- Artwork by Eli Jorgensen
Tim Hykes shines a light on black designers. He shows us how an inspiring idea, and a lot of hard work can make a huge impact. He inspires us to challenge everything, especially the status quo. He motivates us to not wait to be asked to solve a problem, but to be a self-starter and solve it. He also teaches us how being a great designer starts with being a great person.
Timothy Hykes aka Tim Hykes is a User Experience designer and Illustrator working in Saint Louis, Missouri. He’s had the pleasure of seeing his work featured on FastCompany, Adobe, nationally with AIGA, InVision App, and socially with Behance and many other sites and publications. He is nationally known for his side projects which includes the 28 Days of Black Designers project, the Design + Diversity conference, and podcast, the #WeStandTogether project, and on YouTube on the Tim Hykes channel. A fun fact about Tim is that he’s really shy in a one on one situation.
- Secret Identity (6:55)
- Criminal Justice Background (11:47)
- Why the Web/UX? (13:47)
- Racist Hand Soap?! (17:00)
- 28 Days of Black Designers (20:39)
- Why aren’t there more Black Designers? (26:17)
- Design Superpower (38:11)
- Design Kryptonite (40:05)
- UX Superhero Name (42:51)
- Fights for Users (44:09)
- Habit of Success (48:07)
- Invincible Resource (56:11)
- Recommended Book (57:30)
- Best Advice (60:21)
- Contact Tim Hykes (64:10)
Jason Ogle: Welcome to User Defenders, Tim. I am super excited to have you on the show today!
Tim Hykes: Hi! Thanks. I’m great and I’m really excited to be on the show today.
Jason Ogle: Where are you working now, or can you say?
Tim Hykes: Yeah, I can say. I’m currently at Caleres and so they have a portfolio of shoes, so they are owned like, I work on the Allen Edmonds Shoe Line there. I’m the senior ecommerce designer on that team. They also own, you might know like famous footwear, so it was like a thousand some stores throughout the US. They own the naturalizer, which is a woman’s shoe; they own it. So, it was about 37 organizations of shoes that they like hover over, but I was hired for Allen Edmonds.
And Allen Edmonds is an American brand shoe, made right here in American in West Constance. And they’re currently like we brandings that line to fit a broader audience, and they brought me on – with my expertise to help basically after the brand, you know, new website we put out in July working with the kinks there to make everything work right for the users, because they have a worldwide audience that actually buys from that site, so they see more traffic on the web versus in their stores, and so yeah, it’s very exciting.
Jason Ogle: Okay, cool! Well that sounds cool, Tim! So how long have you been over there?
Tim Hykes: It might be about 3 weeks now.
Jason Ogle: Okay, very new, very fresh. Do you like the environment? Do you like the folks there?
Tim Hykes: Yeah, everybody’s really nice and like sometimes I can be a little silly, so I like to sing and dance and do all crazy stuff and I’m like showing examples about something, I’m norm like up and like got my body twisted in some type of way showing the example like, no, this is what I call a downward dog, yes, I’m crazy.
Jason Ogle: [Laughter] I love it! I love it! I think I picked the right person like you to have on the show because I love entertaining aspect and making it fun, so you are definitely a right candidate and right superhero for this. So speaking of Superheroes, as you know, this is a fun superhero theme and every superhero has a secret identity and origin story. Let’s talk about yours. I’d like to start the show but you’re taking a few moments just to give us a look into your personal life.
Tim Hykes: Oh yeah. So I’ll go all the way back. So I’m one of six. I’m in the middle. So, it’s have five brothers, one of six, I’m in the middle, so it’s two of us in the middle; big family – my Mom, dad and all of us. And like here in St Louis, we grew up poor, so my dad, his side of the family is from Tupelo, Mississippi. And my mother, her side of the family is from Michigan, like north and south came together in St Louis. And I grew up in, well started in I would guess you would say Pendleton Missouri. I went to Pendleton elementary, and from there my mom and dad like got better jobs, but then they ended up divorcing and so, we ended up being separated for a little bit and I went to the county and St Louis has had better school districts there. But that was a huge transition for me, because you know, I went to a predominantly black school transitioning into a school that was predominantly white. So it was a lot of things that I had to learn and deal with and we going up. So we grew up…
Jason Ogle: [Crosstalk] polarizing.
Tim Hykes: Oh yeah, it was — But eventually I was able to navigate that. I would kind of say successfully because by the end of my senior year, I was popular and I ended up being popular in high school because I was a part everything, so I was in every club and so I knew everybody from band choir to the prep club where we prep for every single dance at the school, science club, if you named the club, I was in it and I did. I was even on the football team, which a lot of people didn’t know until I like put a pitch recently of me sitting there freshman year on the football team. So yeah, I did a lot of that.
Afterwards, my grandmother was really pushing for me to be a lawyer and like she kind of decided who was doing what in the family. And so I graduated in 2002, went off to Lincoln University of Missouri. I was actually studying to be a criminal justice major, and I worked my way up through the ranks and linked University of Missouri because I ended up being student government association president there. I joined a fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Bands Fraternity. I’m huge in band, allows the arrangement that they played now on some of the arrangement that I helped to arrange that the band still plays that are some of their, to the traditional pieces now.
When I was in school at Lincoln University, I was always designing flyers for the different clubs organizations, and when I became student government association president, of course I was designing my own flyers for the events, the student government association were doing. I’m managing a budget about $500,000 for the students per semester that year, which was pretty cool. And then from there I ended up leaving. I work for express grips for a little bit and I was like, you know what, I am a graphic designer, so I looked up some schools and I started at St Louis Community College at Florissant valley where I got my Associate’s in Graphic Communications there.
I worked really nice there like a lot of the teachers that are there are from Yale or Harvard, so they are from these really big institutions and they think really completely like out of the box when it comes to teaching art. And so, I ended up graduating from there, and I finished my degree and got my bachelor’s from the University of Missouri, St Louis, [inaudible 05:58] is what we call it, it’s a fine arts with emphasis in what is its studio art. And so yeah, that brings me almost up to date.
Jason Ogle: Yeah! Well very good. Wow! You’ve got quite an extensive of backstory, Tim. And one thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of UX designers especially have had their hands in a lot of different things. It’s really kind of cool. I think it just makes us better designers, the fact that we have a lot of varying interests and, and have kind of touched a lot of things and because this field is so diverse, there’s so many different areas like, areas of business to learn and in every business is run differently and do different things, so I just love that. And I’m going to ask you this because I think I heard you were on an Adobe XD, you did a tutorial or something like, you built a prototype live, and I heard you say something speaking of your backstory, did I hear you say you started out as a police officer?
Tim Hykes: A good criminal justice degree from Lincoln University. Yeah!
Jason Ogle: I love it. Tell me, can you touch on that briefly because this is really fascinating.
Tim Hykes: That’s what everybody wants to hear, that like to say that I just – devil want to talk about. But yeah, at Lincoln University, I studied criminal justice. It just wasn’t for me and when people meet me, I mean think about me being called to a gunfight, like really like I’m the worst person. Now, you just called and told me they were shooting, so do you think I’m going to go. Oh, wait a minute to think about me working at the jail. You said they were throwing urine. No, I’m not going. I don’t want — nothing on me. What do I looked like, no. They fighting in the [inaudible 07:48] bushes wait for them to fight it out and then I walk in. No, that wasn’t me at all. No, I just don’t do it, don’t do violence like that. I don’t even know what I was thinking. Well, I do know what I was thinking. I thought I was going to transition quickly from after getting the degree in criminal justice to being a lawyer, but then that didn’t work. I found that I was an artist and so yeah.
You see, I could just see you like, you know, holding somebody up and then like trying to like be real serious, like you got those cops have to get pretty loud sometimes and pretty expletive, you know, even if they don’t like to use swear words, I have to do it because it makes them sound more authoritative, you know? But I can just see you standing there and just like trying not to laugh like, dude, you got a booger hanging out of your nose. You know, like talking to them, talking to the criminal, like, dude, you got to get some snot hanging out!
Tim Hykes: I would probably get in trouble for like smaller things. Like, oh, wait a minute, you look a mess, what would you think you’d coming out the house like that, now you embarrassed when us all. Jesus, why don’t you go back and try it again. Oh my God.
Jason Ogle: Oh my gosh, this is great! So, why the web, Tim? And I know that, I mean you’ve started – Again, you have humble beginnings just like we all do, but it all kind of brought you to where you are now and working on the web and in user experience and you know, why the web? Why UX?
Tim Hykes: So, the UX is a funny thing. A lot of people like to think that, well a lot of people try to tie it into themes within the past, but actually, you know, as we all know, the phrase is still kind of new within the industry and also, you know, currently as I like to say that we still as UX designers have yet to sit down ourselves to define, you know, this is exactly what a UX designer is from this point forward. And you know, these are the basics we expect every UX designer to have from this point moving forward. This is a different between a full stack UX designer versus a regular UX designer. This is why some organizations might break off a UX designer from UX research and this is the difference in what they do and sending those foundations, you know, going from…
Well, my first excitement was web design, like designing websites. But I got into a place where I was very interested in how people were using different websites, and one person who really help like kick me in the head with that was Patrick McNeil because at the time when I was said so I was taking his UX classes and he was currently finishing up his masters in class in UX. So, he was really teaching us a lot of stuff that he was getting for the first time and trying to help us really understand how users behave and how they navigate through things and how to make their navigations easier and pleasant, unsuccessful, you know, which could lead to higher conversion rates which could lead to more people using your application or something like that.
And so I’m just really interested in how people behave on the web, why they behave on the web, something that I’m currently like researching and trying to figure out is there a such thing as unintentionally designing something that’s for one population of people. So you know, other color combinations and you know, the way that you lay words on a page or you know, or navigation structure period that works well for one group of people.
One my friend, Dean Nichols posed the question, is there a such thing as a ratio interface, you know interface itself be racist, you know, I’m interested to find out, is there such a thing right now from the current work I’ve been doing? I can say like, no, you know, there’s nothing right now that could lead us to figure out that what we do or how we navigate our certain group people using something that is just for them, nobody else will be able to use or navigate through it, but yeah, I’m interested in doing more and trying to figure out that. So, these small things keep me in the UX realm and they keep me always wanting to create the next project to figure out, you know, how we do things as designers, UX designers by the way.
Jason Ogle: Yeah! That’s interesting, Tim, and what you said about racist interface, like that’s a crazy notion right there. And one thought that occurred to me is in the age of voice UX, it depends on who’s programming it, right? I mean that calls us back to ethics and just being civilized people and being good to each other. Right. And because unfortunately and sadly, there’s still a remnant, there’s still an element of racism, you know, and sadly, especially in America, it’s just a terrible thing. But again, I think it depends on who’s on the other side of those keys to making this thing right. I think there’s a real good ethical lesson in all of this for all of us, for especially those sadly, for those who are bent that way, that, you know, hey, you know what, we were all the same, we all bleed the same color, you know, it doesn’t matter. That’s the real problem, man and you want to speak to that a little bit?
Tim Hykes: Yeah! I mean, you’re exactly right. I’m sure people could remember this might have been about two years ago where there was a video of a black guy in a bathroom and he kept trying to put his hand under the soap dispenser, but it wasn’t coming out for him, but then right counterparts were putting their hands upon the end and it was spitting out. I mean that’s, to me, I think that was unintentional, but that could speak to it such as you were designing and you have it scan your hand and it works well, it goes out on the market, is in all these bathrooms and you had no idea that it was set to only work for a certain skin color.
I mean the black community talks about cameras all the time because you have to really go in and mess with a few things for us to actually look like our skin color when it comes up on a photo. Normally, I’m like 10 times darker than what I am. And I’m like, oh my goodness, I don’t want to be more appropriate than I am already am. But most of the time like you have to go in and fix those because cameras are preset for a certain skin tone. So lots of things I think that I’d done unintentionally that most people wouldn’t think about. You know, most people think about the camera taking a picture.
But then also lead me to the idea where I think it was Henry Ford who said “if I were to ask someone like what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.” You know so a lot of things with users we asked if we get that sometimes they do not know what they want, you know, and it’s up to like a UX designer to figure out that in between that this is something that I believe that the user needs in once but don’t know that they want. It’s almost like thick and chunky spaghetti sauce because that was something else that user didn’t want it.
Jason Ogle: No, that’s a good. That’s a really good point, Tim, and I think like you said with the faucet, I could not believe that and I really do agree with you. I think there just a sincere mistake. I don’t think if there wasn’t an actual racist intention in that. But I think that the whole point is – I think there’s a couple of point here, one test with different kinds of people, right? Like don’t just test with a panel of white people. If you’re building a hardware they require as light sensitivity, don’t just test with white people, test with, with all sorts of colors of people too because there’s of all because those are the people that’ll be using this thing. Right?
And then the other lesson is, okay, we failed, let’s learn and let’s fix this. So I think those are just a couple of the things that we can kind of do, and I am glad to see this whole industry shifts so much. I mean, it really hasn’t and I think this is a good segue into the 28 days of black designers project, Tim, that you found it and felt led to put this thing together, which has been an incredible impact on the design industry. Can you talk about that Tim? Like what inspired you to come up with this project and what is it?
Tim Hykes: 28 days of Black Designers Project – Really before that project happen, a friend of mine, I’m Antoinette Crowe and I were having a conversation; where I say a name that’s because; they’re Google able and their life probably a national speaker and that’s why I say their names. But we were talking and I told her that I wanted to do the project because there’s nothing that really spotlight black designers. And one thing that I kept hearing a lot, especially Timothy Goodman kept pointing out like people were saying, oh, there’s no black designers out there are, you know, I can’t find him. And I’m like, oh yeah, this planning like I know at least four here in St Louis, wish there were more, but there’s plenty out there.
And not only are we out there, we’re doing good work in extraordinary places like Google and Apple and Amazon. And so with that it happened kind of quickly, I can probably say within four days I built a site that first year sent out, pushed out a tweet that ended up getting like 200 plus responses and lead to a group of people contacting me to be like a part of the project, and interviewing these people, I became more of a curator of selecting the right group of people in the right type of formations to fit what days after and who and next.
And so the beginning of the project I try to do like 7 7 7, so I guess it was like seven general designers, so whether it was like UX graphic design or whatever, seven designers from the history. So we’re talking about designers who were passed or nonliving and then seven designers from the architecture field and seven designers from the fashion field to try to have a mix of designers who are doing multiple different things.
But of course early on I saw like the issues with that because I mean for me to still find stories now of designers, black designers who are saying they’re the first black designer in the city here in like 2018, which this just blows my mind and it was very difficult to find designers from history or what we consider design back during that time. So something earlier than 1900 trying to find a black designer, Knome was weird, nobody was creating and history, you know, you see things where Frederick Douglass was doing a few things, but within history, we don’t consider Frederick Douglas a designer.
And so with that I started curating these people and pushed out the story and the narrative and got lots of responses back. A lot of black designers were contacting me and saying that they thought they were the only one. We’re talking about 3 years ago when I first started doing this, you know, black designer saying like the only black designer, when I was going through school, I was the only black designers there. as I started to work and find work, I was the only black designer my job, and it wasn’t until I’ve seen this project that there are other black designers, so I kind of feel fortunate in that aspect because I at least had other two other black designers within my class – we were three, one graduated later than I did, but three other black designers within my class, and like we were always there for each other, but they hear stories where people didn’t have another black designer and it wasn’t a black designer to graduate from that program within the past 10 years that they graduate from, you know, it was Kind of sad to hear.
And then as you think about smaller cities, you know, these stories are like almost kind of frightening what the designers are talking about. And so I’m just happy that it reaches a large population of people. I’m happy to hear stories from teachers who are saying that they’re actually using it as curriculum in their classroom to point black designers to the product to show them by hear what other black designers are doing. This is a black designer at Amazon, you know, here’s a black designer at IDEO.
And then also it puts the spotlight on people that you wouldn’t necessarily think for a black because that skin tones so fair, so a good example is I’m Ashley Axios, she worked up on the Obama administration and she was the art director for the White House. You know, most people, if you saw her out in public, most people wouldn’t have thought that she was like black, but Ashley is like the blackest of them all. No, she’s like Tim, you call me the blackest of them all but she was really good friends. But yeah, 100%, you know, a black designer working at automatic and she’s doing really great work. She was there at the White House with Obama, you know.
Jason Ogle: Wow! That’s so cool! I love that you’ve done that this Tim, and this is such a service to not only the design industry but to humanity. I mean, I think that, you know, it’s just awesome for you to take this mantle up on your own, nobody asked you to do this, you just felt inspired and led to do this and you did it, and it’s just shining a well-deserved spotlight on many who. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough awareness and you know, and so I was curious, you know about – I have actually a number of questions about this, but I want to know like, why aren’t there more black designers, you know, or are there and we just don’t know it yet, and that’s kind of part of your work is shining the light. Can you speak to that?
Tim Hykes: Yes, there are a lot of different factors to why there are not a lot of black designers and so I’m going to first start with the one that’s more obvious to me is most of the black community is still kind of poor, I would say. There’s a number of us that have broken out, but within that parents want the best for their kids, so parents are looking at things that they are, careers that they know are successful for the kids and from younger ages like speaking those into existence, you know, that telling them, you know, doctor, lawyer, you know, and go to school to be these two because in those two fields they are very successful. You know and what happens is people get into those fields and you know, never knew about graphic designing, come to find out that they were drawn their whole lives and they could have been a designer.
I am so used to seeing, especially around my friends where I see their kids or they’re drawing a very young ages and you know, they’re really good and talented and I’m talking to them and letting them know like if you love this now you know, you keep this up, when you get my age and make a career out of this, you will be a world-renowned designer, you know, because your skills are good at this level. So imagine what you can do if you did this every day when you get to my age. And so just speaking that confidence and then also letting parents know that it’s a very lucrative career. You know, what UX designers are making.
Even here in St Louis, especially as you get into the house community, what a UX designer is making at Wells Fargo or Express Scripts or even Caleres. I mean the medium is about $85,000 a year. So, in St Louis where the housing market is not expanded as much as other places. You know, your children could have a very successful career, but then they’re also the other factors outside of the black community that leads to there no being that not being that many black designers.
I’m part of that is the visibility, going in and has to work through the issues of an art program where you’re always challenging things. So I’ve always challenged the stuff that was brought to me. I remember in type class telling my type teacher, okay, so we’re learning about all these old dead white men. You can’t sit here and tell me that there are no black type designers. Like she had to work, she was like, Tim, it took me 4 weeks to find one, but here go one that I found in Africa. It was like, okay, thank you, I appreciate the work you did really well, you know, but you have that going on.
And then, you know, always question yourself, you know, are you as good as your white counterparts? because I mean people gravitate to things that they’re used to. I mean, I grew up with a black family, so of course another black family or individual, I’m going to be used to speaking with them, you know, I know from their body language, you know exactly, you know, how they’re feeling or thinking because that’s what I grew up around and so it’s just easy to connect with that and so when you don’t have lots of that, when you’re going through that intense curriculum it becomes issue, and then early, as I said, there’s still a big part of the black community that as you know, more poor than others and so we all know an art degree costs more money than most of these others degrees. I mean for the materials and stuff that you’re going to need to produce, what you need to produce and be successful as an art student. It costs money and a lot of black students are able to continue at that rate to stay successful. And I mean it’s really hard on teachers to try to help those students in need to help facilitate that
And then third and then the last, and there’s so many of them, but I’m stopping with this last one. Last one – A lot of the opportunities that are available for students out there have user experience issues such as you can’t google black design scholarship and pop up with like 50/60, you know, different things that are black student could sign up for. Well, let me say a student of color period. So you know those opportunities are really hard to find, and when you go through and look at this selection from people who want in previous years for some of those opportunities as out there and you don’t see any representation of yourself, you figure that a snap for you. So there’s a lot that could be done all around just to show that we’re there and then there was a lot that could be done within the black community to say yo, like we are out here in this field making a difference and making a good living off this to help parents believe that there is an opportunity for their children and their future careers as a designer.
Jason Ogle: Very awesome stuff, Tim. I appreciate all of the knowledge bombs you just dropped and just helping enlighten the design community in general as to some of the challenges that exist. And thankfully, though some are being overcome, but I think, people like you just shining a light, you know, shining the light and the spotlight, and for working change, you know, to kind of help things in this area. So I just applaud you brother. I’m just so thankful for you and for doing this.
Tim Hykes: Oh, thank you! You know, it’s really hard work because I keep telling people that the difference is tact, you know, you can tell somebody to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip and I’m not literally trying to tell people to go to hill, but you know, explain these situations in a way that it doesn’t offend people, you know, bringing truth to the light where I’m not saying, oh, it’s because of this community or that community, but showing the light on both sides.
What can we do as a community together to help? Number one: fix the thing that are inside, but also outside to help make it better. So I mean just being cognizant of those different things really helps to lead that charge, to bring people aware of it because once you start pointing fingers, it’s all because you have a whole bunch of mad people, no one’s going to do anything.
Jason Ogle: That the truth? Well, you know, last thing I’ll say on this because I’m so glad we spent an earlier part of this episode to touch on this. In case somebody tunes out after you know, at least they got, I think the most important thing you know, and right next to, right alongside your career path and everything and your wisdom is just shining a spotlight on this. So the last thing I want to say about in this segment is that I read about this project in one of your interviews you were interviewed. I can’t recall, I think it was from Adobe or Envision, I can’t recall, but I’m one of one of the things that was asked about or that you mentioned I think it was that one of your expectations and your kind of your goals and now have the outcome of this project is that you want to populate on an search in Google, like on the first, you know, like populate real early on a search for black designer or black designers. And I want to tell you before the interview, I Googled both terms and you’re incredibly inspiring project is not the first result but it’s on the first page. So, that’s a huge win I think and I believe the longer you persist and the longer, you know, the more folks that kind of talk about this, it will only help to continue to climb the ranks. So, you know, well done sir.
Tim Hykes: Thanks! Yeah, that was definitely! You spot-on with that one of my goals because before if you google like a black designer, you always got the fashion designer, you know, like 25 great black fashion designers from this Telenova but you never saw any graphic design, just that was like one of the biggest things that I want to focus on. So we’ll see what happens in the next couple years that.
Jason Ogle: I am going to say right now it’s going to… I’m a big believer in personal growth, I think, and I actually have strong convictions that I think the better human that we are and the better designer that we are. I just think that there’s a real correlation there. I just really believe that and I’ve seen it. And I love the quote and my quote guy, I love the quote that says we’re either growing or dying like plants, right? We look at the plant life, we look at the plant world and the trees and like a tree. Is either growing or it’s dying; is the plant the same thing?
So, why do we think it’s different with us? Like why do we think we can just, you know, and I love Netflix, and I’ve known to Binge Watch and binge watching breaking bad right now for the second time, why do we think we can just sit on the couch and watch Netflix and still think we can change the world? I think that there’s got to be a, you know, the balance has to tip the other way, I think for sure, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
And again, I love a good Netflix show, but I think that there comes a time where we have to just Kind of, you know, Kind of listened for our calling and get up and do something about it like you did with, with the 28 days of black designers project, and you know, and speaking of, I love the advice here. A teacher gave you about just, you know, you have to strive for this, you have to be hungry enough. Do you have to be hungry enough to be the brightest you can possibly be and learn? Whatever it is your interest is, learned nothing inside and out, and I love that advice.
And I found there’s somebody that you highlighted on the 28 blacks project. Her name is Tiffany Middleton. She’s an ESP. She designs at ESPN. And I saw a quote that she put out there, I think it’s just puts a bow on it really nicely. She said hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. I love it.
Tim Hykes: Yes! Tiffany is an awesome person and the work that she does at ESPN is really great because she actually works directly on the Snapchat, Yes, Snapchat app at ESPN and so, I have that opportunity to meet her, when I went up to ESPN, actually that first year because the project… They were so interested in and that I interviewed her, they brought me up there and I got the, you know, go around on campus and see all the superstar football players that were there because I’m really into football and basketball. Yeah, it was great!
Jason Ogle: Nice! Go Warriors! Again, you think LeBron is going to come back to the Cavaliers.
Tim Hykes: He might’ve just go ahead and join golden state. I mean really, I mean…
Jason Ogle: They need another star player though.
Tim Hykes: I mean, once that happens, you know, they can like just shut down the next 10 years and I will be happy, you know, I love this Golden State.
Jason Ogle: [Laughter] Those guys have the hard work and the talent, so they got the double threat there. I loved watching that you know. Well, other series was incredible. LeBron is just legendary. But he’s just not surrounded. He’s kind of the pinnacle. He doesn’t mix a rounded with as great players as self-care [crosstalk][Laughter]. Oh, yeah, that’s awesome man. Hey Tim, what’s your design superpower?
Tim Hykes: So my design superpower would be, so you know, like how when you’re doing, when you’re testing and the information is like sometimes it can be her over the place, you thought you were going to get, you have some things that are confirmed and some other things that you wish was confirmed, but after like sitting here through these interviews with people either remote or in person, you find out it’s all over the place. I’m really able to narrow down that research and figure out, okay, well it was all over the place because yes, we had people representing this cross section but we didn’t narrow down on age. So once we started getting people who are like around this same target age, you started hearing some of the same things and noticing it was different for a population of people who might be older, you know, versus people who are younger.
So I’m really good within trying to figure out those little nuances because they bother me, they really bothered me when that happens. Like you can do like 7, 8 different tests on like different prototypes and you know, you get to a point where certain things just all over the place, it’s just like, oh my God, we didn’t get. None of the people that we interviewed or we had tested prototype to say the same thing about this certain area, but it normally boils down to just like the person who’s interviewing him normally the demographics. So I’m really good at getting that figured out and going back and retesting and getting something that’s more concrete point areas that we need that to be.
Jason Ogle: That’s a really good super power because there are so many details in this work and it’s easy to kind of get caught up in the details and then kind of forget what problem you’re trying to solve. Right. And forget the people you’re trying to serve. So I think that’s a great superpower for sure. Conversely, what’s your design kryptonite?
Tim Hykes: My kryptonite would be. I’m trying to think of something that’s like really good that I do all the time. I guess it would be jumping too fast into solutioning versus spinning the time that’s needed to develop more of the research side before you get into a project. People always say, you know, so how do you know? So it’s like sometimes you can get that blank slate. You can have the kickoff meeting and they tell you about the project, what it needs to do and from there it’s like, okay, you take it and go and you either have to figure out I’m going to either do this design thinking exercise is going to help me figure out a, b, c, d, e, maybe do some participation design with some people in house to figure out what they think it should look like, you know, maybe do that with some stakeholders.
And if I don’t do that, I went into issues later. And I like to jump in, do some design, and get it off my mind so I can like narrow things down, you know, because that helps me get the obvious. But that puts me in very difficult situations later because as you know designers, we can sometimes get attached to something that we designed, but if it’s not going to work, you know, most of that you could find out early on in the process if you took the time to do the research to figure out, you know, what would work, or what wouldn’t.
Jason Ogle: But they’re so good. I appreciate your transparency on that, Tim, and your vulnerability. That’s something I think a lot of us struggle with too, and I’ll raise my hand too because I love design, I love even especially the visual parts of design. Like I really do, I think I’ve always been drawn to that. So I totally relate to that and I just of want to start like playing, I just want to start playing in sketch and you know, like start kind of come up with some UI and it’s like, well wait, I don’t know what problem I’m solving yet. So you got to check yourself on that, you know, for sure and I think that’s a really good reminder for all of us to make sure we have all the data we need to get started.
I know that we have to, you know, Internet Kanata kind of format, which a lot of us do now to kind of reiterate which is awesome. Even if it’s just enough data, right? Just enough data to get going and then we can continue researching in the meantime, but at least let’s have that starting point, that foundation of who we’re serving and the problem we’re trying to solve, either on the user side and the business side. So, great advice
Now this is a fun one, Tim. I always caveat this question because I know you didn’t get where you are on your own. None of us did. We all kind of, you know, we’re lucky enough to find ourselves on like an Avengers or a Justice League, you know, of other designers kind of propelling us forward. And so I know that is true, but I know you’ve also, as we’ve touched on already achieved a really great level of success as well in your career. So I want to ask you, Tim, what would your UX Superhero name be?
I want it so bad as we black designer. They’ll play on Black Panther. Yeah, it would be something like that, maybe Captain Black Designer, something like that. Make it more superhero light than just, you know, Black Designer because be like, okay, that was descriptive, that wasn’t more of like a name. But yeah, that captain black designers.
Jason Ogle: I love it. That’s going to be fun. My artists, Eli is going to have a fun time. So we’ll stay away from hokey, like a pirate caps and stuff though, for sure. [Laughter] That’s great! Well, one of my favorite lines from Tron was when he said, I fight for the users. How do you fight for your users, Tim? You’ve talked a little bit already, but I’m curious.
Tim Hykes: You know it’s always a fight, especially within large organizations where you have the one person who constantly talks to people that work with the application. So that person like knows everything. I have to level set, especially when you’re able to come in and be like the new designer on the project. I have to let them know in the comments way possible because you know, like when you get it in a corporate, you know, you raise an eyebrow and all of a sudden you in HR.
But, yeah, you’re right. You know, you do have a lot of historical knowledge from working with these users and you could definitely right now predict what the outcome would be, but what type of designer would I be if I didn’t conduct my own research and do my own studies, and do user testing to make sure that what I get from these tests do align with what you’re saying because that only makes the things that you’re saying stronger.
But if there’s an inkling of something being different, that also allows us to be flexible enough to take on the things that are different in what you’re saying and add those to the things that you’re saying to make this an even stronger or better application for the user, and so with that I crammed myself in that constant battle where I’m battling with people who think they know it all, you know, like they’ve done it all.
I really have a strong urge to pull out my sword of truth for those people who think that they are UX designers, you know, the ones that like to come with like a pre-prototype. Oh, well I was just thinking about this and I want to send this your way. Oh, well thank you, I added to the collection and we will definitely take this into consideration as we continue to bring a solution to the particular project that we have. But yeah, it’s normally that type of that fight and that type of script that I use in order to help keep us aligned to the plan that we put for the users.
Every day, it’s always like a fried because there’s always someone who’s like a two or take something small that a user said and run with it, especially when you’re doing maybe like a usability test, and you know, the users right there, they’re using the prototype and they’re thinking out loud and they say one thing out loud and you have like a silent listener who’s a stakeholder, take that and like just run with it and be like, a user said this. No, a user said that.
We’re looking and we’re bringing forth the research from these different tests. We’re looking at trends and this is what the trends said. We’ve had like 6 out of 5 and say this or you know, 7 out of 10 they’ll say this is that another and we normally run around with the majority and all only if there was something that it users said that is very significant that no one had looked at, such as, Oh, you know, I have no way to get back, how do I get back because I want to go back and look at the other screen. Now, that is something that you run with it and be like, yo, we didn’t anticipating user for wanting to go back, you know, so you know as a different point. But yeah, I’m always fighting for the users every day. I think every UX designer is fighting for the users every day because there’s always some stakeholder who’s like, no, no.
Jason Ogle: That’s awesome! I love that. I think that’s another call to arms, so to speak about being a good communicator, because I think this field is all about communication, right? I mean, whether we’re doing it visually or whether we’re doing it with a team mate or the stakeholder, right? So, and it’s not fine. Again, it’s that juggling act of the business, the users and your team. Right? And so it’s kind of navigating all of that. So that was great advice. Now, Tim, let’s wrap up the show with the importing of superpowers. What’s one habit that you believe contributes in addition to fighting for the users every day which I love that. What’s one habit you believe contributes to your success?
Tim Hykes: People to talk with, so building up your team of friends are UX designers specifically who you can talk to about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and things that like that just happened, and even if it’s just like you just letting it out because what ends up happening is they point out things that you might, could do better, such as I learned a friend, you know, as you’ve gone through the testing, make sure you tell them and we iterate on them thinking out loud, you know, don’t know what they say, you know, between you and them, especially if it’s someone within the company, no, it’s not going to be articulate it back to a boss to anything, you know, we have some sign observers who are taking notes for me, but nothing that anybody says it’s going to go back because it allows the users to be open and free, you know, and that’s what we want.
We want people to not be afraid. We want them to be completely honest. And then also, you know, you need that magical eyes that allows you to see what people are not seeing. You know, it’s just like the iPhone, such as what Steve Jobs said. What if I were to add, same thing, same situation, you know Steve like to steal stuff, but he said like if I were to ask the person what type of phone they wanted, they would’ve told me some type of razor phone. They would have never said that they wanted, you know, this iPhone. You know, so being able to be innovative enough to know where things that people are saying and being able to create that middle ground where the user didn’t ask for this, but this is definitely something that the user wants and need.
You know, I always say that that’s my thick and chunky spaghetti sauce, especially for people who knows the story about how thick and Chunky came to be from doing user research in study that found people that know they want a thick and chunky, and they made thick and Chunky, today thick and Chunky spaghetti sauce is number one seller. So just having a third eye being on the look onto that and having friends to be able to discuss that with you helps you become really awesome in the end. You know, I’m currently working on a project to help us as an industry get to that.
I clicked I asked about [inaudible 45:09] Two days ago on twitter, but people find it helpful to have a site that discuss the how and the smallest things that improve the success on this journey as a UX designer and currently 96% said yes from the bright house of the 25 votes from people who think that would be interested because the UX is so new, and so I’m looking forward to putting together a resource that would actually bring us together and that area.
That number one, it will define, you know, the fundamentals of what we are, what we do, but I want it to be defined by us. And then number two, the project I think should explain the how because I want to know how other organizations are doing what they were doing that’s different because currently at the organization that I’m at, you know, they definitely not as structured as Wells Fargo was, and the way Wells Fargo turned around research was this crazy because, I mean they have a whole UX team, so they could turn some stuff around really quickly.
I mean, we did a design sprint and I have to tell people because some people think, oh, you do a design sprint; you have like a workable product, BAM. We could do one every week and you can do a different product. No. Design sprint helps you create that high pie-in-the-sky, you know, ideal product that you want and then you take that and you’re able to ask. You have to peel off the skin of that and get down to the things that you can actually do because once you have that, that’s all of the once I got to have swifter than that and you can always refer back to what you did in that design sprint, but that particular application that you designed to help inform you as you move forward in the project.
We have, you know, the things that would be innovative and that innovative. And then when having friends and talking with different people, what you find out is how different organizations do things such as IBM. When they think about design thinking. Number one, they know design thinking is just a phrase. It could be called enterprise innovative thinking or whatever, because a lot of people don’t like the phrase design thinking.
But within that, they have these heels within their thinking, and so within that, the heels explained “the WHO, the WHAT, and the WOW”; and the WOW is the innovative part. So say if you and I had like a business or an organization and it was taken us three months to get someone signed on into the door and start working, you know, that will goes in the “WHO” as the person interested in the work at the organization, what they want to be an employee and working in this particular area. The “WOW” would be, you know, they’re able to sign, get interviewed, and get in the door within 24 hours. That would be a wow, you know, the “WOW” normally around timeframe or something like that.
But you know, if I took that same type of thinking and start throwing it into some of my thought processes, like what is the WOW, you know, what is the WHO, WHAT, and WOW for this application, and once all three of those become true, I’ve like really, you know, made a huge difference or impact with what I was doing. Yeah, I would blow minds a ways. And that’s why I say it’s very important to have friends and have people visiting UX doing the same work that you’re able to talk to about what you’re doing, about what they’re doing, who can help you innovate on your thought processes to make you better UX designer.
Jason Ogle: Wow! A lot unpack there. It’s innovation. That is I think what makes this field so exciting. Is being able to innovate and being able to kind of find new ways to do things. And you touched on it twice already, Tim, in this interview. You mentioned two pretty historical figures that have innovated, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, and of course, there’s many more. But those guys particularly have probably come up with two of the – probably the most one – I’d say, arguably couple the most innovative devices or mediums of our time. And I’d say that innovation is really, it’s not reinventing something from scratch, it’s taking something that exists and just making it better. So yeah, there we go. That’s it.
And then applying your own kind of influences to it, you know, and I mean, that’s what’s so neat about design is that we all have different influences. And again, another nod to diversity in design too because we all bring different points of view and it’s better or we’re better together, all of us, right? When we bring those things to the table and make things better for others. So I love it. And you’re talking about the magical II, I couldn’t help but think about, “I am the, I in the sky, looking at you. I can read your mind.” I like to sing songs to Tim. I do it all the time.
Tim Hykes: Yeah! “It’s the eye of the tiger”!You’ve get off the Katy Perry. Yeah,
Jason Ogle: That’s awesome. Tim, what’s your most invincible UX resource or tool you can recommend to our listeners.
Tim Hykes: I mean we’ve all seen the different UX blogs, UX matters, what else? I mean Smashing Magazine has a UX section, which I’ve been to recently and it really surprised me because they did more explanation, a little more explanation into the how versus general explanation. Those are like the biggest two, my number one resource and this really sound corny, but it is, and that’s where I have the most followers because I will say something. Really quick to something on Twitter and then you can get answers by the end of the day, be like 20, 30 people who will helped you to answer your question. I mean if you used the hashtags, and the hashtag system there is very in depth, so it’s really great to be able to put Hash tag UX design, ask the question and see all the people who reply back and to help you with it. So I would definitely say utilize social media as a tool now.
Jason Ogle: I couldn’t agree more. And Twitter is as an amazing tool for those things. I fully agree with you. If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be in mind?
Tim Hykes: Well one book that I really enjoy reading that I like is the “Manage Your Day To Day, Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind”, which is the part of the 99 you book series. I believe within that book, what it is like – to me, it’s kind of like open ended and it has a lot of our industry’s leaders with who’s in there who like do these different things to try to help them either say creative or on the tie to help them manage their day to day. And it really at the end is left open-ended up to you to figure out which one of these different mechanisms or styles that these different people are using would work best for you and I liked that because it really challenges the way that I manage myself and helps me build a routine.
Before reading that book, no one ever told you that I get up at about 6:00 AM and designed for myself first before I start designing for anybody else. Before reading that book, I wouldn’t ever told you that I worked up to about 90 minutes, and 90 minutes point it’s time for me to refresh and recharge and that’s when I started looking at emails. But yeah, I designed for 90 minutes at a time and then after that I’m like, the next thing is looking at emails, replying to emails, and I do that for 90 minutes before I jumped back on, you know, 90 minutes of me doing designing. I mean that basically came from me reading that book, “Manage Day To Day; Build Your Routine; Find Your Focused; and Sharp Your Creative Mind. Currently, you can buy the paperback on Barnes and noble for 773.
Jason Ogle: [Laughter] That was a good ad for that.
Tim Hykes: They should pay me
Jason Ogle: They should pay you for that. They should give you a royalty for that. That’s sound great! I’m interested in that book. I love things like that. Like routines you know, routines are key. I think we all have routines are either bad or good. I think that’s the bottom line. So why not really go for a good routine and see what it does to your creativity, your innovation, and your empathy for gosh sakes, right? [Crosstalk]
Tim Hykes: Yes! It’s going to make you so much better. I can’t wait to see how better you guys get. Yes.
Jason Ogle: I love it. I almost wish this was a video. I almost wish that. Normally, we don’t do video, but I just feel like it would be so great to see your face during the awesome expression of stuff.
Tim Hykes: I’m so animated.
Jason Ogle: I know it. I know. Oh, well, I love the magic of audio. Audio is great. So Tim, lastly, and this is one of my favorite questions. What’s your best advice for aspiring UX superheroes?
Tim Hykes: Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do it. The best people are the self-starters, and self-starters are people who would get up and do it themselves. If you see a problem, see issue, tackle it yourself. You know, don’t sit around and just let it spiral like, you know, there’s certain things within app at that you don’t like, you know, whether it’s like Uber or whatever. How about you design that solution and put that solution out there for the world. One good thing that could come about it as you see them enact that solution and you know, that you thought about it first and you were the one that put it out there first as you can probably tell them that, yeah, you’re like you sold just for me, but you know, it’s just good. It helps you in your creative thinking to challenge yourself on these different things.
So, that’s what I tell everybody. You know, the best superheroes in a world, they don’t wait, they get out there and start fighting for the same they believe in, and that’s one thing that I do. I didn’t start the Design Plus Diversity conference because I was seeking fame and fortune. Design Plus Diversity was my senior thesis and I was told after my senior thesis, Tim, don’t talk about it, you should probably do more about it, and that’s where the conference came from.
I found some people who also thought the same thing that I thought and we got together and you know, in the third year pulling off this conference and bringing people together to talk about diversity issues with our industry. The first year was only 50-some people, you know, and right now today, we’re looking at 300-some people attending the conference this year with major support from larger organizations such as Microsoft, adobe. Of course, AIG is a huge supporter of the conference. You know, this would have never have happened. I mean, even Twitter is going to be a huge supporter of this year and you’ll also see them as a sponsor this year. This all happened not because someone said, yo, Tim, do this, you know, it was something that Tim was passionate about and then Tim wanted to do.
Hate speaking about myself or the third person, but it’s something that I was passionate about, and so I tell you the same thing. Don’t wait, you know, we’ll be dead and gone and it’d be a lot of things that you didn’t do, you know, I mean the most inspirational things to hearing things that people who were on their deathbed, talking about the things that they wish they would’ve done. Don’t let that one thing you talk about that you would have done, not be done because you didn’t do whatever being lazy. Get up and do it, you know, tell yourself you can do it. And I mean if you need anybody to like talk it through or to help you or push you in the right direction, I’m always there and always an email away. I can be like, you’re very UX godfather and help you get things solved. But yeah, that’s it. That’s all I have as you move forward, you be the one, you’d be the difference and you can make the difference.
Jason Ogle: Bam! Man, that was so inspiring, Tim. I am charged up by that and you know, you made me think of a wonderful Mark Twain quote to when you were talking about don’t wait, you know, you’re going to be on your deathbed to have those regrets that you didn’t do what you could’ve done. You know, and this is a Mark Twain quote, I love this. He said, “20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off your bow leanness, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails, explore, dream, discover.
Tim, as we close my friend, can you tell our audience the best way to connect and to keep up with you as you, as you so generously put it out there to be a kind of help guide anybody who’s in need along the way.
Tim Hykes: Like on just about everything, the issue with trying to find me on everything is what named him upon on everything. So, on most things you can find me timothykes. On twitter, you can find me up under timothyhikes. On Facebook, you can find me upon the Timothy Hikes. On YouTube, you can find me up under timothyhikes. Some other things, you can find me up under Max Dellacroce, so that’s a childhood name I made for myself, so like on instagram Max Dellacroce, which you can like go back in history and see a whole bunch of pictures of me when I was little, but yeah. And then for those who like don’t bother it social media at all, there’s always my personal email and I’m firstname.lastname@example.org, and then also finally, my website which is timhykes.com.
Jason Ogle: Awesome! And listeners, defenders, I will be sharing the link to all of those as well. Or maybe I’ll just pick the top two or three, because you’re everywhere my friend and I love it. So in closing to Tim, I want to say, you know, this is something that’s I’ve been thinking about a little bit as well and you know, as we kind of touched on the important 28 days of black designers project, I was just thinking about, you know, along with Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King.
Of course, for me, one of my favorite black historical figures, is maybe somebody that, maybe we don’t hear about as much, but I remember even from learning about him in school and it was George Washington Carver and I this guy, he’s a UX designer folks. I believe, I mean, he’s a brilliant man. He innovated around peanuts and just totally helped the – talk about innovation; he completely revolutionized and help the economy at a time that was so desperately needed in farming and everything.
But I think, I think he’s a UX designer too because of what his tombstone reads, and I just want to share this real quick. Tombstone reads, “he could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world”. Tell me that’s not a UX designer,
Tim Hykes: That is!
Jason Ogle: Right! And Tim, my friend, you are doing the same thing and I appreciate you. We all salute you. All the defenders listening I know are going yes. And so thank you for what you’re doing. Please, please keep doing what you’re doing, and even more as I know you will. And last but not least, I just want to say fight on my friend.
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