Happy (101st) International Women’s Day!

In the spirit of Woman’s Day, we would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to all the amazing females in the design industry. Both those we have had the pleasure to work with, but also the ones we look to for further inspiration, reference and knowledge.

The list bellow mainly includes contemporary designers, who are from a variety of areas within the industry. This is to show the breadth of our profession, as well as the breadth of talent which is active today. The list is also a reflection of two observations I made from writing this blog post. The first being that many successful women seem to be involved in projects that more directly benefit the society. This is both in terms of clients (charities, public spaces, public institutes) as well as the nature of the projects (they are often educational/informative and social/interactive). The second observation is that there seem to be more females in art, photography, set-design, broadcasting and fashion, than in graphic design. Why this may be, I still haven’t made up my mind about.

So, I will begin with the all time favourite Paula Antonelli. A former architect, who is now the design curator at MOMA, that has made it her mission to both introduce and explain design to the world. She believes that everything is designed, one way or another, and has reminded us about the bigger picture with exhibitions such as ‘Safe’ and ‘Design and the Elastic Mind’.

Marina Willer, in turn, has showed the attainable breadth of an identity system with her work for Southbank Centre and Macmillan Cancer support. Once a leading creative director at Wolff Olins, she has now become the first female partner at Pentagram after Lisa Strausfeld left.

Strausfeld is one of the the best data visualization designers in the world and her rich portfolio includes the award-winning user interface for Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child computer. She is currently working on Major League Politics, an online startup with the goal of making government activity as engaging and addictive as sports.

Another woman who guides us through data is Susan Kare, who created many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s and has since then worked for numerous leading software companies. She believes that ‘good icons should be more like road signs than illustrations’.

The road and motorway signs in Britain was designed by Margret Calvert and Jock Kinneir in the late 1950s and early 60s. As one of the most ambitious information design projects executed in Britain, it has become a role model for modern road signage all over the world.

Morag Myerscough, who founded Studio Myerscough, also works with wayfinding. But her skill lies in integrating graphics to environments such as the Barbican Art Centre and LCC. Wayfinding for her is more than a series of signs, it is about bringing out the narrative in a built environment.

Narratives are equally valued at Experimental Jetset, where Marieke Stolk is one of the co-founders. They describe graphic design as ‘turning language into objects’ and believe that there should always be an inner logic. The Dutch trio has influenced far beyond their country through projects in the cultural, music, fashion and publishing sectors.

Another woman who has made a lot of projects for publishing (such as Penguin and the Guardian) is Marion Deuchars. Her distinct style stretches across illustration and handwriting. Last year she created the interactive book ‘Let’s Make Some Great Art’ to engage the readers in the topic and bring out their artistic sides.

Miranda July also encouraged the pubic to create through her project ‘Learning to love you more’. Photos, drawings and texts where submitted online as a response to her assignments. The result is as intimate and moving as her own work, including her film ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’.

Ruth Hogben does moving image as well, but that’s where the similarities to July ends. Ruth’s films goes against the soft and emotive character that so often is expected of female designers. Her films tend to be dramatic, graphic and dark. She started as an assistant to Nick Knight and has since then continued to collaborate with him as well as with other creatives such as Gareth Pugh.

My last tribute goes to Saga Sig, an icelandic photographer who has had images in Topshop 214, Dazed & Confused and Vice. Her work breaks against the norm, as in Ruth’s case, but by being colorful, experimental and confident. Which is like we all should be, working in an industry with so many amazing individuals.

Stay up to speed with female graphic design at Bird watching. Celebrate Womans Day with W project at KK outlet tonight. Delve deeper in the topic by watching this talk about women leaders.

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