Are Female Graphic Designers Underdogs?

By Aamina Suleman , Sep 7 2016

I’m a woman and I know it better!

If your’e thinking this, you’re not wrong. It’s not a filtered feminist perspective but a bitter truth women have been swallowing since design came into existence. Females always have to struggle to reach a milestone in the design industry. And even when they do, they hardly get noticed or receive the attention they deserve. They’re invisible.

Only a few women designers like Paula Scher or Ellen Lupton get a continuous spotlight.

Has technology become the voice of female designers? And is displaying and self-promoting designs become easier for women? Whatever, may be the answer to that, one thing is for sure – when the concept of globalization was a myth or when communication media was not mainstream, especially for women – things were tough! It wasn’t a “piece of cake” to share creations and receive recognition. Realizing what was before, I think what is now, is better. Right?

FYI, women graphic designers existed in the 19th and 20th century but the limelight they were given was far less than men. Even today, at least, I haven’t seen many publications talk about these “forgotten” female graphic designers except a few like Graphic Design Women, GDUSA and Guru Fiku.

The Underdogs: Female Graphic Designers

I’m not the only one focusing on the above-mentioned question (title), there are many others working on the same issue.

#1: In a recent survey Invisible: Women in Australian Graphic Design, participants were asked to list the names of women who made a significant contribution to the graphic design industry in Australia since 1960.

The results elucidated that there are quite a few female graphic designers in Australia, but people struggled to name more than one. This is sad. Anyway, this visual represents the result.

female graphic designer

#2: In a 1971 famous article Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlins, the author challenged art historians to analyze the institutions that misrepresent womens’ accomplishments. Since then, art and feminist historians have come across countless limitations that hinder women to succeed in their artistic and creative careers.

In the book, Design History: An Anthopology, Dennis P Doordon shares that “graphic design historians, however, only recently faced the biases in their own field and begun to identify individual women and document their position in graphic design history.”However, some individuals are working to promote women designers and reduce gender bias.

Also Explore: Graphic Design Agencies Owned By Women ‘Not’ Men

Martha Scotford Lange, for instance described in her writings that graphic design historians have automatically excluded women from the design field, evidently because men get more publicity.

However, I’ll add that from the 1800s, female graphic designers have progressed. Changes in the cultural and technological landscape allowed women to be less of an underdog. There is still potential to improve, but at least we’re on our way.

#3: Women of Graphic Design featured Lorna Allan’s project called Hidden Women of Design.

Hidden Women of Design

Allan is a London College of Communications graduate, who profiles the works by female graphic designers for six months. The #hwodesign on Instagram and Twitter, is a hashtag dedicated to women of graphic design industry. Her project does the following:

So there are people talking about women in design, and trying hard to uplift their status in different societies and industries. I’m one of them. This is where I start.

These slides reveal the treasure I’ve dug into, on my journey to find the forgotten female graphic designers. During their times, they were pioneering illustrators, typographers, poster designers, and book designers.

Do you know any of them? Let me know in the comments below.

A marketing design enthusiast, super passionate about the evolving scope of visual communication. With 3+ years of experience in content marketing, Aamina is driven by insights, inspirations, trends and creativity. She loves to travel, eat khowsuey, sip coffee, and watch mysteries.


Leave a Reply