Women In Design

So today I asked my students to each bring in the names of three living designers they admired, one of whom had to be local. Here’s the list:

Jonathan Ive

Yves Behar

Scott Thomas

Mark Weaver

Face Creative

Dowling Duncan

Bruce Mau

Jon Sueda

Marian Bantjes

Saul Bass*

Jason Munn

Mark Fox

David Lance Goines

Kit Hinrichs

Michael Schwab

Fabien Baron

Jennifer Morla

Audra Brown

Clint Delapaz

Scott Hansen

Herbert Bayer*

Angie Wang

Martin Venezky

Herman Zapf

Jeremy Payne

Louise Fili

Stefan Sagmeister

Mikey Burton

Erin Fishkin


Jessica Hische

Cinthia Wen

Nikki McClure

Tom Crabtree

Paul Rand*

Dana Tanamachi

Some of these were repeated by several students, so the 35 names above actually represent 54 suggestions. Do you notice anything peculiar about the list (besides the fact that the names marked with an * are no longer living)? How about the fact that there are only eight women, half of whom are on our faculty?

Click to enrage

Design abounds with accomplished men and women, yet repeatedly at conferences, on judging panels, on faculties and in publications it seems men are more likely to be lauded than their female counterparts (this despite the fact that many of the design profession’s most respected publications have women behind the chief editor’s desk). The reasons for this are as varied as they are disappointing (and controversial), and they are by no means unique to design. On average, women still earn 76¢ for the same work that earns a man a dollar. In fact, until recently AIGA’s salary calculator—which computed your expected earnings based on job title, experience, size of firm and, yes, gender—would subtract $10,000 if you were a woman. WTF?

As an industry we’ve tried to make up for this disparity with annual “Women in Design” issues of popular trade publications (also not without controversy) and books devoted to the the Women of Design. Some view these efforts as celebratory gestures, others see them as demeaning platitudes. Whatever your position, the implication remains that the rest of the time we’re focusing on the men in design.

Ideally, gender shouldn’t affect who we admire or why. Good work is good work. I do believe however that its important to have professional role models with whom we identify. Gender, age, race, orientation, politics, background and innumerable other factors often play an important role in that identification. To that end, I have a new request of you. In the comments below add the names of three living female designers whom you admire. In this list there are no repeats, so if you have a favorite, post their name early.

UPDATE: This is quickly becoming a substantial and valuable list. In the next few weeks I’ll follow up with a post that includes links to everyone listed. Keep ’em coming!

UPDATE 2: Thanks to Kern Toy for bringing this Facebook Gallery to my attention!

  • Nathan

    Emily McVarish
    Betty Lin
    Akefeh Nurosi

    • Nathan

      Sorry, I’d like to take back Akefeh Nurosi and say Jean Aw of NOTCOT.

      • You don’t have to “take back” anyone you list. More than 3 is fine!

    • David Thorn

      6/8 on CCA Faculty.

  • jennchow

    Zuzana Licko
    Ellen Lupton
    The Nimbus Factory

  • Man Ee

    Angie Wang
    Jennifer Morla
    Alicia Naples

    • Man Ee

      Actually, if we’re cool with interactive designers, I’d substitute Alysha Naples with Camille Scherrer–Swiss designer that incorporates augmented reality into her work

    • Angie and Jennifer are on the list above. 2 more please.

      • Man Ee


        Deborah Sussman
        Jennifer Sterling

  • carolyn

    Irma Boom
    Julia Hasting
    Lorraine Wild

  • kenneth

    Julie Cordua
    Paula Scher // since I’m the first to mention her, even thought she’s an obvious choice!
    Lisa Gansky

    Also, I would’ve said Ellen Lupton, but too bad Jen got there first.

    • I like that your choices are heavily influenced by the speaker list from Compostmodern. AIGA SF did a great job in presenting a balance lineup.

  • Viva

    Ray Eames… its a tough search but look for her art and architecture covers. They are lovely and she also has done some interesting textile design.

    Louise Fili

    Muriel Cooper

    • Excellent selection in Ray Eames — too often overshadowed by her husband.

      Louise Fili was already mentioned, though, so you owe us one more.

      The MIT Press logo was an early influence on me. Looks as good as now as it ever did. Nice choice.

  • David Thorn
  • Hannah Hoch*
    Sister Corita Kent*
    *(deceased, look them up!)

    Akefeh Nurosi (RISD)!
    Nancy Skollos (Skolos Wedel, RISD)
    Linda Van Deursen (of Mevis & Van Deursen)
    #17 (both of them!)
    Robynne Raye (Modern Dog)
    Jessica Helfand (Winterhouse)
    Lucille Tenazas (Tenazas)
    Carol Devine Carson (Knopf)
    Barbara Glauber (Heavy Meta)
    Georgie Stout & Susan Sellers (2×4)
    Sheila de Bretteville (Yale)
    Kathy McCoy (Cranbrook, High Ground)
    Fiona Raby (Dunne & Raby)
    Denise Gonzalez Crisp (NC State)
    Valerie Casey
    Natalia Ilyin
    Marian Bantjes
    Luba Lukova
    Noreen Morioka

    Lorraine Wild (worth having on here twice, maybe more)

  • Here are some of the talented women I’ve had the privilege of working with: Julie Hirschfeld and Stefanie Barth (Stiletto NYC) and Juliette Cezzar. Through them I’ve gotten to know these fantastic women in design: Jeannie Servaas, Heather Sears, Naomi Nishimura. And others whose work I admire: Tatiana Arocha, Elisabeth Arkhipoff, Lizzie Finn, Genevieve Gauckler. I could keep going. Women rule.

  • dlao_cca

    Katia K at Studio Von Birken (Brooklyn) http://www.svb.com
    Eulie Lee who is an in house designer at Dedica Group (NYC) http://www.eilue.com
    Lucie Kim who is Design Director at My ORB (NYC) http://www.myorangebox.com/

  • Lydia Park

    -Shelby White
    -Barbara deWilde

  • Deb Littlejohn
    Julie Beeler

  • He said THREE, Belonax. Leave a little for the rest of us, smarty pants. (Don’t you have some graduate school homework, anyway?)

    Amy Franceschini
    April Greiman
    Maira Kalman

  • benjamindu

    Margo chase, check out her work at http://www.chasedesigngroup.com/index.html
    Sheila Bretteville
    Meredith Davis
    Zuzana Licko created some great typefaces, already mentioned tho

  • Cheryl Heller
    Gail Anderson
    Cipe Pinelas

  • kate.nigro

    It looks like Dana Tanamachi got left off of the original list.

    My additional three women are:

    Laura Smith (who is an illustrator, but she does a lot of poster design) http://www.laurasmithart.com/index.html

    Emily Oberman
    Bonnie Siegler
    of Number 17 in NYC

  • kate.nigro

    (I was originally going to say Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker because they are Designing Women, but I figured “living” means not-fictional)

  • Lee_W

    Kelly Mccoulough – Goodby
    Mandi Lin – Goodby
    Alice Bybee – Iron Creative

  • kate.nigro

    Oh, I scanned right by Tim’s listing of Number 17.

    Two more:
    Carin Goldberg

    Barbara deWilde

    Plus an interesting article by Michael Bierut about the Glasser comment and touching on the idea of “Superstar” or “Celebrity” designers. Comments are also interesting (the ones that aren’t stupid, that is). Found Carin Goldberg and Barbara deWilde (and Julia Hasting) through the article. Very glad I did!

  • ysheng

    Louise Fili
    Marian Bantjes
    Paula Scher

  • Barbara Kruger! Amazed she hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swissmiss)

    Megan Cummins

  • Winniekuo

    Ellen Lupton
    Louise Fili again~
    Martha Granados

  • Micah Rivera

    Here’s a list of women “designers” that I admire. I say designers cautiously because they are kind of in that grey area between artist/designer:

    Christy C. Road http://www.croadcore.org/drawings.htm
    Swoon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swoon_(artist)
    Isabel Samaras http://astrocat.com/samaras/index.html

  • dlao_cca

    Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker of Designing Women! Brilliant Kate. Just brilliant.

  • Marina Córdova