As a queer woman of colour born in Trinidad and Tobago, currently based in Buenos Aires, Rebecca Brooker’s personal experiences around identity, community and belonging have come to inspire much of the design work she does today. As the owner of her own creative practice, Planthouse Studio and the founder and president of Queer Design Club, Rebecca embodies the importance of building inclusive communities, where everyone has the opportunity to authentically share, grow and learn.
Rebecca founded Queer Design Club (QDC) after leaving college, unable to find a community for LGBTQ+ identifying designers – “there were some general tech Slacks for queer identifying people, but nothing for designers specifically.” What started in 2019 as a small social community on Slack for LGBTQ+ designers, makers and creators, has now grown into a full-fledged organization. With 2000+ members from over 30 countries and a wide variety of design disciplines, QDC is a community-led collective that helps its members grow their personal and professional development, secure new opportunities and build connection with other queer identifying people and allies within the industry.
“As a community, we recognize the inequalities and challenges that LGBTQ+ people are facing, and we want to work towards a more equitable future within design.”
The organization is “primarily focused on giving a spotlight to queer designers”, and making space for individuals to talk about whatever they need to, without judgment or fear. The community is distributed over several online platforms – including more public channels focused on representation (Instagram, Twitter, and an online directory) and more private communities (Slack) focused more on internal growth and support.
A key initiative of the organization is the Queer Design Count, which is the first and only survey of LGBTQ+ persons in design. Launched in 2019, the goal of the survey is to foster a deeper understanding of the queer experience in design and broaden the conversations around diversity and inclusion. One of the key learnings from this initiative was that diversity in design has primarily been focused on race and gender, ignoring the intersectional and multi-dimensional nature of so many individuals. “We saw that the further someone identified from cis and white, the more likely they were to be unhappy, making less money, and more likely to work in freelance positions than their counterparts.”
Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, QDC saw a huge uptake in designers that were looking to join for the first time. “The pandemic definitely has changed the way people see the need for the community. Overnight, the entire world has become more accessible to us and we have collectively understood the importance of looking out for one another.”
Design, and creative industries generally, have always played a large role in advocating for the queer community and this has really been the driving force of QDC’s own mission. “Throughout history, we’ve seen the way that design has helped to build a visual language around the LGBTQ+ movement, and create a jargon that feels uniquely queer and exclusive to our experience.” But, as Rebecca notes, “we have a lot of work to do in continuing to support queer trans people of colour within the LGBTQ+ community, and doubly so within the design community.”
Progress towards a more diverse industry starts “with creating spaces and opportunities to elevate queer and trans people of colour, allowing them to be themselves without hesitation. For Rebecca, and many others, designers can be allies in this process by:
- Being really present when talking to others. “It’s easy for us to assume someone’s gender or sexuality based on their name or appearance, but until you make the space for them to present themselves the way they perceive themselves, then you’re not going to be truly making space for their existence.”
- Stepping outside of their own experiences. “Being able to empathize and understand other people’s lived experiences even if they are not your own, is an essential part of being able to make someone feel seen and heard.”
- Understanding that marginalized individuals don’t need help – they just need the spotlight. “One of the common misconceptions of why queer, trans and people of colour are underrepresented is because they don’t have enough experience or need mentoring from those above them. They don’t – they just need the space on the stage to shine.”
As the industry as a whole continues to reckon with issues around representation and diversity, Rebecca notes that perhaps true diversity in design should be understood as the moment when the impulse or need to label it ceases. The moment when it just feels like “a seamless collaboration between a myriad of humans, all sharing various experiences, perspectives and bringing a unique lens of life to the table.”
Interested in learning more about Queer Design Club? Want to participate in this year’s Queer Design Count? Visit their website at https://queerdesign.club/ and follow them on Instagram and Twitter @queerdesignclub.