Postcard with a map I created circa 2016 for Oniracom, of their now-defunct “Lagoon District” neighborhood branding. I like the map, but the overall idea provoked angry community feedback for a dozen legit reasons, and soon afterward I realized how there could be more than a whiff of gentrification and even racism about it.

The only people who liked this idea were area white-creative-class-facing businesses, not older shops (often owned/managed by Latinos) or actual local residents, who mocked it mercilessly on social media. And you know what? They were right! I can totally accept that.

It’s far from the most problematic project or client I’ve worked for in my 16-year creative career, but it’s still kinda toxic, and it’s important to acknowledge my own work’s detrimental impact, because design has consequences, and pleading obliviousness or good intentions is no excuse.

I mean, I’d love to make neighborhood maps forever, but projects like this, if done at all, should be helmed by people in the communities who will actually be affected by the fallout of promotions like this. I’d ask creative professionals considering similar projects to think long and hard about what they’ll be doing and why. Maybe pass the next one up and/or recommend it to local designers of color.