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GDUSA

Graphic Design USA Magazine

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women in design

Guest Post by John Clifford

Today, women make up around half of the graphic design profession. This wasn’t always the case. I wrote Graphic Icons: Visionaries who Shaped Modern Graphic Design to highlight the pioneers of the field, from El Lissitzky to Stefan Sagmeister. It surprised me that so many of the historic designers I considered influential were male. Fortunately, there were several women who challenged the status quo and paved the way for today’s female designers. Here are a few:

Cipe Pineles  (1908–1991)

Women of GD_Pineles
Charm cover, 1954; Charm fashion spread, 1957

When Cipe Pineles was looking for her first design job in the 1940s, prospective employers were interested in her portfolio—until they learned that the unusual first name belonged to a woman. She kept at it, though, and eventually became art director at Glamour in 1942, the first female to hold that position at a major American magazine.

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Lucia Eames, the only child of American architect and designer Charles Eames and only step-daughter of designer and painter Ray Eames, died April 1 at the age of 83. Born in 1930 to Charles and his first wife, Catherine Woermann, Lucia was an artist, graphic designer, owner of the Eames Office, and founder of the Eames Foundation — not to mention a mother of five.

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The era of objectifying women and judging beauty based on one idealized standard ended a generation or two ago, at least in the public realm and polite society. But consumer advertising people are often the last to know, which may explain why many of them are taking a victory lap — some 20 years late — because of recent ad campaigns such as Dove “Real Beauty” and its progeny.

Dove

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Despite its forward-thinking reputation, advertising agencies are surprisingly unprogressive when it comes to gender diversity: only 3% of creative directors are women.

The 3% Conference, founded by advertising executive Kat Gordon, builds the business case for more female creative leadership in advertising. Launched in September of 2012, the conference has since exploded into a movement that promotes a “sense of community” through multi-city road shows, an involved online community, a student scholarship fund, creative awards and a business blog. It brings together some of the best minds in advertising, gender research and human resources for a long-overdue conversation about why advertising remains a boy’s club in a woman’s world.

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