Be The First To Know

Welcome aboard! We are thrilled to have you.
Uh oh, something went wrong. Try submitting the form again.

Hank Washington

What is the difference between inclusion and belonging?

Inclusion and Belonging: The Difference
Inclusion and Belonging: The Difference

Inclusion and Belonging: The Difference

Hank Washington
Or Listen On:

Meet art director, illustrator and public speaker, Hank Washington.

Our guest today puts it this way: “Inclusion is like being invited to a party, but belonging is like having your music playing at the party.”

In episode 66, Chris Do talks with art director, illustrator and public speaker, Hank Washington. They talk about their experience and feelings about public speaking, finding your voice when giving talks, and how to feel at home in the design world as a person of color.

Hailing from Mississippi, Hank is a designer at heart and a self-titled creative decision-maker. He does a lot of illustration work, a little bit of branding, and a bit of art direction with an agency in Birmingham, AL. In short, Hank’s a man of many talents and titles.

He’s only been out of school for three years, and has already made some serious accomplishments. One of the biggest? Speaking at the Creative South conference. Just last year in 2018, he attended the conference, and made the decision to share his story and be a speaker. Fast forward a year later, he’s up on stage.

Hank is now an advocate for diversity in the design and creative industries. In his Creative South speech, he encourages people of different backgrounds to feel like they can make a difference in this space; that this industry is made for anyone and everyone with creative ideas.

Diversity and inclusion have become prevalent themes across every type of industry, but now it’s a matter of feeling a sense of belonging. We all experience imposter syndrome, or feel like we shouldn’t be doing something a certain way.

If there’s one thing to learn from Hank, it’s this: share yourself and your story. People can really relate to what you’re doing when you’re transparent, open, and willing to talk about things you experience. Belonging comes from sharing and connecting with the people around you to make the space feel more like home.

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by

Episode Transcript

Chris: So, uh, I wanna give a …our audience a little kind of backup to like what's going on. The backstory is, I'm at Creative South, in Columbus Georgia, and I'm sitting in the back minding my own business and then all of a sudden you start talking about somebody that I know. And I'm like, "Wait a minute." Uh, uh, a- Handel Eugene. I was thinking, "I know Handel. What is going on?" And then you put this thing up on the screen and you're talking about the future, and you're like, "Hey, Chris Do, call me." And I yelled out back at you, "Let's make it happen." I don't know if you knew that?

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: I yelled right back at you, "Let's make it happen." I felt-

Hank: I heard it.

Chris: …compelled to say that. Right? So then-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …there you and I are kind of two strangers, really. Meeting for the first time face-to-face, and I was thinking, "I wanna have you on our show." Mostly also because I like to hear from people from different backgrounds, different stories. So, Hank, welcome to the show.

Hank: Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me. Super excited.

Chris: Okay, so for people who don't know who you are, Hank's not even your real name, but that's the name that you go by-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …everywhere. So, tell us your real name, and give us the one minute, like, here's who I am.

Hank: So, I'm Hank Washington, but my real name is Cornelius. Cornelius Washington, and I was born and raised in Columbus Mississippi. Uh, Hank actually came from a really good baseball game (laughs) that my dad attended, and, uh, I hit my …I think it was one of my first home runs, and he called me Hank Aaron.

Chris: Nice.

Hank: Uh, it was one of those names that tried to stay that …I tried to keep it at home, but it came to school one day, and my friends heard it and I couldn't get rid of it. So, I got-

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: …stuck with it. (laughs).

Chris: Do you like that name-

Hank: I just stuck with it.

Chris: …better than your birth name?

Hank: Uh, I do. I do. It's, uh, people don't have to, you know, worry about misspelling it. (laughs).

Chris: Right. Right.

Hank: And saying it right. So-

Chris: Right.

Hank: …uh, you know, once some people say it, I try to correct them every now and then, but you know ultimately I just got let the people decide. So I said, "Okay. I'll- I'll respond to both, but we gonna roll with Hank."

Chris: Right. Right.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: So now you're known as Hank.

Hank: [inaudible 00:03:17].

Chris: But I- I just wanna take a-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …moment and say, Cornelius sounds like such a regal name, like you're of royal birth.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: Cornelius, you know? I could see you Cor- Cornelius Washington III or something like that.

Hank: Right (laughs).

Chris: That would be awesome.

Hank: Yeah that …Yeah, thanks to my mom, she- she gave me that name. But I just wish more people knew how to spell it. (laughing).

Chris: It is a tricky one.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: Okay. So how-

Hank: For sure.

Chris: …How would you describe what it is that you do? Like, what do you do for a living? What is- what is it that you do?

Hank: Um, I would say …It's really hard to like just give it like a really like solid word or solid sentence. I would just say, I make creative decisions. Um, uh, I am a designer at heart. Uh, but I do a lot of illustration. Uh, a little bit of branding, and I work with a agency here in Birmingham where I do a little art direction. So I'm kind of a little bit all, kind of, all over the place when it comes to creative, but I like to sum it up as just like, making creative ci- decisions.

Hank: Um, and I also like work freelance in the off-hours. Just like, you know, taking on clients that may necessarily afford agency, uh, agency, you know, standards of pricing or whatever. Um, but obviously if they're looking for like a certain direction. So, uh, just trying to help out anyway I can, and, uh, yeah. That's really just …And I kinda live it all over the place, but I would say just c- creative decision maker.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: Now, when- when you say you- you make creative decision, when you describe that to people, what is their normal reaction to you? Is it followed up by a question? A look? Or- or is …Or a look of delight? W- what do …How do people react to you?

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: You're the first person-

Hank: It's a little-

Chris: …to say that.

Hank: Right. It's, it's a little bit of delight and confusion. So it's definitely a- a question that comes about, uh, like what exactly that means. Um, usually it's from a visual standpoint of just making creative decisions from like branding. Uh, I work with social media majority of the day. So, I help clients, you know, create content for their, you know, social ads. And just, you know, their Instagram or whatever. So it's really just like creating visuals that- that align with the strategy and ultimately help clients meet their goals.

Hank: Um, and really just kind of taking it deeper than just making things look pretty. But ultimately, just making things that work, uh, to just the help clients that work with me me- meet their goals.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: For sure.

Chris: We're already only just a few minutes into our conversation together and you're already talking about social media, social media marketing, branding. There's a lot of words being used here. So, to the lay-person, because we have a very broad audience who might not know exactly what that means, and your definition might be different than mine. How would you describe that so a 5th grader would understand?

Hank: Social media. So, I guess from a branding standpoint …So right now social media's still a fresh way that businesses are marketing themselves outside of just tr- …the traditional areas, but, um, it's really a way that you can communicate and have your voice presented, um, you know ways that pe- …that people are not u- …really used to, honestly, uh, when it comes to like, uh, just interacting in a different way. Outside of just what …looking at a billboard or waiting up for a commercial.

Hank: So using things like Facebook and Instagram, and allowing your personality through [bleed 00:06:17] through that, and I, you know I listen to your show a lot and you talking about like tactical ways like you can have your personality sell, but really …I'm trying to think of ways to explain to a 5th grader like talking to me nephew or somebody. But, uh, it's really just having that platform and express yourself visually, uh, you know, with your personality, and let people understand who you are, um, in a more like flexible way, versus like having static things like billboards or newspapers or whatever the case may be.

Chris: Okay, so if we boil it down. If we're having thing conversation on Instagram as the person who's managing my social media account, what does this look like? How do you take my voice, my personality, and make something? What is it that you produce?

Hank: Uh, so, uh, mainly graphics. Um, more advertising graphics when it comes to like just ads, but personally, um, my kind of go-to is like illustration and like keeping things kind of very cohesive. Just to allow that kind of, um, allow yourself to be recognizable, you know, because it's so broad and so many people are doing different things. I think it's, uh, just a way to help yourself distinguish who you are in a visual sense, and allow you to stand out in a crowd that's like what everybody's on Instagram, or on social media general.

Chris: Okay. Good, I understood that. Now, as I was doing some research into you, you've only been out of school for a very short period of time.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: Only three years.

Hank: Yeah.

Chris: Right?

Hank: Only three years.

Chris: And I was looking on your Instagram feed and I saw that in 2018, you-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …attended Creative South and you said, "Hey-

Hank: Yes.

Chris: …next year I'm gonna speak there." And guess what-

Hank: Yes.

Chris: …2019-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …you manifested that into reality. Talk to-

Hank: For sure.

Chris: …a little bit about that thought in 2018, and how you were able to make that happen.

Hank: Right. So in 2018, that was really my first ever conference attending. Um, you know, I was …I got out of school. Um, I just recently moved here to Birmingham from Mississippi, and I seen a ad …No, w- …I ran across the Creative South website, and I said, "This is kind of a neat conference. You know I want to check it out and see, you know, see what it was like." And it was so close. I was like, "This is driving distance. So I'ma check it out."

Hank: Um, so last minute, I think it's probably like a two or three weeks before the conference start I bought my ticket and I said, "Okay, I'ma go see- see what it's about." Um, so I got there. You know I end up meeting Missouri- Mike Jones, who's, uh, one of the co-founders of Creative South, and Peter who, uh, helps with operations there. And they were just so welcoming, and you know I had a great conversation with them.

Hank: Just kind of got to know them a little bit more. Um, and I just met some amazing people and it- it really helped me like really feel better about like where I was going, and where I was in my career. Even though, it's still so fresh of like just being out of school, in anyway. Um, but just being around people that has the same struggles that you have, the same goals as you, uh, really helped like, you know, make me feel a lot better about where I was.

Hank: Um, so I went there, and you know I heard some great speakers, uh, talk there and, um, and I- I just had this feeling, I was sitting down in the crowd, and I was like, "Man, these people are- are so like cool to talk and hang around with." And- and it …I just didn't feel nervous about just you know being able to share my story, 'cause I had a lot of great conversations with people there and I made some great friends there.

Hank: Um, and I just sat there and it just this feeling came over me like, "I gotta share something the following year." And then, um, a couple months down the road, after the conference, they had a- a call for speakers application come out. And I said, "You know what? Le- let me just give it a shot. You know, it wouldn't hurt to try. Um, the worst they can, they can tell me is, no, 'cause I'm still gonna show up."

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: Um, (laughs). Uh, so I ended up, uh, applying and y- you know I- I gave it a topic, and, um, and I get a call from Mike. He said, "Hey, we would love to share, you know, for you to come on stage and, you know, share- share with the crowd." And- and everything else is history.

Chris: Nice.

Hank: And I got to meet him nice Chris Do. (laughing) And get on his show. (laughing)

Chris: And here we are. Here we are.

Hank: Right. (laughs).

Chris: Look, I love this about you. That you're a relatively young guy. You know you graduated-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …school, you go to a conference, I think two years after you graduate, and you say to yourself, "I'm gonna be on that stage next year." W- where does that confidence …Where does that self-determination come from?

Hank: Um, honestly, I'ma have to give it to my team, uh, uh, the team that I work with. They've been like behind me and really supported my creative career, 'cause I've …You know I work with them when I've …was in school and I interned, um, and they just kept pushing me, and pushing me just to be the best creative or best person that I can be. Um, and luckily, you know, my personality being that it was …uh, thanks mom. Uh, being the personality that it was (laughing), uh, helped fuel that.

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: And, um, and I can just kinda hear like just voices in my head saying like, "You know you gotta be up there." And, "You know you have a story to tell." And, you know, it just started to make sense 'cause we're on a really …When I seen that the applications came out for the conference speakers, I was kind of in this zone of like really- really understanding the importance of a perspective of color can il- …really impact creatives.

Hank: Especially, young Black creatives that are, you know, really coming up in just understanding that opportunity really just spoke for itself, right? So like he said like, "Hey, you know you have this chance. You're, you're able to inspire somebody that may be in your shoes or haven't gone through what you gone through yet, even though you are young, but, you know, there's challenges for everybody." Um, so I just looked at it as an opportunity, and it just- it just made mo- more and more sense as that opportunity arose.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: For sure.

Chris: So I have so many things to talk to you about. So, I'm just-

Hank: Let's do it.

Chris: …trying to-

Hank: Let's do it.

Chris: …you know, I'm trying-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …to sort them out in my mind. Okay?

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: When- when you applied, did you …Uh, just honestly, did you think, "Yeah, they have to take me?" Or, "No, they could say, 'No.' Who knows where's this gonna go?"

Hank: Um, not to seem too arrogant, but I did have this like feels like, "Okay, they- they gonna pick me."

Chris: Y- you're like-

Hank: I can feel it.

Chris: …"I got this."

Hank: I can feel it (laughing). I can feel it. But, you know, uh, but I didn't- I didn't wanna, um, you know, put all my eggs in one baskets, but it was just a good feeling. I was like, "This feels right." Like, "It has to happen." You know?

Chris: Did you spend a lot of time writing the topics and the, and the description?

Hank: A lot of time.

Chris: See, okay-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …well that's tip one then.

Hank: A lot of time.

Chris: Let's talk about that process-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …then. So tell me-

Hank: Right.

Chris: …as much as you want to share about your process of submitting, because you're doing something that I'm a big advocate for. I say it's good to attend a conference. That's step one. Step two is be a speaker at the conference because it gives you access to other speakers. So this is like where the real gold is, and if you're networking and you're trying to meet your heroes, the best way to do it is not to be a fan in the audience, it's to be a co-speaker. To be on the same stage-

Hank: That's for certain.

Chris: …right? And that's what you're doing-

Hank: Yeah, that's for certain.

Chris: …I saw you in the green room. I saw you talking-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …to people. So, tell me about that process because if somebody hears this and like, "You know, I can't believe it." Here's Hank. He's out there only two years out, and then he determines to himself he's gonna go and speak on the stage, and he put the time and energy. So lay us- lay out the blueprint for us. How does one do that?

Hank: Right. Um, so as far as the process goes-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …when it came to like coming up with a topic, I- It was a struggle at first. You know my minds everywhere. I'm already excited about the opportunity, and now you get into that nervous-

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: …(laughs) right there I was like, "Oh, God-

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: …I gotta say something now." (laughing) I have to speak now."

Chris: Right.

Hank: Um, so it's really just- really just hashing out ideas as much as you can. So I kind of went the cliché route. You know just saying, be inspired. Stay creative.

Chris: Right. Right.

Hank: You know, they hear that. Um-

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: …but I actually had a good conversation with Douglas Davis. So, people-

Chris: Oh.

Hank: …that don't know Douglas Davis, he was a guest on your show. The- the topic of-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …you know, um, just people of color that are in design [inaudible 00:13:42] and- and I kept playing that episode over and over again just listening and, uh, just honing in what was being talked about. Um, so as I was going through topics, nothing just n- never resonated with like-

Chris: Right.

Hank: …what I really wanted to say, until I made that a- an option of just speaking about diversity and people of color that are in the design industry or in the creative industry, and what impact and, uh, benefits we can have in the future of you know creativity. So, when I landed on that it just- it just felt right. You know I tried to come up with other ideas that would challenge it, and ultimate kind of see if it outweighed it, but nothing- nothing resonated.

Hank: So, uh, yeah, so after like, you know, a couple- a couple of days of just going through topics and trying to hone in where I could go deep into, uh, that one you now resonated the most, and it just felt right. It felt like nothing I had to, had to go study or have to go really, um, you know, become a neuro- neurologist or something-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …about, um …'Cause like when I, when I found that topic it just, it just felt right.

Chris: Well, thanks for sharing that. And, us, I guess now we have many mutual friends in common now. I would consider Douglas Davis a friend of mine and we just met through the internet like many of our relationships, but I also got to hang out with him a- at an event. So, that was really cool. So here's the takeaway from this. If you're listening to this, as the person who's trying to help you filter out what you're hearing from Hank, which is this.

Chris: Is that, initially I think our inclination is to do what everybody else does. To be like the people you admire. So you look at their topics, and you're like, "Well what can I do?" But the problem with that is, that spot is already taken. The person who talks about inspiration, they already own that space. And so what you ultimately turn toward, which I encourage everybody to do is speak to your truth, your experience, because who you are is quite unique.

Chris: Comedians talk about this quite a bit. They're like, "If you do content that's about your own, very personal life, no comic can steal that because it's your story. But if you do these more broader, universal, comedic bits, people can steal it and it's …you lose yourself, right? And so when you, when you went through the gamut of the exploration of topics, you ultimately turned to, I am Hank. I'm an African American living the design experience. I'm a young person trying to make it in the world. I'm gonna speak to that.

Hank: For sure.

Chris: And that's-

Hank: If any …one thing is to-

Chris: .…when you[crosstalk 00:15:58].

Hank: For sure. And one thing, and one thing that stood out for me when I- I had a talk with, uh, Douglas, he was like, "Hey, man. You know who you are. You know where you came from. And you know what you're afraid of. So like hone in on that and like-

Chris: Mm.

Hank: …really use that as fuel to- to, you know, get this message out." And he just helped me and I had a few conversations with him just checking in to show him like what I had and what I'm planning on doing.

Chris: Nice.

Hank: And he was just so helpful, man. He, uh, um-

Chris: Wow.

Hank: …I honestly owe him so much. (laughs).

Chris: Professor Davis is in the house. Look at him.

Hank: Shout out Mr. Davis.

Chris: Nice. Good job sir.

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: Good job. Okay. So, there you are. You've- you've submitted your talk. They said, yes. And you expected them to say yes. That's good. Nothing arrogant about that, whatsoever. You put in the work. You find your lane. Good things happen. Okay? So, now we're creeping up on the event, and it's months before, maybe like one or two. Talk to me about your mindset, your feeling that just a year ago you attended for the very first time, and now you're gonna share the stage with so many crazy, cool, influential people. What's going on in your mind.

Hank: Anxiety. (laughing).

Chris: Okay.

Hank: So much. (laughs).

Chris: Okay, do not skip out on any of the juicy details. People need to hear this part. Give it to me. Give me the long version of this. Go ahead. Anxiety. Talk to-

Hank: I got you.

Chris: …me.

Hank: I got you.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: So, um, so I submitted a topic and, um-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …and I was telling a couple of my friends, you know, I tell them what I was gonna talk about. And, you know, they had their- their feedback. So, um, in the months ahead, I- I was lucky enough to have some friends that are public speakers. They're l- very experienced. So, I work with them, um, day in and day out. And I'm, I'ma shout out my friend [Nisha 00:17:27] 'cause she helped me out (laughs) a lot with, uh, my speech and everything. But, um, uh, so we're just working on just delivery, right? So, I'm going in like how to- how to shape up the top. What- how can I make 'em laugh. 'Cause I know, if you can laugh, I can feel better.

Chris: Right. Right.

Hank: (laughs). So, um, we're just shaping up the talk and I'm just going in. And I'm- I'm doing research, right? I'm looking up all the speakers, and I'm like, "Okay, who are these people?" Some of them I've heard of. Obviously, you- you were one of 'em. So I was like, "Okay. I don't need, you know, research on Chris Do he's, he's already a religion now."

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: But, um (laughs). So I'm just researching, uh, other designers. Just seeing what th- what they were doing and counting the impact that were making. Um, but what I learned was that that was, that was kind of holding me back 'cause I was ultimately just starting to compare myself. You know I was like, "Man, I'm not really qualified to be on this stage." You know, and I'm sitting there thinking like, "Man, I'm just you know a young boy for Mississippi that took a shot. Like I don't need to see myself like feel like I need to be in the crowd of these people."

Hank: Um, but you know you have ways with that. You know there are some ways I'm, you know, I'm feeling good. Like, "Okay. I can do this. Ain't nobody gonna stop me." But then some days I'm like, "Aaah-

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: "I'm gonna need to reconsider." (laughing). I'm like, "What? Is it too late?"

Chris: Right. Can I cancel? (laughing).

Hank: You know just like, "There's nothing wrong with my schedule."

Chris: Right.

Hank: But, um,(laughs) but no. As it got closer and closer, I started to feel more confident. So I'm honing in. I'm, I'm having these talks. Like, we talk about, uh, with Douglas Davis, and I'm talking to some of my peers, just getting their perspective on- on the topic itself, and just really collecting their experiences. And see how it aligned with what I really wanted to share-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …just to make sure it wasn't just something that was just coming just from my point of view. I wanted to make sure I was able to speak, um, not only to, you know, the creatives there, but I want to speak for the creatives that may be in that same, you know, that same predicament that I went through. Or even in the same mindset or position that I'm in today. Um, so that was kind of, you know, going- going closer and closer to the conference, that was really just a lot of research. So, you know, I'm diving into the speakers, diving into my friends and colleagues.

Hank: Just seeing what they, seeing what they you know experience. Seeing what they had struggled with. And just seeing like, is this a personal thing? Or this can be a universal thing? Or at least a universal concept, uh, that can at least be talked about. And you know I may not have the answers or the solution, but I know we can at least turn this into a conversation. I think that's can be really impactful, um, moving forward. And, uh, I think I'm getting all over the place, but (laughs) that's, uh, that's kind of the, um, kind of the build-up, you know, in the coming months t- uh, in- few weeks before- before the conference.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: For sure.

Chris: Now take me backstage, 15 minutes before you come on. Tell me what's going on.

Hank: Oh, man. 15 minutes backstage.

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: So, okay, let's go a little bit back further.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: So I'm on the elevator and Chris Do walks on, and I'm just sitting there like, "Whoa. Chris Do is on the elevator with me. I gotta get off." (laughing). "I gotta get off" So this- this does not help.

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: This does not help my situation right now.

Chris: Wait, were we riding the same elevator?

Hank: Yeah, I think it was, um, it was the end of the workshops-

Chris: Yes.

Hank: …and we was going downstairs-

Chris: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Hank: …and you was …and I was right behind you. I don't think you recognized (laughs) who I was.

Chris: No I wasn't …I, I'm in my own head. Like I-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …don't know anything right now. Yes.

Hank: And I was like-

Chris: Okay.

Hank: …I was like, "Hey, hey, what's going on?"

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: But, um (laughing). But, um, but yeah. So- so 15 minutes before the stage, um, you know I'm just thinking about all the practice-

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: …and thinking about you know all the conversations that I had, and then my mind just goes blank. Link I don't forget anything, but I just, I just focus on just like one thing that's like around me, like I think there was a fan or something back stage and I just focused on that fan, just something to take my mind off what I was gonna do or just like worrying about like how do I need to walk out, do I need to sta- start with my left foot or do I walk out with my right foot. Just- just trying to take my mind-

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: …of off, uh, um, whatever was gonna happen. I said, "Okay, there is no turning around now. Whatever's gonna happen is going to happen."

Chris: (laughs).

Hank: And luckily enough (laughs) it went good enough, (laughing) uh, that, uh, you know, peop- I got a lot of good feedback from me, so I'm, I'm super proud. That's probably the highlight of my career-

Chris: Nice.

Hank: …so far.

Chris: So far. So far. That's very good.

Hank: So far.

Chris: Well, you did a great job-

Hank: Thank you.

Chris: …and I wasn't aware of what's going on because usually, and this is just me, a little admission here-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …I'm so wrapped up in like trying to do a good talk that I don't even-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …focus on much. It's very rare that-

Hank: Right.

Chris: …I'll actually even sit in the audience and it just happened that of the two or three talks I listened to yours was one of them. And I'm hearing you tell your story and relating to people about what it means in your own perspective.

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: I think you said something about when they invite you to a party that's like, why don't you do that part, 'cause I'm gonna butcher that? That was a great line. Go ahead.

Hank: Oh, yes. So it's like, yeah. So it's like inclusion is like being invited to a party, but belonging is, uh, having your music playing (laughs) at the party.

Chris: So that- that was really great. And- and I- I loved that and I think, uh, the audience, they- they sent that energy back to you when you were done.

Hank: They did.

Chris: Did you get it like a standing ovation?

Hank: Yes. (laughs).

Chris: I mean that was like, look, I've been talking a lot. I have not gotten a standing ovation like that before. So you really touched people and I think you- your message resonated. I think, uh, you- you seemed quite comfortable in your own skin telling your story and just relating. And I think the audience was just relieved because, uh, for whatever reason other speakers seemed a little tense, right? And you came out their supernatural, you did your thing, you told your story and you owned it. And I love that part about it now. Who would've thought, look at you. Okay? The …barely three years out of school, barely three years out of school-

Hank: (laughs).

Chris: …you're already on stage and you're on my po- podcasts, a person that you used-

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: …to listen to. And immediately I saw you. I'm like, yeah, let's do the podcast together and here we are.

Hank: For sure.

Chris: So good for you man. And it all began because you had the courage to say, you know what if-

Hank: What if.

Chris: What if I submit? They would be foolish-

Hank: Yeah, it was crazy. Yeah. It was crazy. This is my first, it was my first talk ever.

Chris: Wow. All right.

Hank: First talk ever.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: So-

Chris: So are you energized by that? Do you want to go do more talks?

Hank: Most definitely.

Chris: Okay.

Hank: Most definitely. Yeah, definitely I am-

Chris: What's, what's next for you then?

Hank: Um, honestly it just really just reaching out and just seeing if, um, any other conferences, you know, comfortable with me sharing that story or sharing, uh, just another perspective. You know, I think it's, it's super important. 'Cause I know, um, one of the things I highlighted in the talk was, uh, it was from a conversation I had with Adé Hogue who's an amazing, uh, lettering artists out of Chicago. And one thing he shared with me, I think it was, it was from one of his colleagues, was that, you can't be it if you can't see it.

Chris: Yes.

Hank: Um, and when I heard it, it was just so important because I remember when I first got into design, uh, I didn't know, I didn't know a designer could- could look like me.

Chris: Hmm.

Hank: Or I knew a designer didn't looked like me. Um, just because, not, not saying there wasn't any out there, but you just didn't see 'em in the forefront. Like, you know, you see a lot of designers today with, you know, Instagram and-

Chris: Right.

Hank: …platforms like the Futur. But, um, but when I heard that, you know, that just clicked, right? And that made it …that's kind of solidified everything more and more about just like how is it …how important it is to …for kids and young creatives or young and old to see more people that look like them making an impact. And it can inspire and like, you know, um, just like how Tupac said, you know, "I may, I may not change the world, but I can at least spark the mind that will."

Hank: Um, so I think that's like speaking has now become like this new spark for me that, uh, I think that can really, uh, not selflessly help me in my career, but I think it can help, um, more and more young creatives of color to really be inspired and- and do great things. For sure.

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Let's talk a little bit more about that in terms of this you can't be, unless you can see it, right? And so far a lot of groups of people, uh, whether you're gay, straight, black, white, Asian or whatever, Hispanic until you can see somebody that looks like you, who talks like you, who share your- your worldview and your beliefs, until you can see that it becomes something that's out of touch. So we know this, there are a lot of black people, people of color in entertainment, in sports, uh, in- in some areas of the arts, but not so much in graphic design. It's just not as prevalent as some other races.

Chris: Like for me, I don't see a lot of Asians in entertainment. I see a lot in academics, you know, and now that there's a bunch of people that are from Korea and from China doing design, there seems to be a lot of Asians in design, but it wasn't always the case. So I would like for you to expand on that a little bit about the mindset. Why do you feel it's important to recognize yourself in the mirror, if you will, when you're looking at these careers that you can achieve that? What- what is it about that you need to see it that allows you to dream that is possible?

Hank: Right. Um, so it really just started just growing up, honestly. You know, I grew up in Mississippi, uh, Columbus, Mississippi, and out, you know, I don't know what you already heard about Mississippi, but none of that is true. (laughs).

Chris: Okay.

Hank: There's some, there's some amazing people there. But, um, uh, but it just seemed like with growing up, it seemed that options were limited. You know, being, uh, young, I, you know, I was an athlete in school and it ul-, it ultimately seemed like I had to make it to the league to get out of there, you know? Like in order for me to like have like to get out of Mississippi, do something great, I just had to make it to the NBA or something like that. Or the NFL, which is, you know, sadly the case for a lot of, you know, young, um, young people there or young athletes there.

Hank: But, um, which is completely false, but it's ul- ultimately just seeing like options were limited. So it also means like you couldn't …it was really hard to be able to see other options of different ways you can make money and even a living, uh, outside of just, you know, what your village shows you. Um, and that's why the, you know, being able to see different things is so important because, you know, when I, uh, when I found design, you know, a lot of people weren't really on board, uh, with me pursuing it as a career 'cause it just …it was just so unfamiliar. You know, you- you thought this …I had really had to tell somebody like design and I pointed to like the news thing, the little news graphics on there. Like, okay, I can do stuff like that. Uh, just- just 'cause they didn't understand it.

Hank: So, you know, most people fear what they don't understand. So it wasn't necessarily favored or pushed, um, to become a designer because, you know, just the money issue and all that or facade that you don't make a lot of money. Uh, just a relate-ability right? 'Cause you can look into like the NBA or, um, like NFL and you can see these stories of these athletes going through these challenges. Um, you know, coming from areas that may not have a lot of money or growing up in struggle, you know, just different challenges. And as there's like a sense of relate-ability that you connect with them.

Hank: Um, but ultimately, you don't see a lot of that outside of those professions, you know, people that, you know, are designers or even just anything. Um, being able for, you know, young creators to see themselves, see themselves in someone that came through the same challenges but doing great things outside of just the norm of the village ca- …is, is super important. Cause like you don't wanna be limited, uh, just by the, the options that's preve-, you know, presented in front of you just by-

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: …your- your culture or your village.

Chris: Let me ask you this question and I'm still exploring this conversation in my mind. So maybe I'm …who knows if I can phrase this the right way. When you look at a guy like Steve Jobs, who's changing industries, is tech titan, he's of Syrian descent, he's, uh, a- a- a white guy. He's, he's, he's tall and he's this genius marketer. Do you see him as a Syrian white guy who's a genius marketer? Or do you still see him as a human being who changed the world, and could that be you?

Hank: Um, that's actually a great question. Uh, I would say definitely the human being. Um, I think the …like identifying differences in people and like in race or culture is definitely secondary. Um, but it's definitely as the human being, but I don't think it's necessarily something that we ignore of like who he is, or where away came from or where it's like his, um, you know, his background. 'Cause that can ultimately be like fuel to the fire, right? So, you know, if you see this person, this- this great human making impact. But ultimately when you learn who they are, where they came from, the challenges that they, you know, they overcame and you find a sense of relatability that's like where that motivation can really be, um, you know, really be kinda that back burner for it.

Chris: So, you know what's interesting to me is that I think when we see somebody, a man, woman, uh, old young, but somebody does something and it gives us permission, it's really weird. Like we weren't asking for it and they are not speaking to us directly, but they give us permission to go ahead and- and dream that dream to be the graphic designer or to lean into who you are, right?

Chris: I- I think Hasan Minhaj is a great example for me, 'cause I've spoken about him recently where this is an Indian American Muslim who's on a prominent show on Netflix, super brilliant, funny guy who's talking about his culture, what it means to grow up in UC Davis and hating on brown people and just saying all the bits that it's like, wow. And it seems to be working. So even though I'm not Indian, uh, I can feel like that's an example. He's given me permission, go ahead Chris, be who you want to be and it'll be okay. So for that, I understand the whole, you gotta see it to be it, but my definition is much, much broader.

Hank: Right. (laughs) For sure.

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: Yeah. It's so, it's so important 'cause like everybody has a role model and- and-

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: …whatever your, you know, how you relate to your role model you know, it's up to you.

Chris: Right.

Hank: But you know, I know that whatever that you know, relate-ability is, um, it's personal to you and I, and I know more people can be fueled by just different things. Like you said, just where you come from, who you are-

Chris: Right.

Hank: …um, can be fuel to the fire for anybody.

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: For sure.

Chris: So I would like to do this at this point in time if possible. I w-, I want you to reach out in your mind and your …the power of your voice and your story to somebody who might be 12, 14, 15 years old, who is a person of color who, or maybe is a parent of a young boy or girl who's thinking about going into the design space, what do you need to say to them to give them permission to be who they're supposed to be?

Hank: I would tell 'em don't feel limited. Um, even though the things around …surrounding you, the challenges that you may be facing may seem like your options are scarce but don't feel limited. It's so many, it's so many opportunities that are here that, you know, even if you just take the chance and really ask yourself like, why not? Like, why not you, you know, really give this what you wanna do at a shot, you know, if creativity is, and design is like really something you're passionate about, there is a way to make things, you know, make things do …like make connect, you know, connect strings and stuff.

Hank: But definitely I would tell him don't feel limited 'cause I, you know, that's, that was something that I went through, um, in school 'cause I …it was a challenge. And you had this like, kinda like this fear of like, you know how I'm gonna make a living as a designer. 'Cause there's this negative aside of like, you know, starving artists, you know, maybe do design, you study to school, you get in debt and you just work a job to pay it off. And you do it on the side, completely false. You can literally make a living doing what you love.

Hank: So anyone out there, the young creator that wants to do this for real, don't be limited by the options of your culture or your village, is such a big world, such a big world opportunity. For sure.

Chris: So I've done most of the talking. Most of the questions, uh, come from me. Is there something that you wanna talk about that's hot on your mind right now?

Hank: Um, so really I just wanna kind of get your insight on just like, what do you think ..., I guess what do you think is …where do you think like young creatives of color, what impact do you think we have in the forthcoming …in the coming future? Like, what do you think that, we're, I'm trying to find my question, uh, correctly. But like where do you see us impacting, like, almost like, I guess you could say first, uh, when it comes to like the shift of more young creatives of color, um, different backgrounds, ethnicities, uh, religion, whatever the case may be, where do you think that first shift can …is gonna start happening? Um, in design? And it can be broad and specific.

Chris: That's really interesting. Okay. So when you say a person of color, uh, I'd like to just speak about maybe, uh, African American black people. Okay? Because color can mean lots of different things. It could be in Latino, Asian, a- anybody that's not white essentially, right? So here's the thing is that I think blacks and African Americans have a really rich culture, hundreds of years old that celebrate dance, music, story performance.

Chris: And what I see in pop culture today in terms of rap, jazz art forms, it's always the black people who do the most interesting things in terms of bending the rules, finding ways of seeing things that nobody has seen before, listening to things that people haven't heard before and the fusion of cultures and things. I think that is part of your story. Your- your heritage, your culture, your DNA. And I think what it is-is you first like you- you …like what you're saying is you just need to believe that it's possible that you can enter into the design space and then just let your magic out.

Chris: There are most definitely the most underrepresented group in the creative arts as far as I can tell, non-scientific, this is totally anecdotal, that blacks are the most underrepresented group in the creative space and we've gotta change that, right?

Chris: So I think hopefully people are listening to this and- and listening to the episode with Handel Eugene and thinking to themselves, wow, uh, people like me can do things like this. They can reach to the highest of the creative spectrum or the business of whatever. And they can do this. I would love to also see young black entrepreneurs inventing the next Uber, whatever that might be to fulfill not only the needs of their- their culture, their tribe, but also to solve problems for other cultures and tribes, right?

Chris: I wanna see that happen and I wanna see people who are super successful that are, that are people of color to reinvest in- in their own communities and make scholarships available to create programs and to reinvest in their own community to lift more people out.

Chris: Like you notice a lot of people who get rich moved to Beverly Hills, like what happened to your community. Like you- you- you kind of abandoned them. Now I'm not blaming anybody and I don't wanna say because I had …I haven't walked in anybody's shoes, but I would love to see that to give back and to have a gen- more generous spirit.

Chris: And I'm, I'm hoping because of platforms like this on our, our, and our podcast on our YouTube, essentially we can reach a very broad audience. And if the message resonates with you, just think to yourself that can be you. You could be the host, you could be the guest on the show like this. It can happen, but you have to first believe that you can do it.

Hank: Definitely. Now, in just the piggy bag out there, I think, and if you've already done a good job of it, but I think even just more platforms who has- has like this power, this following, um, just notoriety itself and like showcasing these young creatives can be super impactful. Like, you know, I found, you know, Handel Eugene. I did find him on your episode, but ultimately before that I found him on the credits of, uh, the- the Black Panther, the seq- the, um, ending sequence.

Chris: Yeah.

Hank: Um, 'cause me and my gir- …I'm the nerd that makes my girlfriend wait like it looks, let's look at the credits and like, okay, take note. Who's that? Who's that? Who's that designer? Who's that, 30 artists. Um-

Chris: And then you looked him up?

Hank: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And we looked and we looked them up and we- we try to find their work and just see, just who they are.

Chris: Wow.

Hank: Um, and he, and he was one of them.

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hank: And I was lucky enough to find, to find out who he was. But just that along like being able to see that someone like him that looks like me and being where he was from, uh, having to play a part in amazing movie like that is huge. Like knowing that- that- that's possible. Like somebody like me 'cause like he's working on this is working on this amazing film.

Hank: And I think just- just things like that, like just showing the world like who these people are. 'Cause like most designers where, you know, we're introverts, we're gonna stay behind our desk, we're not gonna, you know, kind of showcase ourselves, which I think they're starting to shift more and more. But, you know, that's kind of the ideal way that we, you know, work and live. But I think platforms, you know, they have that following, they're able to showcase more and more of those people can, I think that can really start making a huge shift, which some of them are- are already doing. But I think, you know, I think there's still a long way to go, but I think that's, that's a good first step to really help inspire and, you know, motivate, um, young creatives who- who could make a, make a huge impact in the future for sure.

Chris: Awesome. Any other questions before we wrap this up?

Hank: No, I think this, this, this is it. This has been fun.

Chris: It has been really fun talking to you. How do people find out about you? Where- where are you on Instagram-

Hank: Yes.

Chris: …and where else can they find out about you?

Hank: Is, I am_Hank and on Twitter it's just backwards. So it's Hank_I am.

Chris: And your website is

Hank: Yes, Hank This is Hank Washington and you are listening to the Futur. (music)

More episodes like this