Elevating Design Voices: Taralyn Carver RGD
As we expand our Elevating Design Voices series, 2SLGBTQIA+ Members share their work, experiences and insight on building an inclusive and diverse design community. Up next, Taralyn Carver RGD, Creative Director and Partner at Jane Doe Studio.
With almost two decades of experience in branding, strategy and design, Taralyn has overseen creative campaigns across multiple sectors including automotive, retail, tech, education, cannabis, food+drink and publishing. She is equally comfortable creating fresh brands for young start-ups as she is taking on established companies with complex operational needs. She identifies as bisexual.
While some social progress has been made in regards to the representation and inclusion of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we still have a long way to go. What role does design play in creating a more inclusive world?
While living in downtown Toronto, my access to queer spaces felt limitless. My proximity to The Village, queer-friendly establishments and week-long pride celebrations that would take over streets was my big gay dream come to life. To witness people "loving out loud," letting their authentic selves shine, cloaked in rainbows (or leather) and love and inviting the world to share in it—this was utopia.
Moving out of downtown, building a family and a global pandemic later, access to these spaces has never felt further away. Yet, feeling the need for connection to the community has never felt more important. Not only for my own need to feel connected, but for my kids to be able to witness the beauty which lives in diversity and inclusion.
For me, design has created an inclusive and accessible entryway into a global queer space—one that is colourful, safe and beautiful. One that can live in the palm of my hand, which I can access whenever I'm in need. One that prevails strong and determined, beautiful in its vibrant colour palettes, even when the world feels like it's crumbling.
I am here for the perfectly typeset messages of inclusivity from designers such as Jason Naylor and Adam J. Kurtz. "You are not alone"— a reminder from Jason to me, spray-painted on the side of a building in Brooklyn. "Gay and Boring" states my pink triangle pin, an inside joke between Adam and me.
I am utterly obsessed with the depictions of queer fantasy through design by the celestial world created and shared by Robin Eisenberg. And the equally fun, flirty and bold design world of modern-day pin-up girls through the beautiful vision of Jini + Tonic reminds me to "love my queer self." This is my queer design community, hard at work. They're here, they're queer and their art is really, really good. They send me messages of love and support and I hope they know how needed this service is.
Queer design has made my community not so distant — but instead in my home and visible to my children, thanks to social media and printed pieces. Exposing my kids to the queer experience through colourful designs, playful characters and encouraging messages is a gift from the community to me. It's their love letter. This form of visibility is something that didn't exist to me, growing up in the suburbs in the nineties. But now, this next generation of children will grow up exposed to the beauty of inclusivity through the world of design. These safe online spaces where designers are free to share and express through art and design is a gift that needs to be protected and honoured.
What are the steps an organization should take to build an 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusive workplace?
I have worked for corporations who believe that paying big bucks for large floats in pride parades is enough. It is not. Organizations need to create space for employees to safely share how they identify if they so choose. Don't make assumptions when it comes to identity. I suggest getting to know your employee's preferences at the on-boarding stage. If asking about identity on general intake, don't limit your employee forms to male or female— gender is not binary. This small detail signals to me that you're not a queer-friendly organization. Leave room to ask about how your new hire or client identifies and the pronouns they prefer (whether they choose to share or not). The consumer-facing actions you take to consider your company an ally (pride floats, rainbow logos, 10% off on pride week...) is one thing, but genuinely creating safeguards and supports internally will make a genuine impact. It has been shown that organizations that foster a safe and supportive environment for 2SLGBTQIA+ perform better and attract hire-quality talent (hbr.org/2016/02/lgbt-inclusive-companies-are-better-at-3-big-things).
I find the RGD does an excellent job of allowing Members to self-identify if that's something they're comfortable sharing with the larger Membership. They give Members space to share how they identify, choose and open up opportunities within those chosen spaces to have a voice (like contributing this article!). More than a rainbow logo on your website for a month of the year, these smaller, personal moments signal to me that you are a queer-caring organization.
Like many, I've included gender pronouns on my socials and on my company's website — as a symbol that I am open to and respect who you are and how you identify. This is an easy way that organizations can raise the flag that they offer a respectful and supportive environment.
Finally, please diversify that boardroom for the love of all — we want to see women, People of Colour and queer representation, pleaseandthankyou.
A message you'd like to share with the next generation of designers.
In the words of the iconic Alanis Morissette: FEEL FREE!!!
Design plays a beautiful and pivotal role in making this world more inclusive. I am inspired by how you identify and how you choose to express yourself. There are communities and spaces for you to experiment, live and breathe. The 2SLGBTQIA+ community has come so far and it's only going to continue to shine and grow — and the more voices (and pixels) there are amplifying the message that gay is ok (more than ok..beautiful, desired, safe, excellent…), the further we'll go. Continue sharing your expression through art and design — I'm here for it.