What do you enjoy the most about being Black?
Jay Blacks has a keen eye for everything design. A Senior Brand Designer at The Honey Pot Company, Jay creates mesmerizing digital designs during the day. When he’s not busy at The Honey Pot Company, he’s capturing the essence of the world’s beauty in his photography. But what really stands out in Jay’s creative abilities is his love for collaborating with others, where he strengthens relationships with people while exchanging value in gifts. Through the complex skill of collaboration, he experiences his artistic growth, and he thrives in releasing his magical energy.
A Milwaukee native, Jay’s interests in design and photography began at an early age, picking up the talent from his mother and Adobe Photoshop. His mother was in school for graphic design, and he’d use her computer to play around with Photoshop for hours to pass the time. He gradually grew his interest in exploring the unlimited possibilities of designing and what he could create. By the time Jay was in college, designing was second nature for him. He naturally gravitated to organizations and opportunities that needed his skillset.
“I would look at design blogs for hours, and try to recreate things I liked until I developed what I saw as my own personal “style,” Jay said. “I think a lot of those early days of just looking at things really played a crucial role in my skills and taste.”
But using his creativity has not always been an easy task. One of the most challenging obstacles was finding a community of designers that “looked like him.”
“The most frustrating part of being a Black designer is finding a community of other Black designers to share with and receive critique,” Jay said. “In college, I couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted to do, and I ended up changing my major many times. Those years were probably my hardest because everyone was telling me what they felt I should do. No one (including myself) really knew anyone with a career in design.”
Like many other African Americans, Jay also experienced having to outwork colleagues with an underlying and unspoken “privilege” in the workplace.
“It was disheartening to be passed on opportunities that to me seem like “no-brainers.” Afterward, I still had to convince myself that even though I’m one of the only Black faces in this space, I deserve to be here and have just as much, if not more, to offer. I’m grateful that my current role allows me to be my authentic self.”
Throughout any obstacle, Jay’s resilience is undeniable, and his work speaks for itself. Even better, he credits strong Black women for empowering him to perfect his skill and becoming the exceptional designer he is today.
“Black women really empowered me to be a better designer. My Mom is so creative, and I really admire her design point of view,” Jay said. We didn’t have everything growing up, but I always appreciated how much love, care, and intent she put into our living spaces. People like Kristina Jenkins and Dawn Thomas at my first job helped me see things from a strategic side, while also helping me find my place in an industry that isn’t always good to Black people. My Cousin, De’Ara Balenger, is like superwoman – she’s so supportive and inspiring. My story isn’t my story without her and every other Black woman that has empowered me.”
When it comes to the actual work in design, Jay sounds like any other brilliant creative describing his process.
“I think if anyone saw my process, they would be very confused. It changes all the time,” he said. “I get to solve problems. People interact with the things I create, and I have to make sure their experience is enjoyable. I enjoy that challenge. Collaborating brings me the most joy, though. Meeting new people and tying our stories together brings me lots of joy.”
When writing Jay’s interview, one thing that stood out to us is his passionate demeanor, the care he takes in completing anything (including this interview), and his most of all, his love for being a part of the Black community. When asked what he’d tell someone of a different race interested in helping eliminate systemic racism and the oppression of African Americans, Jay’s answer was simple.
“Do the work. We aren’t obligated to show you anything. If you want to change yourself and the spaces around you, then you have to do the work.”
Jay specializes in working with small businesses and agencies and has a strong interest in supporting Black businesses. If you’re looking for a designer or photographer for your business needs, please reach out to Jay Blacks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*All artwork displayed is the work of Jay Blacks.