The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews

Maya Lekach

In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to focus your attention on some of the best lady designers in the business! And we think it’s time do away with the old-standby ‘famous’ designers, and shift the focus to those just starting what are sure to be illustrious careers.

In this, the 21st century, these rising, or already shooting, design stars are becoming more and more frequently females. Here we celebrate five of the best who bring women to the forefront of modern design history and design’s future.

Jessica Walsh

"The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews" - Jessica Walsh featured on The Creative Edge

Imagery from the trendy one-page responsive design page created for her artistic and personal experiment with Timothy Goodman, 40 Days of Dating

Jessica Walsh could be at the forefront of the new design movement. In fact, it is her mere presence that has resuscitated the career of celeb-designer Steven Sagmeister in their new joint studio Sagmeister & Walsh. The duo made waves by announcing their partnership through a series of nude staff photos and have since attracted some of the largest clients, brands like Universal Music and The Rolling Stones (among others).

Walsh also drew attention and internet fame when she teamed up with fellow NYC designer Timothy Goodman for the social experiment/design website 40 Days of Dating. This and other projects have made Walsh one of the top female designers, the top young designers, and all around one of the general top designers of the world today. She opened up to mag The Great Discontent on everything from her inspiration, her favorite movies and foods, and what its like to live your dreams.

Jessica Walsh interview for The Great Discontent

“Work your ass off; be persistent; stay curious; challenge yourself; and most importantly, have a lot of fun. If you have fun and enjoy your work, other people will pick up on that and they’ll enjoy it, too.”

Jessica Hische

"The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews" - Jessica Hische featured on The Creative Edge

A sampling of the book covers for the Hische-designed Drop Cap Collection for Penguin Classics

Jessica Hische is a designer living in Brooklyn, New York, working on hip designs in a hip place. Growing fond of posters and identities when she studied graphic design at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She soon graduated from intern to freelancer to working on title sequences, and the font, for Oscar-winning films like Moonrise Kingdom and creating illustrations for an entire collection of special edition Penguin Classics books called the Drop Cap Series, and for which she is frequently noted for her work on.

Hische also became the venerable ‘internet famous’ with her responsive website ‘The Story of Jess and Russ’, a responsive illustrated website telling the story of how she met her fiancé, and the fun and informing flowchart ‘Should I Work For Free?‘. As one of Print Magazine‘s 20 under 30, this young artist has certainly made a name for herself very quickly, and very rightfully so. Hische also designed her own website (and coded it!). How’s that for a Jane of All Trades!?

In this interview with another female designer, Debbie Millman, she opens up about her starts in graphic design, how she fell into typeface writing, and how it feels to be a young type-maker in a field that can be judgemental and loves their history.

Jessica Hische Interview for Audio Design Matters

“If you have gone to art school at all and have gone to a design program, you know that someone passes around the 10,000 free font CD and you spend, like, its a drug or something. And you spend, like, 11 hours pouring through it and all you can find is Gill Sans. After that I had $17 in my bank account, I ended up just deciding to do some lettering for a project because I couldn’t find something that was default that felt right and I really love the process with it and went for it.”

Hjärta Smärta (Angela Tillman Sperandino & Samira Bouabana)

"The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews" - Hjärta Smärta  featured on The Creative Edge

A sampling of pages from the Hall of Femmes book on Carin Goldberg

Hjärta Smärta, meaning ‘heart pain’ in Swedish, consists of Angela Tillman Sperandino & Samira Bouabana. The two female Swedes met when in design school at Forsbergs School of Design in Stockholm and quickly teamed up to start their own design studio. Their visual output has consisted of rearranging familiar images into new forms and ideas, however their real prominence rose when they began the Hall of Femmes, a website and now book series highlighting the work of women in graphic design and art direction.

They have received numerous accolades from top publications like The New York Times and The Designer Observer for the strides they have made in re-opening the history — and moving into the future — of graphic design by bringing women out from the shadows and into the forefront. Their series has featured women from over the world although their book series has focused on American women such as Lillian Bassman, Carin Goldberg, Paula Scher and Janet Froelich.

In this interview with Designers and Books, the two talk about the inspiration that brought them to feature female designers on such a platform as Hall of Femmes, their working relationship, and their connection to the history and future of Swedish design. Their words and their works show how we can forge our own paths and bring light to multiple generations of designers.

Hjärta Smärta Interview with Designers & Books

“What we saw was a structural problem within the design industry itself. We felt that we lacked women in the business to look up to and whose successes we could aspire to, and out of curiosity, we started doing research… Instead of focusing on demonstrating that there aren’t women in graphic design, it seems obvious to us, that the only way to inspire the notion that it’s possible to work a lifetime in design is to show examples of the women who actually did… These women have often been innovative, fearless, and have significantly contributed to the development of our profession. We believe that the history of design can be rewritten, through showing the fantastic examples that do exist.”

Bryony Gomez-Palacio (and her partner Armin Vit)

"The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews" - Bryony Gomez-Palacia and Armin Vit  featured on The Creative Edge

The cover of the book Graphic Design Referenced, a collaboration between the husband and wife team.

Sometimes, it takes more than just one to really make a difference. While many women, even in highly developed countries, have to fight to get out of the home and into the workforce, sometimes it is domestic bliss that can create the best partnerships, like in the case of Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit. Not only are the two entwined in their business partnership, but they are also laced through their marriage and their two young children. Talk about being a team!

Together they lead UnderConsideration, both a design firm and publishing company, which includes subsidiaries like the web favorite BrandNew. In addition, the duo has published a number of books including Graphic Design Referenced, a 400 paged reference book of graphic design. Sounds like they’ve been pretty busy, but with your partner at your side it seems worth it.

This interview with Print Mag shows the couple’s abilities to grow further because of their partnership and how their mutual interests in both design and their family allow them to accomplish what always was deemed to be impossible: having it all.

Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit for Print Mag

“More than an influence I would describe our dynamic as a partnership. One where we can be completely honest with each other while voicing our opinions on each other’s work, a partnership that allows us to push and challenge each other in ways that traditional colleagues can rarely accomplish. There are no hurt feelings, no bruised egos, no broken shells in the process of a project—just the search for the best possible outcome based on each of our strengths.”

Deborah Adler

"The leading ladies of design: 5 not-to-miss interviews" - Deborah Adler featured on The Creative Edge

Adler’s designs for an entire new system for pill prescription bottles called Clear Rx for Target

Adler got her rise to fame in an unconventional, yet thoroughly exciting way. While working towards her Master of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, she wrote a thesis project with a brand identity and package design for Target’s prescription bottles, a project she called ClearRx. Her proposal ended up being accepted, and used nationwide in the almost 1,800 stores across America. This goes to show budding designers (and really students of anything) everywhere: experimentation can totally be worth it — Adler went from virtual unknown to a Senior Designer at Milton Glaser agencies, one of the top American design agencies. She’s now a self-employed designer and speaker extraordinaire, most certainly a success story.

In this interview with adaptive path, Adler discusses the user experience (UX) and how this is especially important for prescription bottle packaging design, where the understanding how to consume is of the critical importance.

UXWeek Interview with Deborah Adler for adaptive path

“I feel that the new ClearRX system is just a lot easier for Target guests to understand than what previously existed. Everything from the layout of the label, which is much more intuitive and based on information architecture, to the color coding system which applies a certain color to a certain person, to the flat surface of the bottle. We made these decisions to deliver a better experience for the ClearRx user.”

What other leading lady designers do you think deserve big props? Let us know in the comments!

Related articles:
99designs celebrates International Women’s Day
Celebrating women in design around the world
A shout-out to 99designs’ leading women
Interview with Brenda Chapman: storyteller, animator and director

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