‘EAT’ COO Gabriel Seibel Discusses LGBTQ+ Representation in Design

Gabriel Seibel manages global design studio EAT’s operations based in Paris and LA. Since the beginning of his tenure as Partner, COO, and Head of Production, Gabriel has successfully executed 400+ projects for internationally renowned brands, overseeing everything from development through production. Together with EAT’s Founder and CEO, he has expanded the team to the US, Brazil, France, Germany, and Portugal while cultivating a brilliant company culture in which creativity thrives. He is also a TEDx speaker and teaches Marketing at IESEG School of Management in Paris.

EAT’s newly launched website can be found here: https://eat.studio/

We sat down with Gabriel to do a deep dive into what led him on his path as well as his thoughts on LGBTQ+ representation in design.

What are your initial thoughts on LGBTQ+ representation in the design space? Do you see a welcome space for the community within the design world? Why or why not?

I’m happy to say that for me, as it pertains to my personal identity, the entire advertising and design world have always been very welcoming and open. Luckily, I have never experienced any pushback from the design industry for being the person that I am. On the opposite, when I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer just like my grandfather. While that dream was nice, I soon realized that the world that I was entering wasn’t really for me – there wasn’t a lot of representation for gay people in the 90’s so I had to be creative with where I looked for work.

The design and advertising worlds happened upon me very naturally. When I was 18/19 years old, I met a bunch of guys who were like me and around my age; they were studying design at universities and that experience with them opened me up emotionally because I was able to project myself onto them and tell myself that if they’re able to be happy and be accepted for who they are, then maybe this is was right world for me too. 

The initial reason I chose to pursue advertising and design is because I was drawn to the creative aspect of it from an early age. But also, while growing up, my identity was larger than anything that I could try to mute and it was very important for me to be able to stand up and live in peace with who I am and the type of things I like to do. I wanted to be a part of a space that would be welcoming and where my personal identity wouldn’t be a problem. So I see a lot of welcomeness in the design world, to the point where my identity isn’t even a conscious thing for me anymore. I am there, I am myself and I am able to go beyond this element of my personality which is more than being LGBTQ+. I am able to embrace my craft and profession as a whole while being surrounded by a diverse group of people and it is so cool. I feel very fortunate for this.

How do you feel your personal identity merges with your professional identity? Do you feel as though they complement one another or do you prefer to keep them separate?

The boundary that separates them both is very thin. It’s very complimentary. Personally, I am a lot of what I do – from the way I dress up to the references I consume, the museums I go to and the places I travel. All of these things are inspirations I draw from and filter it into everything I do professionally. Luckily, I am able to be myself at work. I choose to treat our coworkers and clients in the most sincere and honest way while maintaining full professionalism. My personal identity is completely merged with my professional identity and that’s a great thing. There are a lot of work environments that don’t allow for that merge to happen and I’m not saying that the way we do things at EAT is necessarily better or worse. But when we created EAT, we structured the way we work to make sure that all employees are able to create a meaningful life. We of course have personal and professional lives that we also choose to keep separate and it’s important that it’s kept that way. But when it comes to my identity as a whole, I am a lot of what I do for work but also outside of work. It’s a really nice mix of both.

Are there any LGBTQ+ designers who inspire you? If so, who? And if not, who are you looking to for inspiration?

I’m always looking for inspiration from a variety of designers and poets. But them being LGBTQ+ is not something I necessarily look for. I focus on the works that they create and the power that those works have. We follow this method of inspiration a lot when working with other design studios. How meaningful their work is, is what matters most. I personally don’t know a lot of designers that purposefully align their LGBTQ+ identity with their work and for me, a designer’s sexual identity doesn’t necessarily weigh into the way that I consume design as a whole.

Congratulations on your rebrand! What inspired this and how do you hope the rebrand is perceived by others?

The rebrand is an important moment for us because it represents a new level of transparency, calm, focus and reconstruction. The company has been around for twelve years and I’ve been a part of it for 11. I’ve been with EAT since I was 19 years old and so much has changed. It’s been so long! From a personal standpoint, I know that I’ve evolved. I’ve changed the way that I work and I’ve changed the way that I perceive work. I changed the people that I work with and work for. 

And the evolution that EAT as a whole has experienced is tremendous! Our perception and overall philosophy of the world has changed and so has our structure and the products that we offer. It’s been almost two years that the company has been living behind a new face, which is why it was time to launch the rebrand. My business partner Renata and I have been seeing our work through new lenses. What has stayed consistent is our priority to live inspired and to work where we want to while keeping it fun and light. But we’ve also adopted a new perspective of calm and patience as well as a keen focus on what really matters. We’ve created a structure that is good for everyone but doesn’t require people to work a crazy 10-12 hours and rather, 6-7 hours while making sure to take time to themselves. 

We have a variety of hobbies outside of work – Renata is a new meditation teacher and I’m a wellness coach and branding professor at the University by me. This new moment represents this calmness, maturity and overall evolution of the company. We also bring a new look and feel that is an all white aesthetic. It’s like a clean slate. We introduce a new portfolio with over 20+ projects. We share more of our story through a new presentation. And you see our website’s penguin that used to be black and is now all white to match our new chapter. We are presenting ourselves as an established, grown up company and we’re excited to share this with the world!

Have you ever experienced challenges in the design space because of your identity? And if so, are you comfortable sharing a challenge that might help someone else in your position?

I’ve encountered challenges but not necessarily because of the design space. Rather, because of my own development and how I grew into my own identity. When I was younger, I was already coordinating and managing a bunch of people. And the people I worked with were older men that I would be needing to give creative direction to. I was negotiating their budgets and coordinating schedules. I was terrified because I was so afraid that they would judge me due to me being younger and gay. Or that my feminine side could be seen as a weakness. So back in the day, this is something I had to deal with on a personal level that caused me to repress who I am. But now I realize that had I just been who I was, people might have been more likely to connect with my vulnerability and ultimately, with who I am. I wish I had been more confident in knowing that I could be kind when it made sense to be kind and tough when it made sense to be tough and my coworkers still would have taken me seriously. So it’s not a challenge that the design world brought to me but rather my own evolution and how I saw myself growing up as a professional.

What would be your advice to young, aspiring, LGBTQ+ designers?

I have two pieces of advice. For young designers, I would advise focusing on developing a solid body of work. Also, focus on always being on time and organizing your information. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to develop a good work ethic and a nice work etiquette. In the beginning, showing up and being on time is the best way you’re going to learn. And absorb as much info as you can! Consume a lot of references and movies but most importantly, travel if you can! Ultimately, your combination of life experiences will provide the inspiration that you will apply to whatever you create. Be hungry for information and culture because this will dictate the work that you choose to develop.

For LGBTQ+ designers, I would advise the advice that I wish was given to me. If I could talk to the 18 year old version of me, I’d tell myself that there’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are. There’s no need to try to speak in a different way, act tougher or be anyone but yourself. You are valuable for everything that you know and everything that you will learn. If you act with kindness toward yourself, that kindness will be received by other people and they will respect you for it. Don’t try to hide behind a persona, character or a fake idea of yourself. It’s just a lot of suffering and you end up losing so much time during your process of understanding your identity and getting yourself to the point where you’re comfortable with who you are.

Learn more about Gabriel by visiting him on Instagram here.