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Who Are The Most Notable Women In Design Industry

In the US, 54% of women are a part of the graphic design community in any shape or form. Naturally, it means that half of all the designs you see around were made, complied, or designed by a woman. Realizing that, made me think about what women made other everyday things. And what is a better time to talk about it than International Women’s Month? So, today, we will discuss 7 women whose designs have changed many people’s lives for the better, created memories, and, let’s be frank, shaped the graphic design industry as it is.

The beginning 

The graphic design industry has been a part of humanity’s life for almost all its history. We can clearly understand that in the early days, it focused on holy books, frescas, paintings, icons, etc. However, as time progressed with the creation of other ways to use graphic designs, the demand for specialists has also increased.

Naturally, the women started joining in after centuries of not being able to do anything but stay at home and be the beauty of the house. Huge household names like Paula Scher have appeared and shaped graphic design into the industry, and it is now. However, today, we will focus on the women whose designs you have definitely seen before, the ones you will point at and say: “That was designed by a woman?”

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Carolyn Davidson 

She has to be one of the most renowned women designers of all time. And it would be a crime to not include her today. She’s the designer whose work you see every time you walk into the shoe store and glance to the right, where all the Nike sneakers are. Carolyn is the woman behind Nike’s swoosh.

Carolyn Davidson - the creator of the Nike logo

What is interesting about the creation of this logo is that for Carolyn, it was a side hustle to get some extra money while studying at the university. She had to create a logo for a new running shoe brand for a bigger company. So, she did, submitted a few designs, and the swoosh was accepted. She then got her 35 dollars (217 with inflation) and went on with her life. 

When Nike became a world-known brand her logo turned into a symbol most people can recognize in a split second. With the connections Carolyn has made while doing this job and the overall recognition of her work, she was able to go on to have a hugely successful freelance career. Furthermore, as some sources state, she was later given 500 hundred shares of the company. Thanks to that, she retired and worked solely on what she took an interest in. 

Susan Kare

Suppose you were a Mac user at its humble beginnings or an internet user in its pixel era. In that case, the image of a computer with a happy face is burned into your memory. Among other things, you can remember a small bomb, a trash bin, a file, a command button, and many, many more…

Susan Kare - the woman who gave Macintosh a smile

All these icons were created by an extraordinary woman, Susan Kare, one of the most high-profile contemporary designers. She was a part of the original Apple Macintosh design team. She was responsible for many graphics you could see in the beginning. Interestingly, she joined the team because of one of her high school friends. He was a part of the engineering team. She worked non-stop on the marketing materials, icons, and even fonts for Apple. Evidently, with the evolution of the business, many of her works dissappeared from the interface, but that does not mean they are forgotten.

Fonts like Chicago, monospace Monaco, and Geneva went on to be widely spread typefaces used by designers daily. Later, she left Apple and launched a successful graphic design career, dedicating her life to what she loves the most. 

Margaret Calvert

If you are ever in Britain, driving a car and trying to navigate the perplexing crossroads with hundreds of vehicles at a time, and you see a road sign that helps you out with the line you have to get – think of Margaret Calvert. Why, you may ask? Because she is a woman who helped create that sign. 

Margaret Calvert - a co-designer of the UK's road signs

During her studies at Chelsea College of Art, she got lucky with a mentor whose guidance helped Margaret’s talent flourish. Her major was illustration, so she was not really familiar with graphic design when she was offered to assist in her first “real job”. Nevertheless, she dived right in. With the help of her mentor, Jock Kinnear, she started taking interest in lettering and took on more projects.

When Kinnear was appointed head of the new road signs project, Margaret was sure to be part of the team. Together with her mentor, they have developed an icons and typefaces system for road signs. First, they focused on the motorways and then on other roads, including rails, all-purpose, and airports. At first, the designs were not accepted particularly well. However, road signs proved effective and intuitive after testing them for a while. That later landed Margaret more work for governmental programs connected with road administration, and she picked up teaching at the Royal College of Art.

Lotta Nieminen

The 2010s were a fantastic time to be using Google Calendar. It provided an efficient way to organize your life. It was also a fun experience that incorporated illustrations in its software. And if you’ve ever found yourself enjoying those, you have Lotta Nieminen to thank. 

Lotta Nieminen - the woman behind Google Calendar illustrations

Originally from Finland, Lotta moved a lot around the world. This helped her grasp the ideas from different countries and later incorporate them into her work. Like in a romantic movie, she moves to New York City to finish her design studies at Rhode Island School of Design and kickstart her career. She worked with a few well-known design agencies for two years and then created her own, Lotta Niemen Studio.

Partnering with re­nowned brands like the Ne­w York Times, Vanity Fair, Bvlgari, and Google, she has pave­d her way to success. Each collaboration serve­d as a testament to her ve­rsatile skill set and innovative vision. However, the one you can recognize her the most in is the Google Calendar project. There she, as an illustrator, has created 12 different visuals that represent months of the year and help the user emerge into the atmosphere of each. 

Cipe Pineless

If you have ever opened a magazine and found an illustration rather than a photo as a visual to the article, I want you to think back to Cipe Pineless. However, not because she was the one who drew the illustration, but because she was the person who introduced it to the world of magazines.

Cipe Pineles - the woman who brought illustration onto magazine pages

There are two things that you need to remember about Cipe. First, she was highly talented when it came to sleek magazine covers. She worked for Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, and Charm magazine. Her covers always left people stunned and thinking that they want more. 

However, where she really bloomed was during her years managing Seventeen. She and Helen Valentine (Seventeen’s editor) brought illustrations onto the pages of their magazine. Pine had an amazing taste in incorporating pictures into the articles that would include the interests of their demographic – teenage girls. Thanks to her, many fine artists could get a job that was not on the verge of dying (like painting was), and the public could meet them, bringing dreams to reality. Furthermore, Cipe was an illustrator and experimented with color, shape, and style on the pages of Seventeen. She finished her career teaching design and passing all her knowledge to other generations of designers. 

Jane Davis Doggett

Have you ever flown on a plane? If you have, you will probably agree that the most tedious thing in flying (except for the cost, of course) is finding your way through the airport. Especially if you are flying through an international airport with huge numbers of gates and space. Then you see those colors and icons you have already seen on a boarding pass or a screen before. Your heart starts beating faster – “Yay, I haven’t got lost, I got to go this way”! If you have recognized yourself in this passage, thank Jane Davis Doggett.

Jane Davis Doggett - the wayfinding trailblazer

Jane Davis Doggett, a Yale graduate, was a trailblazer in environmental graphic design, specifically wayfinding. After a few years of working for an architectural magazine, she landed her first airport job. This job sparked something in her. She was passionate about making flying accessible to everyone. Jane introduced numerous projects including, but not limited to: a standardized font, color/symbol/letter coding, highway signs system, etc. She was one of the only women working in environmental design back then. Still, it didn’t stop her from communicating and implementing her ideas in real life. 

Jacqueline Casey

If you ever see Jacqueline Casey’s work among others, you will always point out her visuals without any mistake. Her visual style is captivating, eerie, and thought-provoking, just as she wanted it to be. 

Jacqueline Casey - a prominent poster creator for MIT

Why, though? What is so special about her work? Jacqueline once said: ‘My job is to stop anyone I can with an arresting or puzzling image, and entice the viewer to read the message in small type and above all to attend the exhibition’. When you browse through her posters, you get this exact sentiment. Looking at a puzzling and flaring image makes you want to explore the canvas for longer. Then, you notice the headline, just in time for you to lose focus. In the end, you see a body of text that you are now interested in after how captivating the two previous parts were.

She worked at MIT all her life, creating posters for the MIT press. These posters are now exhibited in the university’s museum. However, even after being forced to retire, she did not stop doing what she loved the most. She continued as a visiting scholar until her last days.

Final thoughts 

Each of these women had an immense impact on the graphic design industry and, let’s be honest, on some of our lives, too. Someone grew up reading Seventeen while wearing their favorite Nikes to show off to their friends. Others have just bought their first Mac, showing off all the cool features and visuals there were to their friends at MIT. Someone else was so used to driving in Britain that they felt petrified after discovering they could not just drive from New York to California. After checking their schedule in Google Calendar, they understood that they could not depart from JFK and had to take their first flight from Newark.

All these people were affected by the women who have made life easier or more joyful for them. The best thing we can do is remember them sometimes and take their lives as an inspiration to create something that will save the world. And Approval Studio will have your back when getting approval for them.

Picture of Nana


A girl who cannot imagine her life without coffee with orange juice & something new. Can spend the night reading articles on topics she has never even heard about the night before. Actually, that was how she started her path in design.
Picture of Nana


A girl who cannot imagine her life without coffee with orange juice & something new. Can spend the night reading articles on topics she has never even heard about the night before. Actually, that was how she started her path in design.

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