Tanya Marie Williams-Rhule

Tanya Marie is an independent Designer and Branding Consultant with over 12 years experience developing communication design and crafting distinct and memorable brand identities. She's also the Founding Creative Director of Designer Island an online publication, curating Modern Design and Creative Culture in the Caribbean. When we reached out to Tanya she agreed to share her thoughts on creativity, doubt and rejection with us and here they are.

you have to provide yourself with encouragement if success in any creative field is your aspiration.

When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?

I come from a large and very close family that has always done a lot of activities together. My earliest memories of creativity and design were creating invitations for my 'tea parties' with my tea-sets and assorted colourful playdoh cakes and cookies. I'd give invitations out to my parents and cousins who lived next door. At Christmas time my cousins and I would also put on 'concerts' for our parents. I made my cousins practice every day during the holidays (I was a real pain in the ass), and I made programs for the event. There's photo evidence of these days that still make us laugh.

My parents were very encouraging of our creativity. But I also don't think they had an idea of where this their support would lead. I'm sure they expected me to grow out of art and art projects and pursue a 'real career' at some point. Even when I have bad days now, my mother will sort of hint that there are other things I can do and 'it's not too late', but then I think she catches herself and cushion it with 'but I'm not telling you to give up on your passion'... Parents want the best for you and the best is based on what they know. So you have to provide yourself with encouragement if success in any creative field is your aspiration.

What is your standard for evaluating your creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are financial rewards relevant to your projects?

Well, my creative work is my job, it's not a project, so payment isn't a reward or an option. Design is work. I'm a Graphic Designer, and I specialise in branding design, and I have for over a decade now. It's my profession. But I do also create Designer Island. It's an online publication about Modern Design and Creative Culture in the Caribbean.

I started Di as a Blogspot blog in 2011 for myself, and it has grown, but there is no monetary reward. Not for myself or the professionals I work with to create the stories, and it's not because we don't deserve to be paid, but sometimes you start a project you believe is important and necessary and you do it. You hope and work towards financial compensation, but for the moment you work.

Passion drives the project, but passion can only drive it in part. What drives it the most is the belief in Di's relevance right now, and the belief that it will grow. I guess that's where we have a lot in common with A BigBox of Crayons there's a belief that sharing the stories of creatives and their work is necessary, so it must be created whether or not there is a monetary reward. Designer Island is that creative work for me.

I try to spend more time trying to a better designer than worrying about what other people are doing or what other people think of my work…

Do you think your perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you believe the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?

I am one of those people who doesn't pay attention to other people's work a lot. Especially graphic design work. Not locally and rarely internationally. When I was younger, I looked at a lot of work of other graphic designers because I was measuring and marking the level I wanted to be myself.

Over the years I looked more at other types of work; Architecture. Interior Design, Fashion, Literature, Art. Firstly because I was doing research for design work and then it was because I realised that as a designer I needed to learn more about a lot of things going on in the world to be a better communicator, that's what being a good graphic designer means. Now I'm also just very inspired by a range of things. My mood boards are filled with art, writing, design and photography. My mood boards and files are kind of endless from old to new, Caribbean to international references. I try to spend more time trying to a better designer than worrying about what other people are doing or what other people think of my work, but I also try to be very observant of the space around me. Life, culture, here and in the wider world because being relevant is important for design.

What do you do when you experience a creative block?

I think more often creative blocks are the result of laziness or the project I'm working on probably wasn't best suited for me but at the end of the day, Design is Work like I said. There's a design problem, there's a creative problem, and I need to solve it, so you work until you get it. But to be fair, if I am just stuck after trying to figure a design out, I'm probably going to read a book, or sleep or go binge on Netflix for a while.

Sometimes I just need a break. Let the problem and the project and all the work I'm doing marinate for a while and then come back with a fresh set of eyes and mind. But seriously, the Netflix binge only works if you've been doing the work before that. Otherwise, you're still going to come back with an empty head. There's no eureka moment from nothing.

There’s no eureka moment from nothing.’ It’s all work.

How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?

Again, 'There's no eureka moment from nothing.' It's all work. From sketches, notes, mood boards, research. Design is an iterative process. You have to work at it, even from that so-called 'spark'. The spark is just the beginning.

Stylistically, has your creativity changed as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?

Ha! It's less stylistic than it used to be, just better work! Seriously I cringe at some of my old work, and I think as a designer if you're looking back at work you did ten years ago, and still think it's your best shit ever you're absolutely drinking too much of your own kool-aid.

You try to create timeless work particularly as a brand identity designer; however, you're also supposed to grow and improve. So while there is work I did five years ago that was strong and still very relevant and needs no update, some things that I did further back could use some updating because I know better now.

I'm thirty-five, and I think I'm at the beginning of my prime. My work is clearer, smarter, more engaging, less fluff. Thirty-five will sound really old to a nineteen-year-old who think they're the shit now, maybe they are. I hope they grow, are better and relevant in their forties. I'm looking forward to seeing what my work looks like at forty and how it resonates.

What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?

A reliable monthly paycheck.

At the end of the day, you have to push you. Nobody else can do that for you.

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

Myself. My husband. My family. I keep a small tight support group. You need that support, but you'll be surprised at how much you need to depend on yourself than anyone else. At the end of the day, you have to push you. Nobody else can do that for you.

Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.

Graphic design is about communicating something. Making people feel something. Making people want to do something. Whether it's to buy something, see a movie, march in a protest. If it's not connecting with the people you're talking to and trying to connect with them, what is it doing? And I'd be lying if I said I loved every project I've ever worked on in my career. I love what I do for a living. I made a choice to be a designer. It's not an easy career but, love doesn't justify my work. My work justifies my work.

Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.

You're going to go through a lot of rejection as a designer from rejected ideas to being rejected for jobs, but you're not an artist, you have to let go of your 'feels' about your work. It's a tricky line to walk. I'm annoyed when a client doesn't understand or doesn't want to go in the creative direction I want them to go in. When I believe in an idea, I'll try to find ways to get them to understand why they should go in a certain direction but I also decide which battles are worth fighting.

There's always the healthy and the unhealthy pull and tug in the designer-client relationship. As far as how it affects my creative process; sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board. The design process is iterative remember.

Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?

I am in constant doubt of myself and at the same time, I am extremely focused and determined when I believe in something. From what I've read on creatives we tend to simply be that way so I"m less anxious about the whole mix of feelings. I just work through the doubt till it passes.

My work justifies my work.

What piece of work are you most proud? Why?

Today I'm going to say whatever I'm working on now. Tomorrow I'm going to say whatever I'm working on then.

What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?

Stick with it.

To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?

Do the work and be confident in your worth but don't get drunk on your own kool-aid or 'likes' for that matter.

If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?

BLACK - honest, open, lacking in pretence. Black, bare and endless.


Huge thank you to Tanya for sharing her thoughts with us. Please do check out designerisland.com where you can learn more about other creative persons across the Caribbean. As for her design work view Tanya's portfolio here and follow her on Instagram.

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A Creative Professional with over twenty years experience. Which he gained during his time spent at a few of Trinidad’s top advertising agencies. Then functioning as the Regional Creative head of the Caribbean’s largest retailer. Contributing to the development of the group’s regional marketing strategy. Forming the regional Design Strategy. Conceptualisation and execution of all creative, marketing and advertising communication for the group’s brands. With oversight of regional and local creative teams and creative processes. He continues to sharpen his creative edge. A passionate, twenty-four hour creative junky. Admirer of sexy typefaces, lover of words and aspiring life long learner. He is also the founder of A BigBox Of Crayons. An online and offline community for creative thinkers + makers in Trinidad & Tobago.