Wafflings on graphic design and the queer community
This kind of counts as doing my essay, right? Even though I probably won’t mention any of this stuff, much as I’d like to?
After the cut I ramble for about 800 words about my design politics and how they intersect with my queer politics. It is probably boring and makes no sense to anyone else but I had to get this stuff out. I really need some queer designers to talk to and thrash out some viewpoints. ¬¬
This is a great read and I wanted to respond to it.
To the author, jamesalexander, I would say - I think your heart, politics and consciousness are all right on, and I’ve shared a lot of your concerns. I don’t think they should keep your from helping people.
Design is communication. As designers, we have the power to facilitate communication. As politically conscious people, we want to help others. A lot of people who need help don’t know how to design - sometimes this is a community aesthetic that is celebrated and should perhaps be protected (think punk zines, graffiti, art pieces), but sometimes it’s JUST BAD DESIGN.
Marginalized communities need effective communication to get the word out to others in the community, to draw the curious in, and to make an impression on everyone else.
Effective design means people will see your flyer, poster, billboard or article title and stop to read it. I feel like this part is morally unambiguous - if you’re an ally who wants to help, I don’t think anyone’s going to turn you down.
If effective design gets people to stop and read, outstanding design will get them to think (or will impact them subconsciously). Communities may not be aware of it, but I believe if they want more supporters, they need to care about their “brand”.
This is a good place to step carefully, but I do NOT believe that you need to be a part of the community to help “brand” them. I do think your help should be wanted, and that you do your best to talk to the community - but your level of sensitivity to issues like style, language, and appropriation make you a PERFECT candidate.
You are a unicorn - a rare thing to people who would benefit from effective design.
I won’t go deep into what constitutes effective design in terms of “rebranding” a community. The trans magazine example you gave was fascinating. I will say that I think there are many possible ways to “brand” a marginalized community, and I think as the intention is good and the work done consciously, we should try them all.
Turning marginalization into exclusivity, I think, is quite brilliant, and will probably work on a lot of people. But transpeople also need “branding” that shows them as painfully boring, or as genuine and loving (as opposed to sexy and rich as the magazine may be representing them).
Seattle’s The Stranger recently had an article called “Anarchy is Boring”, which I thought was brilliant and highly effective. I don’t even think it was written by an anarchist, which actually can be a BOON to the branding of a culture. When a respected Republican supports the trans community for example, that gives the idea more cred with some people, even unconsciously.
So. If you want to help, bring your rare sensitivity and OFFER! Don’t hold back out of a fear of being an “outsider”. Everyone needs allies. Everyone needs effective design.