David Yarde is a Creative Director and Brand Strategist. With over 16 years of experience in design, programming and creating captivating user experiences for brands of all sizes. David currently channels his passion for creativity into building better communities by building better brands using design and user experience thinking. Also, sometimes called Batman.
Tell me about your early years and where you come from.
I’m originally from Jamaica but spent much of my early years in South Florida before relocating during my teen years to the Central Florida area. Raised by a single mother who did a pretty good job on teaching me the important skills like being resourceful and creative.
How did you first get interested in design?
Unlike most in this line of work, I surprisingly didn’t get started by drawing. Much of my interest in the area of design was in how things worked or were put together. I would often pull apart my toys to the point I would get books as gifts instead.
I wasn’t even aware that one could make a living by being creative until my early teens. As I look back now I’m glad that I was homeschooled as it gave me time to immerse myself in learning about the tools and methodology behind things. However, then it was more of an escape where I could create things people enjoyed.
From there it was a series of events from designing mixtape covers, to designing and building Myspace layouts, as well as logos and marketing collateral. That later led to working for a couple startups, advertising agencies, and a couple experiential interactive agencies.
Tell me about the work you've done?
Since I wasn’t a traditionally trained creative, and even worse one that could equally design and program, things got really interesting over the years. Each agency gave yield to a different experience. However, it did allow for opportunities to work on projects for Avis, Merriam-Webster, A+E Networks, Walmart/Sam’s Club along with an even wider range of smaller brands and startups.
Since transitioning to working with my wife on our own branding firm, we’ve worked with numerous startups, nonprofits, and community-based brands.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
This is a tough one to answer. I’ve never quite been proud of the things I’ve accomplished. However, if I had to pick, it would be work my firm did for a local education campus and helping to redesign and build a site for one of the oldest educational brands alongside some truly amazing individuals.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
Early on finding my voice and owning my experiences were my biggest struggles. Growing up in a culture where kids are seen but not heard makes for an interesting adjustment when in the world of design/tech. It didn’t help being a shy introvert either.
Later on it became more of having to deal with the reality of being one of few blacks in my field. Much less one that could design, program, and understand the business alignment of it all. Explaining if I’m more of a designer or programmer then became a challenge in the sense of having to “prove” skills in comparison to others of a different race, because a “person” like this couldn’t truly exist.
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
I do a fair bit of public speaking and mentoring about design thinking and entrepreneurship. I’ve also published a book, working on a few more but something that’s most special is giving back 10% back whether through meetups, one-on-ones, or pro-bono work within the community over the course of each year.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
It has been a mixed experience. I’ve had other POC make it clear just because we share a race that doesn’t make us friends (seriously? Who goes to work to make friends?) to being the token person of color on most teams I’ve worked on. Otherwise, it’s been a fairly informative experience.
What are your biggest motivators?
I would have to say my curiosity and immediate family. I’m insanely curious about how things work and even more curious about why people are attracted to different products and experiences.
Becoming a parent is where family really comes in. Disappointing those closest to me is what often keeps me going, especially at times when I feel like giving up.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
Most of my family doesn’t understand what I do. They mostly think that I play around with pictures or drag and drop elements to make a website. That is until the code editor and Terminal are up on my screen. Overall, it’s been a journey where not until recently they’ve been sharing that their proud of what I do.
What do you love most about working in design?
No two days are ever the same and the possibilities of what you can create are endless. It’s a constant learning experience where the thrill of the challenge is scary and exciting at the same time. That and seeing the aha moments when ideas come together.
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
Better representation across races and ages. More programs that introduce the joys of design to those who may not have access by way of privilege or extreme sacrifice. Other than that, equality in pay when it comes to minorities and women in comparison to industry counterparts.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
By way of better access to knowledge, experience, and tools. Additionally, more mentors that care and are willing to work together.
What are you working on right now, either for work or for yourself?
Client work as per usual along with a few new/streamlined offerings on the business side of things. Personally, I’ve been curating resources around the tagline and hashtag #alwaysupward on Instagram and Facebook.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
Hopefully, in 5 years my idea for a creative mentorship program is fully up and running. In 10 years I see myself still being in design but probably doing more work in the area of venture capital for creative entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
Never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to be a mentor. Never slow down just to appease someone who isn’t as curious or passionate as you are. Aim to be an artist instead of a toolsmith.