When and why did you decide to cofound the Queer Design Club (QDC) with designer John Hanawalt? We started QDC back in June 2019. John had made a Twitter account for LGBTQ+ designers, with the intentions of retweeting their work and highlighting them. I messaged him instantly and shared a deck of ideas for the community that I had put together. At the time, there weren’t any design communities for LGBTQ+ people. So, we began working together, eventually creating our own online directory and Slack community, and building a larger network of queer designers around the world. We promoted it via Twitter and Instagram, and eventually got a steady number of members and interest.
What feedback have you received from companies or hiring managers? The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve been able to form partnerships with companies to share job opportunities and resources within our community. There are a lot of companies that are actively seeking to connect with underrepresented communities, so they reach out to us knowing our reach. We are always open to chatting with companies about how they can improve their hiring practices and many have asked us to speak with their teams on what they could be doing to better support queer designers in the workplace.
What are the opportunities and demands of running this online community? QDC has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. It’s opened a lot of doors not only for me, but also for a lot of people in our community to get hired, paid and recognized. We’ve had opportunities to listen to each other’s experiences from around the world while facilitating organic and genuine conversations, both professional and personal. Being online gives us the flexibility to ignore geographical boundaries and cast our nets as wide as we can.
With a rapidly growing community, you’ve got to constantly be listening and iterating on it. We actively seek out ways to keep our members engaged and have a constant stream of opportunities for them to benefit from and to better themselves. It takes a lot of work to maintain the needs of more than 1,500 designers on a daily basis! Moreso, as we grow, we want to make sure we’re staying true to our community values and code of conduct.
What does community mean to you as a designer, and how has it inspired you? Building QDC over the last year has transformed the way I interact with my communities, even beyond design. It really is about a group of people who are interested in investing their time in something, or each other. Our community is a space that says, “Come as you are, as we all have.” QDC was born from a lack of community spaces for queer designers to meet each other, and now, as we build this support system, we see the impact we’re having in people’s lives. It’s inspired me to continue doing and to make sure others have the resources to build their own communities.
What new skills did you have to learn when you started your own freelance design practice, Planthouse Studio? Pretty much everything! When you’re starting a small business, you are the small business. So you have to learn everything that it entails, like client interfacing, billing and invoice systems, accounting, marketing and advertising. There are many small parts to be accountable for that you take for granted when you work under someone else.
My partner and I have been running Planthouse Studio for a few years now, and at the beginning, we were iterating on our process and working out the kinks. We’ve had good projects and not-so-good projects, but every project has been a learning experience. One of the toughest parts about being on your own is editing yourself—you are both the designer and the creative director. I had to learn how to become my own critic in a way I hadn’t needed to before. The design community really came in handy by giving me a space with which to bounce my ideas off and show my work in progress.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your work, and what did you learn from it? A big mistake that I still make a lot is underselling myself and undervaluing my time. I often get so excited about new projects that I don’t take enough time to think them through and end up underselling my own value due to my desire to work on the project. Learning about time management and how to value my own skills and time have changed my approach to new projects. I’ve allowed myself to step back and understand how much time I need to dedicate to the creative process.
What is unique about the creative industry in Buenos Aires? I had no idea how talented the creative industry in Buenos Aires was before I moved here. Working at a digital agency has enabled me to see the extent of talent in the city’s creative industry and how everyone comes together to continuously innovate and reinvent themselves. The city itself is so vibrant and full of life that it is repurposed as everyone’s creative energy. Buenos Aires is a fast-growing design hub and has its own unique style ranging from the traditional Argentine hand lettering fileteado to contemporary street art.
Which designers do you admire? Lately I’ve been connecting with a lot of designers who are building their own communities, and I’ve been admiring the work they do in that space. Maurice Cherry is someone who I’m constantly inspired and influenced by, and the work he’s done to highlight designers of color in our industry through his podcast, Revision Path, has been fantastic. I also admire designers like Antionette Carroll, Debbie Millman and Vanessa Newman.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? “Be good” is a phrase I grew up with since my grandmother always said it to me. She meant to be good and don’t get into trouble, but I’ve taken that phrase with me through my entire life and applied it to various situations. “Be good” means being a good person, a good partner, a good designer, a good friend and a good teacher. I always want to make a positive impact, and these words represent that impact for me. I even have them tattooed on my arm in my grandmother’s handwriting.