The Role of Women in Design | 12 Designers – 12 Opinions


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? Are they taking a more leading role in the design field? Do women and their male counterparts differ in anyway? From a feminist aspect, women and men do not differ in any kind. However, the numbers speak the truth, as we do not find enough women designers in conferences, publications, or as jurors. Is this a reversing trend? Barbara Szaniecki from Brazil, Belen Mena from Ecuador, Benito Cabanas from Mexico, Chris Lozos from United States, Gitte Kath from Denmark, Jamila Varawala from India, Lygia Santiago from Brazil, Maria Mercedes Salgado from Ecuador, Marina Córdova Alvéstegui and Susana Machicao both from Bolivia, respectable designers , well known to our community and Veerle Poupeye from Jamaica, Executive Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica,  were called to give the role of women in design as they experiences it in their respective countries or just global observations. They came with very interesting points and links for your references. I thank all of them for their valuable contribution to this article!


Barbara Szaniecki


Women are occupying spaces in all types of work. it is therefore normal that also in the design field they are acting more and more. In the labor world, women can enter “making equal” to men or, on the contrary, “making a difference”. Or playing between the two positions. So certainly, some assume positions of leadership and choose to work in large companies of communication and design. Or for large companies. But there is also a large number of women designers that are seeking ways of working beyond a labor market that does not always allow them to produce under adequate conditions – i mean specially to harmonize production and motherhood and care of the family – or to have their work recognized in the same way as their male colleagues. And so they try to work on gender issues of course but also, more broadly, on the issues of society. They try, through their work, to provoke a reflection on the current crisis in its multifaceted social, economic and ecological aspects. Facets that point, all of them, for the decline of a certain kind of rationality that has dominated the world for centuries. Women have always generated new lives and today, many women designers seek through their work to generate a new world. And it may be necessary to start by discussing the very idea of ​​leadership – at work or in life – and by learning how to generate both a more collaborative design and a more egalitarian society.

Brazilian review of culture, media and democracy


A contribution for the Occupy movement here in Rio de Janeiro. it's based on an Alexandre Rodchenko's poster


Poster for a seminary


Belen Mena


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? I believe, in the interest of equality, women designers should be consider the same as men designers.  But I think gender differences exist, atomically, physiologically and biologically, therefore her role is different.
Being a women designer in actuality it’s a privilege. I think the way that women react to some social experiences and themes, are assumed different from men, so the way we communicate this thru our design, increase the possible ways to change a society positively.

Do women and their male counterparts differ in any way? Even though natural given characteristics been quite different amongst males and females, whether they be cultural or physical, competing it’s not the essence. The multi-task intelligence of women approaches a highly constructive thinking, giving more importance to social responsibilities. We are generally more emotionally; sensible and intuitive driven while men are usually goal oriented, so still going to have differences even in the absence of gender socialization.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? Since the beginning of time Women have always been treated as the inferior sex, but certainly actual women gained influence in every field, when we compare them to women of last decades and centuries.

Actual female designers are taking risks, are voicing their opinions thru visual art and approaching new ways to create a healthy and better society. I don’t know if we gain yet a leading role, but certainly I think we are creating the bases to it, strongly contributing to the development and expansion of design.)


Benito Cabanas


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? Women have struggled to gain a place, a recognition, a reputation that they have succeeded with their work day by day! There are women leaders in the field of design and their work is of excellent quality.

Do women and their male counterparts differ in anyway? Maybe in some countries women do not even have chance! I think that level of thinking, thinking, creativity, work is the way to equal capabilities!

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? Of course they do! Besides that it becomes an equity contribution of women given a diversity of thought to the design field.


Chris Lozos

(United States)

The role of women designers is completely in their own hands unless they create a self fulfilling prophesy. Women (and men) will find what they are looking for in the design field.  If you are looking for sexism and bigotry, you will find it.  If you are looking for a place to exert your own creativity and succeed as a designer, you will find it.  My advice is that you search for exactly what you want to find.  Be the person you want to be instead of wishing someone would grant you that wish.  The women designers who are getting a leading role are the women who have seized the day and taken it.  If you feel you are not worthy, then you will be found not worthy by others so simply BE worthy and believe in yourself.

There is only one creature on this earth that you totally control. That person is yourself.  There are some people whom you may influence to some degree and there are some people whom you invite to influence you.  The vast majority of others in the world will be mostly disinterested in you but not because they are uncaring, instead because they have their own lives to focus on most of the time.

There are also another set of people in any field.  They are the selfish, the greedy, and even the evil.  You cannot change them or defeat them but you can minimize how they affect you. Don’t waste your time or your soul with them.

Woman, Man, or Android, you have the power if you create the power from within.  Those who have no power are waiting for someone else to grant it to them.  This will not happen.  You were born with everything you need.  Believe it and get to work making yourself be that person. Screw all the assholes in the world, they don’t matter.  You matter, your friends matter, your family matters.  Work for them and yourself.

This is a very hard job.  Don’t shy away from it. Don’t blame others for your woes. Be in charge of your life. If you don’t do it, who will?


Gitte Kath


In Denmark the general possibilities for both men and women are more or less identical. Everyone have access to free education in Denmark. At the design schools 80% are female students nowadays. It is somehow characteristic that the female students work together in groups and male students work alone. Maybe the experience of working alone explains why 80% of the poster designers today are male?

The female students are in my experience more eloquent and they work harder. It might still today be important for women to work that much harder to make the world aware of them? On the other hand the male students often have more courage to go against the main stream and thereby stand out from the rest.

In general the female students have higher grades from high school tests when they get accepted into the design schools – but grades are not necessarily important to make it as an artist or designer. It’s the originality, courage and the basic talent to express ideas that makes an interesting designer. To generalize, maybe 20% of all the design school students have what it takes to be a good designer? The talent to express your ideas might be the most important thing and gives you the possibility to get to a leading role. I believe that women in the world of design, and in the world in general, will get even stronger in the future.


Jamila Varawala


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? Clearly there is a shift in a women’s role in society that would affect her role in every field. I am aware that a lot of women designers are making their mark in the design world today. They are visible with strong statements. Zaha Hadid is a strong voice.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field?  Yes. Women designers are playing pivotal roles today. I have primarily been a teacher of graphic design for the last 30 years. I have taught in Sophia College Polytechnic Mumbai, a girls college, for the first 13 years. In the earlier years most Indian girl students would study and get married placing their career on the back burner. Now the trend is that the girls take up design as a strong career option to create an identity for themselves resulting in financial freedom. They start their own entrepreneurial design studios creating a niche for themselves in branding, publishing pharmaceutical designs, hospitality and retail. A few have made it big in the advertising field.

Do women and their male counterparts differ in anyway? In my experience as a teacher in a girls college and then teaching co-ed colleges I find that girls definitely think differently from boys. Girls are gentle and maneuver design elements differently, the boys bring a different perspective, they are direct willing to take huge risks and bold. Without sounding feminist most graffiti artists are boys.

Annual Report Design. Copywriting: Jamila Q arawala and Sonalee Mandke


My Book of Indian Festials. Story and Copywriting: Jamila Q arawala. Illustrations: Jeny Bhat


Games People Played. Design and Copywriting: Jamila Q arawala


Lygia Santiago


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? I think we women have to make a difference and show our potential and creativity. Wedo this normally, with no marks caused by a sexist society.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? No … I think not … We do our best ever, without worry of being the best … but to make the best ever …

Do women and their male counterparts differ in anyway? I do not think there is a design done by women … I believe that is not identified … What can be identified is a style … A designer woman who really like and think it has a well-defined style is the canadian Marian Bantjes … In the visual arts, I think in some periods of art history that can be identified because of the feminist movement … Around 60’s.

CD délibab / Vitor Ramil - Album packaging (2010) Design: Lygia Santiago Typography: Felipe Taborda + Lygia Santiago Photo: Facundo de Zuviría Art Direction: Felipe Taborda. Typography of the cover was designed by Lygia Santiago from a family drawn by Felipe Taborda. Lygia developed a family "round" which was used to write (Délibáb) in the above cover. This font can be downloaded for free from Felipe's Taborda Studio website ( This CD cover was also nominated for "Prêmio Açorianos de Música - 2010" (best graphic design).


Forma e Sentido Contemporâneo (logo and branding) (2011) - Design: Lygia Santiago Art Direction: Felipe Taborda


CD / DVD Peranzzetta Gilson and Mauro Senise - NOEL ROSA 1OO YEARS(album packaging) 2010/2011Design: Lygia Santiago / Art Direction: Felipe Taborda


Maria Mercedes Salgado


Very few women designers around the world have important responsibilities in direction posts, for instance: direction of design organisations, juries in international contests and biennials or lecturers in design events. Our presence is still limited but will change.

I’ll tell you a local story that represents already an evolution of women in design. They are 29 artisans organized in an association, A.M.A.D.O.M. (Asociación de Mujeres Artesanas Autónomas de Dos Mangas) in a very small town called Dos Mangas, located 8 km from the Pacific Ocean in Ecuador, South America, bordering the protected forest. They never studied design, but practice it. Around ten years ago men earned money to support their families by selling forest woods until the laws prohibited logging in that area. Thus, the women decided to work on making art crafts. After some conflicts and divorces, the men went to the forest to grow and harvest the raw material as « paja toquilla » and « tagua » (vegetal ivory) for their women work. These women « design » objets for their families maintenance.

Poster for publication for Centro de Diseño de Rosario Argentina, subjet "Against child explotation" invited by Pablo Kunts. Publication 2012


Poster for the promotion of Cumbre Mundial de Diseño de Prensa, in México 2012


Selection on the Bienal Internacional del Cartel en México 2010


Marina Córdova Alvéstegui


What role are women designers playing in today’s world? The role that women designers are playing in today’s world is basically the same to our male counterparts. But as women we have an extra responsibility, more like an owe to our gender actually. We must expose sexism and firmly oppose it e.g. the common practice of displaying women’s body to attract costumers and possible buyers; if we have the same skills and preparation as our male colleagues, we must not accept to earn less than them for the same responsibilities; we must celebrate and share the work that has been done by women designers worldwide; we must demand more female jurors, more workshops by female designers, more female speakers, among other things always seeking for gender equality. In 2006, the London School Of Economics estimated it will take 150 years to eliminate economic inequality based on gender worldwide. Imagine that! Gender equality is a really serious issue, we have to work harder in order to accelerate this change.

Do women and their male counterparts differ in any way? Well, nature gave women maternity and it is something that men will never have the possibility to experience, unless a dramatic change occurs with the help of science. Women experience that miracle, we get pregnant, bear children and take care of them, which is a lifetime job. During women’s fertile years, men are building their careers and becoming visible in the professional arena. Leaving work to care for children should always be our choice, not a pressure imposed upon us by society. If we want to have the chance to get back to work in the design field, we must have our partners’ support as well as sharing child care responsibilities with them, otherwise trying to balance our personal and professional lives becomes a titanic and overwhelming enterprise.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? Let me quote the ever amazing and inspiring Canadian designer Carole Guevin: “Gender has got nothing to do with talent! Are women still under represented today? Yes! Needing more limelight? Yes!”

Though the work of designers worldwide, regardless of gender, is quite rich and diverse; for some reason when it comes to the public sphere such as workshops, speakers at conferences, publications and even as jurors of design competitions, the presence of women designers seem to be outnumbered by our male colleagues. It is pattern we are working hard to change in society as shown in the examples below:

• Canadian designer Carole Guevin has been featuring women designers’ work in a special section called ‘Powagirrrls’, first on her web magazine ‘Netdiver‘ until 2010 and later on her new project ‘Featured By‘.

• Every March, since 1996, American designer Fred Showker publishes ‘Annual Designing Women’ on his website ‘Graphic Design & Publishing Center‘.

• Mexican designers and espouses Bryony Gómez-Palacio and Armin Vit published in 2009 the book ‘Women of Design‘.

• In 2009 another book about women designers, specifically Polish designers, was published as well, ‘Discovering Women in Polish Design: Interviews & Conversations‘ by Gian Luca Amadei.

• Since 2010 ‘WOMEN designers | MUJERES diseñadoras‘ project, which is run by Susana Machicao and I, has been featuring in Facebook the work of fellow women designers, muses beyond graphics and the work done by our female precursors.

• In 2010 Swedish designer Valeria Hedman founded ‘BirdWatching‘. The project’s name is a pun since ‘bird’ is English slang for woman and the ‘watching’ part alludes to the visual design element of our profession but it also means that the project is here to watch out for each other and our common interests.

• In 2011 the exhibition ‘Mujeres Diseñando‘ (women designing), showcased 75 posters of 12 women designers of San Luis Potosí, México. The experience will be reprised this year, this time it will include the work of 4 women designers of Puebla.

• Early this year a new book was published, ‘Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012‘ by Gerda Breuer and Julia Meer.


Sandra Monterroso


What role are women designers playing in todays world? The work of women designers is very important because we are part of the productive system of society. With our work we can provide and make structural changes in the culture, if we consider it clear that the design is part of the visual culture of a place.
Do women and their male counterparts differ in any way? Perhaps the difference lies in the sensitivity, the ability to organize and to give a different point of view, we have the same capabilities as men, but historically we have not had the same opportunities. That will create a disadvantage for us, but also an impetus to innovate.
Are women designers  taking a more leading role in the design field? We are exelentes managers to generate ideas and changes, at this time I think we are more women designers, but we are still not sufficient compared with men, for us are still less opportunities and also because in some societies there is still sexism in power.
So that led us to make new ways of leadership for ourselves and create another type of institution more inclusive.

Susana Machicao

women designers

What role are women designers playing in today’s world? There is no special role. To emphasize that we had a special role is to recognize that our design work is different from male designers. BUT we need to keep motivating the young generations to never forget the passion and dedication that they had while they where studying. We need more professional representation in workshops, international jury, Universities, because we are not that few, so let’s make a statement with our work

Do women and their male counterparts differ in any way?  Not at all in the results I am seeing thus far. In my experience women are more dedicated in details while they’re designing, so sometimes the result is clearly unique. But this is not common and of course there are bad designers too.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? In some countries yes. I read a debate of Polish Designers few months ago when they were discussing why they have so many women designers in Poland, and why men are so few. This is crazy for me, classrooms are full of young female students, but somehow they change priorities while they are growing, or simple stop looking for spaces of recognition or healthy competition.

Women Designers Project

The project born to identify and highlight the design work of women. We include also illustrators, artists and inspirational profiles from all-over the world. We want to change the notion of female participation in the most recognized design activities as biennials, lectures, workshops and jury, and to generate interchange of opinion in educative, professional and social levels. Even though the page is not “women’s only” because we think that the scenario has to be changed and the only way to do it is to have the participation of men with their opinion, likes and suggestions.
The project is open to all the women with an Open Call so we invite you to make a graphic statement.



Veerle Poupeye

(Jamaica – Executive Director of National Gallery of Jamaica)

What role are women designers playing in today’s world? I am best equipped to speak about the Jamaican situation. In terms of studies, at the Edna Manley College, the ratio of graphic design students is about 60 % male and 40 % female. Professionally, I think the ratio would be similar. It is still a male-dominated field but women are however making headway, as in all professional fields. I suspect that one of the driving forces in this change is the changes in technology. Designers no longer need “big equipment” that is only available in specialized offices and can more easily work from home, which suits and empowers a lot of women, especially when they have children.  Since design is client-driven, however, the capacity to “get the job” is however essential and women may still be at a disadvantage on that count.

Do women and their male counterparts differ in any way? To be honest, I’ve never looked at it this way. I tend to look at the work, rather than at who made it. Women may however get different jobs and engage with clients differently. Much would depend on the personality of designer, rather than on gender. A friend has said that female designers are more conscientious and perhaps they are also more flexible and easier to work with – that is certainly my experience working with designers at the NGJ.

Are women designers taking a more leading role in the design field? As I said before, it is still a male-dominated field. The CEOs of the main local companies are mostly men but there are some influential exceptions and I do think there is the potential for change. It is really in women’s hands to take a greater stake in design and to have their presence felt.



Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (


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  • Rajul Sadiwala Dhaimade says:

    I am a student of Jamila from the batch 1988 of Sophia College, Mumbai. She was one of the most dynamic teachers of our times. It was a real struggle for me in those days to fight against conventions and follow my career. But I did.
    I worked with several reputed ad agencies in India and have now started my own Design and Films company in India. Today the girls have it relatively easy and am happy to see them get equal opportunities to follow their passion. 

  • Chris Lozos says:


    Thank you for including me among your guest contributors.  I very much enjoyed reading all of the comments from the nine other esteemed contributors. I was thrilled to see the powerful poster “Against child exploitation” designed by Maria Mercedes Salgado. That image shows the power of design that anyone would be proud of (whatever their gender).


    • GRaphicART says:

      Thank you Chris! It was wonderful to have your opinion among others. I loved that poster also, and it is wonderful to see how designers, no matter gender, become more creative through years.

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