Meet Erynn Hughes
Meet Erynn Hughes, a Strategist at Wolff Olins.
Q: What is your role within Wolff Olins and how does it intersect with DID?
A: At Wolff Olins, we research and understand customers from all walks of life to build brand strategies, identities, and experiences that reflect the needs and aspirations of real people. And that doesn’t happen without a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds at the table.
As a Strategist, I draw upon my curious and tenacious strengths to encourage inclusive, courageous endeavors in myself and others. Given our shared ambitions, I joined Wolff Olins not long after they became a founding member of DID and we’ve been partnering on initiatives to grow the next generation of Black and BIPOC designers ever since.
Q: What or who inspired you to enter a career in design?
A: Like many high school students, I felt a lot of pressure to pick a profession that I would like to do for the rest of my life. To assume that we know what we want to do for the rest of our lives as a 17-year-old is unreasonable.
Thanks to my high school guidance counselor and art teachers, I discovered that the intersection of business and creativity was incredibly interesting to me. At the time, I thought, this intersection sounded like marketing. It wasn’t until several college courses and internships later that I recognized what I excelled in and enjoyed doing – and, if not more importantly, what I didn’t like doing. During this “process of elimination” phase I finally stumbled upon a brand strategy internship that would change the trajectory of my career. I couldn’t have made it there without the advice of trusted mentors and my family’s support.
Q: If you could sum up your journey in design in one word, what would it be? Why?
A: It’s hard to pick just one, but if I had to pick a word to sum up my journey in design it would be “dedicated”. Anyone who knows me knows I’m incredibly detail-oriented and have a diligent work ethic. In each pursuit I’ve undertaken – from my brief stint as a graphic designer to when I tried on a shopper marketer’s hat or building flighting strategies like it was my day job as a media planner (because it was) –I’ve seen it through to the very end.
As a shy, young intern I realized that the world of marketing is massive and contains a lot of smaller spheres of influence including advertising, PR, media, experiential marketing, social media, design, and branding. Following a pivotal brand strategy internship and my experience as a MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program) fellow, I fell into the realm of paid media and focused on honing my strategy craft. While my journey was non-linear, it was a necessary experience.
I love the beginning of any process; the immersion phase and uncovering opportunities. I enjoy seeing projects through the finish line and feeling like I made an impact that wouldn’t be possible without my presence. I like feeling dedicated to the work, our clients, and most importantly to their end consumers. I seek out that feeling every day.
Q: How did you get involved with DID? What has that meant for you and your work as a designer?
A: Within my first few months at Wolff Olins, I volunteered to help plan and execute initiatives that deliver on DID’s commitments. A core tenet of my career mission is to encourage inclusivity and courageous endeavors, and it has become such a connective red thread that ignites my passion in everything that I do. As a multiracial individual who values their intersectional identity greatly, I strive to amplify the voice of marginalized communities in spaces where I’m the only diverse presence. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can ensure that my voice carries into decision-making rooms.
As a multiracial individual who values their intersectional identity greatly, I strive to amplify the voice of marginalized communities in spaces where I’m the only diverse presence. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can ensure that my voice carries into decision-making rooms.
One of the first steps to doing the work of DE&I and allyship is recognizing that no one community is a monolith. We can’t generalize or assume that we know everyone’s experience because we have heard one person’s experience. We can counteract the stereotypes that permeate public consciousness by bringing diverse communities into the work.
We can counteract the stereotypes that permeate public consciousness by bringing diverse communities into the work.
Branding and its spot in the limelight can do a lot to shift how society and media views, treats, and includes diverse backgrounds and perspectives in the discourse of daily life, and even history. My time as an ADCOLOR FUTURE in 2021 continues to motivate me to live out ADCOLOR’s motto: “Rise Up and Reach Back”. The critical work we do at DID to diversify the design industry is part of my efforts.
Q: You were one of many fantastic facilitators at Designed By back in March, and you also helped plan and prepare the event. What stood out for you from those experiences?
A: My biggest takeaway from planning our inaugural Designed By event and participating as a roundtable facilitator was understanding how precious these moments are to students at such a crucial time in their life. The conversations they have with professionals in the design industry now can make or break if they see themselves in this career field in the future. That’s why visibility and representation are so important. If you can see it, you can be it. It’s our duty as the talent of today to pave the way for the generation of tomorrow – to lower their barriers, to be their mentors and advocates, and to make their hopes feel possible and within reach.
That’s why visibility and representation are so important. If you can see it, you can be it. It’s our duty as the talent of today to pave the way for the generation of tomorrow – to lower their barriers, to be their mentors and advocates, and to make their hopes feel possible and within reach.
Maybe it’s because I hang on to an earnestness that we see mostly in kids, but this shared attribute leads me to believe that focus and optimism are some of the most indispensable superpowers that anyone can wield today. Being in the position to share with students that you can pursue a creative career that’s financially viable, rewarding, and have the potential to change how people interact with the world around them is a challenging assignment. But it’s one that can make a huge difference at both the individual and collective levels.
Q: What advice would you give an aspiring Black designer?
A: To any aspiring Black designers, strategists, and creators – take it from me that everything happens for a reason, and that there’s something valuable to learn in every experience. Go down those weird rabbit holes to understand what excites you. Follow those topics that make you keep asking “why?” Listen to those with different or opposing perspectives to become more open-minded. Be willing to try anything at least once. And be proud of who you are. The willingness to follow wherever your mind takes you will make you a more dynamic and resilient person living closer to your purpose.
Q: What hopes do you have for DID and its impact?
A: I hope that DID is able to break down systemic barriers to entry for BIPOC individuals into creative careers. Beyond diversifying representation figures in the design industry, I want to be part of a Collaborative that powers underrepresented talent to be at the cutting edge of change and innovation. I want us to create equitable opportunities for emerging creators to grow and become “successful” based on their own definitions. With DID as the catalyst, I want the entire industry to be motivated to make this same impact in their teams, organizations, and communities.
With DID as the catalyst, I want the entire industry to be motivated to make this same impact in their teams, organizations, and communities.