NORTHRIDGE —When U.S. Bank put out the call to artists to submit designs in a contest for the bank’s first LGBT-themed debit card, Joseph Escobar got to work.
Escobar, a 26-year-old graphic designer living in Northridge, created a rainbow-striped depiction of diverse people that was inspired by a dark chapter in his life — his family rejecting him when they found out he’s gay.
Escobar, who was among 400 artists nationwide who sent in designs for the U.S. Bank contest, was one of the three finalists and won third place, a $2,500 prize, U.S. Bank announced Monday.
For 10 consecutive years, U.S. Bank has been listed as a “best place to work for LGBT Equality” by The Human Rights Campaign.
The design contest started in December and ended January 31. Public voting among the three finalists ended February 28.
The winning artist, Olivia Ogba, 23, of Atlanta, created her design after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that same-sex marriage was legal nationwide. The photograph with painting effects is purposefully patriotic, featuring rainbow colors shooting from sparklers on the 4th of July. Her design received more than 3,600 votes, U.S. Bank says.
Ogba’s art will become one of U.S. Bank’s 10 permanent card designs, and she will receive $7,500 for her winning artwork. Customers can choose Ogba’s debit card art beginning May 15.
Nancy Faulhaber of Lakewood, Ohio, outside Cleveland, will receive $5,000 for second place for her design, heart-shaped hands holding a rainbow.
After hearing about the winners, Q Voice News contacted Escobar by email and asked him a few questions about the contest and his design.
Here are some excerpts.
On entering the contest:
“This is an important moment in our history to ensure that every community that feels they have been marginalized will have their voices heard,” Escobar says. “The fight for LGBT protection and rights around the world is an ongoing one, so we have to take every opportunity when it is presented to us. As a graphic designer, my art is my sincerest form of expression and a way to allow people to look into my life. I wanted to create a piece that would use my art to start a conversation.”
On his design:
“I wanted to show the LGBT community through my own experience,” Escobar says. “I believe our culture is founded on love. It doesn’t matter what religion, age, race, ethnicity, or gender you identify with. You will find acceptance in our community.
“Like the rainbow flag that represents us, we are one community that comes in many different colors. We have subcultures and intersectionalities whose needs must be addressed, and we have to stay united in order to move forward,” he says. “I wanted my design to show that inclusivity and acceptance of diversity that I see in us, and, as a designer, a lot of thought goes into the piece you are creating.
“The characters were illustrated without most of their facial features to remove any notion of judgement within the community. They were placed in front of the colored stripes as a way to define the different shades of rainbow represented in the community,” Escobar says. “The characters also only have mouth features to symbolize that their ‘voices’ will be heard, despite cultural differences.”
On being homeless after his family discovered he is gay:
“In 2013, my mother found out that I was dating my current boyfriend. Coincidentally, this was the same week Prop. 8 was overturned, and I was getting ready to leave for San Francisco’s pride weekend with him,” Escobar says. “As I finished packing my bags, I was told that if I left the house to go to San Francisco, I was no longer welcome when I came back. This trip was booked and planned months in advance, so instead of canceling, I finished packing and left.
“When I got back from my trip, I went into my room, which my older brother and I shared, and my bed was gone. My brother’s bed was still on his side of the room, but mine had been dismantled and removed,” Escobar says. “It was an informal invitation to leave the house, and I immediately knew my mother had come through on her warning. I had nowhere else to go, I slept on the floor to the point where it started affecting my sleep, and I had no choice but to leave the house.”
On figuring his next step:
“With my belongings in my trunk, I started couch surfing with the help of my friends and my boyfriend as I tried to figure out my living and financial situations,” Escobar remembers. “Later during the summer, my boyfriend’s family had planned a two-week vacation, and they allowed me to house sit while they were gone. During those two weeks, I spent a lot of time collecting my thoughts and trying to map out my living situation. Fortunately, by the time they came back, I was able to find a room for rent. Even though I finally had a room to call my own, I still faced a lot of financial troubles,” he says.
On making college a priority:
“For the next couple of years, there were a few times that I considered dropping out of school to work full time to be able to financially sustain myself, but I knew I had to find a way to make finishing school my priority. I was almost finished with the graphics design program at California State University, Northridge, so I took out two college loans and committed to finishing school with that money.
Last May I graduated with my bachelors of arts degree with a focus in graphic design.”