Teneka King, Freelance Designer & Creative Director
💭 Thoughts on progress over perfection, pgLang, and seamlessly weaving together culture & art.
Thought Enthusiast is an AdHoc Project where we chat with fascinating thought leaders across various facets of music, tech, and culture whose work we admire, simply asking “what’s on your mind?” and “why do you care?” 💭
I’m Teneka King, a multidisciplinary creative director and designer born and raised in Montreal, currently based in Paris after a 14-year stint in New York City. I’ve always had an immense passion for design and storytelling. Some days I feel like “Emily in Paris,” but the more culturally aware and less obnoxious version.
I've had the opportunity to partner with incredible artists like Alicia Keys, Pharrell, NAS, Snoop Dogg, Ricardo Tisci, and have worked on some of the most influential brands in the world, such as Nike, TikTok, Microsoft, Meta, PepsiCo, Moet, FX, Afropunk, and more.
Apart from that, I am a person who loves animals and trying new foods. You can usually find me exploring a new city as traveling and exploring new cultures is my most expensive hobby. My mind is a ball of random facts, so I make a pretty good partner for all things trivia.
🎯 Current focus
I’m currently working on a podcast (I know, do we actually need another one?!). It’s on a topic that is near and dear to me, that I would have loved to listen to when I was navigating my career early on, so perhaps that is why I am so passionate about it. It’s a show about first generation creatives and all the things we have to navigate when we choose to go against the grain and not go down the traditional path our parents wanted, like becoming lawyers or doctors. I’m also excited because it is something new that I have never done before, so even though I’m being creatively and technically challenged, I’ve really been enjoying learning and doing something new. Creating a podcast has also given me the opportunity to connect with creatives that I admire and allowed me to give them a space to share their stories and culture. The conversations have been so enriching, so I feel like I am growing emotionally in the process.
📽️ Go see the film ORIGIN if you haven’t already
ORIGIN, a film directed by Ava Duvernay. I had the honor of working on the marketing for this film, which meant I got to watch it earlier than the release and it’s been sitting with me ever since. It is a movie based on Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste, and it makes you question everything about your place in society and really think about the unspoken rules that we have all accepted and live by. It does all that while telling a beautiful story of love and loss. The film is extremely powerful and it really unearths the roots of all the ‘isms we experience today. Watching the film feels like one of those pivotal moments in time that shifts how you experience everything afterwards. Not to mention, the film is visually stunning, which is to be expected with Ava. I could go on and on about this, but in short, go see ORIGIN if you haven’t already!
🕉️ “Progress over perfection.”
I’ve spent the majority of my life being a perfectionist and although it has served me in many ways, it has also hindered me in many ways. So I am in the process of undoing and learning how to not let failure or success define me. I am trying to care less about what other people think and just do what I want. Since adopting this mantra, I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more intentional about creating personal projects and tapping into the things that light me up instead of obsessing over life’s small details. It’s also allowing me to have fun and to find joy in the creative process, which is a struggle at times because when your job is creative, you get used to executing at a certain level and when you start something new there’s a learning curve, so it can be a struggle. It’s funny because that is the very thing that makes me really good at my job, but my job is not my life so… I’m working on it!
🤝 Seamlessly weaving together culture and art
It’s really hard to pick just one person in my industry that I look up to, but I will share someone who is top of mind at the moment, Mike Carson. He is an all-around creative whose work really inspires and motivates me. He creates in various mediums while working with artists and brands, and manages to seamlessly weave culture and art together in such a beautiful way. From live performances, to photography, to film, to creative direction it seems like there is nothing that he can’t do and I really admire that. He was one of the creative directors on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Big Steppers Tour’ and ever since I saw it I have not been able to stop talking about it. I went to the show in Paris, which was broadcast live at the Brooklyn Museum and later aired on Amazon Prime (check it out if you haven’t already), and apart from Kendrick being an amazing performer, the visuals, stage design, lighting, everything(!), was absolutely impeccable. Mike really stretches himself creatively to do so many diverse projects. It really reinforces that it is ok to lean into your curiosity regardless of people wanting you to pick a lane and box you in.
🧳 Traveling to Portugal
I live in Paris and I am going to Lisbon in a few days to visit one of my best friends. Apart from spending time with her, I am looking forward to just being in that beautiful city. This will be my 4th time there and I love it more and more each time. The brightly colored city is a welcomed contrast to Paris’ monochrome streets. Both the culture and the weather are 10 degrees warmer. And the food is incredible. There is something about the vibe that feels so familiar to me. I am Caribbean and being there reminds me of the summers I spent visiting my grandparents in Trinidad, even though Trinidad and Portugal are obviously very different.
🧱 Building brand loyalty by acknowledging & celebrating your audience
Clarks. As I mentioned earlier I am Caribbean (Trini/Grenadian/Bajan to be exact), and they have played a huge role in our culture. Many people see them as a legacy brand since they have been around forever, but they have managed to stay relevant by consistently tapping into culture. They recently did a collaboration with the dancehall artist Popcaan and it could not have been more fitting – especially since Popcaan is featured on Vybz Cartel’s song “Clarks” (which is basically a love letter to the infamous shoes). I think it is a great example of how you can build brand loyalty by acknowledging and celebrating your audience and being in tune with the culture, rather than running away from it or trying to just co-opt it. I think other brands can learn a lot from them.
💥 pgLang breaking from the traditional agency model
pgLang is a creative entity founded by Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free, and I have been obsessed with them for the past 2 years. I love every single thing they touch and their distinct voice and perspective comes across in everything that they do, whether it be a music video, an ad for CashApp or a fashion show for Louis Vuitton. I am a multidisciplinary creative and hate feeling boxed in and I love that pgLang breaks from the traditional agency model and really ebb and flow on various projects. It’s really telling that they have been able to embrace this model and maintain such creative excellence because that is how we as humans work. We need the space to be able to experiment and grow.
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