Michael Bierut | Essays

The Graphic Glass Ceiling

Audience question card, 92nd Street Y, New York City, December 4, 2006

A week ago, I was the moderator of a presentation and panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y, "The Art of the Book: Behind the Covers." The panelists were Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. The organizers seemed pleasantly surprised by the turnout: over 900 people showed up on a Monday night to hear three people talk about book design.

After a visual presentation from each participant, all three joined me on the stage for questions submitted from the audience. There were seven questions in all. The fourth question to the all-male panel was as follows: "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers? Is there a glass ceiling in graphic design?"

I read the question to the panel. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?

You may have heard already what happened next. Chip Kidd made a quick joke about Larry Summers, who lost his job at Harvard partly by ruminating a little too freely on a related topic. After another pause, Milton Glaser offered an answer. Jill Priluck reported it on Gothamist, with an update several days later:

[Glaser said] that the reason there are so few female rock star graphic designers is that "women get pregnant, have children, go home and take care of their children. And those essential years that men are building their careers and becoming visible are basically denied to women who choose to be at home." He continued: "Unless something very dramatic happens to the nature of the human experience then it's never going to change." About day care and nannies, he said, "None of them are good solutions."

The crowd was silent except for a hiss or two and then Eggers piped up that he and his wife both work from home and share child care responsibilities — but added that maybe New York was different (although we don't think Eggers really believes this). Then it was clear to everyone in the room that it was time to move on.

On stage, I remember feeling...well, I remember feeling there sure are a lot of guys up here. As I recall, I eventually volunteered that, in fact, cover design was a part of our field that had provided a route to success for several notable female designers, including Louise Fili, Carin Goldberg, Knopf's Carol Carson and Barbara deWilde, not to mention (as noted by our questioner) my own partner Paula Scher. There didn't seem to be much else to say. Luckily, there were other, and easier, questions to answer. Next?

I began getting emails about the event, and particularly its "Larry Summers moment," the next day, as well as links to other reviews that raised the same question. On Youngna Park's blog, Glaser's comments were rendered like this:

There are no women at the top of the [book designing] field because women give up that time to have babies and families. [ed. note: Milton! whatttttt are you talking about?!!]

Now, it occurs to me now that I might have also said that evening that three of the world's best book designers — no, make that the three best book designers in the world — are all women: Julia Hasting, Lorraine Wild, and Irma Boom. But this misses the point. Because the issue isn't about talent, or ability, or accomplishment. It's about celebrity.

"Superstar" designers — and that's what we're talking about; read the question again — aren't just good designers. They're celebrity designers. And celebrity is a very specific commodity. It certainly helps to be good at what you do to be a celebrity designer (although celebrities in other fields don't always seem to have this requirement). But that's only a start. You also need to develop a vivid personality, an appetite for attention, and a knack for self-promotion. Accept every speaking engagement. Cough up a memorable mot juste for every interviewer. Make sure they spell your name right every time. This is time consuming work, particularly on top of your regular job, which presumably consists of doing good graphic design. Naturally, if you choose this route, it helps to be free of the distractions of ten to twenty years of caring for children, to say the least. In many ways, Milton Glaser's observations were shocking only in their obviousness.

We all know that women face challenges in the workplace that go far beyond being denied spots on panel discussions. According to a 2004 study, women make only 75.5 cents for every dollar earned by men. Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled over 23,000 charges of sex-based discrimination. Just a few months ago, the London School Of Economics estimated at it will take 150 years to eliminate economic inequality based on gender worldwide. These are real problems.

Yet, you have to start somewhere. Glaser answered the question on the card, but the real question was the unspoken one: "Why is it that you guys up there are always...guys?" There is no good answer for this, and it doesn't seem we should have to wait 150 years to come up with one. It's depressing for a profession that's more than half female to keep putting up 100% male rosters, at the 92nd Street Y or anywhere else. And I say this with no small degree of self consciousness, as a member of a firm where only 10% of the partners are women. This is what made me squirm last Monday night, and it's what makes me squirm today.

Celebrity is good for certain things. It puts the butts in the seats at the 92nd Street Y, for instance. But it's not the only thing, and based on the reactions of those people in the audience last week, it might be time for something more.

Posted in: Business, Media

Comments [189]

Well noted! Great food for thought. Here's another: why are many celebrity (by definition therefore "successful") designers, particularly women, single or childless? Does having a middle-class family life impede our careers that much?!

If I were to rank the designers that I know personally, the top two would be women. They are far more humble than their lesser male counterparts. They know they do good work but are just less egotistic about it. To be celebrity one has to have a certain..."personality", a desire to be seen at 'the top'. Maybe women just don't need the ego stroking that men seem to crave.



Or women spend their time actually working and not writing press releases about their last pro bono job, sitting on panels or blogging.

I think that women have less time than men. Simple. I would write more but I am too busy.

Because women are too busy buying shoes.

Milton Glaser and his wife have no children. In light of his comments last week, an interesting detail: will future biograpers of this celebrity designer reveal this as an intentional gesture of solidarity with his wife? Probably not, since his wife is not as famous as he is.
Jessica Helfand

There are five partners here and one of them is a woman - so technically that's 20%.

I'm constantly amazed at how often design industry folk are amazed that we have a female partner. But I suspect things are changing. I've been to a few degree courses this year and at least half the students are female. You couldn't say the same when I was at college 10 years ago and I doubt you could have said the same thing 30 years. I don't know why this is, maybe Adam gave that Apple to Eve.

Milton has (at least) highlighted a very important point. Commerce just doesn't treat working mothers very well. I wonder if the lack of celebrity female designers is due to the fact that 90% of design consultancies have less than 5 staff and therefore find it very hard to accommodate decent maternity leave?

Why is it important to foster a 'star' system which trades on 'celebrity' in the first place? As Michael writes, celebrity is good for certain things. It's also bad for certain other things.

If we look at the star system in the art world for example, it's very good for art traders, and it's good for the few people who are considered stars. But it's not particularly good for the public, nor the majority of artists. The art star system privileges artists over art. It also pressures the artists who strive for stardom to essentially create the same work over and over again in minor variations so their work becomes easily identifiable, understandable, and easy to commodify.

I mention the star system in the art world in part because it's far from universal. In some cultures it barely exists. In others, fame is the name of the game. Does the design world really need stars? Should the design world have it's own TV show? Can we find a hypo-manic designer with the requisite level of ego-mania for TV? Can we sculpt her into a proper genius diva figure, with an exotic drug habit, famous lovers, bulimia, and bipolar disorder? Can we later publish books on her creative genius: separating the woman from the myth?

I agree with Anonymous. There is too much emphasis in the creative fields on being a superstar, a commodity or household name. How many superstars are there in the sciences? Why is it that we quantify a person's worth based on likeability instead of merit? Greenberg dealt with this with his "Avant garde and kitch". The household name is a very plastic and generic representation of a profession. It is propaganda.

As for the question of why superstars are not women, we must beg the question as to why women are taken less seriously in any profession. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when women had to write under pseudonyms in order to be published. There are communities worldwide, even in the US, who still place the woman in the home. These attitudes are attached to social, religious and political agendas. And they are fuelled by men.

Other nations have already had female leaders. The US is usually late in following suit (abolishing slavery), but is slowly following. Notice, however, that women must 'prove' themselves within the workplace, political or otherwise, by being tough or stringent in their policies, dress, attitudes, etcetera. Women must act like men to be taken seriously, and this is seriously a problem. We don't need more men in the world. Even if they have breasts.

Taking all of this into consideration, for Mr. Glaser to make such a flippant comment is telling of his removal from reality. This may be an effect of his celebrity, but the attitude is definitely left over from the boys club that he grew up in.

Anyway, enough of superstars. Let's just make well.

Raymond Prucher

I liked the last comment that we don't need more men in the world even if they have breasts. It's very true. The problem, however, as some of us are aware, is much deeper, wider and more complex than just talking about in the design context. And in this way I cannot believe Milton Glaser's answer!!! Having said that I think it's a bit pointless to say that "there is too much emphasis in the creative fields on being a superstar, a commodity or household name" cause it's not a question of whether we think there is too much emphasis being put on those things but simply and sadly it is like that and if we look at history...it's always been like this. People love having their celebrity Gods. Period. Too bad so few women are given the respect they deserve for what they do. Being a woman designer myself it makes really tired and sad. But I guess I'll just keep on doing my thing. What other choice do I have?
maja b.

When I was first in school for graphic design, a very large percentage of those in my GD1 class (and the program as a whole) were women. But most of the professors were male. And very few of the women that actually made it through the curriculum went on to find careers. The men did yes, but the women? They went off in all kinds of other directions. And of course design isn't limited in this -- the arbiters of cool tend to be a group of men (from professors to curators to hipster magazine editors and creative directors and so on) and when the gatekeepers are male (and have their male likes and dislikes) the glass ceiling will persist. It's important (very, very important) that we have the Lorraine WIld's and Ellen Lupton's of the world at the top of the education profession -- and the profession as a whole -- but there has to come a tipping point where there is an aesthetic and cultural shift away from the male point of view in graphic design. Perhaps (I have hope) that we are very near that point.

Can we invert the question, in an attempt to find hidden agendas? e.g. Why do we 'all' suppose there are so few male 'housewives' — or at least so few male 'superstar' 'housewives'? Is there a glass wall surrounding housewifery? Or, more simply, why is the economic model given precedence over the private/familial realm?

When the social is penalised so harshly by the vocal force of economic determinates, why do we (as a political mass) allow these deteminates to govern our social? Indeed, is it not necessary to question the very idea of economic "determinates" themselves? For if we truly are the creative thinkers, we are so quick to defend, can we not create alternative modes of production?
Marcus McCallion

I have always thought that the concept of "superstar" designers really smacks of self-importance and elitism. The average American can't name a single graphic designer, so how famous are the superstars really? Designers, whether male or female, should quit worrying about being famous and worry more about being effective as designers.

I always appreciate Mr. Glaser's frankness, but I think there is much more to this than what he highlighted.

Would there have been such a turnout at this event if it were Julia Hasting, Lorraine Wild, and Irma Boom up on that panel? I am still fairly naive in the design industry and must admit that I do not know about even one of these women. I might know some of their work, but I do not know them by name.

I am a female designer with a son and work in an office where I am the only woman out of five men. I consider this an advantage on most days and think this shows more character than any man I know.

Although there may not be many "superstar" female designers (which I hope to become one day), maybe it is by choice? I can tell you that I love design, I love my job, but nothing and I mean nothing will take precedent over my family. And if anyone picks anything over their family, then I guess that says enough about their character.

It's all about the choices you make and what you do with the time that you have.

On another note, I think the glass ceiling was cracked a long time ago. Maybe not broken, but severely cracked and perhaps ready to break.
Diane Witman

I remember working on a big project at the New York Times a while ago when I was pregnant with my first child, and being very conscious of hiding my expanding waistline from the client and my colleagues — all of whom were male. And this was only ten years ago. Yet only a week or so ago here on Design Observer, one reader was annoyed by my writing about my children ... so I suppose I'm left wondering: where's the progress in this? Hide our bellies, our families, our priorities? Diane Witman's comment above echoes that of every mother I know: we love our work, we care deeply about our professional contributions, and don't mess with our children or we'll kill you.

Jessica Helfand

I tend to think that Mr Glaser was simply providing the most honest answer to the question that was asked of him; let's not shoot the messenger.

As far as the issue of celebrity goes, I think most people in the field crave it to some extent but most aren't willing to sacrifice other elements of their lives to it (ie: family takes importance over career).

In the realm of web/interactive design, I'd say that there are many 'celebrity' female designers. The actual stats may be more in favor of men, but I tend to think it's more equal in the web/interactive world than in the graphic design world.

There's an article linked in the Observed section right now by Andy Rutledge than touches on this celebrity subject too. Linked here again for posterity: http://www.andyrutledge.com/thin-red-line.php

Ms. Helfand,
Please read my previous post here, as I will defend a woman's right to have equal representation, be a parent, a professional, or anything she pleases. We are, after all, human, and should not be quantified by our genders.

Please do not present my comments on your article out of the context for which they were intended.
Raymond Prucher
Raymond Prucher

RP: I was actually referring not to yours, but to Alexa's commmentin last week's post: Nothing is more tedious than people needlessly working their children into things. In the context of this discussion, I think this is pretty relevant.
jessica Helfand

My prediction is that this is all going to change in the next five to ten years, in fact, in many ways, it has already started. Don't believe me, look at who has been in charge of the AIGA NY since 1996, take a look, they were all women with the exception of one. Personally, I would love to organize a conference and invite only women designers, guess what? I guarantee all attendees would be blown away from the tremendous amount of design talent women possess.
Rocco Piscatello

There were definitely no shortage of women in my design courses in college. I recall being one of two men in some classes. Maybe the tides are changing with the coming generations.
Nathan Borror

Nathan -- The question is how many went on to be designers. In my GD1 level class -- only one person went on to GD2. It was a woman, in the end though, she decided to go for a graduate degree in film. The other top student from that class -- also a women -- decided that design was too surface and went on to major in liberal arts of some sort. Of all the other women that I know that majored in graphic design as undergrads -- NONE of them actually have careers in the industry. And this was at a leading school for design. I do think that things are changing -- but I still think that too often the when the gatekeepers are men that women get short shrift.

It certainly is more of an uphill battle. And when any semi-talented male can move on to a career in design because he can ape the stylings of the gatekeepers and he doesn't have to worry about choosing a career over family -- and his female counterpart must fight against the current, decide whether to adopt the swagger of the male gatekeepers, and then have to choose between their family and the career -- that means that more men are going to end up in the profession. Again and again and again.

Design is not alone in this problem of course. And like elsewhere, women will have to chart their own courses and then pull up others to follow their lead.

every time i hear the question "why are there so few female superstar designers," i have to wonder who's asking and why they don't know about the number of public personalities who are women. there's zuzana licko, sheila de brettville, laurie haycock-makela, louise fili, denise gonzales crisp, bryony vit, debbie millman, jessica, april greiman, there are so many more i could name just off the top of my head. obviously just a scratch of the surface.

is it actually the case that mainstream design media doesn't actually say anything about anyone other than paula scher, to the point that it looks like there aren't any powerful women in the field? i have a hard time believing that, considering the editors of both how and print magazines are women.

From what I understand, women run graphic design press (julie Lasky- ID, Joyce Kaye- PRINT, Myrna Davis, ADC, Bryne Mooth-HOW to name a few) and there are plenty of articles on graphic design women out there. There was even an entire issue of STEP devoted to women. btw- step is edited by emily potts- one sexy looking woman.

If there aren't enough "superstar women" (ala Millman, Scher) it surely isn't due to under reporting.

A complicated issue to be sure.

I think to approach this particular question about "celebrity" you have to analyze what it is, and why those who have it do. I would propose that no one is a celebrity who doesn't want to be, at least not in the long term. Most designers, men and women, would prefer to be successful... in other words, to make good work, for good clients and make good money. The select few who engage in being celebrities do so as a choice.

So the next logical question is, why? Do they enjoy the attention? Are they only happy if their peers shower them with accolades? Do they feel they have something important to say? Is it possible to share your knowledge and expertise in a broad setting without engaging in, or becoming a "celebrity".

Beyond that, is their something more inherently male in the need to have the spotlight on you? Or do men just have the spotlight shown on them because they're men?

Frankly, there are plenty of mediocre designers who are popular within our field. James Victore comes to mind as someone who I'd consider talented, but no more so than many of my colleagues. Unquestionably his popularity comes from how he presents himself... the bad boy factor. At the end of the day it has very little to do with design, and even less to do with being male.

And to whoever wrote this question... who were the "2" superstars up on that stage? I thought they all were. I suppose even "celebrity" is in the eye of the beholder.

Funny you should mention James Victore, Tag. After admiring his work for years, I finally had the chance to meet him this fall when we were both panelists at the New York Art Director's Club. He turned out to be one of the loveliest, most gracious people I have met in a long time. So much for bad boys.

That said, we all know what the female equivalent of the bad boy is. And it's hardly a ticket to popular success.

Jessica Helfand

I have always admired Mary Lewis of Lewis Moberly. Her work speaks for itself. http://www.lewismoberly.com
Chris Hopkins

I tend to think that Mr Glaser was simply providing the most honest answer to the question that was asked of him; let's not shoot the messenger.

Erik, I agree.

Although Mr. Glaser is a huge icon in the Graphic Design industry he does not speak for us as a whole. As modern as he his in comparison to others with his experience he grew up in a completely different mindset, times have changed (and will continue to do so). He did however speak on the matter unlike the other two panelists who chose to remain silent. I think exposing it will help the matter, staying quiet does us no justice.
Diane Witman

considering the editors of both how and print magazines are women

And ID.
Michael Bierut

I don't know what people are complaining about. Even if there are male "superstar" designers, it's the women that own them in the relationships. It's the women that run the country, lurking in the shadows as our puppeteers. And it was definitely a woman that masterminded this whole discussion to receive the attention that it did. Most of design is aimed towards women anyway, no matter how you look at it, it will always filter down to the fundamental needs of a woman. Whether it be ads to get guys to make macho purchases to impress women, or smart book covers to convey a sense of communal intellectualism amongst alpha males, a man's desire is fulfilling a woman's needs. So you talk about "superstar-dom" as if it were unreachable? Honey, you're so money, you don't even know it.
Random Intern

I have to respectfully disagree with Erik, who speculates there are more celebrity female web designers than print designers, and the interactive playing field is a bit more level.

Name 10 prominent web designers who are women. Now name 10 prominent men who are web designers. I bet you'll have a little bit of trouble with the first one.

In my experience, going to a private art school there was a pretty equal spread of men and women in the design classes. In the web design classes, however, there would usually only be one or two women, and frequently they were taking the class to fulfill elective requirements.

I do believe though that working Moms have a better advantage as web designers than print designers, because so much of the work can be done from home.

In my opinion, the reasons why there are so few "famous" women graphic designers are:

Being a female - This means all the ideological associations and expectations of being one affect most mentalities hence affect ambitious pursuits and the choosing of those ambitious pursuits.

Mentality- Again because we are mainly seen for objects of beauty and mothers and housewives, in our upbringing, the majority think about search for love and men over work and passion, especially during the youth years.

Time- The time most women spend for discovering themselves and the world is far less than men. We can prove that by the very few female philosophers. Besides Ayn Rand, I can't recall any.

History- The past affects the present hence directs the future. The ratio of men versus women in any industry definition of "celebrity" - aside from entertainment - have been highly imbalanced. There has been major progress within the past couple decades and we are definitely stepping up, rather a bit more slowly in the "design" profession.

So now, with this explosion in the field of design and technology, "celebrity" status is not about new "styles" and "aesthetics" but new design thinkers and leaders. Women are afraid to be leaders and men are afraid of them too! Imagine a woman being more passionate and ambitious about her work than her husband. How would the male feel about this? Is it easy to accept female leaders in our society and family cultures, conventions and traditions? Would the man not feel intimidated? These are forces of discouragement and emotional dispel. This can be a difficult role for any female to fill having so much on her plate already just for being a female.

All the above relate to any field of professional practice within the arts, sciences and politics. The innovations were overtook by the males but the ambitious leaders, thinkers and problem solvers are in the shell of emerging young females. Once we break out, the world will be a better place! Imagine young girls have more to look up to than TV "celebrities" and being exposed to more "real celebrities". The media, advertising and design will need a total re-shift of marketing strategies and just maybe we might escape this hole we have dug ourselves into. I am highly optimistic; never naive.
Ghazaleh Etezal

"Why is it that you guys up there are always...guys?"

I certainly think it is important to make that distinction between a person's success and his/her celebrity, whatever the professional field. But I think it's important to consider how the two are essentially tied.

The reason gender inequality is such a difficult problem to wrestle is because most people don't consider themselves sexists. Yet, often they will persist in making sexist decisions that lead to continued inequalities in the workplace.

Why? I would argue association. Consider: When I say "welder", most likely, you'll think of a man welding. But how many of you have actually SEEN a real live welder? People will associate welders with men just because this is what they've seen on TV or in movies, read about, heard about, etc.

It's not important that, most probably, most welders ARE men (not to say that's how it should be). But it is important to consider that what we see, hear, and experience in the public realm (as opposed to via personal/private experience) can define our associations and effect our expectations, without our even being aware.

Chip Kidd's joke about Larry Summers, appropriate or not (I don't recall it getting as much of a laugh as his earlier stuff), was right on the money. Are boys more apt in math and sciences, or are they expected to be? And are girls expected not to be, simply because we subconsciously associate the fields with masculinity? What and WHO we grow up seeing in public (on stage, in movies, or on TV, etc.) will define what we expect from the world around us. When I say "scientist," what image first comes to mind?

I guess what I'm saying is we cannot overlook celebrity as though it had inconsiderable effect on the success of men and women in graphic design and many other professional fields. Celebrity is what molds our perceptions of exemplary in a way we cannot wholly control. It affects whom a supervisor might choose for a promotion, and it affects what professional avenue an individual will pursue. Female celebrities are an important influence, I feel.

To answer the original question (the one in quotes): the real issue at hand may be whether celebrity itself is a male-dominated realm. Does a man in the public eye connote brilliance more than a woman? Are women not as inclined to put themselves in the spotlight because women in public are expected to be sexual (consider the Sex Museum's "Presidential Bust" of Senator Hillary Clinton)?

Though I disagree with Glaser's seeming assumption that women can't experience motherhood and professional success an the same lifetime (the solutions he proposed may not be good, but those aren't the only ones), I think he was right that "becoming visible" is an essential ingredient to leveling the playing field.

As a woman working in the field of graphic design I, for one, do not experience that there is a lack of women "superstar designers." I can probably name at least fifty off of the top of my head that we could recognize just by their first names: Maira, Carin, Paula, Jessica, Emily, Bonnie, Barbara, Lorraine, Luba, Lucille, Marian, Petrula, Ann, Denise, Sheila, Helene and I could go on and on. If people don't know of enough well known women artists of all displines, I suggest you start here and then google away.

Regarding Milton's comments: I was not at the event at the 92nd Street Y. But what I can tell you is this: Milton has taught at the School of Visual Arts for over 25 years. I took his Summer Intensive course at SVA in 2005. There were 28 people in the class; 25 were woman, 3 were men and over the course of the program one of the men dropped out. While trying not to give too much of the class away, Milton did more to encourage everyone equally to discover what is unique and meaningful and authentic and special about their work than any instructor I have ever had or observed. He patiently took us on a selfless journey to help us each find our potential "inner superstar" (my words, not his, please!) and never once indicated that any of our dreams, hopes, aspirations or goals were unattainable because of gender, marital status, parental status, etc. If anything, he embued us with the sensibility that the *only* thing, the ONLY thing that could ever hold us back from achieving what we truly want in our lives are our own personal fears.
debbie millman

There is a plethora of extremely gifted female designers. Check out this archive of web sites.

Powwagirl Designers


Von Glitschka

A very interesting discussion... Very similar to how it works in my own field (architecture).

I believe that women are much worse at self promotion than men- which is one of the reasons for "the glass ceiling".

Another thing is the "curse of the minority" (huh, a minority of 51% of the world!); that is, if the three panelists were women, chances are that the title of the conference would be "women designers today", and the target audience women.

And I say this with no small degree of self consciousness, as a member of a firm where only 10% of the partners are women.

I'd be curious to know if Pentagram had a hard time finding women who wanted to join them or if there was still some old-school gender bias lurking in the hallways of the various offices. I find this particularly relevant considering they recently announced another male partner.

This whole thing really bothers me. Here's why;

I accept the notion that design "celebrities" put asses in seats at design lectures. That's their job. And, working mothers of young children would logically have less time to get on airplanes and show their portfolios in
OshKosh, which, when done in infinite repitition, with reasonably good reviews, is how good designers ultimately become design "celebrities".

But forget that for a moment. Book design has traditionally been the one area of graphic design where women have truly excelled. It's the province of women's design, complete with low pay! There is no shortage of names here. We all know that.

So how come this panel happened? If the 92nd St. Y merely wanted asses in seats, why not get John Stewart and Amy Sedaris and they can talk about their books. I t would fill alot more than 900 seats, if that's the goal. And they're even funnier that Chip Kidd.

Not one panel member seemed to think it odd that there wasn't woman present there. Until they were asked by the audience about "super-star" designers and then a list of not-famous-enough-women were recited. No one, (no man) raised it with the Y when they were asked to speak . Noone insisted that based on the overwhelming amount of leading talent in this particular part of the design industry, one leading women should logically appear . No one bothered to think that it might look bad, or they might look bad.

And that's how this stuff, really, continues to happen. It's not about "superstars" and not about babies.

They just needed one. Give up one of the guys. How about Milton? Replace him with Carin Goldberg and the audience can be astonished at what a swell speaker she is, so she'll be asked again and again.

I know how all of this works. I've been the "woman panelist" for 30 years. This one makes me sick.

paula scher

Bravo, Paula.
Jessica Helfand


To be honest with you, I'd have a hard time even naming 20 web designers of any gender. :P My opinion comes largely from cruising the hundreds of thousands of portfolio sites that are out there. I see a lot of female designers but these are people from all over the world too, so it might be different in other areas of the world.

Amongst the handful of designer friends I know directly and somewhat intimately, I can say that what surprises/disturbs me is the lack of confidence amongst the females.

I constantly hear them say that their work isn't good enough or that they wish they were better at something. However, when I look at their work, it's fantastic. I find the men more often say about their work 'It's pretty good maybe not perfect, but it's good.'

Granted this is a tiny, tiny sample group, but I wonder if it's partly about confidence and/or ambition to 'get out there'.

GO Paula!

Growing up in the 60s and 70s I bought the whole "You can be anything you want to be" mantra. Hook. Line. And sinker. Any woman who believes that we are playing on an even field, hasn't been in this business long enough.

Things have not progressed as much as one may wish. My sister-in-law struggles as she has been peer-pressured into staying at home with little kids.

Jessica and Ellen Lupton were both on the panel for "Women Rock..." at the AIGA conference in Boston last year. It turned into a discussion of parenting more than any other issue. How many guys showed? Maybe 2? (Thanks Ellen, from those of us who don't have kids.)

Inclusion of women designers needs to be a conscious part of any conference or event planning effort. After all, could AIGA survive if all the women quit?

Armin stepped on his, uh, tongue, in October on Speak up.

To succeed in this business, your work is your child and has to be nurtured and guarded. And you have to have a drive to keep going.

Erik, I agree that a lack of confidence is a major problem. It starts in school and continues.

A couple of years ago, I watched one of our "Rock Stars" do his thing and for the first time, realized that I am as good, or a better designer. I've been to all the same parties, yet I didn't have the confidence in myself to promote my own work and to reach that little bit further...

Can we start a mentoring movement for women? And perhaps promote each other when we get the chance?

And our dear superstar boys, remember to let the girls play. We all will have more fun.
Michelle French

Paula and Jessica

I find it even more encouraging to see that there are so little of you because it pushes me to do more and stay confident. I'm an undergrad graphic design student and I find very little passion in this field, especially in undergrad. I see very little women as Jessica said with confidence but I think the reason for that is that women are generally afraid of rejection. I do agree with Paula that it's not about "celebrity" or fabulous enormous talent but confidence and determination for "getting there". There is amazing potential out there but if there is no real urge to "make it big" then there will be no big. Making it big now is a lot more than what it used to be in the past, hence the increase in design universities and graduate programs. However, the distractions have increased just as much and guide people in alternate paths in life. Again, I have to repeat that there is very little passion and confidence.

I'd also just like to mention that you three women- Debbie, Jessica and Paula -are women who I have researched and learned about which is why I am posting on this site and this subject matter.

Please continue doing what you do. It's very motivating and fulfilling to know there are women designers like you "up there".
Ghazaleh Etezal

It's easy to say this now that Paula has posted, but I found the named trio of white men, white bread dated: How, in an age where every prime time concoction, advertisement, and annual report features a minority of some persuasion (gender, sexual orientation, race, age, religion) can a contemporary panel stack so flatly? This is the age of multi-grain.
Jessica Gladstone

From where I stand, I just don't see it. 80% of the graduating seniors in my school's design major were women. Right now I work at a design firm that's owned by a woman and employs only women (men have worked there in the past, just not right now). And several of the major firms in my town are headed by women.

Personally I could care less about "rock star" designers.

I think the issue of celebrity also has a great to do with the way interested parties learn about graphic design/designers. I would argue that most students become familiar with the names of "super-star" designers in a school setting through both curriculum and student interaction. The list generally begins with Brodovich and Rand and moves on to Glaser and Scher. I will always remember the horrified look I got from a classmate back when I had no idea who Milton Glaser was. I doubt a failure to recognize the name Luba Lukova would have elicited the same reaction. In learning about anything you start with the celebrities (Times New Roman) and love/obsession drives you to find more obscure talent (Bembo). That said it's nice to have Paula, Luba, Zuzana, as stellar examples that when it comes to design-or any other profession-gender should be irrelevant.

I think the issue of celebrity also has a great to do with the way interested parties learn about graphic design/designers. I would argue that most students become familiar with the names of "super-star" designers in a school setting through both curriculum and student interaction. The list generally begins with Brodovich and Rand and moves on to Glaser and Scher. I will always remember the horrified look I got from a classmate back when I had no idea who Milton Glaser was. I doubt a failure to recognize the name Luba Lukova would have elicited the same reaction. In learning about anything you start with the celebrities (Times New Roman) and love/obsession drives you to find more obscure talent (Bembo). That said it's nice to have Paula, Luba, Zuzana, as stellar examples that when it comes to design-or any other profession-gender should be irrelevant.

Sorry, did not read all the comments but wanted to note that the vast majority of graphic design students are now women, and growing.
- I'm with Kara. Ditto on rock star designers. Brand names mean nothing to me unless I tried the product and like it.
I am interested in smart and interesting humans. Not stars. Not the sex of the person, etc. As long as they are not Hitler or the devil.
- Erma Boom for sure!
- Anton Beeke for sure!
- Paula for sure!
- Michael (most of them and this one) for sure!
- All future no brand name but interesting designers/thinkers for sure!
Please, let's not go where the fine art world went and disect the profession into two camps.
Human designers unite!
a human

Perhaps not the point that everyone is directly dwelling on, but what did Milton say that was so wrong? Daycares and nannies aren't a great solution. Have you ever gotten a call at 7:30am, when you're ready to walk out the door to get to the office and the nanny calls to say she's sick? How the hell am I supposed to scramble and find a replacement for her (and me) and make it to my 9:00 looking fresh, inspired and creative and wow the room in the process?

I always look out for statements with interchangeable subjects/objects...it represents a weird kind of red flag I haven't quite developed an interpretation for yet.


"Nothing is more tedious than people needlessly working their [fill in anything - job, new house, boyfriend] into things."

..also, the starter..

"Why aren't there more [gender, ethnicity, age, nationality, education level] in [profession, type of business]?"

Something tells me that there is likely a design pattern for accurately answering all forms of that statement. Something along the lines of 'life is unfair,' only more actionable. Maybe 'life is unfair and you should change it.'

Great comments from Paula Scher: That'll do, Ms. Scher, that'll do.

For the record, Irma Boom would have put my ass in the seat for sure.


Reading this blog (and others like Speak Up) it seems the parameters of debate are inevitably saturated by a kind of myopic American individualism. Especially on subjects of implied prejudice.

I know terms like 'sexism' are unfashionable, but for it not to appear at all in response to this post is tragic. Tragic because without direct acknowledgement of any kind of systematic prejudice, criticisms of injustice become subjective and diffused. And therefore ineffective as an instrument of positive change.

Surely the sexism manifested in this design-world scenario is merely a reflection of the power structures in the rest of the world? The same structures responsible for the abuse, exploitation and discrimination of women everywhere?

Without meaning to diminish the professional and personal problems this sexism causes for (relatively) wealthy western women, for most women around the world these problems relate to life and liberty.

I can't help but worry that the gist of the responses to this post is a big part of the problem. It's also a reason why graphic design is often so fucking irrelevant.

This is clearly a difficult issue to discuss. So both the woman who posed the question in the first place and Michael Beirut for amplifying it deserve significant praise. Whether the panel being addressed was entirely equipped to respond and fairly implicated is another question. I don't think there is any real doubt in anyone's mind that the system is unfair. Pointing out that some women are successful is a tired attempt at redirecting the focus as is the case for speculating on the nature of celebrity. While the event at the 92nd St. Y was probably not the ideal venue, nor is this blog, they are both an opportunity. It's obviously an issue which needs to be addressed. Apparently designers are not accustomed to it. But denying this is in no one's interest.
Trent Williams

What does being a designer have anything to do with celebrity or vise versa or male/female?
Michael Surtees

In the numerous agencies and firms I've worked for, only two had female CD's. And, only in those two firms did I feel like I grew as a designer and a professional (managing projects and clients on top of being present for the team). Not only did I feel a great sense of solidarity between my CD, our colleagues (many females too) and I, but that design was above anything else; politics, ego, in a word (well, two): hierarchy and celebrity. Kudos to Fanny Krivoy and Anki Spets, I hope other female designers out there get to have such role models.
Tania Mailangkay

It's all about personality.
Make change if you envision doing so.
Don't complain.
Learn to do and do to learn.
Do you, regardless of gender, and accept challenges.

The results might make you famous in whatever way you choose to define fame and fortune. Just smile, share and don't brag.

I applaud Ghaz's comment. If it's not why aren't there any women superstars, then it's why aren't there black superstars, or Jews. Why can't we all just be happy with white male dominance? I'm kidding but really if it weren't women, then it's race, or something else.

I am a young woman designer just hired in a tenure track job teaching new media, and it was no secret that my package went to the top of the pile when I checked "F" for gender on my application. To my surprise, over and over again I find myself in the shoes, so to speak, of poster girl for gender equality in new media. We want to represent women in technology, could you be on this panel? Or.. You'll probably get asked to be on a lot of committees (sentence drifts off)... Not to mention a handful of other recent glaring examples extending beyond academia into our field of design. My response to these situations is usually a combination of exasperation, mystification, and a strong desire to "be the change" by standing tall (and punk rock) as some of the older modes of thinking in the fields of academia and design catch up to the realities of my existence.

Why are there so few women superstar designers? Look around! I for one am playing a different tune, and so are gobs of other designers throughout the world who embrace diversity and who want to use their savvy, their expertise, and their communication skills to represent the exact spectrum of the planet we want to live in. I give a lot of credit for the evolution of this community to women and men a generation ahead of us who really broke ground-- or ceiling-- in establishing and talking about equality of all types. To them, my mentors especially, I say thanks, because we really are living the dream. And if someone is wondering where the women superstar designers are, may I politely suggest, try checking out a different club.
Emily Luce

I think the reason that there are fewer women who are superstars in design is that they need to be SuperSuperStars.

Milton's remarks regarding the incredibly time-consuming role of mothering that most women take on is, essentially, true. Those who have the time to travel and speak, keep their career going and have a family as well earn my undying respect.

What's also true is that women tend to take supportive roles of their husbands, while the opposite is rare. What this means is that men who excel in any profession often have a wife, who takes care of the house, the kids, and a thousand other little details. Women who excel in a profession tend to do so while at the same time support a husband, household or family (not financially, but with time and emotional support). The best that most women can hope for are equal partnerships: finding a partner who will take a back seat to their career is unlikely.

Obviously there are attitudes that women need to overcome; on panels, with audiences, and just being remembered.

Being assertive is more difficult for most women, and I think they are less likely to indulge in their egos. All sorts of alpha behaviour is either admired or tolerated in a man which is not in a woman. There are many lovable assholes, very few (if any) lovable bitches.

Speaking of which, women need to be on their best behaviour. The cult of celebrity tolerates all sorts of antisocial behaviour (Robert Brownjohn, anyone?) from alchoholism to sexual promiscuity, provided the celebrity is male. (I hope to see the day when we can brag about our work, get rip roaring drunk, get in a fist-fight onstage, fall down a flight of stairs, wake up in the morning with 3 men, straggle out late to a morning press conference and be forgiven for it all because we're just such fucking geniuses that the design world would be impoverished without our inspirational, enigmatic presence.)

So my hat is off to all those talented, busy, assertive, confident, good women who have made it to that level where we look up to you, flock out to see you and make our hearts race when we pass you in the hall at a conference.
marian bantjes

What about industrial design (speaking of which, I wish DO integrated more ID into its cultural observances)? My guess is that there are even fewer female design celebrities in that field. Can anyone name 10 superstar industrial designers?

I work in the design consultancy arm of an architecture firm. Our studio director is female, as are all of the interior designers. Could that perhaps be the more feminine of the design disciplines?

Predictably, most of the architects are men, but women hold the majority in our office as a whole.

Lastly, I have no problems with the answer Milton gave. It's true; he was just stating the facts. Men and women are biologically different and our differences have social implications, for better or for worse. Which makes me think of Scandinavian countries and their inclinations toward social engineering. Family leave is much more extensive and male-inclusive there. Does anyone know if this has had an effect on male/female wage differences and equality in the workplace? I'm assuming it has, and probably for the better....


The major issue with Glaser's statement is his use of the word "choose." Do women really exercise complete freedom of choice when they "choose" to stay home to take care of children? Can we not say there are other factors - social pressure, economic realties/inequities, etc. - that make this "choice" something other, something much more complex?

Obviously there are attitudes that women need to overcome; on panels, with audiences, and just being remembered.

I think this is a dangerous statement to make. What about men, don't they have some attitudes to overcome as well? If we use this same logic, shouldn't we be blaming men for not taking a more active role in child rearing and equally upset with women that they aren't contributing enough to the family's income?

I would argue we all need a serious attitude adjustment if equity is ever to be achieved.
Nicole Dotin

HELLOOO PEOPLE. did anyone read Jason's post? This is all so goddamn slight!

If you are all going to be such hardcore advocates for political correctness, then go all the way. Insist that the women design superstars of African descent be given more speaking opportunities. Can anyone offer any suggestions?

Another question.
Why do you all three of you -suppose there are so few or none minority graphic designers?
Is there a glass cieling in graphic desgin?
David Smith

After having read everything here, the original article and all the comments, I am struck by one thing. Precisely what are you using as the definition of graphic designers? How broad (or narrow) an interpretation are you using? Perhaps in the "graphics designer firms" that you are used to seeing or hearing about there are more men. Personally, I consider greeting card designers, scrapbook paraphernalia designers, and web graphics designers to be graphic designers. In at least two of these three categories there are many women and many women superstars. Perhaps the issue is semantic? Or perhaps women designers see a better chance to be a superstar and still design via one of these other avenues?

Is it just me or does the term "celebrity" or "rockstar" not mean a level of popularity based on majority choice?

Aren't there more male superstar designers because people just genuinely like these people more? And weren't there 3 male speakers at the Y because that's who people wanted to hear speak more, which was proven by a 900 person turnout (most of whom were women)? Did they deceive the audience and promise a female speaker, but instead switched it up to all males?

This sounds like a case where only a handful of sensitive women introduce an issue that never existed in the first place, which is no different to people crying foul play to imaginary racial subjugation. Paula's right, this is not about superstars and it's not about babies. But it's also not about anything sexist or an unbalanced industry. It's just a simple case of, "We like this person better." Why can't people see that you may be creative equals, but one of you is going to be noticed more than the other. And stop trying to nitpick reasons and conspiracies out of something that is as simple as a game of high school dodgeball. Just because you get picked last or ignored completely doesn't give you the right to assume there's some grand social commentary behind it.

This whole thing is so rediculous.
voix de raison

I agree with Milton. even though my husband is no lay-about (by any means); because he does not commute 2 hours a day he takes on a large portion of child care responsibilities.

I do find that when I am able to attend a conference there are few female choices for panelists and presenters specific to design, and when there are, few males attend. Are we not interesting enough? Maybe our experiences and points are not valid, or is it that they are not validated?

Even within the small community college where I work, there are approximately 20 faculty members in the department, and 4 are women. My husband is the department chair at a different (non-design) school, and there is one woman among a dozen men. My writing contributions and professional development far exceeds those of the rest of the department, but if you asked one of the men, they could not tell you anything about my professional achievements. They all can relate which of them went out with whom last Friday, however.

Women are minimized in department meetings by those who change the subject or act like the idea was theirs a meeting later; Why is it then, that the women take care of the the majority of paperwork and organizational activities--nominated jokingly by the men? It feels yucky at work every day, but in the end does it matter? I don't know yet.

Hang on--I need to go put on the coffee this morning before class. cbs
Cynthia Busic-Snyder

After showing this write-up and the comments to my (female) significant other who is also in the creative industry, I realized that she's more bothered by the fact that Mr Glaser seems to not acknowledge the fact that things are already changing.

We both ended up agreeing that 'celebrity', while a fairly silly notion, is there for anyone who wants it. Men and women merely have different 'routes' and expectations on their way to achieving it.

I'm not trying to say everything is peachy and that there aren't lingering stereotypes in the workplace. Instead, I'm more apt to believe that this panel being all male was an anomaly and perhaps short-sighted on behalf of the organizers.

The intolerant tone shown by some of the respondents at this question even being raised shows how far the profession has yet to travel.

Ironic, isn't it, that so much design practice is about challenging previous rules or assumptions yet some designers bridle when their own assumptions or prejudices are challenged?
John Coulthart

Last year this time it was the ADC Poster Clowning African American Men. This year the Design Profession has Stuped to Clowning Uncle Milty.

The Machination of the ADC Poster was Subliminal.

Misinterpreting Uncle Milty's comments is about as Asinine and Preposterous as the Bush Administration twisting John Kerry's words in reference to Dubya, The Soldiers and the Iraq War.

Glaser was Candid and Sincere. The Mindset is shared by many in Positions of Authority that Hire and Fire. Notwithstanding people in General. If you read between the lines of what Glaser was saying, there's a lot to Truth in his Comment. Whether the Masses Embrace what Glaser was saying is another Story.

This Out Cry of Foul or The Spot Light on Glaser wouldn't be Entertained if Dr Phil said it.

From where I sit on Mt Olympus, the only thing Glaser did wrong was Entertain the Question. Because you're DAMNED if you DO and you're DAMNED if you DON'T.

It's the American Way!!!!!!

Graphic Design Historically is a Racist, Classist, Pyramid Structured Profession. At the very Top, the Profession is Dominated by a Chosen Few Men.

What Profession in our Hemisphere is not Racist and Classist? The Glass Ceiling Exist as it is Structured in all Professions.

We're still dealing with the Symptom and not the Problem.

As an Advocate for Women Designers. Lets start with the Premise Women were made Second Class Citizens by Men. That's were the Problem Lie.

Women continue to Dominate the Profession of Design and Women are not Acknowledged for their Accomplishment. If they are, Women are Still not seen as a BIG ENOUGH Drawing Card to fill seats at these venues.


Rhetorical Question I presume.

This is Not Accurate History.

Comedian Robert Wuhl said in his comedy show, "History is a Lie that all men agree is true".

Willie Lynch is alive and well...

You Pit Black against White.

You Pit Young against Old.

You Pit Men against Women.

You Create Jealousy and Envy Against the Masses
Especially between the Have and Have Not.

Often times between People of Equal Stature.

Nothing more than Good Ole Fashion Divide and Concur Mentality.

Ignorance and Stupidity Fall for it Every Time.

FYI, I sent Julie Lasky an email last week for her Expertise in a Matter I was Dealing with.

I received an Automatic Response, Ms. Lasky is on Maternity Leave until February 27, 2007. There were other contacts given at ID Magazine to resolve issues.

Only Julie Lasky has the Capability and Knowledge to Resolve my Issue, which is not ID Related. While ID Magazine is not Suffering from the Lost of Ms. Lasky.

I am How selfish of me???!!!

If it's a Boy Julie Name him Maven. And Best Wishes for the Holiday and New Year.

Love Ya!!!!!



Isn't it those monographs and those design books that make designers big? I mean if you don't document your bigness and try to get yourself in print, then you're not going to be seen as big right? Paula made her "Making it Bigger" and I'm sure that made her even bigger once she did it.

Any other women doing monographs that you recall?
I think all the other amazing monographs or in general great design books that are in all of our libraries, are by male designers. It's a combination of writing and designing and personalizing to reach bigness.

So, women, design an entire book based on your writings, and then I think we can talk about bigness in graphic design.

I believe the way this issue was stated was effective, the facts will always be there, however I do agree that things are changing, I am taking communications design at OCAD and over half (over 70%, not quite sure yet) are all women, this will
be changing the design landscape for sure in years to come, for the whole of mankind to rid of inequality, yes 150 sounds right, but in this field
we can help balance that outcome with these numbers,
and if there will be a balance in regards to gender then fair income rates are bound to follow,
makes sense for the time being atleast, especially if you look back to the ratio of men/women applying for jobs in this field say back 10-20yrs ago, or even further, it was a very different time altogether back then,

The answer to this female celebrity designer shortage may reside someplace within the pages of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Or maybe women don't need celebrity status, nor want it. Could doing great work mean enough for them?

For those that do strive for celebrity status, could attitude get in the way? As Marian says, Being assertive is more difficult for most women, and I think they are less likely to indulge in their egos. All sorts of alpha behaviour is either admired or tolerated in a man which is not in a woman. There are many lovable assholes, very few (if any) lovable bitches. This is very true, and I have observed situations where female designers were not hired because they were (what some people called) too bitchy. If a man acts assertive, forward, forthright, or confident, it's okay and signifies a strong will. Why? And does this really prevent women from rising to celebrity status?

But in the end, who is responsible for creating these celebrities? The Canon of Design? The designers themselves? The Press?

Erik, I appreciate that confidence could come into play for a number of women, but as another commenter pointed out, the confidence issues start in high school. It's instilled in women from an early age to be modest, otherwise you might get labeled a "bitch" and we all know how strong women in business are often regarded.

I also don't disagree there are a lot of talented women web designers, but when you think of the top hyped people in the field only a few women come to mind. It's a boys club, even if the boys don't mean it to be. I don't want to hijack these comments and get off track, so if you'd like to continue this discussion feel free to email me.

Some funny, yet related quotes:

I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.

This topic has gone in many directions with many expected and unexpected comments. I think if a person has fantastic work and strives to be in the spotlight then that is where they will end up. I don't think you are thrown into being a celebrity, a designer-celebrity doesn't happen by accident. It is built up with years of hard work, self-promotion and having good, no not good, great ideas.

Does anyone know if it was for certain a woman who asked this question of the panel? What if it were a man, would this change anyone's views or comments?
Diane Witman

Again, I think it's a social engineering issue. Maybe if we all took the time we spent each week navel gazing on DO and spent it getting involved in the political processes that would lead to real change instead, we'd all be a lot better off.

Instead of wasting your time posting these long-winded rants to a design blog, write a letter to your legislator instead. Get off the damn computer and volunteer in programs whose mission is to raise the self-esteem of young girls.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Myself included.

Perhaps things are changing. This year's National Design Award for Communication went to 2x4. They are (seem to be) intentionally non-celebrity by not attending conferences etc. AND two partners are women.

In this thread the mention of web and other graphic design is pertinent too. The panel on that stage would not have gotten me to attend the event. Great contributors to our field for sure but I don't expect a discussion of issues of the day to come up.

And lastly, at 40, I live Glaser's statement and I would have never believed it when I was in college. Children need their parents, be it mom or dad, and I chose to do homework and have a family meal instead of staying late at work or attending a lecture.
mary beth

Had I been in that audience, I'm not sure that the gender count of the panel would not have been the first thing that would have distracted me. I probably would have been daydreaming on the topic of Dave Eggers ("Graphic designer, or really terrific writer/publisher with software? Discuss!"), or thinking of how Milton Glaser warned me, in 1978, that a greater number of women in graphic design would turn it into a "pink collar" job (and he was sort of right, except that I think it was software, as much, if not more so, than girls, that tied that service apron onto design practice). When the gender/superstar question was actually raised, I might have remembered seeing Michael Beirut drive out of the AIGA Medalist party a few weeks back in a minivan (or had I had too many martinis?) which is not quite up to the mystique of watching Ray Eames (years ago) drift out of an LA parking lot in her black Jaguar. Maybe his Maserati is back in the garage...my point being that superstar-dom is sort of a diminished thing these days, the design world is so much bigger than it was even fifteen years ago. Today, a Brownjohn would have been talked into re-hab. Do even the current male "superstars" get propositioned at design conferences the way they used to in the 70s? (note to self: e-mail John Maeda). I do agree with whoever above said it is connected to the issue of publishing: certainly Barbara de Wilde is just as wonderful a book jacket designer as Mr. Kidd, but she has kept her thoughts about it to herself. As someone who does the whole shebang, designing, running an office, teaching, being a spouse and raising a kid, I certainly know why I haven't gotten to my book project yet. And I suppose there's a price to be paid for that choice, within the bigger-but-fragmented world of graphic design. However, Paula Scher has gotten her book out: yet her letter demonstrates that that may not be a total panacea for, oh, several centuries of ingrained bad behavior.
lorraine wild


"Instead of wasting your time posting these long-winded rants to a design blog, write a letter to your legislator instead. Get off the damn computer and volunteer in programs whose mission is to raise the self-esteem of young girls".

"Be the change you want to see in the world. Myself included".

Since I presumably posted the longest comments.

Make sure your Back Yard is Clean before you Instruct Others to Clean their Back Yard.

The issue as I see it and from Women I Regularly Partner.

It's the Perception of Women by the Industry and Decision Makers (MEN). Unfortunately, many are seen as Second Class Citizens and not Equals to their male counterpart.

Change Ultimately comes from within the Power Structure.

Success is Generated by who's Pushing You. Often times Good work has nothing to do with it.

Look at the Bullshit David Carson Cranked out for years.

On a more Somber Note, Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast>/b> are the only Designers in History of their Stature that Started a Design Consultancy with an African American Male, whose name is Reynold Ruffin.

Speaks Volumes of Milton Glaser as a Human Being and Advocate for Change.

I haven't seen this Replicated by any other Design Firm, Design Consultancy or Corporate Identity Consultancy to this date.

212 Associates is the other Design Consultancy that was started with an African American Partner, her name is Sylvia Harris.

My point of contention, there isn't a Racist or Sexist Bone in Milton Glaser's Body.

I'm friends with Reynold Ruffin's Nephew, he delights in telling me stories of the times, Glaser was over their house eating his Grandmother's Cooking which was Soul Food. And couldn't get enough of it.

If my Willie Lynch Analogy Raised more than a Brow.

It was Meant to.

What the WORLD need is more Love, Tolerance and Understanding. Celebrity or Not???!!!



For anyone not familiar, this same issue was raised with this year's Creativity Now conference by Tokion. Wooster Collective really pushed the organizers to include a more diverse list of speakers and to find out why not a single woman was represented at the conference.

excuse my ignorance...but since when are graphic designers celebrities?

excuse my ignorance...but since when are graphic designers celebrities?

Good question --≠we aren't.
Mr. Frankie L

FYI I plan on being a female design rockstar.

So do lots of my friends.

(I've only got 2.5 yrs of professional development, so just give me some time to move up from doing the grunt work.)

Check out the Jan. issue of Marie Claire (god, I love modern fonts...). It has a cheesy little article about the new alpha female. The sidebar highlights the 80s shoulder pad era. This is progress: at least we've stopped trying to look like men in order to gain respect.

Perhaps this is just a generational thing? My wife teaches design in a program where the majority of students are female and the majority of the talent also tilts in favor of the young women in her classes. Coincidence? Timing? I have no idea, but some of the most beautiful and distinguished work is coming from the hands of young women set to graduate and be unleashed upon us. I'm sure they will be the voice and leaders in a few short years.

I personally have contact to a lot of women graphic designers and think the women don't have to stand up in the front of every camera lens and to shout loudly out: "i am the king of the hill!". thats all. nothing more, but nothing less.


Thank you for writing this piece. It's especially meaningful coming from the moderator of the event.

Look at the Bullshit David Cason Cranked out for years.

(I'll assume you meant David Carson)

I disagree with your comment. Carson's experiments changed the way a lot of people look at and think about contemporary design. The significance of his work is undeniable, and future design history books will give him more than a footnote. You may not like it, but that doesn't make it bullshit.
Doug B

When I was an MFA student at CalArts (circa 19__), all 10 students one day were asked what their plans were after graduation. All mentioned becoming a top notch designer or working at a design studio in their respective home (Thailand, India, S. Korea, Columbia, Venezuela, the U.S.). I was the only one who said, "I want to get married and have children", and indeed, within two years the prophecy was fulfilled with marriage and the birth of my son Walt. Between soccer practice, PTA meetings and museum commitments in San Francisco, the motivation to be the "designer" waned, and my freelance work had its ups and downs. But I have no regrets. It wouldn't matter anyway. Walt is the joy of my life.

The fact is that women have the ability to CREATE - whether as a designer or mother. And that's some wicked power!

Walt is now a student studying to become a sound engineer. As for myself, I'm enrolled in an international MBA program in management and design in Germany (Zollverein) with aspirations to become a "design leader" (and, of course, to pave the way for other women who dare.)

(Another note about my time at CalArts. The design department director back then was none other than April "superstar designer" Greiman. Enough said.)
Darlene Watkins

Interesting that only the subject of gender has come up in the comments.

Where all the black book designers at?

(a small point) I was at the 92nd st Y last month at another event (less juicy than this), and saw the upcoming listing for the Kidd, Glaser, Eggers night: I must admit this line-up came as no surprise. Looking around me, I couldn't help notice that most of the audience was over 72, and no amount of excitement on stage could have kept them awake--half of them were fast asleep (I kid you not). Although I'm sure there was a hungry design and literary hipster contingent on hand for the book design night, the core audience of the 92nd st. Y, and specifically those who write the big checks, would sadly not be into paying for my wish list of great book designers (male or female)—it might put them into a coma. And another thing: is Eggers (no design slouch) now in the same league as Glaser or Kidd? Or is he just a rock star at large?
Peter Buchanan-Smith

Does anyone know if it was for certain a woman who asked this question of the panel? What if it were a man, would this change anyone's views or comments?

The question cards were collected during the individual presentations and were handed to me as we were reconvening on stage for the panel discussion. I do not know whether the writer of this card was a man or a woman.

When the gender/superstar question was actually raised, I might have remembered seeing Michael Beirut drive out of the AIGA Medalist party a few weeks back in a minivan (or had I had too many martinis?)

Yes, it's a Volvo X90C. Our other car is an eight-year-old VW Beetle.
Michael Bierut

Has everyone forgot/denied the basic instincts instilled in all of us based on gender role?

I am currently a student in graphic design, with approximately 15% of my student body female. Typically the quality of work put out by my female counterparts is subpar, or so cookie cutter it's not taken seriously.

Maybe women dont gravitate to this field as much as men. Ultimately there are so many questions unable to be answered due to our inability to read underlying/subconscious motive.

Why ask? Persevere.
James Steffens

Yes, I was at the 92ndSt.Y that evening and I was not particularly shocked by Mr. Glaser's comments regarding "superstar" women in the graphic design field. His observation, no doubt based on many years of experience, is that in the field of advertising, visibility is everything, and visibility in the field equals being there day after day for years. And that includes working late and over weekends to meet deadlines. If a designer is off the scene for a significant period of time, that designer runs the risk of being forgotten. Re-entry into the advertising business after a time of semi-involvement or absence puts that individual at a significant disadvantage. That disadvantage seldom translates into high paying positions at major design firms, which, of course, does not translate into high profile clients and high profile careers. I remember when Ms. Scher was very, very proud of being the first woman partner at Pentagram. Her CV underscores her dedication and commitment to her profession.
Floramae McCarron-Cates

Michael -

I think you're touching on even a greater subject than just women in the design industry. It can literally be taken a step further into every industry (architecture, science, engineering, art, POLITICS, etc). The problem goes even further with race. Why no "celebrity" African American women designers? Why are there not many African American designers, period?

It's nice to write an article as you have, however, addressing the issue is really not even scratching the surface. I know we are all consumed with our everyday lives, but there has to be more of a proactive solution for this minority injustice.

I can't really capture everything in words on a "comment" section. I think the whole gender/race issue needs to be addressed not to the DO community, but rather, all the individuals hiring designers. The problem must be fixed at the root and not at the surface. Only until this is addressed will our problem start to resolve itself.

Do I get a bonus point for noticing ceiling is misspelled?

Excellent comments, everybody.
But why so many of you gets all indignant: talking about discrimination, glass ceiling and the lack of the opportunities (women, minorities and so on).

What about those great immigrant designers (graphic design in particular) who came to New York, Chicago or San Francisco to compete successfully with the rest of us? Outstanding designers from Russia, or Poland, or Slovakia, or Hungary? To name few that I know and respect. Overcoming the language barrier and economical challenges..
Nobody gave them any extra points to get ahead, or helped them with support of the good ole' boys network, or whatever.

They made it on their own it seems to me, both outstanding men AND women creators, all US immigrants. Successfully working on the strength of their talent, guts, courage and detemination to survive by doing what they love: design.
Zuza K.

Maybe we should have a Christmas party and all come dressed as our favorite female superstar designers? I'll come as Paula! Paula can come as Carin! #$%! is that Martha Stewart!
Pantone 244

I think the reason only men were invited is that the event took place in New York. New York remains a boy's club. Milton Glaser is remembering the past - Chip Kidd designs covers not books, Dave Eggers - is he a graphic designer at all - and Michael, well he is a designer and a supestar but he was only allowed to be a moderator - and he won the Gold Medal this year.

Let's face it, the social structures in New York are very rigid and conservative and old school. It is true that if you make it there you can make it anywhere, yet at the same time not much of anything innovative in graphic design, architecture, or any of the other arts has happend or is happening in New York. Perhaps New York boys (and girls) are too busy gazing at their own navels and worrying about fame rather than laying the ground work to produce it.

Ironically and tellingly there was a similar event in Los Angeles (a city that wears fame on its sleeve) on book design and two of the three designers invited, Lorraine Wild and Gail Swanlund - were women - the third, Michael Worhtington, was self-effacing too, Russell Ferguson, the moderator, is Scotch (a minority!); no discussion of fame and no problem filling up the seats at Red Cat/Disney Hall and indeed the median crowd age was thirty five - half the age of the old farts who typically attend events at the 92nd Street Y.

Ms. Wild, when you are not attending to your child, office, educational institution, and most important spouse, forget the monograph and write a post about the most provacative questions of that evening - how do you negotiate your design relationships with the the people you are working with? (a more profound version of the question posed in New York). Or follow up on the questions posed to all the panelists regarding the ins and outs of collaboration between writers, artists, editors, and designers in the production of books.

The ins and outs of "collaboration" (a female ideal?) was very much the subject of that sparkling evening; a subject that had the crowd, both men and women, on the edge of its seats. Ms. Scher, an artist herself, should open a Pentagram office in Los Angeles - less graphic design gender angst in the City of Angeles.
Bernard Pez

Completely off the topic - who deemed Milton Glaser a "superstar" designer? My 3 year old can design better identities with his hands tied behind his back.

My answer would be that the design world reflects the larger world, a place where men hold the moajority of positions of power, leadership, and celebrity. They do so because the social systems are set up to place them in those positions.

I realize that this is a point of contention for many people, but I haven't read any comments that indicate that people believe that there is an inherent flaw in women's ability to create outstanding design or a dearth of energy that would exempt them from strenously promoting themselves. So if the reason isn't genetic, the natural next step is to examine the environment. There you will find your answer.

In any case, this conversation is a refreshing change from 'why designers aren't getting a seat at the corporate table'. I think it is about time that the design community examines their own table, and maybe considers that they are leaving out the very people whose ideas and insight will get them that much desired 'seat at the table'. If not us, then who?

The real question being raised here is really the subtext of Milton's statement. Was he being empathetic to women's responsibilities outside of the office, and assuming a generational bias to what he percieved as an "injustice" to women? Perhaps it's our own cognitive distortions that we need to address, if we don't change the paradigm, nobody will do it for us.
laurene leon boym

If you look at most fields, you'll see that among the celebrities, men outnumber women. I think this is all just temporary and things will change in due time. It wasn't that long ago that Eleanor Roosevelt got hate mails for being an outspoken woman, and there are still some remnants of sexism left in this country (Miss America Pageant, anyone?). Things are changing though, and the kind of gender almost-equality we see these days has only come about in the past 30, 40 years. It'll take more time, that's all.

You can listen to the clip of everyone's answers to this question here.

Whether you are a men or a woman if you become a "celebrity" means one has to appeal to the masses. Therefore the work you are doing is fluff and water down crap!
1 of 300,000,000


Emily Potts in no longer at STEP. She is having a baby and pursuing other interests. The new person heading STEP is a man!
1 of 300,000,000

How about no more panel discussions with Milton Glaser and Chip Kidd? I mean, how boring is that? We've all seen it a thousand times. Dave Eggers... well, he's still interesting, at least for now.

Why can't these celebrity-fueled events celebrate a more diverse, surprising, and unique group of design stars? Why not ask six or eight designers to be on stage, a few at a time, for ten minutes each? Why just the same old, same old?

Chip, Milton and Dave don't need more celebrating.

Maybe pursuit of celebrity isn't at the top of anyone's list who has more important things to spend their life after (like family), and it's more acceptable to society and therefore easier for men to sacrifice one in favor of the other.
Wilson Miner

Why to guys assume that women "give up" thier career to have children? Yes, it requires a little juggling, but it shouldn't be a handycap.

And if we're talking celebrity, look at Hollywood. Lots of moms. In fact, I think children are the new accessory.

So is graphic design just lagging behind in equal opportunity? Is it an industry run by a boys club?

For the Ad industry's version of this very discussion go to ihaveanidea.org and search "Female like me".

Just yesterday I had my final critique in GD4 at CCA with all male guest critics, including my male professor. Our particular level is primarily female, and we asked this same question to our professor after the crit. He then asked if I read this article...which I had not. He also mentioned a handful of women designers who were asked but did not come through for the crit, which was really dissappointing to me.

Basically, I see this article as a call to action.

This blog entry + the resulting responses make my own question feel a lot more powerful and as a young "budding" designer. I feel pretty damn inspired and proud to be a woman.
meg greig

Doug B

Peter, to your statement about Eggers being in the same class as Kidd and Glaser, sure, why not?! Kidd's a designer writing novels; Eggers is a writer designing his writing. But, how does Glaser fit into the picture. I've no idea. Maybe it's all about celebrity.

jessica, i think you mean to tell paula: "brava."

Hi, Michael,
re: why there are so few women star graphic designers.
It is by design...
Women are different then us guys. We wear our emotions on our sleeve, women carrie theirs way deep inside.
I guess it's the way we are, the way we are built, if you will. Our genitalia is hanging out, theirs, is carefully tucked away. What I mean is, having external stuff to strut about, gives the untollerable habit to show it off.
My theory works like this, if you put 50 guys in a room, first thing we do is a lot of posturing, then set up few rules for a banal game - most likely a game that involves pushing and shoving just to get to a thing that needs to be touched a lot and passed around - something that is in the form of a testicle or a sphere that reminds us of what we have, or had - and we take this object and fight to put it into a hole or between two legs.
In some cases we even sit in something that seems an extention of ourselves and drive fast around and around.
But anyway, after we've done this a few times, we get all huffed up about who is cheating and who is pushing and shoving more than it's necessary and we punish the poor bastard - to kinda make an example; to show we have morals. Now we are all sweaty and we need to take our clothes off and get into the showers for some more competitive stuff.
Women are not like that. 50 women in a room would nearly immediately come to the conclusion that the world needs saving, that there are important issues requiering their full attention and so they go to work, and it doesn't matter who is doing what as long as they do the right thing and do it well.

Having worked with many many women and having had several life partners, at 55, I'm just beginning to understand the diference that exists between the genders. For us it's so important to be recognized as the heroes, the rock star, the champion, or we get in a snit and don't speak to each other for years. We need the immediate gratification and the attention, We need the statuette. While for the women it's not so important, they know, deep inside, what they do, how they do it and why. That is their reward. It is the way we are made. We are external they are internal. So the guys boast and the girls don't - at least for now, but they are learning.

Dante J. Comoglio


"Kidd's a designer writing novels; Eggers is a writer designing his writing. But, how does Glaser fit into the picture. I've no idea. Maybe it's all about celebrity".

While I don't have Uncle Milty's Full Credentials within Reach at this writing.

Glaser cut his teach in the Publishing Industry, Designing Books, Serials, and Newspapers as a Founding Partner at Push Pin.

Along the way has amassed a number of Book Designs to his credit other than his own Monographs.

With Walter Bernard former Art Director Time Magazine Uncle Milty formed WBMG solely devoted to Publication Design, circa early to middle 1980s.

At the same time, maintining Milton Glaser Inc., solely Devoted to Corporate Identity, Packaging, Architecture, Interiors, Environmental, Lighting Design, and Poster Design.

Glaser in his nearly 60 year career has more than likely Designed more Publications than any Designer Living.



Got distracted while writing.

I meant to say.

Glaser cut his teeth in the Publshing Industry...


For every Chipp Kidd and Milton Glaser in the big cities there are equally talented designers in other cities with less opportunities and spotlight. Whose fault is that? I don't have the answers. All designers know who they think of as superstars and, to me, it is just about the work not about those who have been asked to be on a panel.

I have designed book covers for over 25 years. I also am a single parent for 14 years.
Over the past 14 years I could not help notice my male colleuges surpass me. To say parenthood is a distracation is an understatement. Single parenthood puts you in a league of your own.
Would I have done it any other way, NEVER. Still, I am realizing most of my career goals at 50 instead of 35. My plan is to stay healthy a catch up for lost time.

OK-One more time:

This is not about women and babies. The publishing industry in design is historically dominated by women, and they still do the best work. This panel was all men. And someone in the audience asked why.

Who's responsible here? The answer is the 92nd St. Y, Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd, Dave Eggers and Michael Bierut. They are the ones who had the power to change it.

If you don't give women the opportunity to speak, there is no way in hell they can become celebrities.
Paula Scher

Touché Paula:

Spring is just around the Corner.

Lets Settle this once and for all.

The Game Title, Sins of the Fathers.

Why not Host a Designer Celebrity Charity Basketball Game between the 92nd Street Panelist, et el, Glaser, Bierut, Kidd, Eggers, any over Forty Male Celebrity Designer they want.

Understanding Glaser may want to Coach because of his Youth.

Against, Scher, Helfand, Lupton, Millman, and any other Celebrity Female Designer you want on your team with Alternates of course for both teams.

After the Game, we can charge money for Female Designers to Dunk, Glaser, Bierut, Kidd, and Eggers in a Pool of Water. This will be for Charity of Course.

Special Referees, Art Chantry and Margo Chase.

Coaches, Big Willie (Men), DesignMaven, (Women).
Or Women can select their own Coach.

I've got Big Money on the Women Winning.

Taking All Odds.

If nothing more, it'll be loads of Fun.


Yes Paula, this is not about babies. I realized that after my impulsive first comment. I wrote again but it didn't get posted.

Shame on the 92nd street Y. Did they do there home work?
Did they go into B and N and look at just one flap of just one cover that might have spoken to them? If so, they would have noticed a pattern of fabulous women designers.
Did they check out any recent shows Like the 50/books50/ covers?
And lastly, did they call one Creative Director of a Book Publisher?
At last count most of them are women, who are award winning
designers in there own right, and hire designers everyday.

I'm having a hard time taking seriously all these supposed designers/publishing industry gurus who can't spell for beans.

corrrection: did they do "their" homework.
Anne Twomey

Not to question Paula's wisdom, but...

Since when is up to a man to give women "an opportunity to speak"? Doesn't that simply put the power back into the hands of men?

Certainly men should use their own contemporary wisdom and sensitivity to say what's right, but it's hardly Chip Kidd's responibility to say, "No I refuse to participate. You should invite a woman to speak instead." And who's to say any of the men on that panel didn't say to someone at the Y "Hey, why no women?" Maybe they did.

Something tells me Paula doesn't have her "celebrity" because some man handed it to her. She has it because she wanted it and made it happen. Feel free to refute that Paula, if I'm wrong.

Dear Friends,

How amazing it is to see how angry and passionate the response to my observation at the 92nd St. Y about "Super Stardom" has been. The fact that women, removed from the celebrity path for a number of years, are at a disadvantage to their male competitors seems obvious and says nothing about talent or intelligence. In fact, my own experience after 50 years of teaching design is that my female students have been consistently smarter, more talented and harder working than the men. It occurs to me that in our present climate, this statement would not be objected to by men or women, although it is essentially derogatory towards men. What makes this possible?

There is a nasty and vindictive tonality to some of these postings that makes me wonder about the state of our profession. Paula Scher suggests that I should have been eliminated from the panel and replaced by an articulate woman, who happens to be one of her close friends. In retrospect, that would have been an excellent idea, but in the current atmosphere, she could be charged with discrimination against the elderly.
Milton Glaser

Milton and Tag,
I am a product of a climate in the 70's fostered by the woman's movement, where most panels, conferences etc. in all business were forced, perhaps artificially, to be sensitive to the idea that they needed to represent women among their visible participants.

I was the token woman, for years, on these panels. It made me famous, and I resented the tokenism at the same time. But it is indeed what gave me the opportunity to have incredible visibility, and helped me become what is being referred to here as a"celebrity" designer.

We seemed to have abandoned that practice. It is assumed we are beyond it. We really aren't. I think the make up of the 92Y panel, particularly in relationship to the plethora of influencial woman designers in the publishing industry, the question from the audience, Milton's response, the audience reaction to Milton's response, and the letters here demonstrate that something is still very wrong.

I am surprised that this all male panel didn't make itself squirm. I guess this throwback behavior is just another legacy of the Bush administration.

paula Scher

perhaps next year the event should be at the 92nd Street X


ok, it wasn't that funny.

I guess this throwback behavior is just another legacy of the Bush administration.

Ms. Scher, I recently heard you speak in Chicago and was very inspired by your work and all you've done in your career--for women, and for all designers. Thanks for leading the way.

However, I think your above comment is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. I'm no Dubya-lover, but let's place the blame in the appropriate places, and leave your irrelevant "politics" out of this. Geez.
Tim Lapetino


Thank you for writing " The Graphic Glass Ceiling".

Ane Twomey

Did anyone find out if any women were invited yet turned it down for whatever reason? It seems the general assumption was that no women were invited to the panel at all, yet I don't see any fact actually showing that to be true or not.

That said, of the graphic designers I've worked under. One was male and three were female.

I agree with the estimable Ms. Scher that this is yet one more legacy of the failed policies of the Bush Administration. For years, I have tried to lose weight, get married and have kids. But because of the oppressive policies of the Bush administration against the fat and single, I am unable to find a woman to be my wife. I will have to credit Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, detestable as they may be, for at least instituting the Graphic Design Glass Ceiling that allows me to make more money than the women in my profession, thus allowing me to be able to afford to keep my profile on Match.com for so many years. Cheney and Rove, though, are both fat men who are married. So obviously there is a conspiracy that allows them an executive loophole to the unspoken policy of discrimination against the lonely and portly. I'm sure that if I peruse the AIGA website I will find the appropriate ACLU contact information that will allow me to initiate legal action against this most brutal and unfair of sinister regimes.

Isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume that imbalances in gender representation in 'celebrity' and differences in salary are soley based upon societal factors?

There's something to be said for actual gender differences.
Despite our attempt to put em into the same bucket - men and women are different!

Men are competitive and selfish - no wonder we demand celebrity!
Men are greedy and money-loving - no wonder we demand more money!
Drew Pickard

Hey, Kate Winslett is at 92 St. Y tonight ... film fans you should definitely go not sure if it's a discussion or a screening of her recent movie Little Children or both.
Keep this debate alive!

This is, and will remain a thorny issue, not likely to be solved here, or maybe anywhere, anytime soon. Separating the issues helps; accusatory language does not.

On this score, I, for one, apologize for my comments about Milton Glaser early on in this discussion: whatever my disagreements with him, or his with me (or anyone's for that matter) let's try and focus on what's real and actionable, as opposed to personal lives, political leanings and all that they imply. And yes, I know: while the very nature of being a public figure means giving into the kind of personal scrutiny that discussions like this so often engender, I would hope, at the very least, we can agree on one thing: finger-pointing is anything but progress.
Jessica Helfand

"I am surprised that this all male panel didn't make itself squirm. I guess this throwback behavior is just another legacy of the Bush administration."

Is Paula Scher saying that Michael Bierut is a policy stooge for the Bush administration? Maybe there was a secret meeting with Chip Kidd, Michael Bierut, Dick Cheney and W after the National Design Awards breakfast. Yes, that must be where this all got started.

The AIGA Design Conference in 2005 hosted a panel that deliberately excluded men from the panel. Ellen Lupton, Jessica Helfand, Deanna Kuhlmann-Leavitt, Bonnie Siegler, and Emily Potts sat on the panel. When they were asked why there were no men on the panel, should they have squirmed? I think that's a ridiculous thought too.

The women on that panel discussed the impact family life has on the lives of women designers — men were excluded. Why? Would anyone even consider hosting an AIGA conference panel on the impact having babies will have on the career of male designers? Milton Glaser states the obvious and is viewed with suspicion. Ellen Lupton states essentially the same thing and is praised.

The Myth of the Working Mom

The Y presentation should have had a woman on the panel. Maybe the AIGA should stop hosting gender exclusive panels too.

A while ago I interviewed for an art director position at an advertising agency in New York City. I went through 5 rounds of interviews and was told that my book was strong (maybe too strong.) Having worked for smaller firms I did everything from concept development, art direction, design, production, press checks, photo direction, and the load of client/vendor meetings. I've designed for sporting arenas, sporting events (4x bigger than the superbowl), and permanent exhibit designs for leading U.S. museums.

After a few month or so of interviews at the same agency I didn't get the job.

I was told that I have what many consider 2 negatives going against me (1) I am black (2) of hispanic descent.

I got sick of the cold shoulders I got from the ad and design industry.

Today I no longer design and find the whole "celebrity" idea in design as another way of the industry "kissing each other's asses."

"Hello Mr. K, How does Mr. G's ass taste like? Should I go have a go at it?!"
black + hispanic

"I am surprised that this all male panel didn't make itself squirm. I guess this throwback behavior is just another legacy of the Bush administration."

Hell, I am blaming the Bush Administration for this itch I have on my leg!
Itchy Leg

I feel that gender bias is more of a social problem than an industry problem. Society pushes genders to represent themselves in certain ways. This in turn is reflected in how our personalities develop. It would seem to me that personality (confidence, drive, assertiveness), not gender, would be the main determinate in a designers ability to reach greatness. And our society pushes males to adopt these personality traits more than females.

Our response as an industry should be to aggressively strive for equal opportunity for women and minorities, while recognizing that it may not always lead to equal results or representation. (Representation should be a measurement of opportunity and inclusiveness, not the end metric itself.) If we concentrate only on equal results and representation, we end up with well-intentioned "band-aid" programs like busing and affirmative action, that sometimes can help and sometimes hurt, but don't address the deeper problems in our society. In Ms. Scher's example, this has resulted in "token" panelists. She, and any other woman or minority, should be able to feel confident that they are represented for their accomplishments, not their gender, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.

That said, our industry seems to be doing a pretty decent job of representing women, with this panel being an exception - not the rule. A quick survey of some local NYC design & club events shows a good amount (though not equal) female representation. A more complete survey of whether or not women and minority participation in industry events reflects the make-up of the industry as a whole, broken down by club, region, specialization, etc. may show some interesting results. Though I caution that it may also frame an argument for more tokenism, rather than addressing our deeper social gender bias.
Mike Williams

Dear black + hispanic,

It is the myopic way advertising works that however you present yourself is the role you will be considered for, regardless of your range beyond that.


Gee, more fun in the 'graphic design community.' Love is all around.

Here is a fun fact for you all: This panel was conceived last spring, by an administrator at the 92 st Y, who is (wait for it) . . . a woman. She selected us as panelists and set the theme. And then, I might add, quit this past summer. Why, I do not know. And no, I will not name her, at this point for her own safety.

I do think it's a shame that the overwhelming sense of goodwill and mutual respect that pervaded the evening (which was quite palpable, at least to me) has been all but forgotten because of this question.

What bothers me about the question itself is that it ignores the achievements of all the brilliantly talented graphic designers, past and present, who happen to be women (and as it's been pointed out above, there are A LOT). It is the question asked by someone who doesn't seem to know that much about graphic design and who's making it.

As a gay person I could ask the same thing—where are the 'famous' gay graphic designers? (there are more today, but historically next to none). Except I don't particularly care. At all.

Anyway, my thanks to Milton, Dave and Michael for their non-stop inspiration to so many (most of all me). The hundreds of people who lined up after the event to get their books signed expressed as much.


PS: A good third of the designs I showed were by others on our staff—Carol Devine Carson and Abby Weintraub.
Chip Kidd

I want to pick up on BlueStreak's comment about the AIGA Design Conference Panel in 2005 about managing work and careers that had only women on it, most of whom have working designers as male spouses. I remember, at the time, saying to Jessica Helfand, why are there no men on this panel? A complicated issue, since the relationships between these designers and their spouses are personal. But if one wants to talk about managing work and careers, how can a designer spouse or two not be involved in the conversation? Most of us, I suspect, would have sins to admit.

But coming back to Paula Scher's argument, the issue is not about designers, with children, or married or not — the issue is primarily the representation on panels such as this. Women should be better represented: period. It should be a given, not a point of discussion.
William Drenttel

I think it would be great if men who are invited to be on panels started insisting on there being women on the panel too. why is it so hard to imagine that men might actually support women's careers, visibility, and superstar potential?
Sometimes it is a little harder to find a woman, but often the people who make up the panel just don't try. Or they call one woman and if she can't make it they feel they're off the hook.
Mixed-gender discussions tend to be more lively anyway. I'm not a designer, but when I see an all-male panel advertised in my own field of expertise, I tend to skip it.

julia cat

Let me begin this comment with a note that my friends and children tell me I have no sense of humor.

That said, I'm surprised about the fury of comments about representation on a single speaker panel (which I have previously criticized on this site) when few spoke up late last year over women being portrayed as "kittens" on the cover of STEP Inside Design. I bit my tongue at the time because so many friends were involved.

I consider this cover to be the most sexist, derogatory example in the past decade of how female designers are portrayed in the media. It's not silly enough to be a parody. And it's not surprising enough to be good design. I don't know of the private correspondence with the editor, but I wonder how many women complained about being portrayed as kittens on the cover of this magazine? That this could happen in 2005 is astounding to me — of course, we've established that I have no sense of humor.

As someone suggested at the time, what if Chip KIdd, Michael Bierut, Dave Eggers and Milton Glaser had all been featured as pit bulls ... or chickadees ... or capybaras?

Visually translating female designers into "kittens" is insulting — at least to this man's eye.
William Drenttel

Chip, welcome homowner!

I'd like to personally thank Paula for taking the heat off (see throwback comment). I didn't think anyone would ever top my ignorance (see Luke gate).
felix sockwell

Black + Hispanic:

Exhaust all your Possibilities, Corporate, Private Industry, Government, etc. etc.

If that doesn't work, Hang Out your own Shingle.

Never throw your towel in the Ring. Once you do that, you've lost the Battle and the War.

They're many ways to overcome the Obstacles, and Road Blocks with Small Business Loans, Government Contracts, etc.

There's also Employment Agencies that Specialize in Placing Creative Talent.

Have you checked out Rita Sue Siegel or Roz Goldfarb?

Being Talented is no longer enough. You have to have sound Business Acumen.

Attitude and Positive Outlook is Everything. The Grass isn't as Green as you think being an Employee.

If you're Gonna Fly. You can only take off when you Spread your Wings. That mean being your own Man.

Along the way Learn some History and Self Respect.

Because the Man you Just Disrespected, Milton Glaser is the Only Man in History to Found a Design Consultancy and Partner with an African American Male Designer.

Thank you, your Ignorance and Stupidity you just sent our Race back another 40 years from Advancing.

Dr. King and Malcolm X would be Proud.

Willie Lynch is Proudest???!!!

Life is a Marathon, It's not a Race!!!!!


Idea: If this column and responses is not a subject of a 92 Y speakers event, it needs to be.

And the next AIGA conference.

What an interest blogging discussion....picking up where Chip Kidd wrote, where are the "famous" (instead of gay) Asian American graphic designers, too? Yes I'm Asian and I was educated in your country! I find most good design is genderless as well as raceless....you can't tell if it was done by a female, male, white, black, yellow, etc. designer! Good design is good design. Maybe it's our own egos and insecurities that makes us look at who designed it, friend or foe? I also teach and I agree with Glaser, my best students are the females...I can't figure why until one of my female student said, "the guys in class are so immature."...I think she's right! Boys, men need more attention...An article in Print, March/April 1993 written by Julie Lasky to Paula Scher, "The Boat"....Paula was ask the question about being the only woman designer at Pentagram......I think Paula handle the question well. You can read this article in Paula Scher's book, "Make It Bigger".

Chip mention the person who invited them was a woman...! Now what? Maybe that's another blog discussion...why certain women prefer men over women speakers. Never the less, the event at the 92nd St. Y had three of the best in the business...I wish I was there.

Marian Bantjes:

"... Women who excel in a profession tend to do so while at the same time support a husband, household or family (not financially, but with time and emotional support). The best that most women can hope for are equal partnerships: finding a partner who will take a back seat to their career is unlikely."

Yes, finding such a partner who will take a back seat is unlike but not impossible.

It comes down to where your your priorities are.

I get invited to a lot of events (design related and otherwise) but if the events are going to take away from my family time I don't attend.

There's more to life than design.

If Dave Eggers's dial-up service could actually load DO I wonder what he would post?

P.S. Why do they pronounce the 'K' in Knopf?

Quark 4.x

Three years ago I heard Chip Kidd speak at a book signing for "The Cheese Monkeys". I was sure that there would be a packed house at the book store but was surprised that only 5 people showed up. I was the only other book designer there. I didn't mind the small group because I was able to to speak with him in person but my point is that outside of the N.Y. publishing community even the male "superstars" may not be very well known. How is that possible? I was shocked that the local "book builders" publishing group didn't even bother to post this book signing/presentation on their website. I think that many book designers, both male and female, need to be given more media attention regarding what they contribute to the culture in general and publishing specifically.
book lover

Hmmmmm....take a look at Complete Review.

......There is the hint of a worthwhile book somewhere in The Cheese Monkeys. There are ideas, even finished sentences (a few). But he misplaced them here. Why did he have to write fiction ? Why a novel ? Why didn't he write the book he could and should write. Focussed on graphic design. Perhaps with some fictional elements, but solidly grounded in what he knows and feels comfortable with. Instead his words and ideas squirm uneasily in this second-rate fiction.....

Perhaps there were only five people there because the book was not about graphic design. Maybe people actually read, or not?


I don't think many superstars became such by whinging about people not recognising them as superstars.

Perhaps the reason there aren't more women superstar designers is because many women are self assured enough in their own abilities to not need to be "superstar" designers.

Should we outsource the job of loving and caring for our children to chase this "superstar" illusion?

Choosing to avoid the spotlight seems a healthier choice for a man or woman. Although Martha Stewart and Oprah seem to have done well for themselves. If they did, why can't anyone with the talent and will?
Ben Weeks

Death to blogs?

In theory, a blog post in a semi-intelligent community should be able to provoke interesting, thoughtful, if impassioned discussion. But the longer this particular commentary drags on, the worse it gets for this post, the design community, and blogs in general. For once I am tempted to join those who turn their noses up at the keyboard-tapping rabble, and for once I'm tempted to say "Michael, please pull the plug on this before the slinging, the dredging and the trolling gets any worse."

I really don't think there's any more to add, but there sure is a lot to subtract.
marian bantjes

I have thoroughly enjoyed this entire discussion and debate... all that seems to be left to say is

"I am woman, hear me roar"


I think the whole thing is turning a joke. whatever the case, every generation just always have a new way to doing there thing. If we have women around now it our generation way to do it. hope you all will get me.

With all due respect to the designers mentioned in this article and its subsequent comments, "celebrities" or not, I have to say that John's comment about the sinister regimes of the Bush administration is quite possibly one of the best comments I've ever read, anywhere.

I find it interesting that only one person has caught on to Chip Kidd's comment, in which he notes that the panel was selected by a woman. If she is in a position to select speakers for a discussion panel, I might assume she was intelligent and aware enough of the status of women in the publishing and design industries.

This, to me, is reason alone to maybe take the criticism down a notch on the apparently chauvinistic, wife-beating, woman-hating, capitalist asshole male pigs, whose supposed "goals" in life are to keep women off of their elite, celebrity-only discussion panels.
John Ellis

From my experience with the publishing industry, I will say there is bias towards women. A book concept which I proposed was turned down by publishers who accepted the proposal when presented by a man, on the exact same topic (his proposal was written by me).

Maybe in additon to thinking women have babies and stay home, many also think women cannot write about technology topics. >>'vE-"jA

I can't be sure that someone else hasen't said this yet but the fact that Mr. Glaser is considered to be a "rock star" Graphic Designer is the reason why his comments are being scrutinized.

If you were to be appointed a "rock star" designer make sure that you are aware that anything and everything you say can and will be analyzed, debated and talked about amongst peers especially when it is said at a publicly held event.

For all of the women aspiring to the status of "rock star", be careful what you wish for. Maybe being a "rock star" designer isn't as glamorous as it seems.
Diane WItman

Why shouldn't we look at this tiresome issue from a design standpoint? I certainly don't need to say that men & women are contrasting yet complimenting elements. Does making them sociologically as similar as possible by diminishing the essence of their differing dominances and functions make design sense? Why does our culture want diversity and uni-sexism at the same time? It acts like one of our unappeasable clients. No matter how we may try to force elements to fit, the overwhelming principal of "appropriateness" in a functioning design cannot usually be overcome any more sociologically than it can be artistically. Should the "glass cieling" positioned over the limits of BOTH sexes become a point of blame instead of design? Our culture has gone a very long way already to franchise and litigate the sexes into exercising bland sameness. Is this a great paradigm shift or just a poorly executed cultural spec piece?
Mike Anderson

"I'm tempted to say 'Michael, please pull the plug on this before the slinging, the dredging and the trolling gets any worse.' I really don't think there's any more to add, but there sure is a lot to subtract." — Marian Bantjes

I disagree that the plug should be pulled on the conversation. Michael Bierut did pull the plug on Art Chantry last year and I spoke up in protest then too. It is just wrong to put a cap on the comments. There may be some content to subtract. If the editors of Design Observer feel the same, they should extract the unfit content and let the discussion continue. Armin Vit does an excellent job of this on Speak Up. Maven, me and a couple of others got carried away recently on Speak Up. Armin deleted the comments he felt were inappropriate, made a comment about his action, and the conversation continued. The goal is to manage or moderate a conversation not cancel it.

"I want to pick up on BlueStreak's comment about the AIGA Design Conference Panel in 2005 about managing work and careers that had only women on it, most of whom have working designers as male spouses... But coming back to Paula Scher's argument, the issue is not about designers, with children, or married or not — the issue is primarily the representation on panels such as this." — William Drenttel

There are multiple issues being discussed here and all are very important, and specific to the design community. When I read about the "Women Rock!" panel and their discussion, I took notice they were discussing topics that relate to many men I know, yet were assumed to be specific to women in design. Gender roles in design is a hot topic. Perhaps there should be panel discussions on all of these issues. Maybe the AIGA will host a "Stay at Home Dad Designers Rock!" panel at the next conference.

This topic was recently discussed in person with Milton Glaser in a SVA MFA Design class, and on the SVA MFA Design blog, CRIT. For those interested, check out this link.
Tamara Gildengers Connolly

Cliche cliche cliche....I find that many professional women are incapable of appreciating design and creativity produced by men simply because they are male. This type of gender based design criticism lacks objectivity, and should remain in the foundations 101 classes.

Recently I attended an inspiring conference in Berlin. Over 30 designers presented their work - yet only 2 of these designers were women and these two were both part of a team with men. The bias towards men in high profile event would not be hard to document. What is much more difficult to explain is the why men end up in these positions. I certainly do not think it this question could have been answered easily by the members on the panel earlier this month.

Yet I understand the frustration with led to the question being asked in the first place, as questions of this variety have stopped being asked. The fact that feminist discourse has become so marginalized has visible manifestations not only the power hierarchies within the design world but also the content of design.

I consider many of the cultural influences at work here brilliantly exposed in Rick Poynor's new book: 'Designing Pornotopia'. It is a brave book in an industry which considers itself too cool for charges of sexism. I am grateful to Poynor for initiating a debate long off the radar of design press. I hope this book will instigate many discussion in design colleges.

The only responsible course of action is to look into the power imbalances within our industry as well as sexism in the content produced. What we make as designers is deeply influential in forming cultural norms and values - and so this line of discussion is vital.

I hope that you don't have to give up life's pleasures and rewards in pursuit of the gold ring of celebrity!

Hey, guys, I'm sorry that you're still struggling with stuff I faced when I graduated in the first class of graphic designers from the University of Kansas in 1972! Today my title is Innovation Facilitator, a tribute to the fact that I have a marvelous imagination and can express it in many ways, including logo, product and packaging design, advertising skills and can make an ordinary human understand instantly what I'm trying to communicate. I'm in the Innovation Department of a market research company where we help Fortune 500 companies come up with their next new product or service. Among other things, I illustrate what that might be for online testing with consumers.

I worked part time as a designer (20 hrs/wk) during the years my children were growing up and faced untold obstacles as I followed a husband around the Midwest and supported his careers as well. Now, 34 years later, I am not a national celebrity but have several former bosses/clients who felt blessed to have had my services. My children feel they had wonderful childhoods because I worked around them and their needs. My daughter is a talented and Addy-award winning writer for an agency in Houston and my son owns his own Vintage Clothing store on Boston Square. Our relationship is tight because of the talents we have in common and share with each other. My husband of 34 years has been through several careers and it has been my pleasure to support him graphically, including designing a recent multi-million dollar proposal for an investor for the charter school he serves as principal. My opportunities to win Addys were few, but I won them! So although I will never reach celebrity status as a graphic designer and I have NEVER been paid what I am worth, I look at least 15 years younger than I am, have fun every day, have supported numerous charities and organizations graphically in my off-hours and have the love of my family and many friends. How many celebrities have such a great life?

Take the gifts that God gave you and make the most of them and have fun!!! And, when you are different (a woman in my case) make that a benefit and a selling point. My professional nickname is MacBeth and I have used soft pink stationery when I needed to stand out in a stack of white resumes... if involved in a big meeting wear high heels!


Maybe things are different in my town. Of the designers I know personally (and I know a bunch), I would guess that less than 10% are men. Around here, at least, it's a "feminized profession." (And we've got a lot around here -- they graduate from RIT and stick around.)

Of the Art Directors that I know (and I know a bunch of those, too), maybe 20% are men.

But here's the kicker: Of the Creative Directors I've met, probably no more than 10% are women.

Of course, around here, it seems as though most of the Creative Directors start out as writers...

so paula scher is making a fuss about being the "woman panelist" for 30 years? boo hoo.

tell me, does she have any kids? her statements would have a little more weight if so. if not, glaser was dead on and she owes everyone an apology for her irresponsible outburst here - ESPECIALLY us designers who are MOTHERS. those with kids know a thing or two about spotting over-dramatic outbursts. :)
mother designer

My first year in design school, I read an article in an old issue of AIGA that had a quote by a 'famous' old designer that really stuck with me. He said, while accepting an award, something along the lines of "Designers spend far too much time talking about themselves, commending themselves -- when really they should be working."


What a disappointment. So sad to hear such a flippant remark come from one of my favorite all time designers. That said, I'm so glad to see this discussion, of course, a day late and blog short or in other words about five thousand posts in. I have a few thoughts on this topic.

Ironically just a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a link for a soon to be released publication featuring some 150 designer/artists that are on the up and coming list of "celebrity." Among them 26 were woman. Pathetic. I immediately emailed the publisher and asked why, and basically his answer was dunno, don't care, it's all about the work and maybe you're not good at promoting yourself.

That might be true. But I have been around this culture producing stuff long enough to see that the boys club mentality is not just some edifice that the ladies invented because they aren't so good at making things. In grad school hallways I've overheard statements such as "you can tell when a girl designs something." At major conferences (i.e. Tokion Creatvity Now) women had to be tacked onto the panels last minute because somehow nobody realized they forgot about "that whole equality thing or whatever" (quotes are mine). This is an issue I've stuggled with since undergrad and my conclusion is this: the reason things are the way they are boils down to apathy and sheer, niave ignorance. Nobody thinks they're a sexist, because they probably aren't. Nobody thinks they are discrimanting because they probably aren't. They are just forgeting, which in my opinion is much sadder and harder to accept. It's no secret that middle-class, hetreosexual, white males essentially have nothing to worry about as far as "making it" goes, add to that some charizma, a little talent and ambition and there's no stopping them. This is why I think we need questions like this one scrawled on annoymous sheets of paper because nobody wants to be called a whiney baby but sometimes the injustice just gets to be a bit much. I had the pleasure of seeing another "celebrity" male designer asked to name his top 3 favorite women designers during a lecture in Detroit. He squirmed, muttered April Grieman, stared blankly and quickly ended the Q+A.

On that note, lets just keep making kick ass work and asking these questions. And of course, having babies and whatever the heck else you want to do. Celebrity might be silly, and yes nobody really knows who designers are unless they release a line at Target, but earning the respect of your peers is no joke. The art/culture/design worlds have been offenders of forgetfulness far too long.

Although Mr. Bierut's article has been written few weeks ago, being that I attended the event I feel compelled to respond. I feel that we have lost focus as to what was the purpose to the event. The event was part of a reading series called "the Voice of Literature" I feel that the assumption was that most people who were to attend the program were non-designers. Keeping that in mind, someone like Chip Kidd (for example) who has designed covers for years for David Sedaris to Michael Crichton —can you get more rest-stop novel section than that?— and to underscore this, all of his slides were NY Times top sellers. Although I do agree Barbara de Wilde's work is at the same level, if not more superior, Mr. Kidd's work has more exposure to the general public. (Need I remind everyone of Jurassic Park?)

A colleague and I had a long conversation about Mr. Glaser's comments that night over dinner, and our general consensus was that the type of success in question was the type that people often make great sacrifices for. In my short career, I have worked under women and men with families who put them first and remain successful, and I have also worked for people who (seemingly) did not put their family first, but are at the top of their field. I feel for the "super-star" success, something has got to give, and that something is usually family. We hear often about men who do this have to answer to resentful children who have grown without him in their lives. I'm sure this is the price of fame, or at least the idea of fame. Maybe there is some truth to the saying "it's lonely at the top."

I submit that the true 'Graphic Glass Ceiling' is becoming a graphic designer. That profession is important to us, but not to the world-at-large. In fact Milton may be the last graphic designer that had a public name known by non-designers (and that may be for his food column). William Drentel once had a character named after him on a hit TV show, but that's hardly real celebrity, no?

Yes graphic designers design design books, which are then seen by graphic designers! Yet when was the last time you watched a graphic designer on television? Yet fashion designers, chefs, plastic surgeons, real estate agents, orange county housewives and even hairdressers rate TV shows on Bravo. Even a channel like C-SPAN devotes hours of programming to "Book TV" yet hardly features a graphic designer, but if an author wants to yammer on for three hours about Calvin Coolidge they'll send over the camera crew!

Are we less interesting than hairdressers and real estate agents? It's sad for me to read the giants of my field bicker on a blog - and yet the bickering is more intersting than anything I've seen on most tv shows. I think the problem is that there are no celebrity designers in the larger sense of the word. Maybe that's why Chip is writing novels and Paula is selling fine art. But on some level it's sad to me that designers don't get more recognition in the real world.

Michael Pinto

This was interesting. He Thought, She Thought by Dr. Louann Brizendine.

Reading point number 9, I'm going to steal from Mr. Glaser and proclaim, "We Are All Women."


Very Respectfully,
Joe Moran

I feel as though the glass ceiling is an PR tool of women to obtain higher positions of stature. There is a glass ceiling in all trades, for all people. I, as an indian, get it all the time.
Rishi Desai

Every post here includes at least one visual. Michael did you scan this card?
I'm surprised not one comment —unless I missed it- referenced the author of the 'question card' except for Random Intern suspecting it was the work of a woman. I doubt it. Although graphology may help in profiling the writer's character, if you believe that sort of thing, it cannot tell their gender. I just haven't seen too many women scrawl in such a way!

I know it doesn't really matter who poses this valid question to instigate the 'even' ing-out of the playing field but this particular one is so well-crafted.
Could it be Stephen Heller's?

And while I wondered about that, I pictured Louise and him having dinner at 92.

I work for a celebrity designer. He is single-mindedly dedicated to his business. He has a wife who has stayed at home throughout his 20+ year career taking care of every other aspect of their existence - shelter, food, child care, etc. I doubt the guy has ever washed a dish.

I wash dishes all the time and run my own business - but I'm no superstar. Maybe if I stop washing dishes and stop watching re-runs of Friends I may have a better chance.

IMHO there are 3 things that stop women becoming "superstars": 1. There definately is a glass ceiling - it's usually found at the bar after work when the "boys" have incredibly important work related discussions. 2. Successful men are generally perceived as good at what they do if they can communicate ideas/wants etc. with conviction and force - women are labelled as "hormonal" if they do this. 3. Women (across all industries) do not have the same high self-estemm as most men do.

I've worked with many different designers over the years and I deliberately seek out "females". lol. Seriously, they are incredibly reliable, produce excellent and consistent work and actually listen to my requirements!


If I may be so bold and crass, that's a really sexist comment, to say nothing of judgemental. Whatever you think of your "celebrity designer's" home life is frankly irrelevent. You are not part of their marriage, you are not part of their home, you are not part of their responsibilities. Even if he hasn't ever washed a dish, he's working to make sure there is money to buy the food AND the plates, to say nothing of the roof under which said dishes are washed. Please, grow up.

A "glass ceiling" will exist, as long as people acknowledge one another for something other than their talents, ethics, and experience.

I am female. I am a designer. I am proud to be both. However, judge me not on being a "female designer." If women must be judged, judge them for their design abilities, just like the men.

People often make the mistake of assuming that "equal" means 50/50. Design aptitude has nothing to do with gender. If there are more "superstar" designers, maybe it's just because the best designers in the industry right now, happen to be men. At some point, it may balance in the other direction.

As far as the study about women making less money...

My father-in-law, for his thesis dissertation in accounting, studied gender and entry level jobs in the accounting industry. He essentially sent an identical resume, 2 versions, to hundreds of the top accounting firms. The only thing he changed was the name on the resume, clearly making one female and the other male. Without getting into the details, methods, and analytics, the results showed substantially lower starting salaries for the female candidate if the hiring manager was also female. Based on the methods of the research, there was little chance that the female hiring managers low-balled to tweak the outcome of the research.

I've been pretty upset by Glaser's comments for what feels like forever. I think about it everyday...I've even written a few comments, but then never posted because I wanted to give it more thought.

First of all, I think this "superstar designer" mentality hurts our industry as a whole...putting other designers on pedistals does not make for better design. I do appreciate that there is dialogue in our industry, but is it true that the ones that speak the loudest/most are the best?

Some of the most influential designers in my life have been women. Who may or may not have had the same kind of recognition as a Chip Kidd, but they also didn't write books...they design and teach.

They may not be necessarily known in the industry as "superstars", but they are in my minds eye.

Frankly, I don't care who sits on panels...the people who you surround yourself with are the inspiration. The designers you work with are the ones who are going to influence you and teach you as long as you're willing to learn.

Who Knows, some of them might even have babies.


I am a woman designer who chose to leave a job I enjoyed with people I respected at a thriving agency, to freelance from home when my children were three and five. And eleven years later, I'm still here. Anonymous as can be, and I couldn't care less!

I am a superstar to my children. (Well, okay, they're teenagers, so I'm not always a superstar in their eyes!) But I would chose this meaningful anonymity over New York superstardom any day.

To the extent that the inequity in design stardom has to do with parenting -- and as many others have well noted, that may be part of the picture but not all of it -- perhaps the problem is this: not that we esteem women too lightly in the workplace, but that we esteem fathers too lightly in the home.

perhaps the problem is this: not that we esteem women too lightly in the workplace, but that we esteem fathers too lightly in the home.

Well said, Jana. Well said.

Found this on the 2Blowhards blog: Sex I.D. test.

Note to self: Don't tell my ex-wives how I scored.

Joe Moran

I'm posting mostly because no one has mentioned Women Don't Ask.
I'm a "celebrity" I suppose, in the even tinier world of information architecture, which is surely mostly women. However, the most famous are male. Am I pissed off? Nope. I spend a lot of time writing emails to lists, studying, going to network events, and then writing a book, starting a company, starting a nonprofit-- much of that during a long-distance relationship. When we married, my career was already well underway, and he's never been the type to expend laundry or dishes from me (lucky for him, he'd be sadly disappointed.)

If a woman had said what Milton siad (as a female scinetist did say on a recent NPR interview) what would the reaction be?

Having a baby was an incredible shock to my life, more than any other event. Now that my girl is a year old, I'm only now finding myself starting to get back in the game. Luckily my career had already gotten some legs, but I turned down many speaking engagements, and my little start-up almost died from malnutrition. I "lost" two years for my career, and if this has happened at another point in my life, there wouldn't be a "mother of information architecture," just "my two dads." Having a baby shouldn't be underestimated by anyone- no matter how equal your relationship it knocks out the woman physically and mentally, I know a woman who came back to work three weeks after having a baby-- I can't imagine how she did it and wouldn't expect it from anyone no matter how serious about there career. It's hard, and I respect that, so i hope what I say next will be taken correctly.

Our upbringing is against us
Our bodies are against us
Our culture often is against us, though thank god that's changing
But don't think design is special -- all professions suffer from a lack of senior prominent women.

But we can persevere, if we simply believe we deserve to be on every stage, in every CEO seat, and as founder and lead speaker of every magazine. Any woman who does not take personal responsibility for her own sucess is dooming herself to mediocrity. You can choose to be a great craftsperson, and that's fine, but it will take work. You can choose to be a celebrity, but they aren't chosen, they self-select, and it takes work.

Become the future you want to see, and refuse to let anyone or anything stop you -- it can slow you down-- babies, stupid bosses, lame comittees -- but I'm quite certain you (women black asian gay hispanic) can beat it. You can't wait to be asked.
Christina Wodtke

Dear Folk!
How you have met Christmas?
You have brought a smile to my face all year long. ... I never would have met such a fun, interesting group of people.
Mark Oem

Chip Kidd seems to think that women can't possibly be responsible for gender discrimination-- and that the fact that this panel was convened by a woman indicates its flawlessness. He writes:

Here is a fun fact for you all: This panel was conceived last spring, by an administrator at the 92 st Y, who is (wait for it) . . . a woman. She selected us as panelists and set the theme.

Here's a fun fact for you, Chip: women absorb the expectations and biases of culture just as fully as men do. In fact, a recent study showed that female bosses are significantly more likely to discriminate against female employees than are male bosses. Here's the link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2524299.html

Both men and women are responsible for perpetuating gender discrimination-- and that means they must both be responsible for eliminating it.


I think the real mystery is, why are men so eager to sacrifice their wives and children for the sake of their "career"? The whole point of marriage and children is to live your lives together as a cohesive whole...no one lies on their deathbed and wishes for just five more minutes at work. But we've been doing it so long that women have also gotten the idea that this must be the way to go...

I think that Miltons comment was, among other things, a blazing example that he does not think of any current women graphic designers as "super stars".

His words did prompt a hearty dialogue from people on blogs everywhere and that is certainly a great thing. But maybe next time the commitee that organizes the panel will replace him with someone with more contemporary views of society, woman or not. He is outdated.


Too bad we can't all just work together and not worry about gender

This is a little off-topic (and quite late in the discussion), but I bring it up for a reason:

Maybe the phrase "rock star" is being thrown around too much as an unfortunate catch-all here.

It seems to me there are a few other equally -- if not more -- important classifications worthy of consideration in which women designers have played an incredibly crucial part.

(Note that these categories -- off the top of my head, really -- are merely a suggestion for the sake of clarification in this issue. Also, any single designer can obviously occupy more than one category.)

EXPERT AUTHORITIES: Venerability, knowledge, influence, wisdom and perspective would be the key criteria for these folks. Experienced designers would top the list, but esteemed educators, historians, scholars, critics, etc., fit in too.

HEROES: Innovators, crusaders, inspirers, iconoclasts, individualists, experimenters, gurus. Some are relatively famous, others totally obscure. This is probably the most subjective category... but hey, that's the nature of inspiration.

CELEBRITIES: The proverbial rock stars, the designers whose profile is so high that they crack the consciousness of the mainstream. While some Celebrities may also be Expert Authorities and/or Heroes, and though excellent/inventive design chops are obviously essential, I'd also think charisma, presence, ubiquitous featured/published work, self-promotion and timing -- that is, riding the crest of the cultural/visual zeitgeist by happenstance or intention -- are equally important.

UP-AND-COMERS: All of the ambitious whippersnappers who have their sights on ascending themselves to the other categories, nipping at everyone's heels. (My guess is a lot of us reading Design Observer might fit into this category.)

Anyway, it would seem that, at present, lots of female designers occupy all of these categories except Celebrities -- which, though valuable in some ways, is really the least essential of the classifications.

In other words:

Many women designers -- including: the luminaries who've been mentioned in the many posts above; the countless individuals who, despite a lower profile, have added immeasurable benefit and utility to the profession; and some of the thousands of female Up-And-Comers who, within the next decade, most assuredly WILL be rock stars -- make up for a seeming lack of celebrityhood with their vital and monumental contributions to the design discipline as Heroes and Expert Authorities.

To some degree, in the grand scheme of things... though due recognition and a place at the podium is certainly deserved... isn't that a heck of a lot more important than stardom?

I'd say so.

In any case, just a thought. By the way, not that it's worth anything, but my own opinion of this whole brouhaha:

Regardless of what anyone says, if things keep moving in the same direction (i.e., more female designers in the workforce who demand control of their own lives and careers, just as any guy would; greater awareness and efforts for inclusion among design organizations; leading designers voicing their discontent at the current disparity in female representation; increasing numbers of women-owned design firms; etc.), someday in the near-future that "graphic glass ceiling" -- already slightly cracked at present -- is thankfully gonna shatter.
Jon Resh

Why am I not a rock star designer? There must be something wrong with the industry. I know I'm awesome, and fully deserving of all the credit, admiration and money due to Milton Glaser.

Posted by: voix de raison on December 12, 2006 10:14 AM
"This sounds like a case where only a handful of sensitive women introduce an issue that never existed in the first place, which is no different to people crying foul play to imaginary racial subjugation. Paula's right, this is not about superstars and it's not about babies. But it's also not about anything sexist or an unbalanced industry. It's just a simple case of, "We like this person better." Why can't people see that you may be creative equals, but one of you is going to be noticed more than the other.

This whole thing is so rediculous."

It is rIdiculous.

"to imaginary racial subjugation"...there is nothing imaginary about racial or gender, or religious subjugation. If you did not notice, everytime Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned in the news, it is followed by "the female candidate." Whenever Barack Obama is mentioned, it is followed by "The black candidate". Wake up.

Ever heard of Jim Crow?

Ever hear of women writing under male pseudonyms just so their work would be published?

Ever hear of WWII and the Holocaust? Just because the Iranians don't believe it didn't happen, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Just because the "We like this person better" happens to result in a very large quantity of caucasian men...well, I do not believe that is just a coincidence, either.

I also do not believe that Mr. Glaser made any remark that is not true, or that should be taken in any other way than it was said.

I do not believe that (generally speaking)the men who are now successful design idols--baby boomers, if you will are responsible, in any large part, for the situation. It took 2 millenia to get here (actually longer).

Men are still being prosecuted for hate crimes committed 40 years ago in the South. 40 years ago African Americans (look up "Rosa Parks") had to sit in the back of the bus, drink from different drinking fountains and use separate rest rooms and were shot if a white person even sugested any impropriety.

Here is the point: If it is an issue to some people, which from this discussion, it is...what are those people (myself included) doing to rectify the situation? Obviously, if you don't believe it is an issue, then you are not going to do anything to try to make change.

I did CHOOSE to get married and have children, in that order. I did CHOOSE to leave the art director fast track, and take a teaching position at half the salary because I wanted to teach design and talk about design to people who (hopefully) love it as much as I do...not the clients who only care about how to make a bigger buck off of their veggiematics...design for design's sake.

I doubt highly that I will ever move into a "superstar" career position because of the "choices" I made. Everytime I go home at night and get a big hug around my leg, and hear about the pre-teen girl drama, I am not sorry for the CHOICES that I made, regardless of the social and cultural influences, and parentage, and environment, and friends that helped direct those choices at that point in time.

I AM angry about the men with whom I work, that continue minimize other people, and are rude to other people, and steal other peoples' ideas...do I think that it is just a coincidence that they are men and I am a woman, and that there is a clear majority of them? Not at all.

Am I an African American? No.

Am I trying to do something about it? Yes, you betcha! Cynthia
Cynthia Busic-Snyder

Cynthia wrote:
"Am I an African American? No.

Am I trying to do something about it? Yes, you betcha! "

Cool! Let us know how that works out.
Sam Lipschitz

Hm. 1992/Chicago- AIGA conference: At a breakout session I heard Paula Scher give just the same answer as Milton, without the rude comments about daycare. She chose not to have children. I did. And you know, she was right. I was graciously given 6 months to find other work when my older daughter was 1 1/2-- because I had become (horrors!) a "nine-to-fiver". Since her birth and the subsequent birth of another daughter I have made career choices based on health-care plans and family-friendliness. Which means NOT those hipster design offices. And I didn't have time to go to conferences, make presentations or submit papers. Am I whining? Not really. If prestige had been that important, I would pursued it. But my husband, too, scaled back his career in exchange for more family time. We both work fulltime, but not impossible hours, we both make decent but not indecent amounts of money, and we have had family dinners, and soccer practices, and PTA involvements-as well as good, solid, careers. So there are trade offs. But, damn, it WOULD have been fun to sit on a panel with you guys.

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