The Curious Case of the Disappearing Female Designers

The ladies of Graphic Design, master hiders in the grand old game of design industry hide ’n’ seek…

Credit: Ruonan Yan. Poster for Tomorrow “Gender Equality”. Source:

In light of it being International Women’s Day recently, I thought I might take the opportunity to talk about the role of women in the Graphic Design Industry.

Searching for the Elusive Woman…

As a final year graphic design student looking out into a future in the industry, it can be easy to look for role models in other women having successful careers in the field. Yet, the prominence of such potential role models is far and few between as most design magazines, journals etc. spotlight a majority of male graphic designers. This is not to say that female designers are completely neglected from the spotlight; but the search terms to find them, require a little more finesse than just ‘graphic design’ or ‘graphic designers’. In fact, finding them almost always the needs the addition of ‘female’; ‘woman’ or ‘women’. This in itself begs to question why the prefix of gender needs to be added to find these ‘hidden’ or ‘disappearing’ designers.


The design industry like many others has been a male-dominated world for a long time. Even with feminism bringing more light to the issues facing inequality in the workplace, its still hard to find many female designers in limelight or role model positions as leaders. Many design panel positions are still held by men and it raises many questions to whether the design industry really has opened its door to more equality between the sexes or if getting to and keeping top positions is still an uphill struggle.

Even now only a small percentage of female designers are in Creative Director and Senior Level positions in comparison to their male counterparts.

Traditionally, the graphic design workplace has always been an environment with long hours and tight deadlines, requiring designers to work late into the night and early hours of the morning to meet said deadlines. With such an environment its hard to find the flexibility for a life outside of work for both genders.

Yet, the gender disparities within the graphic design workplace are really just the tip of the iceberg.

At a glance, it seems as that maybe women aren’t as interested in the industry or just not as many women want to go into the field, as it could still be considered a ‘boy’s club’ to some degree. Yet, in education for example on graphic design courses as university’s; 70% of students are female. However, in industry the ratio of male to female graphic designers is flipped to 60% of designers being male to the 40% of female designers.

The question is where do the 30% go?

And how do a large chunk of designers just ‘disappear’?

To be continued… your thoughts welcome.

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