Devon Clarke: A passion for creativity, and a prove-them-wrong mindset

—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—

A long love affair with creativity led Devon Clarke to advertising. “I’ve always had a passion for creating in multiple mediums like photography, music, illustration, and animation, but always had trouble focusing on one,” said Clarke, now a senior art director at The Kitchen.

“When I saw that advertising offered a world where I could utilize my creativity across multiple mediums, it felt like the perfect opportunity to finesse my passions and make a career out of it.”

Reflecting on his career, Clarke says he found it tough to break into the industry. He would apply to 10-15 agencies every morning, or even call an agency’s office and ask to speak to the creative directors directly.

It took months before finally landing an internship at Arrivals + Departures, thanks to a school friend who recommended Clarke as his partner—an experience that made him realize how building strong relationships can open doors to new opportunities. “The funny thing about the amount of time it took to find my first gig is that I never felt discouraged. I was determined to get my foot in the door.”

Clarke believes that advertising goes beyond just the work. “I’ve met so many amazing people along the way and created relationships that have lasted throughout the years.” Case in point: He met his fiancée when they were both interns at the same agency.

While thankful for having many mentors throughout his seven-year career, Clarke has never worked for a BIPOC leader. “I think this is an unfortunate truth for many people coming up in the industry, and hope that as a community we can strive to change this,” he said. “Personally, I hope that I can be one to fill this position at some point in my career.”

With racism and microaggressions still an issue in the modern workplace, Clarke approaches work and life with a “prove-them-wrong” mindset. From tackling typecasting and stereotyping in the industry, to ensuring proper representation in his creative, he believes it’s important to see yourself reflected in the world around you. “I love feeling like I am working towards a greater good through my work—it’s what keeps me inspired and excited.”

For young Black talent looking to break in, Clarke’s advice is to take any lead that gets you closer to a potential opportunity. “Get comfortable marketing yourself, so that when you’re in front of the right people, you put your best foot forward.”

This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Erik dela Cruz, a creative director at Midnight Circus, and a POCAM steering committee member.