Timothy Goodman on white privilege in graphic design – and how we can increase diversity


Digital Arts

Timothy Goodman

Following Timothy Goodman’s joint initiatives with Jessica Walsh to encourage Americans to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections – I’m With Her and Build Kindness Not Walls – the New York graphic designer has focussed his attention on a new social crusade: creatives of colour.

"I have a platform and I want to use to talk about white privilege, which is what we have in this industry, and how to make it more diverse and more inclusive," says Timothy.

Timothy and his friend, product designer at The New York Times, Amelie Lamont, both saw a need to highlight designers of ethnic minority in an industry where the level of inclusion is still not satisfactory – and created the People of Craft website.

I sat down with Timothy at Adobe MAX in Las Vegas to discuss his latest projects and gain an insight into his process –  and it was that stood out most. Although Amelie was initially listed as speaking at the show and I wanted to interview her about the project too, she wasn't in the final line-up.

Timothy's Kissing Trump initiative

Timothy is a graphic designer who's worked for Apple as well as created editorial illustrations for The New York Times, as well as many joint self-discovery projects with designer Jessica Walsh, many of which Timothy had to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Amelie has established a high profile on being vocal about the intersection of design, tech, womanhood and race on Twitter and her blog.

"She’s a black woman, I’m obviously a white guy, she’s very vocal in all ways (see her thoughts on speaking at conferences here), especially Twitter, and especially with the lack of inclusion in our industry," says Timothy.

"I’ve been very vocal as well, and that’s how we got close."

People of Craft debuted this month. It’s an online directory highlighting and showcasing the work of creatives of colour, or ethnic diversity – Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) (Digital Arts is based in the UK, and our terminology surrounding diversity reflects that. Here’s a glossary for those who may not be familiar with certain terms) – in the disciplines of design, advertising, photography, writing, tech, illustration, lettering and art including prolific illustrator Edel Rodriguez and Amelie herself.

People of Craft homepage

Timothy and Amelie designed and created the website not only to celebrate "hundreds of amazing people doing great work", but to create a directory of people who could be invited to speak at conferences, events and panels to make sure a variety of voices are represented.

Each featured artist has their work displayed and contact details, so it’s easy to get in touch. And the array of diverse work and people is endless, exciting and encouraging to explore.

"It’s got to a point where I’ve travelled the whole world doing talks, and I’m on another panel with three other white guys, and it’s just like, how is this happening?" says Timothy.

"Even just from a storytelling point of view, it’s just the same story, same textures, it’s like, don’t you want to hear other people’s experience?"

But instead of purely complaining about it, the pair decided to build an online tool and resource for the industry, with the help of site development from Eric Jacobsen and design assistance from Twisha Patni.

Timothy says passion for the project began by simply recognising the issue.

“I have a lot of friends of colour, I grew up from when I was four to 13 years old, in a predominately black neighborhood in Cleveland, so i think it’s part of my makeup in a way.

“It’s been something that’s been frustrating for me to see, so I want to take this on a little more.”

The current website design is only the beginning of Timothy and Amelie’s vision for it.

Although there are already loads of artists showcased, more are planned to be added. At the moment, you have to submit yourself or someone else to the contact section of the website in order to be featured, but Timothy hopes to make it so anyone can add themselves immediately to the page.

Brooklyn artist Shyama Golden's work is featured on People of Craft

“We also want different sections that highlights what people are doing, so if there’s a great conference going on, or by highlighting different projects,” he says.

“My friend Timothy Hykes created 28 days of Black Designers and highlighted a different person everyday, and so we want a similar newsfeed on the site. We want to make it more robust.”

This project focuses on stories and work of African American / Black designers

People of Craft is not the first socially aware project Timothy has made time for amongst commercial work for the likes of Samsung, releasing his own book and freestyle murals.

Timothy's project with Emily Henderson for Samsung's new TV, The Frame
A time-lapse of Timothy's mural for the outside of a Drybar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

He tackled 12 Kinds of Kindness as a public online project with Jessica Walsh about becoming kinder, more empathetic people. As a resolution, they practiced this for 12 months.

There’s also My Dad Is, a website showcasing people’s relationship with their fathers, sparked after Timothy met his biological father for the first time.

At the moment he’s regularly creating hand lettering in the form of heart-on-sleeve, tongue-and-cheek phrases posted to his Instagram account – a project he calls Instatherapy. But it’s a wonder how he finds time for these personal projects.

Taken from Timothy's ongoing Instatherapy project

It can be hard as a designer to find time outside of the long hours of commercial work in the studio or at an agency to create projects that mean something to you. But Timothy’s been doing this ever since he began working at Apple.

"Time is the ultimate luxury. Nothing is possible without time," he says.

"I don’t have a family or kids, so it makes it a little easier for me, but everyone has to figure out whatever works for them, but you have to make time, whether it’s just one hour a day or one hour a week."

Taken from Timothy's ongoing Instatherapy project

Timothy says the key to inspiration is to approach design and creativity as a practise, not a discipline.

"Peoples always want to hold you down with rules and limitations, but I just make stuff," he says.

"But again, you have to make a lot of stuff to get to that point. You have to try a lot of things, and see what resonates for you.

"If you were playing guitar, you’d learn forever, you’d be playing non stop for years. The biggest advice is be patient and stay at it. I see that a lot with young designers, I feel like they want it all right now. But these things take years."

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