One of the best things about Revision Path is that it allows our audience the opportunity to learn about so many great designers and their work, and Randall Wilson is a prime example of that. Randall is the UX design lead for the digital messaging team at Capital One, but he's also making major strides in the design community as one of the co-founders of the HUE Design Summit, a multi-day un-conference created for designers and developers of color. In our conversation, we spent time talking about Randall's work, growing up in Atlanta and attending Georgia Tech, and the founding of the HUE Collective -- the nine-person team behind the HUE Design Summit. Randall also gave a review of this year's summit, gave his thoughts on design events, and shared his dream project...becoming a Lego Master Builder! Keep an eye out for Randall; he's out here making major moves!
One of the best things about Revision Path is that it allows our audience the opportunity to learn about so many great designers and their work, and Randall Wilson is a prime example of that. Randall is the UX design lead for the digital messaging team at Capital One, but he's also making major strides in the design community as one of the co-founders of the HUE Design Summit, a multi-day un-conference created for designers and developers of color.
In our conversation, we spent time talking about Randall's work, growing up in Atlanta and attending Georgia Tech, and the founding of the HUE Collective -- the nine-person team behind the HUE Design Summit. Randall also gave a review of this year's summit, gave his thoughts on design events, and shared his dream project...becoming a Lego Master Builder! Keep an eye out for Randall; he's out here making major moves!
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Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Maurice Cherry and edited by Brittani Brown.
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Maurice Cherry: All right, tell us who you are and what you do.
Randall Wilson: My name is Randall Wilson. I am a UX Design Lead, for the digital messaging team at a little company called, Capital One. I'm also a partner with a Hip-hop archivist friend for a LEGO Group that we've called Most Incredible, and I am the Co-founder of the HUE Design Summit.
Maurice Cherry: That's a lot. Design lead and LEGO artist and HUE Collective, and I definitely want to touch on all of that stuff. I want to start with Capital One. Capital One actually even sponsored the show back in February, thank you Capital One for that. Tell me about the work that you do there as a design lead.
Randall Wilson: In digital messaging specifically, what we're concerned with is obviously the messaging touchpoints that Capital One uses to reach out to their customers. Obviously all of the lines of business that Capital One has, bank card or app. Where I work is in the partnership space, companies that Capital One has private label credit card relationships with. We consult with internal creative teams in all the different cross functional teams to create messaging experiences that are relevant and personalized for the customer.
Maurice Cherry: And what does that messaging look like? Is it just email or are there sort of different touchpoints where you are interacting with the customer?
Randall Wilson: Email is the message de jure always, but we also include SMS and Push depending on how the customer chooses to receive their message.
Maurice Cherry: And now you've been at Capital One for a long time. I mean eight years is like a lifetime to be at one place in this industry. I'm really curious to know what attracted you to them as a company.
Randall Wilson: Well, first I have to provide a little bit of context into obviously, how I got there, but where I came from. Graduated from Georgia Tech in 2009, and was working odd jobs here and there, and actually got to Capital One through a staffing agency.
Maurice Cherry: Oh, okay.
Randall Wilson: I didn't even know what the company was, well, who the company was until I got to the interview and realized it was Capital One and I hadn't had too much knowledge of Capital One up to that moment. I actually started their contracting and then throughout my years there I realized that it's not your typical corporate environment as you might imagine a corporate America office to be, or just the demeanor or how people exhibit certain behaviors is really laid back.
Randall Wilson: That's what I like about it. It fits my personality and more specifically, the team that I'm on, the way we communicate and the way that we work with each other I think really attracted me to, well, and kept me here. I started and on September 12th, 2011.
Maurice Cherry: Wow, that's quite a day to start work. That's quite a momentous day to start a new job.
Randall Wilson: Yes. I remember getting the interview and I got the job, but I had requested to start after Labor Day. I got the interview in maybe July, like end of July. I actually went back recently and found the email and screenshot it just to keep it for history sake for posterity, and requested them to like, "Can I stay in Atlanta for until after Labor Day to have a going away party." I did that and then started, drove up from Atlanta, started September 12th, 2011 and has been on it popping from there.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. You mentioned email, you mentioned SMS. Can you talk just kind of generally what kind of projects you're working on right now?
Randall Wilson: The type of projects that we're working on, they range from I guess welcoming customers to their registering or signing up for a credit card, providing benefit information about the card, providing information on how much rewards they've they've attained through usage of the card.
Randall Wilson: The other projects that we have are trying to figure out what's the best, I guess in the ecosystem of messaging in how the customer communicates with Capital One, what has the customer chosen as their preferred mode of communication. And how can we reach them without confusing them on their journey to maybe pay the balance on their card, or find out how many rewards they have. Or any auto loans they may have signed up for, making sure that the information that we've delivered to them is precise, concise and has great timing.
Maurice Cherry: Now, I would imagine between email and SMS, there probably is a lot of testing that you all have to do to make sure that the text is coming off in the right brand voice, that it's the right tone, that it's actually accomplishing what it is you want to accomplish. Is there a lot of testing that goes into all of this?
Randall Wilson: There is. We obviously use not only user research in the form of testing. That way we make sure that not only is the brand voice consistent, but that is able to be absorbed and is again relevant and speaks to that particular moment that the customer's in, in their journey.
Randall Wilson: Actually, maybe, a couple of weeks ago I was in New York doing user research just to make sure that anything... Well, the experience of messaging is what they're used to from a financial services standpoint. What makes sense from a institution like that or are they used to what turns them off, and we use that to craft the messaging that we offer.
Maurice Cherry: Interesting. I wonder if, I mean you can correct me here. I would imagine that also goes into maybe automated types of messaging as well, say for example voice or anything like that?
Randall Wilson: If you're referring to something like Eno?
Maurice Cherry: Yes.
Randall Wilson: Is that what you're kind of getting around?
Maurice Cherry: Yes.
Randall Wilson: Yes. We partner with them a lot and make sure that, that's also built into the ecosystem. Not only, again, email and SMS, but if the touchpoint is interacting with Eno, in either on the phone or in the browser that they're getting what they need when they want it.
Maurice Cherry: What's been the most challenging part about the work that you do?
Randall Wilson: The most challenging part of the work that we do I think would be, I think the innovation part. I think what we're always looking forward to doing is being on, it's kind of like a buzz word but on the cutting edge, the bleeding edge even of messaging. We're always looking to make sure that what we have and what we have to offer our partners is top-of-the-line in terms of the latest developments in email and SMS and Push. And looking across the industry, making sure that we pick up on trends that are emerging and obviously let go of trends that are falling away.
Randall Wilson: I think the challenging part is staying on top. It almost sounds like I'm bragging, but just making sure that we keep abreast of any new developments so that we can, if there is a solution that one of our internal customers is looking to offer for their customers, we can say, "Hey, we have that." Or if we don't have it, we can offer a similar solution.
Maurice Cherry: And I would imagine email is pretty old, SMS is pretty old. I would imagine that innovation probably is hard to come by, because these are mediums that people have used for a long time and they already have certain expectations about not just how to use and understand it. But also what's to be expected from say, the difference between say getting messaging from a friend than getting messaging from a bank.
Maurice Cherry: I would imagine it's kind of a fine line you have to tread to make sure that you're not pissing the customer off or giving the wrong impression or anything like that.
Randall Wilson: There's always the conversation about convenience over creepiness. Right? What is that line, right? Making sure that the message is, again, I use the word relevant a lot, but it's relevant enough, but that is not so big brother-ish, right? That's the line.
Randall Wilson: And just in terms of, I guess the function of email itself. Email is coming a long way, it's very niche. I kind of backed into it as a career. It's not something that people go to school for, right? Like I want to be an email designer, let me go major in that. But what I've learned is that email is, it has more than people give it credit for. It's always kind of looked at as the little brother of web design or web development. But you can do almost just as much in email and offer similarly robust experiences in email just as you can in web.
Maurice Cherry: I mean, email design has come a long way. I remember designing emails in... what year was that? 2005, 2006?
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: And I mean the email design landscape, and I would imagine it's probably gotten better now because I haven't designed an email in I don't know how long, but it was trash back then. Between Gmail and the different versions of Outlook. And then we had customers who were still using Lotus Notes and Domino. And I mean it would be impossible to serve up the exact same visual experience via email across such a wide variety of clients. I can only imagine now that it has gotten a lot better just because of browsers and advances in CSS and stuff like that.
Randall Wilson: Yes. We are instead of coding for graceful degradation, we code for progressive enhancement.
Maurice Cherry: Nice.
Randall Wilson: We serve for the lowest common denominator. Well, we don't serve Lotus Notes per se, but older things like maybe Thunderbird or the older Outlooks. And then on top of that experience we add as many interactive and personalized experiences as we can, that the client will read.
Randall Wilson: Getting Gmail in Outlook and let's see, Yahoo or AOL and getting all those things to agree and look the same, you'll never do it. And communicating that to our partners and saying, "Hey, this email that you want to deliver, this is the base experience, but we can do X, Y, Z, that will add to the experience. But the people that are on those, older clients, they won't be missing any information. The core of the message will still be there.
Maurice Cherry: Oh my God, I'm just having flashbacks about how bad it used to be trying to design for all of those different types of environments. I mean ShoutOUT's a litmus because they really kind of helped me out a lot with that.
Randall Wilson: Were they image-based emails that you are working on?
Maurice Cherry: They were mostly image-based. At the time I was working for the Georgia Dome and we were sending out email newsletters to the executive members that had bought season tickets, and bought box seats and all that sort of stuff. We would have these long kind of image... I mean this is 2005 so we're talking 2005 design standards in terms of very blocky table base. I mean emails are still table-based but you know what I mean? Kind of blocky table-based emails and it was a wreck.
Randall Wilson: The the other thing talking about image-based emails, we also make sure that accessibility is of high priority. Because I would say that the time of image-based emails is passed, is long gone. To reach as many customers as we can, we have to be as accessible as possible. That's HTML text, that's high contrast images. That's large enough buttons, that's clear calls to action, all of that stuff goes into it.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. Now, what would you tell anyone out there who's listening to all this and they might be interested in working at Capital One? What would you tell them?
Randall Wilson: I would say that Capital One's transition into more of a technology space is exciting for me. Number one, because I hadn't had any kind of tation of any financial institutions before. To be a part of one of the leading financial institutions in the country and knowing that we have buy-in from our leaders to push forward and use new things, and try new things.
Randall Wilson: That feeling fast is something that I enjoy the conditions working under and just having a leadership that advocates for that. We have processed up the wazoo which protects all of our work and the concepts that we work on and things that we do here. I would say if you're looking for a place that is always trying to do not what's new but what's not yet new. What's coming, you should come over to Capital One.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. Now, I want to talk about the HUE Design Summit, which is how I first heard about you. And it just took place recently, it just took place back in July. I want to go into that, but before we do that, I want to talk more about your background and sort of how you came up to where you are right now. Where did you grow up?
Randall Wilson: I grew up in the Atlanta area in Stone Mountain, Lithonia.
Maurice Cherry: Now was design kind of a big part of your childhood growing up?
Randall Wilson: The first memory of my life literally is waking up in my parent's bedroom probably on a weekday morning or something. I was four years old in my white T-shirt and my tidy whities, and and running out of the bedroom and going into the dining room where I think the LEGO set that I was playing with had been left the night before. Ever since I can remember, design has been a part of my life.
Maurice Cherry: And was your family really supportive of that?
Randall Wilson: Yes. I have a lot of different interests. I like not only LEGO, but I love music. I love film, I love sports, I love Spades. I love traveling, all types of different things. My parents were willing to foster that love of all those interests but the design, not only LEGO but drawing, coming up with my own comics.
Randall Wilson: I remember something I made a long time, well, maybe like seven, eight, nine years old called the Wiley Warriors, because I was watching Power Rangers a lot. Just getting busy with color pencils and crayons and construction paper and all of that. That's something that I've always loved to do and provide an escape from the responsibilities I have and had, whether they be English, math, social studies or what I'm doing at work. It's always been a part of me.
Maurice Cherry: When did you know that this was something that you could make a career out of?
Randall Wilson: I'd probably say in high school there were a couple of different diploma tracks. And one of them was more tech-based because I was looking to get into architecture as a major in college. That was the diploma that would be most appropriate. Being in something like shop class, but being an art class and really growing those competencies, I think I had an eye towards the future and seeing how that would manifest itself through my major in architecture. I think around high school, I'd say.
Maurice Cherry: All right. And you continue that sort of interest in architecture by going to Georgia Tech where you majored in architecture. What was your time like there?
Randall Wilson: My time in at Georgia Tech was, I don't know if any other architecture majors can relate. Maybe it's just my experience, but architecture was really... that major was kind of isolating in that I couldn't just go to the library where my other friends with different majors were studying, right with their textbooks. I had to be in the studio all the time, because that's where our tools were.
Randall Wilson: You can't just pull up vellum on your desk in your dorm and start drawing elevations and sections, that's not going to fly. Being in studio all the time, although I didn't get to spend as much time with my friends, I did get to spend a lot of time with my studio classmates and so that provided another flavor in that I got to broaden my friend circles.
Randall Wilson: I've had the friends that I made from outside of studio, but also hanging out with people inside. And also in addition to just the social scene, really learning guess the history of architecture and art. That's something that I enjoyed a lot. Having the freedom to not only learn about it but interpret it and infuse that knowledge into your own work in designing insight.
Randall Wilson: And I think this is where some of those competencies translated over into my career today. Designing for people within context and learning what is necessary for the specific site in which you're building something or designing something. Doing light studies, doing soil studies, learning what I guess the surrounding elevation is like if you want to contrast with that or do you want to fit in? All of those things, I learned a lot from being at Georgia Tech.
Maurice Cherry: And now, what was sort of the Atlanta design scene like for you back then? I mean, and I don't know how much of this being an architecture major, were you able to sort of go to meetups and events, or network with other people or anything like that?
Randall Wilson: Because at the time I was still in architecture, I was not aware of any other architecture related meetups outside of Georgia Tech. There was things inside like a NOMAS, I think the National Organization for Minority Architecture Students. I was involved in that for a little bit, but towards the end of my majoring I started transitioning over into doing graphic design. Whether that be flyers or logos for different organizations on campus.
Randall Wilson: Even that journey was a little bit solitary because I was, I guess getting my feet wet into it, and so I would converse with other designers on campus, but I never got the chance to really spread my wings and get into the Atlanta design scene. That was around 2004 to 2009-10 scene, somewhere around there.
Maurice Cherry: And now, is this sort of where the idea for forming the HUE Collective came from, or did that come later?
Randall Wilson: I was listening to Shaw Strothers interview earlier today and was listening to how he got into that. That idea did not come until 2016. We just so happened to go to school together and kind of overlap, but through the advent of social media, right? We've been able to keep in touch in those intervening years and join that group meeting that he was talking about, and then the idea formed from there.
Maurice Cherry: I was curious about how it formed, especially with you saying that you're-
Maurice Cherry: I was curious about how it formed, especially with you saying that your architecture experience at Georgia Tech was kind of isolating, and then you weren't really kind of networking or seeing other design groups outside of that. I wonder, and you can fill me in here, did the want to create the collective kind of come from that experience of sort of going through this design discipline in a very isolated manner?
Randall Wilson: Something like that. I can tell you that through being in the different neighborhoods in Atlanta, and again learning to design within context, there is a lot that you see. There's a lot of small businesses that you see and as I was getting into design, I would realize that people's branding may have not been the best or just the front, right? Just the front of the business that they want people to come in and obviously use the services, wasn't as appealing as it could be.
Randall Wilson: Another colleague, not only in HUE, but in architecture, Alfonzo Jordan, he was in architecture at the time. He was coming through maybe a year after me. So we kept in touch all those years. Actually, how we got together was maybe around 2014, 2015, and discussed doing something like forming an agency and using our talents to provide branding and strategies and material for said businesses that we saw in our neighborhoods, a lot of these black-owned businesses.
Randall Wilson: So, the idea came from that, and then Alfonzo knew Tiffany from another venture, and she's the one that brought up the idea of something like the summit. So all three of us came together and decided to lean more into the summit experience, less so the agency. So that is how The HUE Collective was born.
Maurice Cherry: Interesting. There's actually someone else I saw on The HUE Collective About Page who has also been on the show, Michael Grant.
Randall Wilson: Yes, sir.
Maurice Cherry: How'd you end up linking up with him?
Randall Wilson: Michael Grant comes through Tiffany's connections.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Randall Wilson: I want to say that he was also in the group meet chat that Shaw was mentioning. So I know him very kind of by proxy, a couple of couple of degrees removed. But he's been essential to us in the way of storytelling, because he's a writer. So he's been able to gather, I guess the history, not only the history of HUE, but how we talk about it and how we describe it, the language that we use. Michael's been helpful in solidifying that and making that clear as we move forward.
Maurice Cherry: So let's talk about the HUE Design Summit which just passed in July. You spoke about how the collective came together and how sort of the sparks for the summit came about. When did the first summit begin? And then I want you to talk about how it's grown through this year.
Randall Wilson: The first summit began in late July of 2017. As you've heard before, we wanted it to be designed as an unconference. So, the word that I use a lot is introvert-friendly. So not as overwhelming as those spaces can be. I go to conferences all the time, I'll continue to go to conferences. What we wanted to do was offer a complimentary experience to those, so that people can experience both as they so choose. We've been in Atlanta all three years. As we've learned through the planning, we've been able to articulate better the experience. So because of that, more people are coming.
Randall Wilson: So last year, we had around 25, 30 people sign up, and then this year we had almost 50 sign up. Adding, not only the collective, but all the speakers and special guests that we invited, it came to be around 60. So the last couple of years we've been in the Howard House in Kirkwood at Decatur, and so that's provided a more homey experience that is in line with what we want to deliver. I've heard it described by somebody at the summit, unprompted, that the summit is a conference, a family reunion, a cookout and a camp at the same.
Maurice Cherry: That's a good mix of experiences to have though. How long does it take place, the summit?
Randall Wilson: That takes place from Thursday evening to Sunday morning. So we start with a welcome dinner on Thursday evening to begin the experience, so that people are getting to know each other without the lens of design. Not just asking them, what do you do? Where are you? But asking what they're into, what drives them, what stuff, that has nothing to do with design, are you into? So we can start the experience off like that. So by the time we start getting into the content, we've done the networking or getting to know each other part and then we can absorb the content as we so choose.
Randall Wilson: Because not only do we put it on for y'all, we put it on for us too as the collective. I get just as much out of it as people that come. So, that part has been most rewarding. Having people come and say that they, not only get the value out of the content, but out of getting to know everybody. I know who [inaudible 00:25:22] is, I know who Theresa is, I know who Nyeem is, I know who Steven is, I know who Chanel is. All of these names, I know these people, because I've been able to speak to them and have one-on-one experiences that I can come away with and say, "Hey, you remember this?" Not just reach out to them randomly on LinkedIn and they barely know who I am.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Why is it important for y'all to structure the event in that way?
Randall Wilson: When we talk about building community and we talk about it in the way of quality over quantity, I think there are different ways to solve the same goal. So also in our roadmap, we talk about complimenting a lot. So there are a lot of different organizations and groups that are forming these pockets of communities. We're not trying to come in and say, "Yo, we're going to create one, and that's it." We just want to add to.
Randall Wilson: So what we're focused on is making sure that you have the opportunity to get to talk to somebody and build upon that relationship in a meaningful way. Be that a project that you're working on outside of work, a job reference that may come up later. Anywhere in that spectrum, that's what's important to us, and creating the experience to where you're not being just talked at, but you're being engaged with.
Maurice Cherry: You all have had some pretty big heavy hitters, in terms of guests. I mean, last year you had Gail Anderson, this year you had Eddie Opara, you had Renee Reid. All these people have also been guests on the show. What do you think it is about the summit that attracts them?
Randall Wilson: I think because it's atypical of probably the experiences that they're used to being on the speaker circuit. I can't speak, obviously, to what they've experienced, but I would assume that something like this, which I also don't want to say has never been done before, but the way that we're doing it is such that they're able to reach out and touch us. They reach out and touch the attendees that come and talk to them. Because not only are the attendees speaking to one another, they're also having these maybe round table discussions or these one-on-ones with a Gail, with an Eddy, with a Renee, with an Owen.
Maurice Cherry: Oh, that's right. Owen was there too. [inaudible 00:27:46]
Randall Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I met him in May at a diversity and design conference in DC.
Maurice Cherry: Oh.
Randall Wilson: Yeah. I went for work, and so that was fortunate that I was able to introduce myself a couple months before the summit. I would say that them being in a room with a lot of black designers, in cases where they may not have been able to do that before, is probably what's enticing to them.
Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you give just a recap of what happened this year? You mentioned the three speakers now, but how did it go overall?
Randall Wilson: You would appreciate this. You're from Atlanta, right?
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, let's go with that. I'm from Alabama, but I've lived here for 20 years. So it's close though.
Randall Wilson: Oh, yeah. You're from here. Yeah, yeah, you're good.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Randall Wilson: So if I had to illustrate it, I would use Outkast Player's Ball, but in a different context.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Randall Wilson: If you remember the lyrics, it went, the scene was so thick, El Do's, nuttin' but them 'Llacs. Like black [inaudible 00:28:48] You know what I'm saying?
Randall Wilson: Yeah. So in that skit, there's emotions of-
Maurice Cherry: All the players, all the hustlers.
Randall Wilson: All the hustlers, right? There's emotions of disbelief, bewilderment, but also relief, right? Being in a space that you haven't been in a lot or in your career, where all you're surrounded with is with designers and creatives of color. So having to take off a lot of that stuff and just simply exist in a space, and not only use the design language that you've accrued throughout your career and in your education, but also the shorthand that we use with each other and combining those in our communication, is how people have come to experience the summit and love it for what it is, because of those things.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Randall Wilson: So I would say the summit was ... it was a big love fest.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Randall Wilson: There's people that, maybe before even the first day was over, said they loved the energy, it's the best conference they ever been to, can't wait to come back. This is the best that they've ever been taken care of. I will say, if I had to tell another anecdote. Last year, Gail Anderson was there, right? We were trying to find dinner and she was asking, "What's good? What's good around here?" Me being from Atlanta, I'm going to default to chicken wings. So I said, "10, 15 minutes away, there's an American deli. They have chicken wings."
Maurice Cherry: Oh, man. Oh, that's right, y'all in Kirkwood. I know that American deli. Okay, yeah, yeah.
Randall Wilson: So, there's chicken wings, there's subs, there's fried rice, there's other stuff. She's like, "I love a good wing." Her words exactly. You can't take a speaker to go get some chicken wings at any other conference. That type of stuff can only happen at The HUE Design Summit.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. So I know that the summit is over for this year, y'all have wrapped up and everything. But have you already started thinking about HUE Design Summit 2020?
Randall Wilson: As we were planning this year, I had a lot of notes that I was taking and all of us were taking, there's nine of us in the collective now, that we plan on implementing. Right now, you caught us in our one month moratorium. So after the summit is over, we take a break, because planning it takes every bit of those 11 months.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Randall Wilson: So, you take a break. I can go work on my Lego stuff, I can go do some work and everybody else can do the same. By the time we come back, right after Labor Day, we'll come back and discuss strengths and opportunities of this year and plan on incorporating that next year. Whether that be content, the type of space we're in, logistical things, all of that stuff.
Maurice Cherry: I got you. So I remember from last year when the event had went on, well, one, because [inaudible 00:32:00], I got to throw that in there.
Randall Wilson: Yes, sir.
Maurice Cherry: But, I mean, outside of that though, I remember having conversations, I believe it might've been with Tiffany last year, around kind of getting it out in the Atlanta design space. I remember saying, "Oh yeah, you should talk to the folks at AIG Atlanta." But I was also telling her, "Don't be surprised if they don't say anything about it, because that's kind of just how they are."
Maurice Cherry: From what I can tell, at least with HUE Design Summit, because it's a small conference, it's really about relationships and word of mouth. I remember even when we were advertising on the show last year, I think y'all were already almost at capacity.
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: So I was like, "Yeah, we can tell people to buy tickets, but y'all got four tickets." That sort of thing. Do you always sort of want to keep that same intimate type of space around the event? Or are you thinking of sort of expanding the concept in some way?
Randall Wilson: Because of the amount of people that we had in the house, we actually had a very frank feedback session right after Eddie presented. His presentation was great, by the way. Being in a room with Eddie Opara and just soaking all that stuff up was incredible. But after that, not only a few of us from the planning team and Jacinda, but a lot of the people, a lot of the attendees, talked about our intentions, but also our fears, right? We don't want to get so big to a point where that magic, that secret sauce, is lost.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Randall Wilson: People are coming to the summit for this specific experience of it being a family reunion, a cookout, a camp, and a conference all in one, and having that intimate feel. So, we've discussed several models, we've made it clear. We want to make sure that it's also as accessible as possible, not only in price, but for people that are entry level and want to figure out if design is something they may want to go into, right?
Randall Wilson: So having the type of content that they'll be able to learn from and be able to utilize, and also keeping it at a scale at which we can still take great care of everybody, is our next challenge. So it may not be size, it may be distribution.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Randall Wilson: So it's one of those, we're figuring it out. As people decide they want to come, I would ask that y'all be patient with us as we try to figure it out, because we want to supply all of the demand that comes our way.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, that makes sense. I remember from talking with Shaw during our interview, I was saying something about even expanding it to other cities or different types of events. Maybe y'all do a monthly meetup or something. The reason I'm mentioning this is because, let's see. So when Shaw and I talked, this was July or so of last year, so it was about a year out from when I did this event with Facebook. Well, little less than a year, did this event with Facebook in 2017, November, 2017. We had about, I'd say maybe about 60 to 75 people there, so it was a pretty good turnout. We had some people from Facebook that came and spoke, Facebook catered the whole thing, it was great.
Maurice Cherry: But there were so many people there that were asking, when's the next one? In my mind I'm like, "It took four months to do these two and a half hours. So as far as when the next one is, I have no clue. You have to ask somebody that works at Facebook, they pay for all this." But the black design community in Atlanta is, I don't want to say starved for these types of experiences, but it's very clear when these types of events happen, not only do we show up, it's almost this craving for more, because-
Randall Wilson: They respond.
Maurice Cherry: No, they do respond, but there's also just these various intersections of the black design community in Atlanta, which I think is different from what you might see in other cities. So we certainly have the startup designers, we've got the in-house folks that are at a company and they're comfortable. We've got student designers, we've got entrepreneurs, we've got the fine artist/street artist culture. All of these black design communities are passing each other like ships in the night almost.
Maurice Cherry: So there will be design events that happen, but it's very clear it's only marketed to one or two of those communities, if any, honestly.
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: So, I think what I like about HUE is that it certainly seems to be open, really for everyone if they know about it, of course. They know that they can show up to it. I remember this sort of similar conversation around the Black in Design Conference that went ... that still goes on, actually, at Harvard Graduate School.
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: I remember the first year I heard about it was 2015, and I was trying to convince so many people to go. I was like, "We got to go." They're like, "Well, I mean, what are they going to be talking about? Is it about Photoshop? I looked at it and it doesn't seem to be talking about tech." I'm like, "It's a Black in Design Conference. How many Black in Design Conferences have you went to in your career? Let's just go." The tickets were $50, like, "Let's go, let's just go."
Maurice Cherry: A lot of people I know didn't go that first year. I went that first year, because I was like, "I just want to be there. Just to be in the building, just to see what it's like." That experience was very much like a ... I tell people that it's rare that you go to an event as a black designer and you feel both affirmed as a designer and as a black person.
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: There was just this certain level of care and respect for your black personhood that I never experienced at a design event, ever. I mean, I've been to design events in Atlanta where they called security on me just for showing up.
Randall Wilson: Wow.
Maurice Cherry: So to go to a place like Harvard and it's this warm, welcoming experience, and it is in a way like a family reunion, because they only have it every other year. So this'll be the third year for it that's coming up. They have the students put it on and the committee changes every two years. So it's always a little different every time you go, but the same people show up. So it does kind of end up being like this thing where like, "Oh, I saw you at this thing and I saw you at that thing."
Randall Wilson: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: When I went in 2015, it was the year before the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened.
Randall Wilson: Wow.
Maurice Cherry: So I got to talk to Phil Freelon, who just passed recently. Rest in peace.
Randall Wilson: Yeah, rest in peace.
Maurice Cherry: Got to talk to Darhil Crooks who was at The Atlantic at the time, now he's an associate creative director at Apple. I got to talk with the curators at the museum and stuff. Then in 2017, some of those same people were still there, but then there were new people that were there. Actually, more traditional design people were there, some people that I knew were there. I'm like, "Oh, so now y'all want to come [inaudible 00:39:04]" I was like, "Now that at the first one happened, you want to come to the second one so you could-
Randall Wilson: Jump on the bandwagon.
Maurice Cherry: Exactly, right. But I've been singing the praises of that event since it's went on.
Randall Wilson: I would love to go.
Maurice Cherry: They haven't opened it up for tickets yet. I feel like they have to do it this month, because it's in October.
Randall Wilson: Right.
Maurice Cherry: It's October, I'm looking at my calendar, fourth through the sixth. So I feel like it's got to be coming up pretty soon for them to have tickets. The other thing with them is like, it's also super accessible. The tickets have never been more than a hundred bucks to go. It's a three day event, they do it over a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But Saturday is the main day of stuff. Then Friday is a half day, Sunday is a half day.
Maurice Cherry: But even just the fellowship of all the people that are there and everything, I mean, it's great. When I started this podcast, and I don't mean to be taking up so much time, but-
Randall Wilson: No, you're good.
Maurice Cherry: When I started this podcast, I didn't know really of any types of events like this that black designers could go to. You just went to a design event and-
Maurice Cherry: ... black designers to go to. You just went to a design event and hopefully you felt like you needed to be there, like you were supposed to be there, that they didn't look at you like you were supposed to be holding the door or something like that. Now there's Hue. There's Blacken Design. There's Creative Control Fest. Then there's even groups out in the Bay Area. There's Bay Area Black Designers, Vernon Lockhart who you probably ... I don't know. Do you know Vernon Lockhart? Does that name sound familiar?
Randall Wilson: I do not know Vernon Lockhart.
Maurice Cherry: So he has this nonprofit. He's been doing this stuff for 20-plus years probably, but he has a nonprofit called Project Osmosis that helps out young black and brown kids with getting into learning about design. I want to say he's based out of Chicago.
Randall Wilson: Wow. Okay.
Maurice Cherry: I would have to check because I've been introduced to them. I'm trying to get him to come on the show. I need to reach back out to his camp again, but now there's all of these different opportunities and groups and things that are popping up and it's just so great to see that we have these events now that can cater to us in many ways that other events from the design community do not. That's not to say that we can't go to these other design events and get the knowledge. That's great. That's fine, but I think we've also all had that experience of going to those events and feeling like the other, you know?
Randall Wilson: Yes. Yes.
Maurice Cherry: And feeling out of place and you're trying to like strike up conversation, but nobody will really speak to you or no one takes your business card and, you know. I still get that at design events today. So it's still a feeling that's pervasive, I think.
Randall Wilson: Yeah, there's a level of intersectionality, another level that we have to deal with in those spaces. Dr.Tunstall was at the summit this year.
Maurice Cherry: Really?
Randall Wilson: Yeah. I met her at the same conference I met Owen and when she signed up I was like, "Oh my God."
Maurice Cherry: Wow.
Randall Wilson: Yeah. So she was giving me feedback and really talking about ... When we talk about having content for the summit, addressing those levels of intersectionality in the work, right? Making sure that all the, any discussion or conversation that we have acknowledges those things and we address them in the context of design so that we're addressing the totality of us that are in the space.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. She's a design anthropologist so she definitely knows what she's talking about as it relates to that. Wow. So it was like a family reunion there. That's dope.
Randall Wilson: Yeah, It was great. I think to your point about all these design events that are popping up, the other goal that I have is for all of us to work together. Not necessarily put an event on, but least be aware of each other and work to provide the network of experiences to say, "Hey, if you're not able to go to this, you can go to that. If you're looking for this, there's something you can go to. If you're looking for that, that other thing is something that you can go to." So I think that would be the next step I see in the evolution of these black design spaces.
Maurice Cherry: I don't see why that can't happen now just in terms of at least sort of getting together and talking about it because it's you and the collective with the summit, actually we've got coming up in a few weeks, we've got an interview with one of the co. Oh, there's a group of students that put it on at Harvard, but one of them will be on the show talking a little bit about this year's events. Maurice Woods has the Interact Project, which is out in the Bay Area.
Randall Wilson: Yes. Yes, I know about that.
Maurice Cherry: Marshall Shorts does Creative Control Fest which is in Columbus. You already mentioned Jacinda, Jacinda Walker.
Randall Wilson: Design Explorer.
Maurice Cherry: Design explorer. I don't know if she's still affiliated with the AIGA Diversity Inclusion Task Force or not. I'm not sure if she is or not, but I say that to say that this network is pretty small in that it shouldn't take them ... I mean look, I'll help you all connect it together because all you all have been on the show.
Randall Wilson: Let's do it. I'm ready.
Maurice Cherry: So if I need to send out an email and be like, "Look." Bang the gavel. Let's come to order. I'll make that happen because this network is small and there's resources that you all have and there's communities that you all are able to tap into that others can't. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Randall Wilson: Exactly. Exactly.
Maurice Cherry: So just to kind of shift gears here a little bit, what do you think helps fuel these ambitions that you have? Not just the collective and the summit, but clearly you have had this exposure to design for a long time, but what helps you or what helps fuel that sort of drive to do the things that you do now?
Randall Wilson: Well, I think about a quote from Michelangelo. I'm paraphrasing, but something about I bind my soul to the work so I can live forever. Something like that. I think often about what I'm doing that I can leave behind and not just focus on me, but have something to where I have a succession plan. Jacinda's in my head right now. She talks all the time about succession plans. Building something that's sustainable and that really reaches back and provides people similar opportunities that I had that they may not be aware of. Giving people resources to grow in the way they want to grow creatively. I also, I live to create. If I'm not making something or coming up with something, then I'm not living. So all of these things are born out of the need to make. I'm a maker. That's what I would say I am.
Maurice Cherry: I like that quote. I really like that quote. Who are some of the people that influence you?
Randall Wilson: Somebody that influences me a lot, the work is different but the ethic is the same, Michael Jackson. That's a really rote answer, but I've been a fan since 2001. Just the craft is something that I've always been interested in and having the attention to detail is important to me. There are a lot of things that I'm responsible for making and putting together, and although people may give me congratulations and appreciation, I always see the warts and the thing. So if a color's off, if the alignment is off, I can see those things, those tactical things, but also just logistical things. Anything that I put my hands on, making sure that ... He quoted Michelangelo too. Putting everything that you have into your work that makes it so that people not only appreciate it but learn from it and it lives beyond you. All of that stuff is mostly what I'm putting into Hue.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. Do you have like a dream project that you'd love to work on, that you'd love to do one day?
Randall Wilson: A dream project that I would love to work on. I've always wanted to build with Lego kind of full-time. I would say doing any types of commissions for experiences and locations. Just building something and having it stand and having that be a piece of art. There's not necessarily a project that I have in mind, but just I think of my career as like a spider web and not linear. I don't think about it as I need to go here to get there to get there. It's like going up a mountain. I have disparate interests so I may want to be over here on the right side doing some Lego stuff. I may want to be over here on the left doing Hue stuff. I may want to do some data visualization down here at the bottom, right? All of these things are tangentially related, but as many ideas as I have to get out, those are the projects that I want to get out.
Maurice Cherry: Have you thought about becoming a Lego professional?
Randall Wilson: I have. I've done the research. I've seen the process in which they determine who the master builders are. You can go about it different ways. If you want to be a Lego Lego master builder, you have to go into a room and there's a pile of bricks, you have to come up with something in 30 minutes out of your imagination, and then from there they kind of determine if your in or not, if you pass the test. The way that I'm going about it now is building things that aren't necessarily found in the form of Lego and then demonstrating my competency there so that people will look at it as something that is viable, that speaks to specific culture and I can hopefully get some more work out of that.
Maurice Cherry: So when you really look back at your career, I mean you're doing things now with Hue, you're working at Capital One, you're doing this with Legos, when you look back at everything, what do you wish you would've known when you first started?
Randall Wilson: What do I wish I would've known when I first started?
Maurice Cherry: Is there like a hard truth or something that you just ended up having to learn that you wish someone would've given you a heads up on?
Randall Wilson: If it is, then it has nothing to do with design per se, but more about ethic. I would say that effort always beats talent. Hard work beats talent, so no matter how skilled you are, somebody can always outwork you. That's something that I've learned watching basketball. That's a saying that actually comes from basketball. I was one of those smart kids, right? And then going through life thinking that everything's going to be this easy and then getting to somewhere like Georgia Tech, everything ain't always that easy. I learned how to fail. That would probably be the thing that I wish I would have known, how to fail earlier so that I wouldn't have such an expectation of being able to walk in and do things as easy as I thought they'd be.
Randall Wilson: So Georgia Tech really taught me that as a young adult, but I wish I would have learned that growing up so that I could prepare myself for that experience. So now that I've had that, everything else after Georgia Tech is relatively easy. The rigor is not as as hard as it was at Georgia Tech. So work, I can think through that and work through that with relative ease. Hue stuff, Lego stuff, all of those things I learned from Georgia Tech, but as a young'un I wish I'd have known everything ain't going to be as as cake as you think it's going to be.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I feel like, and this is something actually I was talking about this with my mom recently because I was sharing with her the news about the show being in the Smithsonian and ...
Randall Wilson: Congratulations by the way.
Maurice Cherry: Thank you. I did not mean to drop that as a humble, as like a humble brag or anything.
Randall Wilson: No. If you didn't, I was going to mention it anyway. [crosstalk 00:51:11].
Maurice Cherry: I didn't mean to drop it that way. No, no, no. I'm bringing it back around to something, I promise. So I was talking to her about that and she was telling me how even when you was a kid, everything just kind of came easy to you. I mean she was saying it just in the vein of I always had good grades and I picked up instruments and just learn instruments on my own, that sort of thing. She was saying how the one thing that I remember you really were bad at and wanted to get better at was with coloring. So we had a local pharmacy and they would have these annual coloring contests and I was determined to win the coloring contest every year. My brother, my older brother, natural artist. Paints, sculpts, welds, draw, I mean phenomenal artist. I do not have that talent at all, at least not the way he does
Randall Wilson: Know your strengths.
Maurice Cherry: So I was trying real hard to get the shading right because I couldn't stay in the lines with coloring. Eventually I learned how to get it and learn how to do the shading and all that and I was winning the coloring contest. She was telling me all this stuff and she's like, "It was the one thing that I felt like you had the space to fail at." I feel like certainly I think as as black men, I have to say as black people that are listening or what have you, that's not an ability or a luxury I should say, that we're often afforded.
Randall Wilson: Correct.
Maurice Cherry: We have to win. We have to come out the gate knowing what we have to know and doing what we have to do. There's not that space to mess up and then still be able to recoup our losses and move on. So yeah, having that space to fail is something that I feel like we'd need to have more of just in this industry in general. I mean, whether you come from a traditional back, I mean traditional design background or not, it's so rare that that you have apprenticeships or internships or anything where you have that opportunity to learn on the job and mess up and then be able to use that to move forward. Now it's like you have to perform. Day one you've got to get it, and if you don't get it that first week, you're out of here. It's something else.
Randall Wilson: Yes. It's short shrift. Yeah. I think just having that space to explore and see where your interests may end up and not just where they are now is important.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. What's next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Randall Wilson: Where do I see myself in the next few years? I see the growth of obviously the Hue Design Summit and the ecosystem around that and having more touchpoints to stay engaged with the community that we're building. I see the growth of most incredible, the hip hop Lego stuff that I'm working on.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Well I want to do a [inaudible 00:54:03] that. Tell me about this hip hop Lego thing because I know we touched on the Lego thing but I just remembered it now that you mentioned that.
Randall Wilson: So a friend of mine, which Alfonzo also knows, Serita Gates, she's from New York and she is a hip hop archivist. She came to me with the idea of creating hip hop theme Lego pieces. So I, being the Lego enthusiasts that I am almost 30 years in the game, right, I said sure. I already make my own stuff anyway, so let's do it. So we're putting together replicated forms right now again to demonstrate competency. So your Run DMC logo, your NWA logo, things like that, but also starting to migrate over into more interpretive and abstract things. Putting pieces together that either honor anniversaries or themes. Like right now, well, right now I'm taking photos of a piece that is a commemorating the 1989 hip hop Grammy boycott. As you know, the first rap Grammy was awarded to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in 1989 but they didn't televise it and so they didn't go.
Randall Wilson: So putting together a couple of empty chairs that are modeled from the chairs that exist in the Shrine Auditorium where the Grammys were held that year and also putting together a model of an actual Lego Grammy. Putting those things together that educate people that may not be aware first of all. It's also education for me because I have to go back and look at all the context that goes into putting a piece like that together so that I know what I'm doing, but also making the culture of hip hop accessible through an art form like Lego.
Maurice Cherry: Wow. That's really dope. I just from playing with Legos as a kid, I never would've thought to use them in that sort of way, you know? That's really something.
Randall Wilson: Yeah, it transformed from something, a toy. It transformed from a toy to tool of design to tool of art for me.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, so doing more things with Legos, growing Hue. Where else do you see yourself in the next few years?
Randall Wilson: I see myself growing more in the UX space. I want to get into more product. I have a fleeting interest in data vis. Alana Washington who was on the show, I've talked to her a couple of times just to get a feel for what that data life is like. So just really getting more into that realm and learning and working wherever allows me to fuel those ambitions.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. Well Randall, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work and everything online?
Randall Wilson: You can find out about me on LinkedIn, Randall Wilson, II. I'm also on social media at the ROC files. You can follow Hue Design Summit on all social media @HueDesignSummit. You can also follow Most Incredible at Instagram @MostIncredibleStudio.
Maurice Cherry: Most Incredible Studio. Got you. All right. Well Randall Wilson, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. First off, thank you for sharing about the work that you do at Capital One. I think that's really important. Thank you for talking about Hue and about the community and really the value that you're adding back to the black design community with this. I think it's so important to be able to talk to folks while these things are happening because yeah, I mean it's sort of the same way I think with any sort of self, I don't want to say a self-funded, but sort of a project that you do on your own. It can be very solitary and it can also be very insular.
Maurice Cherry: So oftentimes people from the outside don't really know everything that has to go into just putting out the final product and they can take advantage of that or they can say, "Oh well this is bad or whatever." But they don't know everything that had to go into it, so being able to just talk about everything that you all have done and the community that you're building I think is something super important. I really look forward to seeing the Hue Design Summit grow year after year. And yeah, I'm just glad to have you on the show to talk about all of this, so thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.
Randall Wilson: Thank you, Maurice. Congratulations on 300 episodes. Want to see 300, 600,000 more. Congratulations on the canonization of your podcast into the museum, and thank you for allowing me to be canonized on your podcast.