From Morag Myerscough to Sophie Smallhorn.
It’s no secret that various design sectors are still falling short on diversity, with issues like equal pay and job roles still prevalent. So to shine a light on the women who are leaving their mark throughout the design arena this International Women’s Day, we asked various creatives which women they have found most impactful in the art and design world.
As chosen by Tony Coppin, Creative Director, StormBrand
I was introduced to April Greiman’s work while studying in my early years at the Colchester Institute back in the early nineties. What fascinated me was her style, it just looked like the future. It was at once both loose and expressive but also detailed and technical. She appeared to be in a category of her own, graphically visceral and futurist in her choice and treatment of typography. I remember I was desperate to understand how she created her work and emulate her style, but I couldn’t find the seams to copy the pattern. I just stood back in admiration and amazement.
When Apple Mackintosh entered the market in the mid-eighties, most designers were sceptical of computers, fearing a digital takeover the human hand couldn’t compete with. Having explored the International Style in depth, Greiman embraced the new technology and was among the pioneers who tapped into the endless potential of technology in design.
Grieman’s work was way ahead of its time; it bucked the trends with bold and expressive creative freedom while finding its roots in digital process. Her work remains relevant today; less about the grid, it’s much freer and we at StormBrands are developing software that makes visionary work like Greiman’s more easily executable today.
As chosen by George Hartley, Design Director, B&B studio
The work of hand lettering artist Alison Carmichael has been hugely influential in the graphic design and branding world. Her beautifully crafted typography has the ability to immediately bring a brand’s essence to life.
We have seen a lot of simplification in brand identities recently, but I am very drawn to brand marks that capture the big brand idea in their own right and have always admired Alison Carmichael’s ability to do this through hand lettering.
Her designs are full of energy and she has a great personal style, whilst also creating really diverse work. I am a big fan!
As chosen by Rob Willmott, cofounder and realisation director, me&dave
Morag Myerscough can bring a place to life. We’re an integrated property branding agency, so a lot of what we do is about bringing people together and activating a place, something Morag has done time and time again. So it’s not surprising that her work features on many of our moodboards.
Her work is anything but soft or quiet. A lot of it features in outdoor spaces, and because it’s so vibrant and distinct it’s hard to miss. She’s able to create a feeling of excitement while adding to the fabric of a place – gifting it something it didn’t have before and sparking conversations in the community.
Morag’s pieces have been used to illuminate industrial, urban areas often defined by brutalist or sharp architecture. Take her piece POWER at Battersea power station. It’s hard for your eye not to be drawn to the vibrant colours set against the backdrop of grey.
Temple Of Agape (above) is a masterclass in curating the unexpected. Whenever we approach a brief this is what we aim to unearth: how can we do this in a way that’s never occurred to anyone before? She constantly strives to bring everywhere she touches to life in her unique style, using art and sculpture to become a place-maker in her own right.
As chosen by Lucy Soares, junior graphic designer, ShopTalk
Jessica Walsh is an inspiration and, in my opinion, one of the best designers of all time. By only 12 years of age, she had already managed to code websites for small businesses before going on to attend many fine art classes and started creating things with her own hands, in the lines of sculpture and painting.
From this moment, Jessica was able to merge analogue and digital work, which was a huge influence on her working style. Her projects have a huge impact in the world, not only for their beauty, but especially for the messages they are able to send to people of all ages and cultures.
Her career is a dream for any designer;she started at Pentagram, working next to Paula Scher (another amazing designer). Even before she turned 25 years old, she became a partner of a creative company next to Stefan Sagmeister – Sagmeister & Walsh. Jessica is the personification that it’s not impossible to accomplish big goals, and she inspires me to keep working hard and believe that I can achieve my goals with persistence and hard work.
As chosen by Charlie Smith, Creative Director, Charlie Smith Design
For about twenty years, I’ve loved the work of multi-disciplinary artist Sophie Smallhorn. I was first introduced to her work when I started out as a graphic designer, and she’s been a real source of inspiration ever since.
There’s so much to love, but her use of colour and colour combinations are beautifully distinct. Her work is very graphic; it’s all about colour volume and proportion.
Much of Sophie’s work is a combination of so many things I love; the way she works seems to sit somewhere in that space between designer and artist. From working to a brief and the constraints of a particular space, paired with the openness in approach of an artist.
While she’s predominantly an artist, her background training in furniture means her work is geometric and structural – whether it’s a small sculpture, a large-scale installation or screen print.
As chosen by Mark Paton, Creative Partner, Here Design
There are so many brilliant female artists that it’s hard to know where to begin. I’d have to nominate Cornelia Parker, a visual artist who creates incredible works of sculpture and installation art.
The artwork that stands out in my mind as an idea is ‘Cold Dark Matter’ (below). I learned about the work when I was studying design and immediately loved the drama and story behind it. To me, the transition that is created – from mundane garden shed to a beautiful and dramatic experience – is still quite astonishing in its simplicity.
As chosen by Kelli Miller, Partner and Creative Director at And/Or
For the majority of design history, women have been overshadowed by men. It’s a bit of a known statement, but let’s really think about that. I am always shocked, appalled, and most of all depressed when the prompt to name a favourite female designer is presented to someone in the industry and they have to search their memory bank. It’s much easier to pull from recent history. These top-of-mind heavy hitters would include people like Karin Fong, Paula Scher and Jessica Walsh, but our history is so much deeper, and I hope people remember that.
I tend to gravitate towards these pioneers and people who practiced or are practicing in the margins in general, so in addition to the aforementioned amazingly talented women, I cite people like: Marlene McCarty (below), Elaine Bass, Susan Kare, Ruth Ansel, Lorianne Wild and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.
In addition, there are amazing designers who identify as non-binary or queer, like Kate Moross. There is so much work to be done in this industry; we need to see women and non-binary people in leadership positions speaking at large events and being published. And it needs to go a bit deeper than the obvious (yet amazing!) women that are immediately top of mind.
It takes a lot of work to change perceptions.
Related: Here are female creators in art and design who could speak at your next event