Vernon Lockhart is the founder and principal of Art on the Loose, Inc., a Chicago-based multidisciplinary firm specializing in corporate identity, exhibition, environmental, and multimedia design. Art on the Loose has served an impressive list of clients, including Northwestern University, Hyatt Regency, Nike, Whirlpool, DuSable Museum of African American History, and the Museum of Science and Industry, Lockhart is a former national board member of AIGA, and served on the AIGA Chicago board as Community Outreach Chair, managing the Poetry In Motion program and student contest, and also participated as a cyclist with Team AIGA/Roll Over Aids during his tenure.
As the executive director of Project Osmosis, a not-for-profit design-based education and mentoring initiative, Lockhart helps inner-city students gain access and knowledge about career opportunities in design.
Design to Make a Difference
Who have been your most influential mentors and why?
My parents, LeRoy Winbush, Chuck Harrison, Richard Nelson and my partner Cheryl. All have had a creative influence and inspired me to work hard in pursuit of my goals. These individuals cared about me as a person and my role as a designer. They all, in their own way, made sure that I am making an impact as a design professional and checked me when I was not!
What has been inspiring you lately?
Two things: How clever humor is used in commercials these days! How creative young people are and realizing we all have the right to be creative...building that awareness inspires me!
What personal or pro-bono creative projects are you working on, if any? We are working on a project called Green and Natural. It’s a natural hair care movement and part of the campaign focus is to build a Green Salon on Chicago’s South Side that features all-natural, sustainable and cruelty-free products to help nurture healthy black hair. FUN Project!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your work and what did you learn from it?
My biggest mistake was going on a job interview fresh out of school with my portfolio in a bag! The good news was the designer that interviewed me said I had passion; but don't ever do that again! Then he hired me as an intern. The company was Outside magazine.
What music or practice gets you into your creative zone?
I’m a huge reggae fan, I also like soul and funky house music.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
I would be working with at-risk kids in a larger capacity as an educator. Right now I have a dual role in design as a creative educator promoting design through Project Osmosis.
Do you have creative pursuits other than design? Besides mentoring young people, I dabble in drawing, painting and mixed-media illustration.
What’s your favorite quote on design?
“I fill Space With Imagination.”—LeRoy Winbush
Which designer (or design firm), other than yours, do you most admire and why?
I admire Rule 29, Justin Ahrens’s firm. The work that firm is doing is just amazing; they are using design as a tool for change, especially in other countries like Africa under their Creative Matters brand. I truly admire selfless design work and the creative excellence and care with which it is produced!
What’s the biggest challenge facing designers right now?
I think looking at yourself and your practice as a designer, then comparing that with your community to discover the things you care about and then using the skill of design communication to make a difference. Which can be a real challenge because one has to think beyond career and or personal accolades to accomplish that. Another huge challenge facing designers today is helping the profession to grow in using design as a tool for creative awareness. I believe that design builds self esteem in our young people as well as respect for the world around them. Good effective design is truly a humbling practice. Getting interesting worthwhile projects that pay my team, myself and the bills!
What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign?
Washington Redskins logo. It’s very offensive.
What excites you about design right now?
So many design firms are using their talents to revitalize communities and address global problems from sustainability to gun violence; that makes me proud to be a designer! I realize design now is a turn key to disseminating information to the world about how things can improve and when we use this tool properly, it's a wonderful thing! I also love how there are no more boundaries in design—there’s flat, 2-D and 3-D across multiple disciplines.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?
Be versatile in your studies. Learn about cultures, history and how to respect the community and culture in which you design.
What's one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
That technology was going to play such a large role in how design is practiced today! But who could have known that? Correction...Steve Jobs!