EPISODE #80 || Alicia Buford, Associate Design Director at Instrument


Alicia Buford, Associate Design Director at Instrument, speaks her truth about her winding career path (with stops of frog and SapientNitro) and her struggles with Portland. Hear about why she might not get a master's degree if she could go back and do it again, being active and mindful about the type of education you're receiving, being bullied by an ECD early in her career, and the reality of being talent of color in a city that isn't known for being diverse. 

Topics Discussed

  • Her fine art background, why she might not get a master’s degree if she could go back and do it again, hustling through different internships while in grad school, and her twisting career path.

  • The transferrable skills between the world on consultancies (like frog) and the ad agency world, the type of design “education” that would be most useful to young designers, and being mindful about the type of education you’re receiving.

  • Being bullied by an ECD early in her career, and her advice for anyone in the same situation.

  • The real struggles of being talent of color in a city that isn’t diverse.

  • Her e-commerce business, Infashuated, and questions to ask yourself about your 9-5.

  • Why being kind and networking go hand-in-hand. 

Mic Drops

“I think there are ways to fill those gaps, and it just takes someone who’s very mindful, and determined, and also intentful about what their education looks like. Because we have way more power than I think a lot of these colleges let on, to mold what we want our final outcome to look like, what kind of designer we want to be.”

“For anyone who feels like they’re being targeted, or feel like they’re being abused at work, don’t stick around. […] There are so many wonderful opportunities outside of where you currently are. I don’t feel like anyone should be loyal in this field. A place can kick you out any time, they have it written in your offer letter. There are no guarantees. You have to look out for yourself.”

“I don’t feel like to work or onus should be on the people of color, ever. Not in this current state. I don’t feel like this also should be a situation where I have to do myself any unnecessary harm. And when I say harm, I’m not talking physically, it’s more emotional and mental. It’s been very tasking on us in that way.”

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About Alicia

I am currently a Design Director at Instrument in Portland, Oregon. I have over ten years of design experience, spending the first two years in advertising before joining the world of consulting and marketing. My beginnings are rooted in the fine arts before moving into design professionally after earning a Masters in Communications Design from Pratt Institute.

My curiosities and interests are vast and most of my design work is informed from studies on the field, gathering research straight from the minds and experiences of users. I'm also obsessed with beautifully crafted stories and great content, reveling in all aspects of the collaborative design process to bring strong, emotive narratives to life.

I love laughing (and making others laugh), running an e-commerce business, traveling, immersing myself in new exciting experiences, learning about the inner workings of people, and making work of which I can be proud.