Visual Design

Headlining Homophobia:
An Immigrant's Journey

"Shame is the main reason why homophobia starts and originates in my community. You cannot talk if you even suspect that you have a queer kid growing up. Even as a mother, you are trying to hide it, sugar coat it, to package it differently and close your eyes to reality."

In 2010, homosexuality was depicted as a "non-traditional danger that threatens the existence of a Georgian nation." In this large-scale graphic installation, I depict the censored, strangled, and closeted emotions of Georgian immigrant, David Paul Kay.

Understanding an experience comes from going through an experience. The lives of Georgian LGBTQ allies are a long step away from home, but they and I are fighting the same fights.

Discovering Emotions in Context

With the development of David’s story, I realized that I wanted to use the real estate of the poster to immerse viewers in the context, environment, and atmosphere of his heavily-homophobic country of origin.

This required collecting a contextual statistic as well as opposing, homophobic viewpoints given by reporters, news outlets, religious press, and the general public in order to provide a complete story. Without any of these elements in addition to David’s personal experience, a viewer would be left with only a recap.

Expressive usage of a large-scale medium required me to carefully break down conventions of typography—both grids and type alike were mutilated during the process, producing both the good and the ugly.

Locking Emotions in Context

These explorations eventually led to my final concept of utilizing black strips with large type printed on top to simulate both news headlines and the feeling of being duct-taped. These strips constrained David’s personal voice while making it more difficult for viewers to read what David has to say.

At the same time, I wanted to ensure that these decisions would translate into an experience that could be felt by not just queer viewers. During installation, one viewer commented that “there’s a lot being made hidden to me, and I don’t feel comfortable not being able to read what a struggling person has to say.”

Designers have the power to tell stories that are radically honest. In a time where the meaning of “identity” is far more than the eye can see, we have a stake in expressing the lives of the people we make for, including ourselves. At the end of it all, what matters is that we celebrate what it means to have an identity.