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Pride & Design

Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Designers

June is Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQIA+ community comes together (whether it’s virtually or in person) to celebrate identity and community.

“Progress” Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar

By Sara Magalio

Here at Design Museum, we want to share the work and stories of LGBTQIA+ individuals and organizations who are impacting the world of design. While this list only highlights a few LGBTQIA+ designers, we hope to introduce you to these designers to follow as they continue to change design for the better.

Arts & Apparel

Kirrin Finch, Laura Moffet and Kelly Sanders Moffat

Kirrin Finch is an inclusive clothing company founded by Brooklyn-based couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat. The company creates “menswear-inspired” apparel designed to fit a range of body types. Laura and Kelly created Kirrin Finch after years of frustration at being unable to find clothes that match their personal style and fit their silhouettes the way they wanted. “As women who tend to gravitate towards button-up shirts and bow ties, we often find ourselves envying the clothes in the men’s section, but are always frustrated because they are not designed to fit a woman’s body,” the Moffats note on their website.

Kelly and Laura did not come from a conventional background for running a fashion brand, Kelly was a teacher in the NYC public school system and Laura has a Neuroscience Ph.D and is a former marketing consultant. “We are no longer willing to settle for ill-fitting menswear or overly frilly womenswear,” Kelly and Laura note. “So, we decided to join the movement that rejects traditional stereotypes and gives people the freedom to be their true selves.”

Community

MOTHA, Chris E. Vargas

Chris E. Vargas is a video maker and interdisciplinary artist based in Bellingham, WA. Chris is the executive director of MOTHA, the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art, an institution highlighting the contributions of trans art to the cultural and political landscape. MOTHA asks audiences to think critically about the visual history of transgender life, and how to compile a comprehensive history of an identity category for which the language is still new and rapidly evolving. MOTHA uses exhibitions, poster graphics, performances, and a virtual artist residency program all to further their mission.

Chris’s art “deploys humor and performance in conjunction with mainstream idioms to explore the complex ways that queer and trans people negotiate spaces for themselves within historical & institutional memory and popular culture,” according to his website. In 2011, Chris graduated with an MFA in the department of Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley. From 2008-2013, he worked on a web-based, trans/cisgender sitcom titled Falling In Love…with Chris and Greg. The series has screened at numerous film festivals and art venues, including MIX NYC, SF Camerawork, and the Tate Modern. Chris also co-directed the movie Homotopia (2006) and its feature-length sequel Criminal Queers (2015) which have been screened at Palais de Tokyo, LACE, Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, and the New Museum.

Graphics

The Mixx, Robyn Streisand

The Mixx is a NYC-based, boutique marketing agency that combines actionable strategy and creativity to identify and solve problems with tailored solutions. The company provides their clients “with a strategic playbook that ensures they surpass their goals, engage target audiences, and propel them to the next level,” according to their website. As a woman- and LGBTQ-owned and operated agency, The Mixx brings brands a unique perspective to their marketing strategies. Their clients include H&M, Mercedes-Benz, and Stella Rising

Robyn Streisand, founder of The Mixx, educates brands, agencies, and entrepreneurs on the benefits of working with diverse-owned companies. Robyn started The Mixx from her apartment, and almost 24 years later, The Mixx is now a thriving agency that offers a wide array of services across various industries. In 2014, she launched her next venture, Titanium Worldwide, a collective of certified-diverse agencies in the media, marketing and communications space.

Objects

BLK MKT Vintage, Jannah Handy and Kiyanna Stewart

BLK MKT Vintage is a Brooklyn-based company that curates Black collectibles and curiosities that represent the richness of Black history and lived experience. Founders Jannah Handy and Kiyanna Stewart, are the Black, queer, women-identifying entrepreneurs that curate each item of the collection, including found items like vintage literature, vinyl records, clothing, art, housewares/decor, furniture, and other goods. Jannah and Kiyanna note on their website that, “By centering black cultural artifacts via thoughtful curation and varying modes of accessibility, we’re communicating very explicitly to black folks that ‘not only do we see you, but we love you as well. You’re worthy. What you’ve created is worthy. You are important here.’” BLK MKT Vintage can be found at their shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and on their e-commerce shop. Select items are stocked at the Brooklyn Museum, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Ethel’s Club

“One of the decisions queer folks have historically had to consider is the extent, to which, they live their lives ‘out loud,’” Jannah and Kiyanna told HuffPost. “We’ve chosen and continue to choose to be at the forefront of this work as partners in love, life and vintage. Our business is built on a network of POC, queer-identified makers, creatives and entrepreneurs fostered through community-centered partnerships and collaborations.”

Media & Technology

Jesse Ayala

Jesse (Jesus) Ayala is a visual and immersive storyteller at Fovrth Studios, a media company specializing in non-fiction, impactful content. Originally from Madison Wisconsin, Jesse is a first-generation college-graduate and Chancellor’s Scholar of the University of Wisconsin, which he graduated from in 2010; Jesse also studied at the American University in Cairo. 

Jesse is a OutInTech Digital Corps member, providing web services to LGBTQ activists globally. His work has screened at film festivals around the world including the American Film Institute Docs, Cannes Film Festival NEXT, Tribeca Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, Sheffield DocFest, SCAD Future Fest, and more. Jesse’s 2018, award-winning virtual reality series “Authentically Us: Stories from the Transgender Community” is the first documentary series from Oculus to place transgender people at the center of the experience. 

Jesse’s fieldwork includes working for the Clinton Global Initiative with HIV/AIDS interventions, for the United Nations in crisis zones in Gaza and Lebanon, for Al Jazeera as an independent photojournalist during the Arab Spring, and with Teach for America as an educator in urban-low income New Orleans. Jesse has earned honors from NBC News, Microsoft, InStyle, and The Huffington Post for his work in sustainable fashion. 

Spatial

Rafa Esparza

Rafa Esparza is a Los Angeles-based, multidisciplinary artist. Rafa uses “site-specificity, materiality, memory, and what he calls (non)documentation to investigate and expose ideologies, power structures, and binary forms of identity that establish narratives, history, and social environments,” according to his bio. Recently, Rafa has created art using the skill of adobe brick-making, which he learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. He is especially committed to working in the local geographies of Latin America.

Esparza is a recipient of an Emerging Artist 2014 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts, a 2014 Art Matters grantee, and a 2015 recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. He has performed in a variety of spaces throughout Los Angeles, including Elysian Park, the Los Angeles River, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Highways Performance Space, REDCAT, Human Resources, Vincent Price Art Museum, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Esparza has also been featured in art institutions throughout the U.S. including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Ballroom Marfa, and internationally at Oficina de Procesos, Mexicali, and El Museo del Chopo in CDMX.

Systems & Strategy

Made by Day, Naomi Day

Naomi Day is a web designer who has worked across numerous industries, with clients in the race and equity space, nonprofits working on reproductive justice, civic leaders, and community builders. Naomi has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and works as a front-end developer in the tech industry. Naomi has worked for such formidable companies as Google and Microsoft, among others. Naomi is now a full-time freelance web designer, and runs the web design and development company, Made by Day. 

Naomi also writes short futurist fiction from an Afro-centric perspective, and her work has been featured by The Seventh Wave, a 501(c)(3) arts and literary nonprofit that invites writers, artists, activists, and creators to become involved in conversations surrounding pressing social issues.