As a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s marketing communications program, Emory Brown initially found his niche in advertising as a copywriter and creative director. He earned some of the industry’s most prestigious awards while working with high profile clients such as United Airlines, Illinois Lottery, and Mercedes Benz.
More recently, Emory has realized another long time dream of helping to foster creative talent in youth while serving as Marketing Director of Project Osmosis, a program that focuses on helping kids from underserved communities develop and harness their natural talents in the applied arts.
N’DIGO recently sat down with Brown to learn more about Project Osmosis and some of the exciting things in store for the organization.
N’DIGO: Tell us a little about your background. Who is Emory Brown?
Emory Brown: I am a Chicago born and bred artist, an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line.
Working with many esteemed clients, portfolio of work ranges from conservative to ultra-modern, including companies like American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz among others.
What is Project Osmosis and what was the genesis of the initiative?
The mission of Project Osmosis is to create programs and initiatives that identify, develop, and support young people from minority communities with demonstrated abilities and skills in the applied arts. Through these efforts, our intention is to increase the influence and presence of art/design professionals from minority communities while expanding the reach of artistic expression for all people.
Our ultimate goal is to develop an interdependent exchange of artistic/cultural expression that includes and values the contributions of artists from all communities regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. Art/design, in its highest and purest form, must be without barriers, borders or boundaries.
Project Osmosis is the brainchild of our Executive Director, Mr. Vernon Lockhart, and it emerged from the Chicago chapter of the Organization of Black Designers. For the past 21 years, Osmosis has engaged minority youth in activities that promote creativity and self-expression. The organization helps more than 700 students each year gain access and knowledge about career opportunities in design.
What are some of your duties as the marketing director?
I’m responsible for the planning, development and implementation of all of Project Osmosis’ marketing strategies, marketing communications, and public relations activities, both external and internal. I oversee development and implementation of integrated marketing, communications.
I direct the efforts of the marketing, communications and public relations staff and coordinate at the strategic and tactical levels with the other directors of the organization. In addition to my marketing duties, I also teach, guest-speak, and develop programming for our design education initiatives.
Can you talk about the importance of mentoring our youth?
A mentor is important for everyone on every level. Even some the world’s best CEOs and athletes have mentors. Mentoring is about empowering the next generation to succeed. It’s about opening doors to the future through the brilliance of dreamers’ imagination.
Mentoring in the Black community is extremely important because so many of our children have dreams and not enough tour guides to lead them into a particular realm. That’s why professionals like myself and my colleagues are dedicated to mentoring the design dreamers of tomorrow because many of us didn’t have mentors when we first started out. I didn’t meet my first advertising/marketing mentor until I was in college.
So we are opening kids’ eyes to the possibilities of their talent in high school and supporting them along the way through high school, college, and their careers as design professionals. As Frederick Douglas says in his speech called Independence Day, “Our fathers have lived, died and done their work. Now we must live and die and do our work.” This is what mentoring is about: laying the groundwork for the next generation to create greater things.
Charles Harrison, one of Project Osmosis’ advisors, was the first African-American industrial design executive at Sears when being a Black industrial designer was unheard of. His work in the community has laid the groundwork for people like Vernon Lockhart, myself, and many more to do great things for our children and our community.
Tell us about your recent event, “Creating Black Brands In The Black Community”.
In accordance with our design education theme for 2018-2019 – “Afro-Futurism Is Now!” – we partnered with the YMCA to showcase the power and importance of building Black brands in the Black community. We led students through the history and importance of Black brands in our community.
In addition to students hearing about the beauty of building Black brands, students also got the opportunity to work on one as well. Our very own teen designer Jeriq Howard shared the story of how he created his brand “Humbly Arrogant” in the YMCA Creative Professional Series. Teens were also challenged to design brand ideas in fashion design, communication design and industrial design as a part of the workshop for the day.
In your opinion, what are the three key elements involved in properly building a brand?
Vision. Leadership. Purpose. Most of the world’s best brands have been built on these three key elements. Project Osmosis’ vision is to become one of Chicago’s premiere design education initiatives dedicated to ensuring inclusion in all realms of design.
Everything we’ve done since I came on board as the Director of Marketing three years ago has been to tie this vision into our everyday missionary work as art/design educators.
We can even look at this through the lens of a “personal brand” like Barack Obama. He had a great vision to become the first Black President of The United States; he had the leadership ability to effectively manage the office of president; and he had a purpose-driven spirit to lift people from all communities around the world.
The Obama brand is so good that everyone from Fast Company to the Harvard Business Review has written entire spreads on it. He’s actually one of the people I showcase in my branding class to my students.
How would your friends describe you? Who is Emory outside of work?
I don’t know; you would have to ask them. I’m Emory at work and outside of work. So, I can’t really say. Many of my friends and I have been cool for years.
What’s something the young students you’ve worked with would be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I’m a poet. I talk about branding, history and design so much they probably would never know that the professor can drop a Hot 16.
Can you name a book that changed or really impacted your life?
The book of Proverbs in the Bible. It is a collection of wisdom shared with the world from King Solomon. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read and it has impacted my life because it showcases the benefits of making wise decisions and unwise decisions and their consequences.
Best advice to young people?
Use the talent God has given you to bless others and to create wealth for your family and others in your community. A Good Man leaves his children’s children an inheritance.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What’s next for Emory Brown and Project Osmosis?
God willing…to become a world-renowned marketing professional/professor vested in helping kids from underserved communities become the community champions of tomorrow.
(For more information or if you are interested in an internship, volunteering or becoming a programming partner of Project Osmosis, contact Emory Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.)