Why We Can't Let Design Become a Boys' Club

Women designers are out there, and it’s in everyone’s interest to recognize their work.

Graphic design is, by and large, a boys' club. Of course, if you were to survey practicing male designers, you'd find an abundance of guys that wouldn't identify as sexist. But personal beliefs don't always translate to how we work, and that's an issue that needs to be addressed. Female designers still struggle to feel comfortable in their profession and recognized for their work.

Recently two separate incidents made this point clear: the launch of MOMENTUS, a visualization of important moments in U.S. history curated by Evan Stremke, and the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, a three-day event held in Cleveland, sort of a SXSW for design. These projects are great because they challenge designers and highlight their work, but both suffered from the same glaring flaw.

With MOMENTUS, the failure to include women has been acknowledged (though not on the project’s home page). I reached out to Stremke to ask how it came to pass that he did not have a single female designer or illustrator in a project that has 30 pieces. His reasoning was one that is common among creative people that curate this type of project: He wanted to work with his friends and didn’t realize that gender imbalance would be an issue. Both things I can forgive, for sure, but neither one is good for design.

MOMENTUS and Weapons of Mass Creation are not outliers. The recently completed 50 and 50 project also had a pretty big gender gap, featuring only seven solo female creatives and three small studios that include women. (Ten out of 50 is low, no matter how you slice it.) The root of the issue is that most dudes in design don't have a very diverse network. This can be attributed to any number of things, but mostly to the fact that women have historically been marginalized in design, often considered boutique or needed only to make things that sell specifically to women. That's reflected in the numbers: Only 3 percent of creative directors are women, so few that a conference was set up to discuss the problem.

This is all such a bummer! We haven't vaulted ourselves very far above the 1960s stereotypes presented on Mad Men. But it’s not as if women designers and illustrators aren’t out there. In making excuses for the dismal number of women highlighted in these events and projects, the organizers reveal that they are just lazy. Throw a stone (not literally, I don't condone that), and you'll hit a talented female designer. My graduating class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design had roughly a 1:1 male to female ratio, so it's not like they are rare. (Indeed! Check out our slideshow of 25 women designers and illustrators we love.)

And yet, of the 20 presentations at the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, only four featured women. The event didn’t just lack gender diversity. The speakers were almost all white. Again, I don't necessarily blame the planners, but the only way to buck this trend is for the presenters to be aware of who will—and won’t—be on stage with them. A word of advice: If you find that every slated participant looks exactly like you, don't participate. The personal benefit of discussing your work shouldn't come at the expense of not fully representing the diversity within the profession. I can't imagine being a woman and attending an event like this, with so little representation. Surely designers like Irma Boom, Jennifer Daniel, Paula Scher, Marian Bantjes, Jessica Hische, or Keetra Dean Dixon could have been asked to participate. Maybe they were and maybe they turned it down. Even so, hungry, young designers are waiting in the wings to show what they have.

And let's face it, they should have the opportunity to do just that. Every talented female designer should burn down the status quo, and every well-intentioned male designer should be aware of the flaws in his own network. Mix it up and get challenged. Design can only benefit from diversity, and frankly no one wants to be a part of a sausagefest. Am I right, ladies?

UPDATE: The conversation is moving! Evan Stremke has taken to his personal site to explain his approach to MOMENTUS; the designers of Quite Strong have posted about their involvement at the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest; a few people were critical that we didn't attempt to solve this issue on our own, but perhaps that's because they missed our accompanying "designing women slideshow" (you should really check it out!). Bobby Solomon of The Fox is Black posted his reaction to this article and was nice enough to reach out to me for a response, which you can find at the bottom of his piece.

We want to keep talking about this issue, both here and elsewhere. But it might serve us all to take a deep breath, sip a chilled beverage, and remember that this isn't about any one person or event or project. It's about expanding our networks in meaningful ways to ensure quality experiences for everyone.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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