Black designers have mastered code-switching while working in predominantly white spaces, but how can they embrace their authenticity more in professional settings?

We’re covering this topic during the AfroTech Conference from the lens of Terrence Williams, a Black designer and visual artist who consistently advocates for more inclusive design spaces. He has been working as a senior design lead at Salesforce for the past four years.

In the “Designing Blackness: How Black Designers Can Embrace Their Authenticity” session on the engineering and design stage, Williams plans to talk about why it’s crucial for Black designers to embrace being their most authentic selves in workspaces.

“As a designer of color, I’ve had to navigate a number of spaces where I may be the only one or may not always feel as connected,” Williams told AfroTech. “I’ve had to learn to build my community as time has gone on.”

Williams also told AfroTech that he struggled early on in his career without mentors that looked like him, and he said he experienced a lot of microaggressions and judgment. In an article that Williams wrote for Salesforce Design, the designer talks about how he used to make sure he always spoke in a friendly tone and dressed more professionally when working in white settings. He created a different version of himself to appease his white peers without realizing he was jeopardizing his authenticity.

Terrence Williams' Perception Of Authenticity

Williams’ perception of authenticity dates back to the 90s’ when he would see ad campaigns and visuals that made him feel like he wasn’t a part of their target audiences. For example, he recalls rarely seeing Black children in toy ads and commercials, which made him think about the designers behind these products. As he was coming into his design career, Williams remembers experiences that stuck with him, like big tech companies telling him that his designs were “too loud,” which he perceives as “too Black.”

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and Williams is working to make sure Black designers embrace their Blackness. That’s why he’s sharing his experiences.

How Black Designers Can Embrace Their Authenticity

  • By mastering the mindsets of relationship design and finding the balance between all of them.
  • By speaking out more about what’s valuable to you so you can help your peers better resonate with your perspectives.
  • By finding mentors and being mentors to other Black designers to help build confidence. 

To attend this session and others like it during our annual AfroTech conference, register here.