By and large, women have been left out of the history of graphic design. If, however, we look beyond the surface of this familiar account, the influence women have had on the discipline right from the start becomes clear. In this context, female graphic designers developed their own traditions, conducted dialogues and discourse, acted as role models for other women, created networks, and proved their capacity for self-empowerment.
Rather than simply augmenting existing accounts with the addition of exceptional women, Gerda Breuer identifies the formats—such as women’s collectives, workshops, and (more recently) digital platforms— they used to make a mark on the world. Both little-known collectives and renowned graphic designers such as Lyubov Popova, Änne Koken, Ethel Reed, and Sarah Wyman Whitman contributed to the history of graphic design. Breuer’s approach demonstrates the ways that women’s important contributions been devalued, ignored, or relegated to the background—in short, made to disappear—in the narrative that is usually presented. In the context of contemporary challenges to the traditional canon of graphic design, integrating these contributions into design history is long overdue.
Design by Katja Lis, DBF designbüro frankfurt