Carahna Magood, a single African American mother of 27, serves as creative director of the digital team for the White House. How does someone that young get to that position in Washington, D.C.?
Magood,, who graduated from Howard University in 2016 with a BFA, rose quickly through the ranks. She started as an administrative assistant in external affairs and eventually became a graphic branding and creative services manager at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She also formed her own design firm Lemonaid in Florida.
She received the Emerging Leader of the Year Award from the caucus in 2017. One example of her projects was designing a social media toolkit. She also received an American Packaging Design Award, Luxury Packaging in 2017 as well.
Magood received an email that presidential candidate Joe Biden was hiring. She went to Philadelphia as deputy design director for the Biden – Harris campaign. She had a young son she needed to support so she told Biden he was the man to be the next president. Magood said this was the first time she had worked on a presidential campaign that listened to voices of black women.
She eventually led a team of 23 creative people for Biden’s campaign. When hiring, she paid attention to a candidate’s portfolio and their energy. In that way, she formed a strong diverse team. Although the hours were sometimes long, she had her team’s back and was aware of work/life balance. She emphasized everyone having a voice. There were a lot of challenges during the campaign, such as the killing of George Floyd. She asked for the best creative work with history, style, feeling and impact. She made sure the designers were empowered. The team even did hand lettering and designed shirts and posters.
Magood and senior creative advisor Robyn Kanner wanted to make sure that marginalized communities felt heard and valued. She stressed reaching out to other people for input. “How do you design a brand that speaks to people with such different beliefs?” she asked.
They worked on brands including creating a logo that was strong, bold and unified. Originally with a red, white and blue palette, Magood moved toward hot pink, rainbow ingredients and illustrated informational graphics. The team wanted to reach younger and African American voters. They also chose several mottos, including “Restore the Soul of the Nation.”
Trying new things was emphasized. Buttons, for example, were introduced with slogans such as “Truth Over Lives.” “You have a voice,” said Magood.
She didn’t hold back. She wrote a memo asking for a promotion and raise. She wanted to work for great leaders. “I trusted my gut,” she said. She was added to the White House digital team in December, 2020. “I spent my first day at the White House fingers to keys creating in service to my fellow Americans and that’s exactly how I intend to spend the next four years” she said.
Her Zoom presentation on April 1 in the Interconnected Lecture Series simulated going to the gym. First things first – getting to the gym, then warming up and exercising.
“Be sure your badge worked,” Magood emphasized referring to being a person of color.
But she emphasized not being married to your work. “Fight for what you like. Give the client what you want. Be flexible,” she said. “Be wary of a boss who doesn’t challenge your thinking. Find a boss who lets you stretch. And, protect your team.”
“I was invested in my team,” Magood said. “Take the risk, not just once.. We broke barriers and glass ceilings. Watch YouTube tutorials. Grow as a team. Think outside the box.”
Follow @CMagood46 for all the White House creative updates.
“Interconnected — a design lecture series for the 2020-21 academic year is a collaboration with the design and art programs at Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky, and University of Louisville, in partnership with AIGA Louisville, AIGA Cincinnati and AIGA Nashville. This year’s focus — Black Voices in Design — aims to diversify and decolonize our pedagogical practices and design curricula.”