Just For The

design: references and ideas

“Feminist design looks for graphic strategies that will enable us to listen to people who have not been heard from before. […] Feminism is about bringing public, professional values closer together with private, domestic values, to break the boundaries of this binary system.” — Sheila Levrant de Bretteville: Dirty Design and Fuzzy Theory, interview with Ellen Lupton, Eye magazine, 1992.


Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, poster for the Women in Design conference, 1975.

“The Visible language workshop researches into new methods of navigating and browsing, and includes the use of transparency, blur layering and infinite zoom. New technologies allow us to swoop in and out, rotate around the information, to browse it, to drill in for depth and details, as well as to grasp its organization. Multiple layers help us establish a context and give the viewer a sense of place in the new space.” — Information Landscapes, 1994.

Muriel Cooper with David Small, Suguru Ishizaki and Lisa Strauseld, still from Information Landscapes, 1994.

Gif for the exhibition “Muriel Cooper at MIT”, 2014.

(another reference for changes of perspective: the public school for architecture brussels website)


Muriel Cooper and MIT Press Design Department for Donis A. Dondis, A Primer of Visual Literacy, MIT Press, 1973.

… probably inspired the cover design of the graphic design history anthology published by Occasional Papers, 2012 (designer and co-editor: Sara De Bondt).


Marlene McCarty

“I literally was cutting letters out of rubber, to make those tombstones. I don’t know if you remember them. That’s what I was doing, which was total gofer work, in a way. But it was exciting. This was cool. And, I was starting to know about ACT UP because I had been dragged to these actions – not even really totally knowing what they were about, but just knowing like – I need to be there, and I need to be a body, showing my support.” Marlene McCarty, ACT UP Oral History project interview.


For The Record by fierce pussy for Visual AIDS, 2013, series of newsprint posters, stickers, postcards and downloadable broadsides.


Women’s Design and Research Unit’s, “Pussy Galore” typeface, 1994.

Pictogram proposition for toilets signage, for the association OUTrans, Hélène Mourrier (article Libération), and Coco Riot, Gender Poo project.

Ridykeulous (LTTR), The Advantages of Being a Lesbian Woman Artist, 2006.

Guerrilla Girls, 1995.


Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s grid visualization from A Chronological History of the United States (1856)

Lauren Klein, “Feminist Data Visualization: Rethinking the Archive, Reshaping the Field”, talk 2015.

“What alternative histories emerge when we rethink the archive of data visualization? In particular, Klein analyzed the work of three nineteenth century female “data visualizers” (Emma Hart Willard, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps, and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody) and compared it to William Playfair’s authoritative approach to data visualization.”

Emma Willard’s Temple of Time (1846)

“Klein’s analysis of Willard, Phelps, and Peabody’s data visualizations […] challenge the normative standards for ‘proper’ data visualizations established by Playfair and reinforced by Tufte. Instead of focusing only on the legibility of visualizations for data, argument, or evidence, Klein considers alternative means for creating, employing, and interpreting data visualizations. Willard, Phelps, and Peabody’s work in many ways would be considered ‘failures’ is visualization. But Klein uses this as an opportunity to ask why these are considered failures, what can we actually learn from them, how can we use them, and how can we perceive them as pathways to alternative futures in data visualization.”

What Would Feminist Data Visualization Look Like?, Catherine D’Ignazio

“The visualizing technologies are without apparent limit. The eye of any ordinary primate like us can be endlessly enhanced by sonography systems, magnetic resonance imaging, artificial intelligence-linked graphic manipulation systems, scanning electron microscopes, computed tomography scanners, color-enhancement techniques, satellite surveillance systems, home and office video display terminals, cameras for every purpose from filming the mucous membrane lining the gut cavity of a marine worm living in the vent gases on a fault between continental plates to mapping a planetary hemisphere elsewhere in the solar system.

Map to Not Indicate, 1967, by the art collective Art & Language.

Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all seems not just mythically about the god trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary practice. And like the god trick, this eye fucks the world to make techno-monsters.” (Donna Haraway in "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective/Feminist Studies", 1988)

Dirty design

Dirty Design – An exploration of dirty design philosophy by Marjanne van Helvert.

“I looked, and I saw it was clean. I looked again, and I realized it was dirty. The world of product design is the terrain of a masquerade. Things are not what they seem, they pose, they hide behind the surface, they pretend to be something they are not. I came up with the word dirty when I tried to find a way to describe my feelings of discomfort toward many design products. Whether they are of the mass-produced type or of the art gallery variety, I often feel there is a discrepancy between the way they look and what they really are, I feel like their surface is misleading.”

Just for the record…

Woman’s Building History: Sheila de Bretteville (Otis College)

Further readings list

Work hard, be nice to people and have rich parents: addressing privilege in the creative industry, Gemma Germains, It’s Nice That, 2016.

Ece Canli, Design History Interrupted – A Queer-Feminist Perspective, in The Responsible Object. A History of Design Ideology for the Future, Marjanne van Helvert (ed.), Valiz, 2016.

Disputing Ergonomics, Deconstructing Users. A Queer Perspective on Design, Emeline Brulé, Tiphaine Kazi-Tani.

Queer Graphics. The Critical Work of Hélène Mourrier, Tiphaine Kazi-Tani

Decolonising Design, Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power: Symposium, 2016

Blog: Feminism and Graphic Design

Design and Feminism: Re-visioning Spaces, Places, and Everyday Things, Joan Rothschild, Alethea Cheng

The Glass Ceiling, Frans Aussems, March, 2017, and his series of interviews.

Martha Scotford, Is There a Canon of Graphic Design History?, AIGA Journal, 1991.

Martha Scotford, Googling the design canon, eye Magazine, 2008.

Martha Scotford, Cipe Pineles was a design innovator. Why, when the history came to be written, was she left out?, eye Magazine, 1995.

Michael Bierut, The Graphic Glass Ceiling, Design Observer, 2006.

Indra Kupferschmid, Female speakers at conferences, 2015.

Tori Hinn, Women in Graphic Design (and why we need to talk about them), desktop, 2014.

Madeleine Morley, 5 Groundbreaking Ways Women Changed Graphic Design, AIGA eye on design, 2016.

5 Powerful Works by Female Designers, UAL News, 2016.

A history of women in graphics in Britain

Madeleine Morley, The Women Redressing the Gender Imbalance in Typography, AIGA eye on design, 2016.

Madeleine Morley, Take Back the Fight Tells the History of Fighting Gender + Sexual Violence through Activist Design, AIGA eye on design, 2017.