Interview by Visual Collaborative
September 2019 5 min read
Jerlyn Thomas is a product designer based in New York City, She creates digital experiences, concentrating on inclusivity and design accessibility. Her passion bridges the gap between technology and art to communicate with diverse audiences. As a feature in our Supernova interview series, Jerlyn discusses her career, perspectives as an artist, mentoring in STEM and her Caribbean heritage.
(VC) As a creative professional who is multifaceted and an active practitioner in illustration among numerous disciplines, does your background in technology affect how you approach projects?
(Jerlyn) Absolutely. Technology and the capabilities of it guide the possibilities and limitations of my projects. It allows me to reimagine the potential and reframe an idea when I approach it.
(VC) Congratulations on being a STEM mentor, it is the cornerstone of building a solid foundation in commerce, how did this come about?
(Jerlyn) I credit my high school for having a science and math magnet program that helped my foundation along with my passion for art. When I went off to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology I was able to connect everything for my profession. Realizing the value of being a STE[A]M student, I made it a point to encourage students that I encounter because when I was choosing a career, there weren’t many people who looked like me (female and a person of color). A foundation from STE[A]M just helps you be a “chameleon.” My industry specifically changes rapidly and there’s a constant need to reinvent yourself with what you know, encouraging students with these disciplines will only benefit them in the future. I’ve volunteered and had talks with different public schools and programs such as Code Nation in New York City. Letting students know that they might, in fact, use Math in the future, although it seemed insignificant at the moment is eye-opening to them.
Photo courtesy of Jerlyn Thomas
(VC) Your work has appeared in reputable publications such as vice.com and ESPN, How excited or nervous were you knowing numerous people would see your work?
(Jerlyn) I’m always excited about these opportunities. It’s also very humbling. As an artist, I know that I’m the biggest critic of my work so just being contacted by those reputable publications make me realize that what I’m passionate about is worth it. They must’ve seen something in the work that resonates with them so the direction that I’m headed is ok.
I was in the community with were highly committed developers, the future of Adobe is undoubtedly design-centric. With that in mind, it’s certainly possible to maintain that organic energy
(VC) You were part of the Adobe Interactive/flash community in the aughts and presently an ambassador for the company, Is the kind of organic energy it had back then possible with the way technology has progressed, like that of the old Flash community camaraderie?
(Jerlyn) RIP Flash. The community has changed quite a bit and while most of the people I was in the community with were highly committed developers, the future of Adobe is undoubtedly design-centric. With that in mind, it’s certainly possible to maintain that organic energy but most that I know did not adopt a future that was user experience-driven.
(VC) Some mention the Renaissance as an art period they admire. If you can time-warp back to any era, what time would it be and why?
(Jerlyn) Although I enjoy the whimsical look of Impressionism, I prefer Realism. I like visual art that depicts the observation of ordinary and everyday people and things. They all tell stories. I liked that the art that came from that century didn’t focus on anything mythical or biblical but more of a more accurate shot of that timeline. I appreciate it more so because unlike today, back then not everyone had a camera. So, I might gloss over a painting that looks like this currently but enjoy this in a photograph more than any other media.
(VC) At this stage of your career considering your commitments, If you could work collaborate specific enterprise or individual. Who would it be and why?
(Jerlyn) Viola Davis. Hands down. I admire women who build each other up, she’s one of them. I’m not surprised by this because she loved Wonder woman growing up as much as I did. Also, I might be a little bias because she did own a piece of my art (a piece of my art was gifted to her as a birthday gift) and she reposted some of the work that I did on my Instagram. I also included one of the digital paintings that I did of her in my first published book, “Blacks in Portraits.”
(VC) Does your Caribbean heritage play a significant part in your creative themes or would you say you move with societal topics of the times?
(Jerlyn) The way I approach coloring my art and the way I observe demographics in my daily job does come from being from the Caribbean. I’m very grateful that I’m from somewhere else so I can provide valuable insights to my profession. I think it makes me unique to my role.
Photo courtesy of Jerlyn Thomas
(VC) Is there anything else you would like to share with our global audience?
(Jerlyn) We only have one life to live so I always encourage others to reach as many people as they can if they are capable. We all have stories. Even if we might believe they might not be interesting, you never know who you could resonate with and needed to hear your story today.