10 Badass Women Graphic Designers
Throughout the history of graphic design, as well as the history of art in general, there has been a lopsided view in favor of the male gender. That is rapidly changing, and for the good… by now it’s clear that nothing’s holding back female artists from designing as uniquely and ambitiously as they want. Included in this list of 10 badass women graphic designers making a mark in the world of graphic design: Paula Scher, Jessica Walsh, Jessica Hische, Anna Kuts, Laura Pol, Swiss Miss (Tina Roth-Eisenberg), Jing Zhang, Raewyn Brandon, Lotta Nieminen, and Marian Bantjes. I want to thank my friend Breyen Katz for his research and collaboration on this post. Badasses presented below in no particular order. Let the inspiration begin…
The epitome of longevity and experience, Paula Scher has lent her unique vision to the urban aesthetic for more than four decades. Her poster designs, for example, inaugurated and still market the New York Shakespeare Festival, her album covers of the 70’s and 80’s helped define the era. She’s created or contributed to world famous illustrations, logos, and instantly recognizable identity systems such as her 2000’s re-engineering of the NYC MoMA. Paula Scher is currently a partner at Pentagram. Below see some select work samples. Find Paula on social: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
“I operate very strongly with my instincts. If I don’t get it in the first crack, I get it in the second. And if I don’t get it in the second, I almost never get it.”
“Sometimes just ignore the brief and go and do it, especially when you’re not getting paid and it’s Pittsburgh and you have nothing to lose.”
Jessica is a partner at Sagmeister & Walsh, whose clients include Adobe, Lou Reed, the Guggenheim, and Columbia University. She’s designed everything from book covers, to brand identities, to furniture, even trophies (not just winning them). Her public presence promotes the idea of design being just one part of a whole, balanced life. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself your success as a designer is proportional to the number of jobs you take on, or the number of hours you worked on that logo. If so, have another look. J-Wal also runs an esoteric and revealing series of blogs which often don’t have to do with graphic design although they are, of course, designed well. The layout for 12kindsofkindness is functional, simple, aesthetic, and personal, blending quality photography, typeface, color balance, even dynamic CSS. Especially take note of the offshoot website, “Let’s Talk About Mental Health”. And if playing with human feelings in public interests you, move onto the social experiment 40 Days Of Dating. Jessica on social: Twitter, Behance, Facebook, & Instagram.
“People don’t want to see this perfectly painted picture. They like to hear that you’re human – that you eat brunch … that you fart.”
“People often say that your portfolio should be well rounded and should have something that shows your versatility. But, I realized that is a crapshoot.”
If you ever ask yourself, “Should I work for free?”, Jessica created a flowchart for that. Next time you mail something, perhaps you’ll use a certain “Love” stamp. Jessica Hische follows a philosophy she coined “procrastiwork”, in which one does side projects with passion, until they become the projects that pay. Along the way, she’s merged the visually innovative with practical business acumen, and become a mentor and an influencer to creatives of all types. Hische operates mostly in Brooklyn and San Francisco. Find her on Title Case, Daily Drop Cap, as well as her company, Jessica Hische. Discover Jessica on social: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Dribbble.
“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
Anna Kuts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, is a gradute of Ukraine’s KSADA, the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Fine Arts. Even though she was born after the Cold War’s end, there is something nostalgically Soviet about some of her work, although it is self-aware, and forms only a small part of her overall portfolio. Which includes fine art, packaging esoteric and mainstream, posters, brochures, editorial, anything you can thing of, really. That she has managed to finish so many functional, well-received, communicative and creative projects, of such different styles, at such a young age, portends great things to come. Find Anna on social: Dribbble, Behance, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Laura Pol gives the lie to the aphorism “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. Laura’s music videos combine an initially recognizable look that is both traditional and new, with a hint of structurally informed narrative that avoids being “plotty”. Her photography, often monochromatic or defined more by pattern than color, is based in fashion, portraiture, and nature – especially cat nature. She’s also created a wide variety of work that falls into more “traditional” graphic design categories, including ad campaigns, websites, logos, and several modern and distinctive fonts, as seen on her website. Discover Laura on social: Behance, Instagram, and Vimeo.
Art is about so much more than drawing. The art and the life of Tina Roth Eisenberg, AKA Swiss Miss, have been reflecting and impacting the world at large for two decades now, and her influence arises not just from single pieces or campaigns, but from projects that go well beyond “commissions” (which she doesn’t even take anymore). She generates entire movements that facilitate others’ creativity. Somehow, Tina has managed to turn numerous ideas, that cross the threshold between art, marketing, and pure-no-other-way-to-say-it getting it done, into reality, where they then take on lives of their own. Early on, she designed the UX for the interactive Visual Thesaurus. She is the founder of CreativeMornings, a weekly breakfast series featuring talks from some of the brightest minds in all sorts of fields. And she’s led numerous other brilliantly idiosyncratic endeavours, from running a studio for temporary tattoos called Tattly, to developing practical and beautiful iphone apps. Check out Tina on social: Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, and Behance.
“Sometimes you just need a viking hat to respond to certain emails.”
Jing Zhang creates amazingly detailed 2D graphical illustrations that are eminently informative, yet do much more than simply present data. Her infographics give the impression of an engineering document run through the splayed out and divergent mind of an artist, all while being coaxed to hold together and finally emerge with a retained, yet now deeply layered coherence. And they immediately render the standard daily news blurb prosaic and out to the sawmill. Her discoveries of new ways to utilize angles, text, numbers, data, or instructions into a comprehensive logical information flow suggest captivating novel ways to share knowledge. Her portfolio is a fine example of how intelligent graphic design can enhance and heighten other fields. She works in East London and originally comes from mainland China. Check out Jing on social: Behance, Dribbble, Twitter, and Instagram.
“I hope that people who see my work will decide to realize themselves living in the future…”
Raewyn was a lead designer at a little website called Behance, and now works from her homeland of New Zealand. Her work often centers around a minimilast use of typography to convey a message or support a larger idea. Check out, for instance, her printed promo and conference materials for 99U, the educational and research arm of Behance. She has also been the chief visual creative on numerous websites, ad campaigns, and novel forms of product packaging. Visit her website here. Check out Raewyn on social: Behance, Twitter, and Pinterest.
“Simple doesn’t mean easy.”
Lotta Nieminen keeps her eye on the whole. Characters and environments are built up out of basic geometric shapes and forms. Tree canopies and human heads are often plain circles, houses and cityscapes different configurations of simple polygons, as though sprung from the elementary vision of an imaginative child. This style evokes an innocent nostalgia, a sense of bemused observation of the macro. Her backgrounds for the Google Calendar app portray clean human icons in symbolic seasonal landscapes – enjoying a day on the ice, prepping to go camping, driving cross country. Her maps, be they for visitors to Finland or to teach children about geography, effectively engage and inform the user by condensing information down to the most relevant and recognizable symbology, via harmonious composition and a welcoming color pallette. Lotta grew up in Helsinki and now works in New York City. Visit her website here. Check out Lotta on social: Behance, Twitter, Instagram, and Dribbble.
“You need to love your work in order for others to love it too.”
I keep coming back to Marian Bantjes’ Map Of Knowledge. If you have a thing for font-based design, maybe you share the sentiment. Bantjes began her career as a book typesetter, where she got literal hands-on experience with lettering and fonts, the field she has thrived in the most. She often speaks of her life changing decision to walk away from steady, comfortable work, away from strategy and towards her heart. On impulse in 2007, she created 150 hand-drawn valentines. She has completed commissions, even at times even for other designers, with materials such as sugar, flowers, even an insect or two. Her work is a very personal expression. Bantjes has expressed herself in a number of mediums, from book covers to posters to store displays to fonts, always with a distinct and playful complexity. She works from her rural studio near Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit her website here. Check out Marian on social: Twitter and Instagram.
“I like the idea of juxtaposition and working against what’s expected… what I’m doing now is a combination of all of my skills and all of my interests. It’s a very personal expression.”
Let’s pretend this post was named ‘20 Badass Women Graphic Designers‘… What other exceptional designers would you add to this list? Please comment and share your thoughts below.