Designer Jeanetta Gonzales is turning heads with her vibrant, happiness-provoking work celebrating her community and heritage. Based in Los Angeles, she’s not only a designer — she’s an illustrator and coach who has created prints and designs for companies such as Nordstrom, Trader Joe’s, TJ Maxx, and Michaels.
For Gonzales, her work is about energy and positivity — and it’s about creating connections in her community — passing stories of her Black heritage on to a younger generation.
“I didn’t grow up seeing art in stores or products that reflected my world,” Gonzales told Consensus.
“Representation is very important. We live in a diverse world, and I want to contribute work that others like me can find inspiring, relatable, and joyful.”
Gonzales studied painting and photography at the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated in 1992 with a Fine Arts degree. A few years later, she attended Brooks College and received a degree in Visual Communications.
After design school, Gonzales worked as a graphic designer for different industries, including healthcare, entertainment advertising, textile design, consumer products, and toys. She specialized in branding and packaging before shifting into surface design and illustration in 2013. She stopped working as a graphic designer more than two years ago and now works primarily as an artist, illustrator, and enjoys being a mentor.
“I like to draw Black women, social justice pieces, and inspirational phrases in my art style and point of view,” Gonzales said. “It is so rewarding when someone tells me how much they loved my art and bought my products in stores because they found it resonated with them or bought it for a child or someone in their life who would really appreciate it.”
Gonzales is an artist contributor to Target’s 2023 #bhm line, a partnership with several Black creators to make accessories and apparel during Black History Month. Her work will be on accessories, packaging, and clothing in the big-box store.
She’s also been named the first guest artist for the arts-and-craft store Michaels’ Black Organized Leaders of Diversity (BOLD) resource group and worked on education-themed designs for the company’s Black History Month Collection.
Her work is not only about prints and designs. She has worked for major newspapers, including The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as digital companies, like Facebook and Adobe. She recently illustrated the children’s book “Our Story Starts in Africa” by Patrice Lawrence.
Gonzales draws a lot of inspiration from her home in California. “Flowers and nature are a big source of inspiration for me. I live in Southern California and see a lot of tropical and desert plants all around me. I am attracted to their colors, shapes, and textures,” she said.
“I go for walks and love to take photos of my environment. I use these images as inspiration for my art and use a lot of plants and flowers in my work.”
Though nature is a substantial source of inspiration, her community inspired one of her most-replicated images. Gonzales points to that “Justice” illustration as her favorite.
“I created it during a time of heightened racial activism and felt I needed to say something using my art,” she said. “I drew it from my own fist and my boyfriend’s hand. It is a symbolic representation of strength, unity, and standing up for one’s rights.”
“It has since been recognized by companies and was made into an apparel line of matching sweatpants and sweatshirts, which turned it into wearable art, and a puzzle that is sold in Target stores nationwide,” she said.
Gonzales said she finds joy in creating art for her own products, working as a one-on-one mentor, and speaking and teaching at events worldwide.
“I hope my work and presence can show younger artists that they too can have a career in commercial art,” she continued. “They can design for products, publications, and brands as well as design for themselves. It is possible to make a living doing what you love, and there are lots of opportunities out there for your work.”