Through a Slack discussion with a few of Speak's female designers, we explored their experience in the industry, designers they look up to, and advice they've been given along the way.
here's Today's starting line up:
Jessica: Hi ladies, thanks for joining our discussion on women in design. I’m excited about this conversation and opportunity to understand your perspective a bit more. Let’s dive in.
I’d love to start by taking a moment to explore those unique perspectives that inform your design. Whether it’s your background, experience as a woman, challenges you've faced, etc. it would be great to hear what you think makes you the designer you are today.
Corinne: One of the challenges I’ve faced is getting pigeonholed into a particular style. My first job was at a company where our main target audience was teenage girls. So of course all of my work was very girly and bright which made it difficult to find another job with an opposite audience. I felt like I was stuck in this one style when really I am capable of working way beyond that.
Whitney: I feel like a lot of my perspective, now, comes from being a mother. I wouldn't have ever thought that like 6 years ago though! I didn't realize how much having kids can change the way you solve problems for pretty much any client issue.
Jessica: Corinne, do you feel like it was hard to break out of that when you first made the switch? And Whitney, I'd love to hear more about how you used your #mompower to solve a problem.
Corinne: Not really, I knew I could handle working with other types of clients. It was more exciting to stretch my legs in other areas
Whitney: #mompower haha! That's one way of putting it! I think I view things from an angle I used to just not understand. Having kids gives you a bit more patience when dealing with a difficult client or project, which is certainly a plus!
Having kids of my own certainly makes seeing a user experience from the eyes of not just a female, but a mother easier.
Leslie: For the most part, I think I’ve been pretty lucky with clients and co-workers that were great and open to listening to me, taking me seriously, and letting me design a variety of things. But being in the field for over a decade, I’ve also definitely had some experiences of assumptions about being a woman. For example, one time (when I was starting out) a client assumed I was the “secretary” because I was female and young.
Jessica: I've had a similar experience and it's unfortunate just how common that can be. I'd love to know how you handled it in the moment? Corinne and Whitney, have you had similar experiences?
Whitney: I've had male clients before that would refuse to acknowledge my presence or take me seriously. That was quite hard. One client in particular was very bad. I would ask him a question and he would physically turn his gaze and body towards my male coworker and answer the question.
But in situations like those, I would just press forward and try to have as much grace and patience as possible! Which is hard!
Corinne: Thankfully I’ve been fortunate enough to be supported by my peers who valued my work as a designer and as a woman.
Jessica: Definitely hard! Corinne, it’s great to hear that some progress is hopefully being made. Certainly more work to do.
Leslie: I have had some moments like Whitney is talking about as well. Luckily there were people that had my back and would call it out in response and direct it back to me, saying something like, “she’s the one with the experience, I just ask her.” With the “secretary moment”, I just had to laugh it off and say something like, “I’m just a designer. Let me ask someone that might know the answer to that for you.”
Whitney: Same here! I have been so lucky to have coworkers - male and female - who back me up!
Jessica: Gotta appreciate the allies in the room! It’s interesting to see how some experiences (both good and bad) mirror each other and how others are signature to each of you. Sometimes as women it’s hard to look to other females in leadership positions because there aren’t any. Are there any women in design who you think are paving the way for women in your field as a whole?
Whitney: I tend to look at Jessica Hische and Lauren Hom when I need some female inspiration.
Leslie: I was just going to say those two.
Whitney: Great minds think alike! haha
Corinne: Jessica Walsh is a designer I’ve followed for a while, she’s worked with some amazing people in the creative world and recently opened her own agency in New York. She also founded a non-profit called Ladies, Wine & Design to provide a community to women and non-binary people in the creative industry. They have chapters in 280 cities worldwide and offer talks and meetups (before COVID-19) to help connect and grow underrepresented creatives.
Jessica: Oooh you can tell I'm not a designer, I don't know those names! Tell me more.
Leslie: Although I will say that my male mentors (that I worked with) when I started out, treating me with respect and like “one of them”.. that did help me learn to not act any differently than them. To speak up, stand up for myself and co-workers, etc. Just being treated as an equal goes along way.
Whitney: Jessica Hische and Lauren Hom are largely lettering artists. They have their own studios, which is inspiring in its own right, but I do wish I had more female mentors in an agency capacity.
Jessica Walsh is awesome too, Corinne! I didn't realize she had done all that! I haven't been keeping up with stuff as much as I probably should lately haha
Leslie: I do wish that as well. I recently saw a local graduate here did her capstone project on “where are all the female art directors/creative directors?” It was interesting because statistically there are currently more females than males with design degrees, but very few females in those director positions.
Corinne: Luckily Nashville has a chapter and I got to go to one of the meet-ups before Covid. It was really cool to meet other creatives in the city
Whitney: Wow, I didn't know there are more women than men with design degrees but few females in director positions.
Corinne: That’s what LW&D whole mission is based on, that only .1% of creative agencies are founded by women & non-binary people.
Jessica: I'll have to look these women up! Cool to see women paving the way but there is always a need for more in leadership (grateful Speak is in huge support of this). The mention of mentors leads me to my next question. What about women you know, are there any mentors you have? Or what is some notable advice you’ve been given?
Corinne: Some great advice I was given from a professor in college was, “Your portfolio is never finished” and what I took from that is to never stop creating, you can always improve on your skillset or learn something new.
Leslie: There’s definitely a lot of people I met in college (fellow students and professors) who have been a good source of supporting each other.
Whether keeping up with design trends or discussing how to handle situations or where to go in your career, etc. There’s some I’ve been the mentor to as well at this point which in itself makes you learn new things.
Whitney: I think the best advice I've gotten is at the end of the day, it's just design. Family comes first. I know that's cliche, but it's something that never really meant as much to me until I had kids. I used to stress over my designs being perfect — still do sometimes. But at the end of the day, it's just another design. In 3, 5 years it will probably be out of style. But your kids, your family, they are who count on you most. Without them, I don't think I would have what I need to do what I do every day.
Leslie: I agree with Corinne, in this field that is constantly changing, you’re continually learning and growing. I have definitely found that there’s something you can learn from everyone as well, whether they are more experienced than you or less experienced. We can always learn from each other.
Jessica: Great advice all around. Last question, what’s one thing you’d tell other women interested in design?
Corinne: Get connected with other creatives, keep in touch with those classmates from college, get involved in creative communities. Even if these people aren’t in close proximity to you you can still encourage, share work and learn from each other.
Leslie: This probably goes for every career, but make sure it’s something you truly feel passionate about because you aren’t just done learning when you finish school. You need to keep up with design technology, trends, and the world around you.
Whitney: Don't get married to your designs. Something you create can always be improved in some way. And don't let criticism get you down. You will always have a critic, and they are the ones who usually, unknowingly, help you grow both personally and creatively.
Leslie: ^That’s actually the first thing our professors taught us at my college. “Learn to divorce your work.”
Whitney: Great advice! haha
Jessica: Sounds like I should put this advice in a blog, thank you all so much for sharing your perspective and insight!
If you're looking for seasoned designers to turn your branding or website idea a reality, look no further. We'd love to explore your ideas and make them come to life.
Get In Touch