design history March 6, 2020

Celebrating the work of 13 amazing Female Designers

Every year, I try to write a post to celebrate and showcase female designers in one form or another.
Last year, I researched and was acquainted with new designers for the 15 Ted Talk’s by amazing women post.
For that reason, I decided to go in that same direction, and do a list of female designers that can inspire my future work.

Varvara Stepanova (October 9 or 21, 1894, – May 20, 1958)

In this image, we see a picture of Varvara Stepanova, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Varvara was a well-known figure in the Russian Avant-garde movement. She was a painter, photographer, and designer.
Born in Lithuania, Stepanova studied at Kazan Art School, where she met her creative partner and husband, Alexander Rodchenko.
Besides other areas, Varvara experimented with visual poetry, photomontages/collages, and she even design fabric patterns.
Contrary to her husband’s, her name isn’t as recognizable, but she was an equally talented artist.
In 2018, a Google Doodle commemorated her 124th birthday.

Elizabeth Friedländer (October 10, 1903 – 1984)

In this image, we see a picture of Elizabeth Friedländer, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

This German type and graphic designer, spend a big part of her life in England.
Born in 1903, Elizabeth studied typography and calligraphy at the Berlin Academy. 
Later on, due to her work in Die Dame magazine, Georg Hartmann of the Bauer Type Foundry invited her to design a typeface.

Forced to leave Germany, Elizabeth first went to Italy – where she worked as a designer with the publisher Mondadori – and after that, to the United Kingdom.
After going through some rough times, she had her work recognized by a famous poet of that time and stopped working as a domestic servant. 

During the war, Elizabeth was in charge of the design at the Ministry of Information’s black propaganda unit.
After that, due to her previous publishing experience, she was involved with Penguin, designing several books and their 25th-anniversary logo.

Ray Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988)

In this image, we see a picture of Ray Eames, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Probably one of the most known women from this list of females designers, Ray was an American artist and designer. 
Born in America in 1912, Ray moved to New York in 1933 to study abstract expressionist painting, and, three years later, became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists.
However, in 1940, she went back to school to learn a variety of arts – other than painting – at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. That’s where she met her husband Charles Eames.
Together, Ray and Charles built a collaborative work environment and created the Eames Office.
Separated from the Office, Ray developed graphic and commercial work for the journal Arts and Architecture, and also dwelled into textile designs produced by Schiffer Prints.
She was a versatile professional capable of tackling anything throwout her career.

Muriel Cooper (1925 – May 26, 1994)

In this image, we see a picture of Muriel Cooper, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Muriel Cooper contributed to the design area in more ways than one. She was a designer, educator, and researcher. 
She moved to New York to work in advertising, considering she had a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design. There, she met Paul Rand, who influenced her way of designing and working.
In 1952, the designer became a freelancer at MIT Press and was appointed head of the Design Services Office, one of the first university design programs in the country at that time.
In 1958, Cooper left MIT to go to Milan to study exhibition design. When returning from Italy, she opened her own studio and created MIT’s Press logo.

In 1967, she returned to MIT as Design Director and later played a huge role in introducing computers to the institution. She also established the MIT Media Lab in 1985 and remained an active teacher and IMT innovator until the 90s.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (1928-)

In this image, we see a picture of Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

“Bobbie” is an American landscape architecture and graphic designer.
Born in 1928, she studied dance, painting, and sculpture at the beginning of her career. 
She married in 1948 to Frank Stauffacher, but, shortly after, became a widow. As a consequence, decided to move to Switzerland to study graphic design, so she could make a living and provide for her child.
She later came back to America, studied Architecture at the University of California, and remarried Daniel Solomon, an architect, and professor.

In 1962, the designer sep up an office as a graphic designer and became responsible for designing the monthly program guides for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Shortly after, she met Lawrence Halprin, another landscape architect, who hire her to design the paintings in the interior of the Sea Ranch building, as well as the logo.

After that successful project, the word spread out, and she was hired by other architects to do similar work. That’s how she became a professional that mixes architecture and graphic design.

Lora Lamm (January 11, 1928-)

In this image, we see a picture of Lora Lamm, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Lamm is a swiss graphic designer that went to Milan and became famous for her work done for brands such as Pirelli, and Elizabeth Arden. 
Lora studied graphic design from 56 to 51 at the School of Arts and Crafts in Zurich, which involved having mentors such as Johannes Itten, Ernst Keller, and Ernst Gubler.
When she finished school, she decided to go to Italy and started working at Studio Boggeri.

Later on, in 1953, she went to the advertising department of the La Rinascente store as a junior but quickly became the chief designer.
Under her vision, the store’s design advertising and magazine drew inspiration from international references and, as a consequence, attracted new costumers. Lamm became a fashion design reference in Milan and inspired other fashion brands.

In 1963, she returned to Zurich and became a partner at the Frank C. Thiessing advertising agency.

Tomoko Miho (September 2, 1931 – February 10, 2012)

In this image, we see a picture of Tomoko Miho, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

The only Japanese-American graphic designer on this list, Tomoko Miho is worth mentioning for more than a reason. 
Born in 1931, Miho attended the Art Center School and obtained a degree in industrial design.

Along with her husband and design colleague, James Miho, she went traveling through Europe. That’s when she met Olivetti’s direct Giovanni Pintori, and fellow designers, Hans Erni and Herbert Leupin.

She started her career working with industrial designer Irving Harper and became his successor at George Nelson Associates, Inc.
Around 1980, she founded her own company, Tomoko Miho & Co. She became notorious for her architectural posters in New York and Chicago and was awarded an AIGA Medal, in 1993.

Lella Vignelli (August 13, 1934 – December 22, 2016)

In this image, we see a picture of Lella Vignelli, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Another one of the most well-known female designers from this list, Lella Vignelli is certainly not new to you. 
Born in Italy in 1934, she started her career as a junior interior designer in 1959. 
A year later, she established, in partnership with her husband Maximo, the Massimo and Lella Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan. They specialized in interior design, furniture, exhibition, and product design.

Shortly after, in 71, the couple established Vignelli Associates, opening offices in several places such as New York and Paris.
The couple was so good at producing amazing pieces of design that most of their work is still referred to in design school across the world.
American Airlines’ identity, the New York City subway system, and IBM’s packaging from 1984-1986 are only a few examples.

Lella believed that if done right, design can last forever. And I think she has proven that to be true.

Margaret Calvert (1936-)

In this image, we see a picture of Margaret Calvert, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

This British typographer/graphic designer is responsible for the safety of Britain’s citizens. Literally.
She was born in South Africa but moved to England in 1950, where she studied at the Chelsea College of Art. Jock Kinneir, her tutor at the time, invited her to assist him in designing the signs for Gatwick Airport. Later on, he hired her to redesign the road sign system, which led to the revision of all the signage in Britain in 1963.

Besides being responsible for these two huge changes in British signage, Margaret also responsible for creating the Calvert font used in the Metro system.

Beatriz Feitler (February 5, 1938 – April 8, 1982)

In this image, we see a picture of Beatriz Feitler, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Beatriz was a Brazilian designer and art director who is recognized by her work in Rolling Stone magazine, Haper’s Bazaar, and the first issue of Vanity Fair to feature a black woman on the cover.

Regardless, she spent most of her life in the United States, where she graduated from Parson’s School of Design.
In 1961, Beatriz was hired as an art assistant at Harper’s Bazaar. Two years later, at the age of 25, she became co-art director of the publication.

After leaving Harper’s Bazaar, from 72 to 74, she was the first art director of Ms. magazine. There, she experimented with typography, photography, and illustration.
In 1975, she started working for Rolling Stone, where she collaborated with iconic figures, such as Annie Leibovitz.

Sheila de Bretteville (November 4, 1940-)

In this image, we see a picture of Sheila de Bretteville, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Sheila de Bretteville, is an American graphic designer and educator, whose work focuses on the importance of feminist principles.
Born in New York, she first came in contact with graphic design and social responsibility of designers in 1959.
In 1971, she was responsible for the first design program for women at the California Institute of the Arts, and also for co-founding the Woman’s Building.

Two years later, de Bretteville established the Women’s Graphic Center and co-founded the Feminist Studio Workshop, based at the Woman’s Building.
That same year, she submitted a poster for an exhibition about color, at the American Institute of Graphic Arts, that showcases the gender associations with the color pink. After that, she has been affectionally called Pinky.

To this day, she’s involved in Feminist art movements in the EUA.

Susan Kare (February 5, 1954-)

 In this image, we see a picture of Susan Kare, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Kare is another of these female designers that you might know quite well. At least if you’re a Mac user and enthusiastic.

Susan was born in 1954, in New York. She worked for a designer – Harry Loucks – at a museum when she was still in high school. He introduced her to typography and graphic design.
After receiving her Ph.D. in 1978, she worked for the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

Kare joined Apple Computer in 1982. Originally hired to design the user interface and fonts, she later became the Creative Director at Apple Creative Services. Was responsible for designing many typefaces – including Chicago – the icons, and the original marketing material for the first Macintosh.
After Apple, she worked for Microsoft (designed Windows 3.0’s solitaire game, remember that?), IBM, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Gail Anderson (1962-)

In this image, we see a picture of Gail Anderson, one of the female designers mentioned in this post, and an example of her work.

Last but not least, Gail Anderson. She’s an American designer, writer, educator, and partner at Anderson Newton Design. 

Gail got her BFA, from the School of Visual Arts, and was the student, of non-other than the amazing Paula Scher.
After graduating, she worked as a designer at Vintage Books, and at the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.
Like Bea, she also worked for Rolling Stone(fifteen years) and went from designer to senior art director.
Currently, she specializes in theatrical advertising for Broadway and teaches in the School of Visual Arts.

Side note

I found these amazing female designers through Designing women. It’s a project that explores and raises awareness of gender imbalance in the design industry. If you want to read about other female designers that I didn’t mention, head over to their website.

About Melted

Melted was born in 2017. 
Back then, I was facing some hard time regarding my profession (or lack of), but I wanted to push forward and inspire others to do the same.
So I put my fears aside, and several huge cups of coffee later, this project was online.

Read the full story

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