University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Architecture Alumna Erica Williams Inspires a New Generation of Designers

Erica Williams is a USF architecture alumna who works as the entrepreneur behind The Design Bloc, a Miami-based design company working to further educate designers, create new dialogue in the design community, and provide professional design and consulting services.

Williams has worked as a designer on numerous high-profile projects, including designs for Mercedes Benz, Boeing, and Starbucks. Now, she is ready to share what she has learned.

 “I can hold all my knowledge and just keep it for myself, but I’ve learned that I get fulfilled teaching and giving back,” said Williams.

The Design Bloc Academy, one sector of Williams’ company, gives individualized attention to emerging architecture and design professionals.

Through one-on-one sessions with her students, she acts as a mentor, advising her students on a variety of skills needed to succeed in the industry, such as how to present to a jury, build confidence, cultivate creativity, and perhaps most importantly, build an effective design portfolio.

Soon, she will launch a course called the 7 Day Portfolio Master Blueprint. Through online modules, she will teach students how to use technology to work smarter and more efficiently.

“A technology-based portfolio course is really what I feel the community in architecture needs,” said Williams.

Her work helping designers on their portfolios predates her decision to start The Design Bloc. While still a student at USF, she would give one-on-one portfolio help to students interested in entering the School of Architecture and Community Design at USF.

This early enterprise served as a part-time job for Williams, but it in hindsight created a long-lasting impact. Students she tutored were able to get into the competitive program at USF and are now working in architectural firms as associate architects.

Williams also does consulting work as part of The Design Bloc. She helps real estate agents to sell their properties and provides tailored interior design solutions to clients.

Currently, she is designing an office space for a robotics company. Taking into consideration the company’s brand and culture, she creates an interior design to serve the client.

The Design Bloc all started with an Instagram account. Today, the page has grown to have over 15,000 followers and 1,300 posts on topics pertaining to architecture, design, and craftsmanship.

As the social media presence grew, Williams wrote a couple of e-books to connect with the design community.

Her first, titled The Portfolio Design Blueprint: Top 10 Mistakes NOT to Make While Creating a Design Portfolio, brings an insider’s perspective to convey the importance of limiting text and using high-quality visuals in a design portfolio.

Her second e-book, 5 Tips Every Designer Should Know, takes on the topic of work and life balance in the design industry.

Before receiving her master’s degree in architecture and community design from USF in 2009, Williams was a high school student interested in painting and drawing.

One night, she saw a documentary on Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. She had never seen a woman working in architecture using sculpture on such a massive scale.

“I didn’t even know what an architect was,” said Williams. “After that, I signed up for the drafting class and started pursuing my architecture career.”

At the USF School of Architecture and Community Design, Williams found the bar was set high. The program establishes a foundation of knowledge in architecture and design concepts, which Williams says retrains the mind to think like a designer and readies students to be leaders in the field.

“I’ve seen a lot of USF graduates starting their own business and companies or being promoted very quickly in the firms they are working at,” said Williams. “I think because of this entrepreneurial spirit, [the faculty] trusts us, and they don’t box us into certain things.”

Looking forward, Williams’ plans for The Design Bloc include expanding its YouTube presence. In the spring, she plans to tour schools to share her knowledge on design and The Design Bloc Academy program. She will launch her online design portfolio course by the end of the year.

Above all, Williams wants people to know that the design industry is for all.

“No matter who you are or where you’re from, you really can be a designer,” said Williams. “There’s a lot of new resources for new designers to really step up and be at the forefront in their roles and the community.”

For more on The Design Bloc and Erica Williams, you can follow both The Design Bloc and Williams’ personal account on Instagram.