7 Female Graphic Designers That'll Rock Your Socks Off

7 Female Graphic Designers That'll Rock Your Socks Off

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Female Socks

In this guest article Kelly Erickson* comes back for a second guest article (find her first article here) and this time Kelly showcases 7 truly unique and inspirational female graphic designers with a brief bio on each.

The field is ever-changing, yet the rock stars of graphic design are still, mainly, men. Meanwhile, the purchasing power of the globe is in the hands of individual women… It’s time to see more women like these seven, making a mark with their own Vision. Get inspired!

Marian Bantjes: Step Away From the Computer!

Based near Vancouver, British Columbia, Marian Bantjes‘ extraordinary way with communication begs to be called “graphic art,” in the finest sense of the term. Fabulous hand lettering is her trademark, demonstrating the power of a fine pen in a plugged-in world. A 2006 installation created with Stefan Sagmeister shows off her hand work in an ultra-modern context. Her spam email centerfold for the Vancouver Review will make you tear your hair out with jealousy. This is one hard-working lady, even when she’s riffing on a bit of junk mail!

Marian Bantjes Work

Kristen Nikosey: The Art and Craft of Communication

Illustrator and graphic designer Kristen Nikosey’s work evokes Impressionist painting and Arts & Crafts style, with a distinctly California vibe. Her book illustrations are rich. Her pattern designs are meticulously casual, if such a thing is possible, with deep color that jumps off the page. In her packaging and identity work she blends today’s digital design techniques with her old-world sensibilities.

Kristen Nikosey

Janet Allinger: With Tongue Planted Firmly in Cheek

Irreverent humour in identity design? If you’ve got Janet Allinger to inspire you, why not! If the market can take it, this designer dishes it out. While she’s been known to do more traditional design, it’s her post-feminist comic stylings that will grab and hold your attention. Fun, funky, and a little bit in-your-face—this lady’s not afraid of being known as “edgy.”

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Janet Allinger

Laura Smith: Reinventing Retro

While designer Laura Smith is at work, Art Deco will always find fresh interpretations. She’s done work for heavy hitters from Time Magazine to Major League Baseball to the U.S. Postal Service, and that’s just for starters. Classic, colorful, edited to only the necessary detail, her graphic images are nostalgic but never stuffy.

Laura Smith

Louise Fili: Elegant Romance

Louise Fili has a special way with food packaging and restaurant identity design: the old-fashioned way. Her intricate illustrations and hand-lettered type grace brands from the most familiar, like Williams-Sonoma’s, to the most exclusive. As a book jacket designer previous to opening her New York City firm, she designed over 2000 covers, and learned the intimate art of connecting with an audience visually within a very small frame. Today she is also the author of several excellent books on graphic design.

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Louise Fili

Deborah Sussman: Urban Legend

Art director and environmental graphic designer Deborah Sussman has been creating legendary work for public spaces for decades. Deborah and her firm, Sussman/Prejza, have done interior and exterior wayfinding and signage systems for Apple, Hasbro, the city of Los Angeles, and numerous others. She may be most famous for her comprehensive graphics program for the 1984 Summer Olympics. She has a keen eye for both client and community needs, creating work that is imaginative, spare, and crystal clear.

Deborah Sussman

Paula Scher: The Dame of Grande Design

Bigger is definitely better. Bold words wrap you up and pull you in. You’re hooked! New York-based Paula Scher, one of only two female partners at mighty Pentagram, is a graphic design rock star of the highest order. She’s also an author, a superb lecturer, and her work is in the permanent collections of several museums. Her clean, brash, and inventive use of typography has influenced a generation of young designers.

Paula Scher

Barriers? Sure. Glass ceiling? Maybe. These ladies have their eyes on the prize, not the ceiling. As a result, they’ve busted right through it. Rock on.

Editors note: For some further reading check out this great discussion / article… Where Are All The Female Designers? or maybe check out the controversial article where Milton Glaser states that “Women will never be design rockstars“.

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*About Kelly Erickson: I walk in the shadows of all the giants and emerging leaders listed above, and of so many more women and men. Great thought and design is all around us. Future rock star business owners: as the owner of VisionPoints, The Experience Designers, I’m obsessed with your success. For more writings about Experience Design, visit the Maximum Customer Experience Blog.

51 thoughts on “7 Female Graphic Designers That'll Rock Your Socks Off”

  1. Kelly -“Less well known” IS the point here. Talent is talent. Good is good. And gender is only a part of what goes into our vision. We can use it or not. But we all know certain fields, ahem, are not known for giving top spot status to females…still. Quick, name three top female internationally renown architects. Thanks for bringing these talented graphic artists to my attention. I’ll have to come back later and look longer.

  2. Marian Bantjes is pretty well know I would say.

    I don’t even know if I could really name three architects period — except maybe Frank Lloyd Wright. That’s not really a fair comparison if it’s not a field you really follow.

  3. Kelly- Back again for another quick read and to check out a couple more links.

    Clint- Gender has little to do with ability, very true. We would all prefer to just say oh, look at these great graphic artists and they are that. That part has nothing to do with gender.

    But gender bias does exist. When you are standing right there and the guys are discussing, “but what would we do with a woman on the team?” Hello I can hear you. Standing right here. You have to face it. It exists. So it is nice every once and awhile to see some notable women pulled out and highlighted like this.

  4. Though I would never deny that the designers listed here are truly inspirational and leaders in their field, I don’t understand what being a woman has to do with it. Having those kinds of skills requires a certain… vision, for lack of a better word, a different way of seeing and thinking about things, but it is absolutely unrelated to the gender of the designer.
    I’d rather spend less time worrying about the male to female ratio in the field and more on how to become a designer as radical and moving as the ones you’ve listed.

    • Woman are paid far less than men in every field. These artists have done prolific works for prolific companies and I have never heard of them nor are they featured anywhere else during my three months of research into the topic. Lesser known and quite frankly, lesser male visionaries top the list. If you haven’t known the feeling of being oppressed and then being told sex has nothing to do with anything, then you can see the plight of invisible discrimination. Rather unvisionary.

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  7. G’day, JCD readers!

    If you’re interested, follow the link in this comment to my blog, friends, because the link Jacob has up in the post hasn’t been updated since my move last month. The hazards of filling in for a world-traveller and doing major renos at the blog at the same time. 🙂

    Yana,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree completely that being spectacularly talented is not related to being a woman. At this point, however, being less-well-known is, hence this post. If you’d never heard of them before, I hope this was radical and moving inspiration for you.

    Skout,

    Thank you. Glad you liked it!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  8. I jumped over here from Kelly’s blog (hi Kelly! Great post!) – my socks weren’t knocked off as I wasn’t wearing any (long story), so instead I will say:

    I am impressed. Awesome work, all.

    -Brett

    Brett Legrees last blog post..a cog.

  9. Janice,

    Thanks! I follow architecture very, very closely, and yet when you say “quick,” only one woman jumps to mind. (Fine arts has that issue, too. Ahem.) Writing this article was a chance to have these terrific designers jump to the minds of a few more folks.

    Brett,

    Glad you could pop in. Awesome ladies, doing work anyone would be proud to call their own. Gotta love that.

    D,

    Yes, she is well known in some circles (as are each of these designers). To “rank” them, which I wasn’t trying to do, the last three ladies are legendary, and many designers know at least a bit about each of them. The rest are, in my opinion, on their way to being legends. 🙂

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kellys last blog post..Road Trip: Guest Post at Just Creative Design v 2.0

  10. I couldn’t agree more that the gender of these artists is 100% irrelevant and should stay that way. I respect that you want to bring attention to their work, and there is no question it is exemplary design work. But it seems to me that articles like this, which focus on a gender bias (perceived or otherwise), tend to exacerbate the problem.

    Why not just write an article about “7 Great Designers You’ve Never Heard Of”. It just feels like a self-fulfilling prophesy when its presented this way.

    That said, the work is great!

    Clints last blog post..Google Maps Strike Again

  11. Ok before I comment – my disclaimer is that I’m not one of those women who “bang on” about equal rights for women…I firmly beleive it’s the right person for the job because of talent, not because of gender…that said though in so many professions still today, women get the raw end of the deal. Things like unequal pay are an issue even today, so I think it was right to head this post up as a woman “thing” rather than a “talent” thing. It brings it home quite neatly that sometimes we definately out strip the boys and kick ass!! Yeay – go female graphic designers with MAJOR talent!! 🙂 Really good post – I enjoyed it and I’m not even in the industry.

    http://www.freyasykes.com

    Freya Sykess last blog post..blogging to make a (bad?) reputation:

  12. Freya,

    Thanks for having your say.

    I’m glad to stir up the pot a bit, because somehow the posts I think will, never do, so this is fun. Glad you liked it.

    I think most of you Just Creative Design folks read my first guest post for Jacob last month (link’s at the top of today’s article). You may have noticed I was talking gender there, too.

    There’s a reason for this, and it’s not what you think. When Jacob asked for guest posts, I wanted to find a way to add to his body of work, but with Perspective that Jacob may not have. As an Experience Designer I could have done this in quite a few ways, but I thought there’s one thing for sure that Jacob can’t do, and that’s stand in a woman’s shoes. (Without looking silly.)

    I have no axe to grind and no need to either keep the status quo or get militant about pushing for change, which is, IS, happening. Just shedding light on things in a different way, until Jacob gets back and kicks me out for drinking his beer. (Cheers, mate.)

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kellys last blog post..Road Trip: Guest Post at Just Creative Design v 2.0

  13. Great article Kelly!

    I’ve been curious about the amount of girls in design for a while, and always wondered where they were. It’s nice to be introduced to a few new ones who have some talent.

    I would love to see a posting on female web designers… I’m just a starting web designer, and while I’m still not very good, some of the websites of these talented ladies leave a lot to be desired. I was impressed by their work samples, but the websites seemed poorly executed (I hate to use the same old adage, but Janet Allinger used a very bad drop shadow on her name at the top and the way she had the images loading meant I had to wait for all images to load to see the last one…). I’m all for GO-talented-women, but I want to see people that have got a good place to showcase their work.

  14. Doug,

    Her site is a wonderful tour of her best stuff. I hope you’ll click through and get lost in her work for a while. Goodness knows I did!

    Kassy,

    Ha! You bring up an excellent point that did give me pause as I wrote the article. It’s part of the Experience of their work—yet a couple of the sites were rather torturous. I agree that’s just not right for designers of this caliber, whether web design is what they do or not.

    Still, these designers are brilliant at their specialties, and I could hardly wait to bring their talents to light here.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for reading!

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kellys last blog post..How You Can Be Remarkable: Write Your Own Story

  15. I saw this as more of a theme of female designers, just like you might choose to feature student designers or designers over 50. The category doesn’t matter so much, it just helps narrow down which designers to feature (and hopefully they are ones that are less well known so readers are exposed to more great design!).

    At any rate, I enjoyed these featured designers and I’m going to pop over to their websites for more inspiration! Thanks Kelly!

    LaurenMarie – Creative Curios last blog post..Quark for InDesign Users

  16. I was wondering who designed Late July crackers that I always buy for my daughter. Now I know. I wrote about Marian Bantjes last week, she’s a truly inspirational artist. I did enjoy discovering a couple new designers in your article. Thanks.

    As for the gender talk, there’s no right way of approaching it, there will always be something or someone criticising. Say, if Kelly didn’t title this post as Seven Female Graphic Designers, but left it as Seven Graphic Designers… then the majority would wonder how come all of the featured designers here were women. On the other side you wouldn’t see articles out there titled Seven Male Graphic Designers… , and if all of the featured designers in an article titled Seven Graphic Designers… were male, no one would ask the question – how come you only featured male designers here…

  17. From above all i liked the designs of Marian Bantjes. She is really good and even the others are too but i think she is AWESOME. Cheers Marian 🙂

  18. Vivien,

    “… the majority would wonder how come all of the featured designers here were women” with a different title. True. When I wrote this in May, I knew I wanted it to be a companion to the other, so the subject wasn’t in question, but, the title… the points you bring up did cross my mind. Thanks for your comment. I’m going to go read your article on Marian Bantjes now!

    aankun,

    Paula Scher did a whole series for them and all the work is amazing. Do check out her site for more. Glad you liked it!

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kellys last blog post..Summer Is a Great Time to: Smile for the Birdie

  19. Has gender been mentioned because there are far less female designers than male?

    It seems to me that there are less females than males in the design industry, unless I’m imagining it.

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  21. Hey,
    Im currently in my last year of study in Visual Communication. I decided to do my thesis on women in graphic design, and in particular the success of Paula Scher. If anyone has any views they would like to share with me, I would be very grateful if you could email me: [email protected]

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  23. Great post. And for those feeling that being female is irrelevant to design or that it should not be labeled or recognized needs to open their eyes. The fact is that there are several times more male than female designers and firms wanting a new vision or direction can effectively utilize that. It is not an insult to be identified as female, so get over it.

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  25. Hi,
    Im Masi
    Im stading Graphic Design.I decided to do my thesis on Retro style, and in particular the success of Paula Scher;Louise Fili;Carin Goldberg. If anyone has any views they would like to share with me, I would be very grateful if you could email me:
    [email protected]

  26. Great article. I do find that it still seems like women are battling for recognition. The generations of time we remained behind an apron is still affecting the female gender’s appreciation. Though I totally agree with some of the previous comments. Doing the job is about talent, not gender, but I agree with those who say perhaps the influential females are not as recognized.

    Thanks for the post!

  27. @Yana on Jul 11, 2008

    you are right that gender SHOULD’T have anything to do with talent, and it doesn’t, but i think what this article is aiming to do is pay recognition to the achievements of women designers in a field where women and minorities are underrepresented greatly. if you were to look at the major books on history of graphic design, a canon exists of (mostly white) male designers. If we do not continue to raise awareness and give recognition and opportunity to women and minority designers, then this canon will likely prevail…

  28. I find it strange why there is less women in design than men but I am all for there be more women, for sure! Have a great day. Martin

  29. I’ve been trying to craft a decent logo design for a very long time now but have never been able to design one that is appealing enough. But I just got an amazing inspiration today that I’ll start working on. I think this one’s going to be awesome 😀

  30. Last time I checked, graphic/web designers who are female make up something like 20% of designers. Although as a woman, I certainly don’t feel inferior, there is nothing wrong with showcasing a certain group who has broken into a field. Relax, and enjoy. Thanks, Jacob. (Maybe one day I’ll considered. A girl from Delaware can dream, right??)

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