As an female design student, I was keen to attend the Hidden Women of Design talk to hear women talk about their work and gain more understanding of their experience working as designers in the industry. Hidden Women of Design is a project which organises curated talks celebrating the talent of female designers and questioning why many are still unheard of.
Designers are often the leaders of their own projects, being confident in pitching ideas and selling your own concepts is essential. However in the workplace, there are traditionally more men in leadership roles, which can lead successful women to be victims of ‘impostor syndrome’, or the feeling of being undeserving and unworthy of one’s accomplishments.
Coming to the event I expected these women to talk about the struggles they faced as female designers, and the challenges of the industry. Instead, they simply talked about their own personal careers and the different paths they followed, each of them specialising in a different area of design:
Emma Parnell is a Service Designer at Snook. Passionate about Design Thinking, she started off her career being a Packaging Designer. She talked about her process of discovering what she really wanted to do by first figuring out what she didn’t want to do. Through Service Design, she observed people’s behaviours and experiences and learnt how to make their lives easier. Her career change was inspired by a wish to create change by Design, which Packaging Design wasn’t enabling her to do.
Eleni Beveratou is a Font Developper at Dalton Maag. After completing a Bachelors in Communication Design and a Masters in Book Design, she forced herself to explore typography, a discipline she wasn’t interested in at all to start with. Through her course she learnt how to look for good type and understand type, developing a passion for it. She is also part of an organisation called Alphabettes which is a mentorship program that promotes the work of women in Type, seeking to empower women through the platform. Eleni’s design philosophy is challenging herself to explore what interests her the least.
Suki Heather is an Experience Designer and the Creative Director at AKQA Creative Agency. She is interested in the relationship between Design and Technology, working on how we can experience information better. She has led a variety on different projects including poster designs for a BBC show which move away from traditional airbrushed aesthetics, unreadable Type design and Type that distorts with voice, a website design that doesn’t have a home page, and many other ideas that push the boundaries of conventional Design. She encourages designers to not think traditionally about their work, and instead bring their own perspective and personality to challenge it. Suki also talked about her position as a Creative Director, often being the only senior female in meetings. Her work ethic is to put your head down and work hard, constantly working on personal side projects as well.
I felt inspired and empowered after listening to the talks, all three women showed enormous strength and ambition. I anticipated hearing horror stories about sexism in the design industry but hearing positive stories about successful careers instead made me feel hopeful and excited for my future career, although the gender imbalance in leadership roles will inevitably require women to work harder to achieve high positions. I admire the work of Hidden Women of Design, as I think female perspective in Design is essential, and the fact that these talks represent successful designers empowers young female designers to be ambitious and hard working too.
Illustrations by me