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Hue Design Summit: A Model for a Virtual Conference

Taking place in Atlanta, GA, the Hue Design Summit is an intimate conference in which Black designers share their professional work experience, discuss issues of visibility and equity, and create community. This year, the Guild signed on as a sponsor for Hue, and Guild At-Large Board member, Yanique DaCosta, agreed to do a talk on pricing and ethical considerations for graphic designers. Although the conference had to abruptly shift from an in-person to a virtual event, DaCosta reported that the event exceeded expectations.

True to the Summit’s mission, DaCosta’s breakout session covered the hard issues Black designers face, such as whether Black designers have to work harder to defend their pricing and command fair rates.

Portrait of Yanique DaCosta used for the Hue Design Summit program

Typically, Hue is an intense, small event with approximately 50-100 Black designers. Participants cook together, hang out together, engage in in-depth discussions, and participate in workshops over a period of three days. This year, COVID made that impossible. Unwilling to risk the health of attendees, the organizers had to reimagine the event as a virtual one with only four months to spare. They managed that by utilizing a complement of technologies to recreate the conference experience, including breakout sessions where attendees could chat on camera or via text streams with presenters, networking rooms so designers could hang out together, and even a killer music playlist that streamed during breaks and lunchtime.

The tone for the conference was set by the keynote presentation and interview with Cheryl D. Holmes Miller, a groundbreaking designer and researcher (and one of the few prominent Black women designers of the 1970s). Through her work for her Master’s degree, Miller explored the lack of recognition of Black designers, which formed the basis for her 1987 Print Magazine article, “Black Designers: Missing in Action.”

The conference agenda covered a range of topics in visual, user, and industrial design relevant to Black designers or presented from a Black designer’s perspective. DaCosta’s presentation, Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for Designers, was based on the Guild’s Pricing Game and Handbook. She started her presentation with a discussion on pricing and ethics: what mindset to use when approaching pricing, how to convey the value of what designers do, how to be transparent with clients on pricing, and how to influence the story the client will be telling themselves before they sign on.

That led to a short Pricing Game, which she limited to two branding projects: one for a large corporation and one for a small organization. That enabled the discussion to focus on pricing strategies and how those should be based on a variety of factors, including the scope of work, size, and client budget. True to the Summit’s mission, DaCosta’s breakout session covered hard topics, such as whether Black designers have to work harder to defend their pricing and command fair rates.

So how did Hue manage this year?  Did they lose anything in the move to virtual? According to DaCosta, no. Despite her concerns that the supportive atmosphere of the in-person event wouldn’t translate, online Hue conveyed the same “transparent, uplifting, information from a group of people wanting to help.”