inequities impacting our society more and more every day.

As creatives, the work we do has an impact on those around us (viewers, users, the environment, etc). What is something you do to ensure that the impact you’re making is positive?

One of the things we have to remember is that intentions don’t always equal the desired impact. While I acknowledge there’s never a 100% guarantee that my impact will equal my intention, I strive to make my decisions through a holistic and equitable lens. Many times, I talk about the importance of humility building to truly become empathetic. Building one’s humility requires us to look in the mirror, acknowledge our imperfections (including our embedded biases and assumptions), and open ourselves up to the perspectives of others. It’s not just about being humble. When one is consciously, and continuously, building their humility, we start to make more consistent decisions that lead to positive impact. Am I 100% perfect? No. Is the process of building my humility finite? No. However, as Douglas Davis states, “Practices makes presentable…”, I must continually strive to make decisions that are equitable, inclusive, and positive (no matter how small).

We have a strong sense of community in our chapter and beyond. How has being an active part of a community provided you with an opportunity you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Community is all around me – my family, friends, co-workers, etc. Because community is so big in my life, I fully appreciate my ability to fail and grow within them. The AIGA community was with me when I first started to study design during undergrad to when I decided to redesign “design” at Creative Reaction Lab. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. (Seriously!) We’ve argued. We’ve loved. But, at the end of the day, we’ve grown together. Creative Reaction Lab was catapulted through community support – AIGA’s and other communities. Even today, my work (and personal life) flourishes because of the investment a variety of communities have provided to me and vice versa. Our process, Equity-Centered Community Design, wouldn’t exist without community. Therefore, I equate my opportunities to my communities.


Connect with Antionette:
Creative Reaction Lab
Design + Diversity Podcast
AIGA Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

By Amy Lyons
Published February 5, 2018