Women Of Design: Influence And Inspiration From The Original Trailblazers To The New Groundbreakers is one of four books that have been written by the husband and wife team of Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit. You can find the expanse of their work, which includes many recognizable websites from the design community, their other 3 books, and the occasional client work they do at UnderConsideration. They are large contributors to the education of the design community as a whole and this book is an excellent example of just how committed they are to sharing what they have personally learned with the rest of the world.
The book takes a look at how graphic design has evolved over the past century and chronicles the work of many of the women who played significant roles in shaping the way that design developed. While the initial goal was to include only thirty profiles, the authors note that the number was quickly exceeded and more than doubled in the end. There are 72 different women designers represented within the book. I certainly won’t list them all here, but some highlights include: Elaine Lustig Cohen, Paula Scher, Ellen Lupton, Jessica Helfand, Petrula Vrontikis, Debbie Millman, Irma Boom and Marian Bantjes.
The book is divided into three sections, Trailblazers, Pathfinders, and Groundbreakers. The designers are grouped into these sections roughly according to the era during which their most influential works were created. Each section is prefaced with a short paragraph describing the time period on which it is focused.
Each profile includes a paragraph about the work of the designer, several details about their career, and a short interview. The interviews vary in length and content depending on the designer and there are a few that do not have an interview at all. The personality of the designers and their opinions about their work, design, culture and education are immediately evident in the interviews and it was rewarding to get a peek into their personal and professional lives. The interviews are complimented nicely by a wealth of imagery of the designers work.
It is obvious that the authors had done their research quite well as all of the questions were poignant and relevant to the career of the designer. One example, from the interview with Paula Scher:
Typography, in all its forms, shapes and sizes , has been integral to your body of work. If you would indulge us in a little allegory… What do you expect typography to do in your hands? What do you see in letterforms?
Letterforms are abstractions. Words have meanings. Designing with typography can be a form of abstract expression
While I am not a fan of the justified text found within the interviews, the entire book is set nicely in Ronnia and Odile. There are pull-quotes found within each interview and several key ones are given their own single-page spreads throughout the book. There is also a wonderful chart at the beginning of the book which lists individuals who inspire the people within the book and all of the women are listed as contributors in the back with handy references to their personal websites. A must-own for anyone interested in the development of graphic design from the 1960’s into the 21st century, this book gives readers insight that is seldom found in a still male-dominated profession.
About the Reviewer Dominic Flask is a designer by nature, a teacher by application and a thoughtful companion by friendship. You can find his work here, his thoughts here, and his passion on Design is History.