11 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE BECOMING A DESIGNER
This week started with one of my biggest influences passing away, Nipsey Hussle. Living and creating in Los Angeles exposed me to not only his work but also his growth and contribution to the culture. He was perfect example of vision and manifestaion, self awareness, and evolution. Im proud of all he accomplished and all he influenced, in our joint circle and beyond. He is why I am in front of you today. Joining the marathon, and helping our community grow.
I have been a designer for a decade. Ive done it all, and Im grateful. I didnt grow up knowing I could have a successful, lucarative career in Design. My first career was in music, like a lot of us. Hard work got me this far. Now I am in a place where I can share my thoughts and experiences. Which brings us here. There are a lot of things I wish I knew, expectations I could've adjusted, especially as a brown person in design. So I’m passing on my pears of wisdom to the next generation looking to work in the creative world.
The 11 things I wish I knew before becoming a black designer.
why 11 -- The number 11is considered to be a master number. The number 11is said to have external forces guiding you towards change and opportunity.
a. First, YOU HAVE TO FACE REALITY, WE ARE NOT THE NORM.
1. 9/10 I EXPECTED TO BE THE ONLY BLACK PERSON IN MY DEPARTMENT OR TEAM.
THIS OTHERNESS CAN FEEL ISOLATING. EARLY I WAS oblivious BECAUSE I JUST WANTED TO MAKE IT. AS MY CAREER PROGRESSED, I BECAME MORE AWARE. Being MORE AWARE TROUBLED me. IT WAS THE FIRST STEP OF ACCEPTANCE TO ENCOURAGE ME TO BE THE BEST, AND ALSO BE A VOICE of CONCERN AND ENCOURAGEMENT. I’m The constant pursuit to educate and recruit and build a more inclusive design community. To build awareness of our value.
B. YOUR IDENTITY WILL BE CHALLENGED
2. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO TONE DOWN YOUR BLACK-NESS FOR ACCEPTANCE.
DON'T. FEEL IT BE IT. THIS IS THE KEY TO CHANGING STEREOTYPES, AND EXPANDING THE CULTURE. OTHER races HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE. WITH UNDERSTANDING IS KNOWING IT IS REAL, NOT ENTERTAINMENT, AND NOT TO BE MINIMIZED AS A NOVELTY.
3. YOUr CO-WORKERS WILL INHERITELY BELIEVE STEREOTYPES ABOUT YOU AND THEIR OWN BIAS ABOUT YOU.
PROVE EM' WRONG, OR DON'T. ITS NOT YOUR JOB TO TEACH ANYONE. YOUR PERFORMANCE IN YOUR ROLE IS WHAT COMES FIRST, AND IS PRIORITY. FUCK PPL. ITS HOSTILE, BUT THEY HAVE TO STEP TO THE PLATE AND GROW. THIS ISNT GREENBOOK or any white savior movie.
C. YOU WILL HAVE TO BE YOUR OWN CHAMPION
4. I HAVE NEVER HAD A BLACK BOSS
THIS IMPORTANT TO NOTE. THE HIRING PROCESS, CAREER GROWTH, AND UPWARD MOBILITY IS BASED ON THIS RELATIONSHIP. IT IS A PROVEN FACT WE GRAVITATE TOWARDS PPL WHO WE HAVE THINGS IN COMMON WITH OR SHARE AN IDENTITY WITH. WITH THE CREATIVE WORLD LACKING DIVERSITY, THERE ARE FEW MOVING TO POSITIONS OF POWER, WHICH MEANS LESS PEOPLE OF COLOUR BEING HIRED. ITS NATURAL, JEWS HIRE JEWS, MEXICANS HIRE MEXICANS, BLUNT BUT ITS SUPPORTING OF YOUR OWN. THE SOLUTION IS BELIEVE YOU CAN BE A LEADER, AND HIRE YOUR PEOPLE. SUPPORT DIVEREITY IN YOUR COMMUNITIES. LOOK OUT FOR YOUR PEOPLE. ITS NOT A COMPETITION THIS IS A COMMUNITY.
5. ITS HARDER TO FIND DESIGNERS TO ASPIRE TO BE.
I QUESTIONED WHAT KIND OF DESIGNER I WAS GOING TO BE, OR PRECIEVED TO BE INSTEAD OF JUST FOLLOWING MY HEART. I DIDNT FEEL LIKE I HAD AN IDENTIFYABLE BLUEPRINT. WHICH ENCOURAGED ME TO LOOK OUTSIDE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN TO FIND THOSE PPL I COULD ADMIRE, ART COMES FIRST, BROOKLYN CIRCUS, PHARRELL WILLIAM, Jerry Lorenzo's FEAR OF GOD, FAT TIGER AND FRESHGOODS OUT OF CHICAGO. THAT BECAME MY PERSONAL STANDARD OF BLACK EXCELLENCE IN THE FIELD
6. MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES ARE SLIM
This tripped me up. Mentorship is important. and if you have an opportunity to get a mentor, do not sleep on it. Having someone you can go to, to help you navigate the creative or corporate world. For me coming from a blue collar family, i was taught hard work but I lacked decorum. As my career progressed, and a useful mentor did not come into fruition I had to learn to find other ways to experience positive influence. Reading, podcast, talks, be a sponge. Take in all info.
7. YOU WILL HAVE TO FIGHT FOR EQUAL WAGES
This is hard to talk about. Black Women Make 63 Cents For Every Dollar Paid To White Men. That’s a little over half of what white men make. Black Women Make roughly $21000 Less Per Year On Average Than White Male Peers.
You cant let that statistic define you. Ask for what you want. Say no to what you dont want.
It is important to understand your worth, and value. Learn how to negotiate your salary and rate. There are many resources out there, my personal recommendation is LadiesGetPaid, a New York based organization working hard to close to the wage gap. Also I’m on their website lol.
D. YOU WILL HAVE TO ESTABLISH YOURSELF AS A PROFESSIONAL / LEADER
8. YOU WILL BE PUSHED TO ROLES OF SUPPORT
I have over a decade of experience, and I still get asked to fill junior designer roles for half my rate. More than likely when I’m brought in, it’s to clean up projects and company structures. Its apart of the stereotype of black women work hard and organize. You have to remember to stand of what you ultimately want, and saying no when things do not align to your personal goals. Of course first time you say no, you're gonna get heat, but then people will eventually meet you where you're at.
Don’t let that discourage you. its apart of the process of establishment. Keep showing initiative, keep pursuing side projects. Stay on top of your creative practice. Do let them forget you're a PRO.
9. THERE WILL BE MORE BLACK PPL AS THE BUILDING HELP THAN IN UPPER MANAGEMENT
This is a mindfuck. It’s hard to feel settled and valued when the few ppl you can identify with clean your coffee cups and deliver packages. It makes it that much more harder to feel like you belong. And harder to create the visual, that black people are more than assistants.
Not to say there is anything wrong with those who fill the assistant roles, if anything let that be reminder of the work we have to do towards diverse workspaces, and filling the gaps in-between admin and upper management.
E. BLACK IS COOL
10. AFTER-ALL, YOU WILL MAKE every environment FEEL COOL JUST FROM the PROXIMITY TO YOU
11. I MOST BLACK DESIGNERS ARE IN SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT, AND FASHION = WE ARE TRENDSETTERS.
ITS THE STANDARD BUT NOT THE LIMIT. NEVER HESITATE TO EXPLORE.