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NewsOct 12, 2022

Women share work of women they admire

Continuing our Women Inspiring Women series, emerging female designers introduce us to women inspiring them and their work.

Inspiration: Margaret Vivienne Calvert

I learned about Margaret Vivienne Calvert while working on a wayfinding project at university a few years back and was inspired by how influential her work on signage has been around the world. Margaret is a typographer and graphic designer, whose most infamous works are that of British signage she designed in the late 1950s to early 1960s, including pictograms for ‘men at work’, ‘farm animals’ and ‘schoolchildren nearby’. These images were inspired by her own life. The cattle nearby warning sign, for example, was modelled after a cow called “Patience” from her cousin’s Warwickshire farm. Calvert and her team also worked on signage for Gatwick Airport, pictured above, in 1957. Calvert also designed typefaces for Monotype, such as the Calvert font in 1980, as well as developing, along with her design team, the Transport font used on road signage. On describing her work, Calvert states, “It's not about fashion; it's purely logical, functional and aesthetic. It couldn't be simpler.” I adore design systems, and it is so inspiring to see someone so early in their career take on such challenging and ubiquitous work.

Inspiration: Bea Feitler

Bea Feitler is one of my favourite female designers for her ground-breaking contributions to design. Her work is vibrant, modern and remarkable and I see her life and work as an inspiration to be authentic in implementing my ideas and making my own brave choices. Born in Brazil in 1938, daughter of Jewish refugees from World War II, Bea Feitler won the world with her vibrant aesthetic and modern style. In 1955, she moved to New York to study Graphic Design at the Parsons School of Design, where she graduated in 1959. Bea gained prominence in 1960, when became Co-director of Harper’s Bazaar, where she produced covers that became icons of the 60s. Bea helped launch Ms. in 1972, where she expressed her feminist perspectives of the time, breaking stereotypes and elaborating new concepts. In 1974, Bea contributed to international publications, including helping to launch Vanity Fair and directing the iconic edition of Rolling Stone magazine with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1981. Bea was also an editorial design instructor at the School of Visual Arts. Bruno Feitler – Bea’s nephew – published ‘O Design de Bea Feitler’ in 2012. A review by Andy Clarke can be found here.

Inspiration: Debbie Millman

"If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love and don’t stop until you get what you love." Debbie’s words from 2015 sparked something within me, and I’ve been in awe ever since. Probably because she practices what she preaches. Writer, designer, educator, artist, brand consultant, speaker, illustrator, host of the podcast Design Matters and much more, it would appear that there’s nothing she can’t do. Debbie’s career is inspiring and intimidating, to say the least, yet for me, it became a beacon in turbulent waters. When I started my career over a decade ago, I found myself facing sexism, pay inequality and less opportunity simply because I was a young woman. These hurdles paired with being taught that I should find one design lane to play within, that I shouldn’t explore and just find my niche, left me feeling discouraged. Debbie Millman showed me that I, too, could overcome adversity with a little bit of courage. That I needn’t limit myself to one lane of creative expression. To not imagine less for myself, but rather to imagine more and pursue everything that I love. And for that, I am eternally inspired and thankful."

Inspiration: Alex Proba

I’m really interested in the blurred lines between art and design and the way art/design can transform objects and spaces. Alex Proba of Studio Proba embodies this so beautifully. I am continually blown away by the breadth of her work — from branding to murals to product to sculpture to furniture. The colours, the shapes, the energy! Her work is whimsical, expressive and human and I love the way it moves across mediums so fluidly.

Inspiration: Yehwan Song

One of my favourite trailblazers and innovators in the design space is Yehwan Song. She is a Korean-born artist, graphic designer and web developer. Her artwork focuses on virtual web spaces, physical installations, web tools and user interfaces. Through her projects, she redefines what we conventionally understand as a website and subverts common user-experience behaviours, which oversimplify users' behaviour. She designs and develops these amazingly intriguing interactive graphics and experimental websites driven by content structure instead of static templates and web design conventions. Her project, 'Anti-friendly,' is a collection of hard-to-use interfaces/devices that challenge the concept of user-friendliness by creating situations where users need to learn and explore before they can use the interface instead of repeating the same behaviour they are trained to do. Her goal is to bring back content awareness and force users to become conscious again. Yehwan experiments with how websites can exist in the physical space; she creates installations of websites to build a new connection between the web and the physical world and expand our understanding of what a website is. Her groundbreaking work and design strategy influence us to keep pushing boundaries, have fun and experiment with what design can do.

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