Design That Gives Back: A Conversation with Yetta Banks

Yetta Banks is a boss. She is the Vice President of Design & Construction at Viacom. She is the architect who makes the Viacom experience visually appealing and interesting from the moment you walk into the Times Square building that is home to BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and more. She is also a designer who has a passion for giving back. As a board member for Housing Works, and this year, a designer for DIFFA’s Picnic by Design, Banks believes that design can be a powerful platform to help those in need. We chatted with her about her dedication to giving back and her upcoming basket for the DIFFA Picnic that will help raise crucial funds for services to combat HIV/AIDS.

What is the theme of your picnic basket for this year’s DIFFA event?

A Girl About Town loosely inspired by whimsical day dates with my husband.  We always set aside two days a month for day dates that start with beautiful romantic breakfasts and end in afternoon adventures.

My inner teen is geeking out about the experience item in the basket. MTV is launching the new TRL and two lucky fans will share this experience. I am also very old school…. I am equally excited about the roller skates and the very chic Christian Lacroix napkins.

You have been involved with organizations that give back for quite some time. What motivates you as a designer to get engaged in social justice organizations?

I believe that giving is tied to happiness. I am also a firm believer in advocating for those that don’t often have a voice. I am a board member of Housing Works and what I love about my involvement in this organization is that I can combine two of my passions: community and design. Through Housing Works, I am able to evolve my passion for design as well as raise funds for a good cause and create a positive impact on my community. My involvement has grown into personal development, now I am not only donating through financial contributions, but giving my time. What I love about Housing Works in particular is that I can see results on the ground and see how the community is being impacted every day.

Why DIFFA? What made you get engaged with this particular organization?

For similar reasons for my involvement with Housing Works, I became engaged with DIFFA because it was another outlet to combine my passion for community advocacy and design. I like to take advantage of any opportunity I get to use my experience as a designer to create a positive impact on my community, and DIFFA is a wonderful organization benefiting a great cause that allows me to do so.

What advice can you give to designers who want to use their platform to give back locally or internationally?

Just do it – get involved! Because I was passionate about giving back, it was easy, natural and fun. Find something you are passionate about and do something as small as posting about it on social media. 

As we’re talking all things picnics, where is your favorite place in New York to chill and enjoy a relaxing picnic? 

Relaxing is so over-rated……. Kidding!!!!!  Central Park or a great front porch, however, my favorite new place to chill really late night is the rooftop of the 1 Hotel in Dumbo.  The back drop of the Brooklyn Bridge, the sky line of the city, great food and friends is the epitome of  #CHILLIN!

What’s on your summer playlist? 

Jay-Z’s 4:44, New Edition and Solange are in heavy rotation at the moment. I listen to Pharrell’s Happy at least once a week. I can’t get enough of Bruno Mars and occasionally a little trap music.

What’s inspiring you?

Today,  I am completely inspired by the Women’s Movement in this country and changing the narrative about how we see humanity!

AphroChic is proud to be a 2017 DIFFA Ambassador. Join us at this year’s DIFFA Picnic. Purchase tickets here.