Catching Up With Timothy Hykes on 28 (More) Days of Black Designers
For the second year in a row, UX designer Tim Hykes aims to profile 28 black designers in celebration of Black History Month and to show those in the design industry that black designers are not just out there, they’re also talented.
The second annual 28 Days of Black Designers almost didn’t happen. The campaign started as a passion project from Timothy Hykes, a young, black designer based out of St. Louis, and quickly took off on social media. The premise was simple: profile one black designer each day of Black History Month.
The project had a powerful impact on his life and led to numerous speaking engagements and professional opportunities over the past year, including being featured in a keynote at Adobe MAX. By the time February rolled around again, he was so busy he hadn’t thought much about the project.
His friends, however, weren’t going to let him forget how important it is.
“They said, ‘Tim, this has touched a lot of people and there’s not a lot of people out there doing something similar, and there are a lot of people who now have the chance to see that there are black designers in large spaces, you know, at large organizations, and to actually see the work — to see good work — and actually use that as a tool to motivate them to to push themselves to that next level.’ I was just like, yeah that is a good thing,” Hykes said.
He got straight to work. On February 1st, he built a brand new website, a stylish update from the website last year. He started reaching out to fellow black designers and was able to pull things together quickly. So far, he’s profiled designers such as motion graphics artist Marco Cheatham, UX designer Walia Skinner and entrepreneur and keynote speaker De Nichols, who he also produces YouTube videos with. He is still looking for some more designers to profile, so get in touch with him if you know (or are) a great black designer.
Representing Black Designers of All Genders and Experience Levels
This year’s 28 Days of Black Designers has had a pretty even gender split as Hykes tries to level the playing field.
“I’m always conscious of it, but it’s also been working out so far that way,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to stay very conscious of how many women are represented and making sure that it kind of matches up.”
He’s also reaching out to designers of various backgrounds and also hopes to create videos profiling a few designers, something new for this year. His goal is to represent black designers at all stages in their careers — not just ones who have found success at a senior level. Hykes wants people to know that black designers aren’t just everywhere, they’re good at what they do.
“We’re in every aspect of design. We’re in large companies, we’re in small companies, we’re in non-profits. From fashion to architecture, we’re there, somewhere we are there,” he said.
“Also, I want to get some more of the newbies within the project to try to show that, you know, don’t shy away from new talent. The experience might not be there, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not good, because what I don’t have experience with I would definitely like to pick up, and a lot of people pick it up fast.”
Progress Since Last Year’s Project
Since the initial launch of 28 Days of Black Designers, Hykes says he’s noticed some positive changes when it comes to organizations increasing their diversity levels, however there is still work to be done. At this point, he feels much of the progress has been more on an awareness level.
“People are talking about it more, so I’m starting to see it become more of a bigger issue,” he said. “I’m not seeing it taken to heart by everyone, but I’m starting to see more conversations about it. That awareness I think is very important, that people do know that [hiring more diverse employees] is something that could help make design at your organization a lot better.”
Where he has seen an increase in support, he said, is with the Design + Diversity Conference. Hykes is a co-founder of the St. Louis-based conference that is entering its third year, as well as the president of AIGA St. Louis (the professional association for design).
“What’s really surprising is this year there are so many large organizations that reached out to want to work with us at the conference, and that’s very inspiring to see that they’re very dedicated to helping to diversify the design field,” Hykes said. Not only this, but there has been increased interest from people wanting to help out, which has allowed the August conference to expand to two days, with Hykes hoping to add a third. Adobe is proud to be one of this year’s sponsors.
Wise Words From Mama Hykes
28 Days of Black Designers is hardly Hykes’ only passion project. He’s also in the process of developing a website that he hopes will help young designers put together dynamite portfolios and nail the interviewing process. In the meantime, related tutorials, especially around UX, are currently available on his YouTube channel.
Lately at his speaking engagements, Hykes said he has been trying to leave a positive message encouraging other designers, especially black designers, to pursue their own passion projects.
“I’m doing the 28 Days of Black Designers project, but there might be something in your heart and all it takes is you putting in the time to create something to push out to the world, and anybody can do this,” he said. “I’m not telling someone to come out and try to get their name within my project, but you can start your own project and you can have the same type of success. All it takes is you just giving it a shot. Like my mom has always said, ‘a lot of people might say no, but the ones that count are the ones that say yes.’”
To learn more about 28 Days of Black Designers and read the designer profiles, check out 28blacks.com. For more UX insights sent straight to your inbox, sign up for Adobe’s experience design newsletter!