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Morning Rituals: 
Nu Goteh of Deem Journal

Photos: Justin Chung


Nu Goteh is the founder of Deem Journal. A designer and social practitioner, Nu was born in Liberia and came to the US with his parents and older brother as refugees. We found the way Nu incorporates design and creativity into community-building and engagement inspiring, and recently visited him at his Lincoln Heights office to learn more about his story and life. 


Can you share more about your upbringing and background? What might a stranger be curious to learn about you, or what background might give them context into who you are today?


I was born in Liberia and came to the United States as a refugee with my parents and my older brother. I spent the first part of my career in marketing and branding. I had a desire to inspire more change in the world so I pivoted to human-centered design as a way of instigating change. My interest in cultural, communities and creativity come together in my publication — Deem Journal, my studio — room for magic and my teachings as an adjunct professor. 







Do you have a morning ritual?


I have recently started waking up at 6AM, and doing two of three things, going for a run with my dog, washing the dishes from last nights dinner and/or walking my dog. I am a morning person so once I am up, I'm doing something. By the time I get to the studio I tend to tidy up a bit, light an incense, select the soundtrack for the day and drink hot water. 



As someone who has explored different aspects of design, what has design come to mean to you?


Design has become a means of creating conditions for people, communities, and systems to thrive.


In your opinion, what’s the best way to initiate change?


Start small, start with yourself — you have heard it before, be the change you want to see. Once you have an idea of the change, you want to see you have to think about how you can close the gap between an abstract idea in your head and something tangible that others can experience, critique and build upon. Change can start with you but for it to scale you need collaboration from others, so you have to find the people who share similar desires and conspire! 



What’s something outside of your career you're interested in learning more about?


Fabrication, landscape architecture, things with my hands. A lot of my work is experience via screens and on paper. I need to get outside more and make things!



Tell us about a moment, a piece of guidance, a reckoning of personal wisdom, that you carry with you.


"The only thing between you and the job you want is the job you have." - Theo Keetell


I am an ambitious person, I like having an idea and bringing it to fruition but there are steps to getting there, don't skip the steps or cut corners because it does not set you up for success when you reach your goal.



What is a current or upcoming project that has been exciting you?


I'm excited about a lot of things, the next issue of Deem Journal is completed and being printed! Our second Deem Symposium is happening at the MCA Chicago, May 17th & 18th! On the studio side, we are going to launch a new brand and site for the World Peace Foundation! I just went on a plant shopping spree and have an installation idea that includes vintage hi-fi speakers and a plant wall!



What is something you're hopeful about?


Creativity. I'm constantly hopeful and inspired by creativity. Creativity for me is the ability to envision something that does not currently exist. Anything that exists in the world has passed through the lens of creativity. I feel like creativity often gets linked with entertainment and/or art but it shows up in every single thing we experience. It is the foundation of what we need to create a future that is equitable and affirming for all.



Five years ago I wish I had known:


Nothing to be honest. Naivete is essential to success. If I knew what I know now I would not be where I am at now. I would of probably taken a more linear path.

Nu Goteh is the co-founder of Deem Journal.

Follow Nu's personal journey @nuthervandross


All photos by  @justinchung

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