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20.09, Art & Design

Designing Women: New project celebrates female designers

Author: Mia Tamme

Readymag platform has launched a new project to highlight the impact of women in design and raise awareness of the ongoing gender imbalance in the industry.

Just one out of five working designers are women, whereas seven out of ten design students are female. So what happens to women after they graduate? Hoping to bring about positive change, the team at Readymag, an online tool for designing websites, presentations, and magazines, looks into the reasons behind this gender gap.

Designing Women is an online educational website which features a central essay eхploring the current status of women in the industry, profiles of outstanding female designers of the past, and a list of web resources exploring women’s impact in design.

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An essay by Madeleine Morley, a Berlin-based design and art writer and editor of Eye on Design magazine, discusses the possible causes behind the shortage of female designers. Morley talks to practitioners and educators from around the globe, including Isabel Seiffert (сo-founder of Offshore studio), Na Kim (a graphic designer from Seoul), and Ellen Lupton (curator of contemporary design at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York), all of whom share their personal experiences. The writing combines stories with statistics; it not only highlights issues when it comes to the workplace, education, and attitudes, but also celebrates initiatives taken to improve the situation.

“The patriarchal dynamics that hinder women in the workplace at large are well-documented: there’s the old glass ceiling barring the careers of high-achievers; subtle and not-so-subtle sexism, sexual harassment, and abuse of power; the firmly entrenched gender pay gap; the challenge of managing maternity leave and childcare costs for parents,” Morley writes. “Then, there are the additional obstacles hindering women at the intersection of more than one historically marginalized group, including those oppressed due to race, class, ability, sexuality, and more. There are also the struggles of those whose gender identity does not conform to the binary.”

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“I felt like I didn’t know a single woman who had a job that I wanted,” Isabel Seiffert said. According to the essay, young female designers need more role models they can relate to. Hence, in the second part of the project, Designing Women gives a brief overview of well-known twentieth century female designers, such as Ray Eames, Varavara Stepanov, and Susan Kare. Those rare success stories of the past are accompanied by a list of modern resources including Notamuse, an activist website featuring interviews, and POSTERWOMEN, an open source spreadsheet for female poster designers.

With half of its employees being female, Readymag itself sets a positive example for the industry. “We decided to view the issue from a variety of angles, looked into the topic, interviewed designers, structured the information we gathered, and finally presented it as Designing Women,” said Readymag CEO and co-founder Diana Kasay. “I believe information based on facts, statistics, and the views of design theorists and practitioners is the best basis for further discussion and positive change.”

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