Over the last decade, graphic design has seen a surge of women joining the industry. In 2008, women only made up 8% of the field, and today they are a solid majority of working graphic designers (according to the AIGA census). Despite this enormous growth, women only hold 17% of leadership roles in the field. The pay gap in the industry is also a significant disparity, with men earning on average 20% higher wages than women.
So while more graduates with graphic design degrees are women, the fact that there is still so little representation in leadership roles is concerning. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the iconic women trailblazers in this field. I hope their stories inspire future graphic designers who will fight to change the gaps in pay and leadership in this field.
In 1971, Carlyn Davidson created the most iconic logo. She made the Nike Swoosh logo that rebranded Blue Ribbon Sports into Nike. Originally Davidson was paid $35. However, she continued to work with Nike and helped with the company’s branding throughout the years. The swoosh logo is arguably one of the most recognizable symbols in sports worldwide. It is hard to imagine a part of this world that has not seen her design.
Paula Scher is known for her pop art/fine art blend. She took over the New York scene with her bold posters using typography and color to create eye-catching designs. In the ’90s, Scher became famous for her work in the Public Theater. Now she has worked with many big brands, including Bloomberg, Microsoft, Adobe, Bausch + Lomb, Coca-Cola, Shake Shack, Perry Ellis, Walt Disney Company, Museum of Modern Art, Sundance Institute, High Line, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, New 42nd Street, New York Botanical Garden, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Robin Hood Foundation and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation … to name a few.
She continues to help companies brand in the ever-changing design world and has inspired many graphic designers to use typography to create unforgettable designs.
Jessica Walsh began her graphic design journey at 11, coding and designing websites. Later as she continued to study graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), she was offered a job at Apple but chose to turn it down to work for Pentagram (to work with Paula Scher). Her art is described as having a handmade and provocative feel, and her color palettes draw you in with mesmerizing effects. Walsh was inspired by Paula Scher, and is known for her typography work as well. Jessica Walsh focuses on branding, typography, website design and installations. She has created work for Levi, Arizona and Adobe, among others.
Jane Davis Doggett was a graphic designer who pioneered wayfinding for airports. In 1959 she developed a standardized font for airports which became knowns as “Alphabet A.” As of 2014, Doggett had designed the wayfinding systems for 40 major airport projects—more than any designer in the world. Her signage is seen by more than 20 million travelers each year. Her manipulation of shapes and colors makes her designs recognizable miles away.
Anoushka Khandwala is an advocate for diversity and has spoken out about the lack of women of color in the graphic design industry. Khandwala has been active with organizations to help diversify design. Her work is very colorful, representing her passion for empowering girls of color to pursue design careers and ensure that there will be opportunities for them.
These are just five women in design. There are many more who are creating and inspiring the world through design. If you want to learn more about design, come to the library and check out our resources to help you learn and perhaps inspire you to help change the design world. Do not forget that we have Studio 300 with equipment and resources to help you produce your next graphic design project.
Check out these books for more information about graphic design: