Aricka Lewis is a UX designer born and raised in Arkansas. She graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Arkansas in 2015. By day, Aricka works in Enterprise UX, conducting research and designing experiences to help large companies work better. Outside of work, she’s a musician, a volunteer, and stumbling through adulthood. You can find her singing in the Afro-Cuban salsa band, Calle Soul and shamelessly practicing ukulele everyday @practicetoday.
Tell me about your early years and where you come from.
I was born in southern Arkansas and grew up in Northwest Arkansas, where I still live. As an only child, I had a wild imagination. I was constantly building things, designing clothes for my dolls, painting, exploring, and always asking “what if?”. I am fortunate to have a mother who encouraged me to explore my creativity at every stage in my life, from doing theatre and choir in grade school, all the way to being an art student in college.
How did you first get interested in design?
I’ve always been interested in design, even if I didn’t know it when I was young. I first found out about Graphic Design during my sophomore year of college. I had been studying Advertising and Public Relations, but really enjoyed creating campaigns and communicating visually. One of my professors pushed me to take a couple of design classes, though at the time you had to be an art major to take classes. I took the plunge and switched my major over that same semester and haven’t looked back.
Tell me about the work you've done?
I started out doing marketing design for a couple of startups here in Northwest Arkansas. I found that when I was working in marketing, I became really interested in things like click-through rates and transactions based on design. I started using this data to inform my design decisions. Working in marketing was a great bridge between visual design and what I do now as a UX designer and researcher. Currently, I design products that large companies can use internally to help increase productivity in their day to day.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
I’m still so new in my career, but I have to say that I’m so proud to have worked on widely used products for some of the largest companies in the world. That’s vague, but NDA and all that (hah). I’m also extremely proud to be an advocate for diversity in the design and technology fields.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
So far, my biggest struggle is suffering from imposter syndrome. Since I am young in my career, I’m always afraid that I’ll do or say the wrong thing. Of course, I still do and say what I feel is right, but the struggle is definitely there.
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
Lately, I’ve been really into inclusive design — whether that be in the products I design or the events and spaces we create in our design community here.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
When I was in school, I noticed right away that there was a lack of representation in our readings and in our community. I really struggled when I started my career because I knew that I would mostly likely be the only person who looked like me at the majority of the places I would work, especially here in the south.
Though there are not many black designers in this industry, I look forward to being a mentor in the future. I’m working to show young, black creative people that there’s a place in design and we really need them!
What are your biggest motivators?
My mom. She has been 100% supportive of anything I’ve ever wanted to do and I always work to make her proud of me. I am also motivated by the fact that someday (hopefully) I’ll be able to teach young designers after me. Also, a less sappy answer: talking to users. I absolutely love hearing feedback from the people using the products I have a hand in creating.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
They are ever supportive of my work. Constantly giving me a big head when I don’t deserve it.
What do you love most about working in design?
I love the impact of design. It’s all around us, even when we don’t realize it. From signage to the way a door handle is placed, design really is everywhere!
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
Inclusion. Right now, diversity is a real buzzword and that is great. But I would love to see us creating more inclusive workplaces, events, cultures, etc.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
It needs to be accessible first. A lot of underrepresented people may not realize that design is even an option for them. I sure didn’t until I was halfway through college. How can we communicate that Design is an option for everyone?
What are you working on right now, either for work or for yourself?
Right now, I’m doing lots of research for a small grocery chain. Personally, I’m writing new music!
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
Hopefully teaching in some capacity. I’ll definitely stay in design, in some capacity, for as long as I can.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
Make as much stuff as you can (a lot of it will suck at first, but practice is essential), be willing to learn, and get some sleep!!