Helly Blyth

June 2024

Design and the queer community

Throughout history, design has played a crucial role in pushing LGBTQIA+ agendas and bringing the stories of underserved communities to the surface.

Following the Stonewall riots in 1969, campaign groups had very little resources and so black and white campaign language was used alongside simple handmade illustrations to encourage action and make bold statements. For example, in the 1990s, the OutRage! campaign group used black and white posters to mock popular news headlines that shunned gay people.

© OutRage! 1990-2010 by Steve Mayes.

Design has always played an important role within activism for the LGBTQIA+ community. It has been bold and controversial (out of necessity), in particular the use of the pink triangle in Campaigns against Section 28. This triangle was a symbol worn by queer detainees in Nazi prison camps and was reclaimed during the Aids pandemic through the campaign “Silence = death”.

© OutRage! 1990-2010 by Steve Mayes.

The emergence of the rainbow flag in later years contrasts the monochromatic earlier depictions of queer design. It demonstrates the diversity within the queer community and is now globally known as the pride flag - a universal symbol of belonging and community pride.

Today, the ties between the historical use of graphic design within the queer community still hold strong as we experience modern campaigns nodding to the bold graphic history of LGBTQAI+ campaigns, like Stonewall’s ‘Some people are gay, get over it!’ campaign.

Stonewall Campaign

Additionally, the rainbow flag is used universally as a symbol of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, this flag has evolved over the years to represent the ever-changing spectrum of diversity. No doubt, it will continue to evolve.

Graphic design has always been important for the queer community but as time has moved, the queer community has become extremely important for the graphic design industry and creative world at large - here’s why. 

Inclusion feeds into every facet of life, including the workplace. Cultivating a respectful and diverse working environment which is accessible to all will retain and educate the current team. Fostering this level of inclusion and belonging would also attract the best creative minds. It will create a workforce of out-the-box thinkers with new perspectives, different world-experiences, and new ways of doing things. 

Additionally, there is a growing LGBTQ+ consumer market who are now more affluent. The LGBTQIA+ population is expected to reach 1 billion by 2050 according to Forbes. In an increasingly gay world, it is important for companies and brands to keep up, to reach all consumers and hiring individuals with a variety of lived experiences from different backgrounds is the key to this. Just as graphic design helped push forward the queer community, queer representation in design and other creative industries can help elevate brands and companies.

Some resources for how you can make your workplace a more LGBTQIA+ safe environment and attract queer talent, continue the production of queer design and reflect the importance in your work.


Imagery credits:

© OutRage! 1990-2010 by Steve Mayes.
Stonewall Campaign