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Celebrating Indigenous design: a conversation with V. Barney

Celebrating Indigenous design: a conversation with V. Barney

Many students, staff, and faculty noticed the vibrant poster reminding the FLC community of Native American Heritage Month, a celebration of the cultural impact of Indigenous peoples. The poster’s design is the work of V. Barney, a senior studying Communication Design and Sports Administration. As a citizen of the Navajo Nation with Laguna-Acoma Pueblo ancestry, Barney felt a duty to represent Indigeneity on campus.

With his Marketing & Communications mentors, Barney created a poster that pierces through the mass of signage seen around campus. Both a display of information and art, the poster was a helpful tool to learn about the month's events and a joyous celebration of Indigenous power and expression. 

FLC: How long did it take you to design this? 

VB: Oh, it had to be two and a half weeks. The first week I spent on this included a bunch of research I entered into blindly. I started plugging away on the computer in Adobe Photoshop to create the collage in the background. Then, I created the sticker at the bottom of the poster in Illustrator. Finally, all of the text work was in InDesign. That process took me about a week and a half. 

FLC: Did you incorporate your experience as an Indigenous man into the design?

VB: I wanted to celebrate my Navajo and Pueblo roots. In this project, though, I felt it necessary to incorporate all Indigeneity across Native America. Many other cultural identities exist on our campus, and it would be irresponsible of me to create something that was solely Navajo or Pueblo in its design. I felt I needed to infuse some of my cultural competency as best as possible, but I wanted to bring something that celebrated all of our identities.

FLC: Who were your mentors throughout the project?

VB: I definitely needed Anna McBrayer, the art director, and Hannah Birdsong, the social media coordinator and designer. They gave me a lot of creative liberty. If anything, they emphasized that this was a moment for me to really just apply my creativity and craft something meaningful to me and FLC. 

FLC: What was the intention behind the color scheme for this poster? 

VB: I've learned that one of the first things you need to do as a designer is to find a color scheme and build a palette you’re going to deploy. In my research of Indigenous cultures in the United States and across the globe, I found that we're just a colorful group of people. I wanted to embrace that. So, there were six colors I was convinced I had to use in the poster: bone white, pollen yellow, sage green, sky blue, lavender, and blood crimson. These colors occurred to me organically in the design process. They signify to me the Indigenous cultures that embrace the Earth, their homes, and their environments. 

FLC: At the center of the poster is a photo of Amber Herrod, the 2022-23 Hozhoni Ambassador.  Why did you choose to place her front and center? 

VB: So, fundamentally, I created a poster celebrating FLC's Indigenous activism aspect. So, this piece, to me, is called Fort Activism. I didn't put the title on here, but that's what I would call this piece. 

Regarding Amber, she just caught my attention. I met her once before, and she embodies a natural spirit of activism on campus. I couldn't find a picture that was more poignant to that spirit than her in that photo.

FLC: Why did you encircle her with different faces in the design? 

VB: Whenever I looked through photos of our marches and walks hosted by FLC, I noticed that our students were very serious. They're proud of their existence here on campus, and I think their faces really capture those convictions. Seeing these faces of activism made me want to celebrate their significance. At a Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institution, it's necessary for us to amplify these Indigenous identities. It was the time and place for us to take Native American Heritage Month seriously.

FLC: There are numerous designs on that sticker at the bottom. What was the idea behind that?

VB: I didn't want the design of the sticker to fixate on one region or culture, so each quadrant has its own flavor. I took some things from the powwow scene and implemented some things from plains cultures. I also included regalia, like the earring running down the center. There’s also a celebration of geometric shapes coming through with the yellow circles running across the middle, and there’s an homage to the Four Sacred Colors of the Ojibwe nation. 

But I tried to stay away from identifying one cultural group. I wanted to embody what we all celebrate about each other. That was my goal.

FLC: What’s next after graduation? 

VB: I don't know: sky's the limit? What I’ve learned here at FLC has definitely informed what I'm able to craft and the messages in my art. I want to use all those skills to really amplify the voice of Indigenous cultures and also find my own best life. My next page will be self-developmental and celebratory of what I've been able to build in myself thus far. I'm excited about the future.




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