Greensboro, North Carolina – In September, Roymieco Carter, a professor at NC A&T State University, presented the 15 students in his 8 a.m. Visual Design 1 class with the opportunity to create custom hoodies for Chicago Bulls point guard Coby White , to be worn before home games.
Everyone in the class knew the former Tar Heel’s name.
White and his sister, Tia, realized he could share meaningful messages through his pre-game clothes. It’s an effort they started in 2021 to use his activism platform.
Jaylen Brannon, a second-year visual and media arts student, jumped at the chance. He was particularly keen to take on the job because he knew his mother, who is a huge White fan, would appreciate it.
Quintin Evans Jr., a senior media design specialist, also signed on to the seven-month project, which ended in April just before the NBA playoffs. Brannon and Evans were the only two students to submit designs for the more than 20 hoodie subjects chosen by White and his sister.
Topics varied and included Human Rights Day, gun violence and the ratification of the 13th Amendment. In February, in recognition of Black History Month, its hoodies spotlighted black designers who aren’t always in mainstream conversations, like artist Aaron Douglas and ballerina Misty Copeland. It focused on Women’s History Month in March, spotlighting figures such as Puerto Rican civil rights pioneer Felicitas Mendez and Native American aerospace engineer Mary Golda Ross.
“Going to an HBCU and hearing about names I didn’t even know and researching them for hoodies was a great experience and expanded my knowledge,” Brannon said.
White intended to partner with A&T, the nation’s largest historically black university, said Tony McEachern, chair of the department of visual and performing arts.
And the timing clicked. At the start of the school year, McEachern sought industry partnerships aimed at building engagement for the visual arts curriculum. At the same time, White wanted to hook up with A&T, and his agent reached out to McEachern to share White’s vision of using hoodies to increase #aWEARness.
“If he had to have gone to an HBCU, he would have, by his own admission, chosen NC A&T,” McEachern said. “So he connected with NC A&T for the HBCUs mission and he used our artists as a way to illustrate and articulate his vision of social justice, political order, family, justice. ‘love and representation.’
Both Brannon and Evans submitted designs for each topic, and White and his team selected which one to place on each game’s hoodie.
The designs weren’t particularly elaborate but they were full of meaning. For hoodies that highlighted a silhouette, many designs featured an illustration of the person on the front and a powerful quote on the back.
Evans learned that his first drawing in remembrance of White’s father was chosen during an early morning phone call with his own father. He was initially confused as to why his father was congratulating him. Then he checked Instagram and saw a DM from White and a post shared with White’s 450,000 followers showcasing the hoodie with his design.
“I felt really honored because when we were doing this design, I was dealing with the loss of my great-grandfather, who was an inspiration to me, and I kind of put everything I could think of. in there,” Evans said.
And Brannon’s mother is often the one who informs him via text message that his design has been chosen. He was eager to find out like this.
After wearing each hoodie, White posted the photos to her Instagram with captions to provide historical context and tagged the student designer.
“I know a bunch of celebrities wearing the work of little creatives who don’t say anything, but he went out of his way to tag us both – even followed us – and he didn’t have to do any of it. “Branon says.
White’s Instagram comments are full of people asking where they can get the hoodies, too. But, for now, the designers are keeping the designs one by one, which means there is only one copy reserved for White.
Brannon and Evans each have a hoodie from their job. White invited the two designer students to a Chicago Bulls game in Charlotte. At the February meeting, White gave each of them a hoodie they created that he had worn and signed. This hoodie hangs in Evans’ bedroom. Brannon gave his to his mother.
When Brannon and Evans first expressed interest in the project months ago, neither of them expected it to become this big in terms of scale or level of exposure.
No matter how far they go in graphic design, they will never forget who some of their early commissioned work was for.