‘Women In Design’ – the alternative design history

Women have made an immense contribution to design history. And it isn’t a huge surprise that historically it hasn’t always been an easy ride for female creatives battling in a male-dominated world. This is, of course, true of most professional fields, be it the arts or science. Many icons of design, typically attributed to leading male figures at the time, were, in fact, the work of women.

Margaret Calvert ‘children crossing’ signage 1936 © Crown

This is the premise behind ‘Women in Design’ – a fascinating new book published this month by Laurence King focusing on the female voice in the history of design. Published in alphabetic order are 100 creatives in various fields – from architecture to product and industrial design, graphics, fashion and textiles – even cars.

Nana Ditzel, Egg chair 1959 © Alessandro Paderni Courtesy of Doshi Levien
Nana Ditzel, Egg chair 1959 © Alessandro Paderni Courtesy of Doshi Levien

Featured are the famous names – Aino Aalto, Anni Albers, Charlotte Perriand, Ray Eames, Eileen Gray, Elsa Schiaparelli, Zaha Hadid, Patricia Urquiola. We also learn of less publicised female voices – the ‘Damsels of Design’ all-female team at General Motors in the 1950s, Margaret Calvert who sketched some of the world’s most enduring road signs including ‘children crossing’ in the 60s, and April Greiman, one of the first to realise the potential of the computer as a creative tool in the 80s. These are spirited creatives collectively introducing a lively dialogue to the history of design.

Learn more about the book and the role of female vehicle designers and graphic designers.