LGBTQIA+ Designers at HKS Bring Pride to Their Work
HKS’ mission to build a better future isn’t limited to our design practice — that goal drives everything we do. Our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives allow us to look inward and effect meaningful change that makes our firm a better place to work. These initiatives include the daily celebration and inclusion of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues through the firm’s Pride Affinity and Inclusion Group and participation in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index.
HKS constantly strives to create space for, and amplify the voices of, our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, but Pride Month is a chance to honor them further. To celebrate Pride Month, three of our colleagues — Dennis Dine, Gaby Espinosa and Pablo Morales Contreras — share how their identities within the LGBTQIA+ community make them better designers.
Dennis Dine, he/him
Architecture Design Professional, Health Care
Years in the industry: 6
Years at HKS: 2
Since joining HKS two years ago as a health care designer, I have worked alongside a diverse, dynamic team comprised of varying intersectional identities. Together, we seek to create environments that heal and uplift by using a people-first design approach. User engagement is central to any responsive design solution and our varying identities and experiences give our team a comprehensive perspective to ask the right questions. My own identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community — along with our ongoing research on gender-affirming design — provides me with a lens to think critically about gendered spaces and psychological and physical safety. This lens, when compounded with those of my teammates, results in more empathetic and inclusive solutions.
At HKS, my identity within the LGBTQIA+ community is viewed as an asset, not a liability. Our clients are demanding a built environment that reflects the communities they serve, and HKS recognizes that responsiveness does not emerge from homogeneity. It is not enough to merely hire and bring diverse voices to the table. Rather, we must ensure diverse voices are amplified to fully leverage the benefits they offer to our work.
Pride Month provides us all with an opportunity to both celebrate progress and recognize the work we have cut out for us. The opportunities I have today are the result of those before me who fought tooth-and-nail for them. It is now my turn to lead with influence to push the needle further.
Gaby Espinosa, she/her
Designer, Senior Living
Years in the industry: 8
Years at HKS: 2.5
Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community encourages me to be a better designer by fostering an understanding of and appreciation for the needs of diverse communities. It has opened my eyes to the importance of inclusivity and the role of design in creating spaces that not only embrace diversity but celebrate it. Whether it’s incorporating accessible features, respecting cultural traditions or accommodating different lifestyles, I want to design environments that make everyone feel like they belong. By designing spaces that take into consideration the uniqueness of people, we can empower individuals to freely be who they are.
Being a lesbian has cultivated my strong sense of empathy and curiosity about people’s different perspectives. This has allowed me to connect with clients and the people we design for on a deeper level. By creating an open environment with honest dialogue, I can collaborate in an effective way, which results in unique designs that reflect the identity of the communities they belong to. Celebrating diversity and incorporating elements that reflect people’s cultures and identities results in designs that make people feel at home.
My identity encourages me to think outside the box and challenge the norm, especially when designing for the future of senior living. The LGBTQIA+ community has a history of progress and pushing boundaries that inspires me to approach design challenges with fresh eyes and seek unconventional solutions. By embracing different perspectives, cultures and ideas, I want to create designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also challenge what we traditionally think of when we think of senior living design. Design should foster inclusivity and result in spaces that encourage exchanges between different generations, cultures and identities.
Pablo Morales Contreras, he/him
HKS Mexico City
Years in the industry: 6.5
Years at HKS: 1.5
I believe creativity comes from viewing the world from a different perspective. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we tend to see the world differently, moving away from the way things have always been done to what should be done instead. What is innovation if not a twist or an introduction of a new thing to an established arrangement?
From an early age, every queer person comes to terms with their identity, realizing that we aren’t like most people. This process of self-discovery is what makes us more creative. We get to create our own playbook, and because of that, we see the world as a creative place. We explore how we can make something more beautiful or more inclusive.
As a designer, my identity has been influential in the way I think about design and how I approach each project. My background, experiences, values and beliefs all play a role in how I interpret a design brief and choose the best solution for it. I believe there’s power in bringing a diverse point of view, a different way of doing things or a different world view. From the vibrant colors of the Pride flag to the powerful messages of self-love and acceptance, I strive to bring these elements into my designs to create something that is both visually stunning and meaningful.
Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community has been a great source of inspiration and motivation for me as a designer. Being exposed to different perspectives, cultures and ways of thinking has helped me develop my creative skills and become more open-minded when it comes to design.
It also has made me more aware of the importance of representation in design. I strive to create designs that are inclusive and representative of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This helps me create designs that are not only visually appealing but also meaningful and impactful.