It's Time To Redefine What a Creative Looks Like. Meet People of Craft.
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
People of Craft, an online showcase of creative talent of color, just relaunched last week with more than 400 new creative professionals, surpassing 750 creatives total. There's also now a location tab to search for creatives in any given city across a variety of fields like design, advertising, tech, writing, and art. We caught up with the two WNW Members behind People of Craft, Amélie Lamont and Timothy Goodman, to talk about how they joined forces and what it's taken to build their shared passion project a day at a time. They also discuss why it's frustrating that a showcase like this is both necessary and didn't already exist. Thanks to an overwhelming response to People of Craft, they're ultimately hopeful that more creative voices will be heard.
Tell us a bit about your respective creative backgrounds. Who are Timothy and Amélie and how did they get here?
Amélie: I’m the child of immigrants and a first-generation American. I’ve been designing for the past 10 years and have always considered myself to be creative. I tend to find my groove through writing, speaking, dancing and designing.
Timothy: I’m a NYC-based designer and illustrator who works for myself doing a variety of projects for clients and myself.
How did you two meet? Can you share a little insight into the conversation you had that lead to collaborating and co-creating People of Craft?
Amélie: Timothy and I met at WebVisions Chicago in 2016. I had just given my talk and his talk was right after. We bonded because he sat next to me while waiting for the auditorium to be set up for his talk and he coughed. I told him that there was going to be a problem if he made me sick and we’ve been friends ever since. A lot of our conversations tend to center around who is or is not visible in design and what we can do to change that.
Timothy: We instantly bonded while talking about the imbalances and lack of inclusion in the design industry and at creative conferences. And personally, as someone who has made many mistakes in the past but who now has a platform, I want to continue speaking out against lazy curators in our industry, and challenging other white guys to own their own short-sightedness. No one is perfect, and we will continue to make mistakes, but we can do better.
What does the name mean to each of you?
Timothy: It’s a play on the phrase, “people of color.” I always believe that titles should be direct and memorable, and I think this title does that.
Amélie: To me, People of Craft represents people who are often judged for their skin color and the way they look. As a person of color, yes, my heritage and identity are important to me, but I am so much more than that. We are so much more than that. While we walk through this world, battling micro-aggressions, it’d be nice to have someone recognize us for more than just the way we look, but for the talents we worked hard to develop.
What are some immediate and long-term goals you hope to accomplish with People of Craft?
Amélie: One immediate goal includes increasing the categories for people to submit to. Long-term goals include setting up the site so that people can submit themselves and creating original content featuring various creators.
Timothy: The website was not as robust as we hoped when we launched it back in October, but it was important for us to get it up. Recently, we added a “location” tab so you can search for people in a specific city, and we also added another 400 people who submitted themselves. There are now about 750 people from around the world on the site. In the future, we certainly want to include a sort of “news” section that highlights work, projects, and events by people on the website.
What’s it been like making People of Craft a reality? Is there added pressure to do the project justice, given the significant effect it can have?
Amélie: I have a history of working on projects that tend to have impact in the community, so I wanted to make sure we got the language right. I don’t think it’s perfect–there are improvements to be made (and, as some have pointed out, it could be be used as a way to discriminate). But I do think it’s important to take things one day at a time. Despite the risk of the project not going well, I believe it’s better than not trying to see if something will or will not work.
Timothy: For me personally, it’s the realization that I know I benefit from white supremacy, so it’s about asking myself tough questions like, what am I going to do with my privilege? Not just my privilege as a cis white man, but the privilege of being successful and having a platform with a large audience, too. Which also all ties into each other, obviously. But as artists, we are the gatekeepers to truth, so what are you going to do with that?
What have been some of the challenges of launching this project?
Amélie: I’d say collecting all of the names, works, and social media handles of the people featured on the site. But Timothy had a fantastic intern helping out, which made things a lot easier. Truth be told, there weren’t many challenges.
Timothy: Not a lot of challenges launching, but now we’ve gotten an influx of people submitting themselves on the site. And because we work full-time, this isn’t always easy to keep up with. We want to make sure to get everyone on the site, and in time. We also want to make sure the site continues to grow.
How do you balance feelings of pride and frustration that this is one of the only, if not the only, online showcases of its kind?
Amélie: I wouldn’t say I feel pride. I think pride is an emotion felt when work is done and finished. Our work, this work, will never be done. We have a long way to go. And while I do feel frustration that this is something that had to be brought into existence, I do hope that it’s the first of many like this, representing the voices of creatives we rarely get to hear.
Timothy: It’s pretty wild to me that a site like this didn’t exist before hand. Obviously Julia Rothman’s Women Who Design site is very inspirational and one of its kind, too.
On paper the creative industries should be the most progressive. Can you offer any insights, based on your own industry experiences and beyond, into why people of color are so underrepresented?
Timothy: I think Amelie can speak better to this. From my point of view, I see the curators of blogs, talks, podcasts, and publications being lazy too many times and resorting to the lowest common denominator: the same ol’ popular white dude who’s going to fill seats. If we helped propel some of these people with the same narrative that we do those other people, then maybe we’d be in a better place with inclusivity. If we made the effort to say “no, this isn’t good enough, who else is out there?” then maybe we’d be further along. For me, I have turned down or threatened to pull out of many speaking gigs because there are no black people on the list.
Amélie: People of color are underrepresented due to a variety of reasons. One is that most industries (not just creative ones) reflect what society inherently tells them is the norm and what is safe. As creatives, we should be looking for creativity in all, but it’s hard to do that when biases and stereotypes cloud judgment. It’s also hard because there is an unspoken “way” to be creative and an unspoken “way” to look like a creative. People of color are often not considered in those ways as those views of how to be and how to look tend to be incredibly narrow.
In what ways do creative industries possess the power to change the landscape first from within, and then on a larger scale?
Amélie: I think that creative industries can first take steps to see who may or may not have the opportunities to attend design/art schools. From there, there’s a matter of hiring. Regardless of industry, we all have biases. Rather than trying to force people to confront their biases (the rate of which varies from person to person), I think it’s better to focus on process. What are your company’s or team’s hiring processes? How do you tackle employee retention? Do you support employee growth and wellbeing that is positive, concise and direct? Are you setting clear expectations for your employees? These are some of the things that our industry should be thinking about. I would also recommend taking a look at industries beyond the creative ones that have this issue. Tech is a great example and many of the resources that have been created for tech can be applied to other industries. Project Include’s hiring guide is a great start.
How can WNW members join People of Craft?
Amélie: WNW members can join People of Craft by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org They should make sure to include their name, social media handles, and what category they want to be included in (even if the category doesn’t exist yet).
Timothy: You can find everything on the “contact” section of the website.
What advice do you have for individual creatives looking to do their part to better their industries in regards to diversity?
Amélie: I personally don’t like the word diversity. It has become a catchall without regard to the types of people who are oft forgotten and left out when we have these conversations. If anything, I prefer individual creatives to do their part to better their industries in regards to inclusion. I believe that if you are an open-minded person, despite your biases, diversity should be inherent in all actions that you take. We can have diversity of individuals, but if that diversity is superficial, the same problems will arise. After diversity, the next step is inclusion and I’ve written about this. Inclusion is about creating spaces where anyone, but specifically individuals from traditionally marginalized backgrounds, can feel they have permission and are empowered to speak up when something goes wrong, without retribution. When I think about it in that way, I realize how easy diversity can be, but true inclusion is difficult to achieve.
Timothy: I always say, you don’t need to make work in order to do the work. You can make projects like the one Amélie and I made, but you also can challenge your audience on social media. You can call out others who are being problematic in your life or online. You listen and read and learn and follow all sorts of amazing activists online. If you have power at a company, look around and ask if yourself if everyone looks like you and do something about it. This isn’t about giving people who are less talented jobs, this is about giving those that have the same (or even more) talent visibility. How can we begin to understand those who are marginalized if we’re not letting them be present in our lives?