March is Women’s History Month: a time for celebrating the contributions of women in history, culture and society. For the design industry, which is still very much a male-dominated space, it’s a time when we reflect on just how far creative women have come—as well as how far we still have to go.
This month we’re dedicating our spaces to the women who are unafraid to take up space with their art. Women who are authentic in their expression, and who continue to forge a path forward for themselves, their clients and their peers.
Read on to meet 6 designers from around the globe, each with their own perspective on what it means to be a creative woman in 2023. From emerging talent to those established in their career: they share their struggles, strengths and admiration for the creative women they look up to. Let their words and work inspire you.
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Follow her @aesthete.ui
Anna is a UX/UI designer based in the sunny Gold Coast, Australia by way of Canada. She specializes in creating engaging, intuitive and visually-rich digital experiences for her clients across a multitude of industries. As she puts it, her life’s work is “turning pixels into stories.” We love the way that sounds.
Anna shares with us how her physical environment has influenced her creative practice, leaning into elegance and the most important lesson she’s learned in her career.
How her environment shapes her creativity
“I’ve always been inspired by nature when it comes to design and it’s one of the things that brought me to Australia. I’ve always dreamed of living by the ocean. Being able to get up and go for a surf, or a walk on the beach, smell the ocean and be surrounded by nature always invigorates the start of my day.
In my design practice, it’s something that can inspire the overall flow of my work whether it’s through colors, shapes or patterns.”
On learning to value herself
“To me, being a creative woman in the design industry means bringing a unique perspective, creative flair and an elegant and refined approach to a historically male-dominated industry. It’s working with and inspiring other women to follow suit and pursue a career in a field that they’re passionate about.
I have experienced my share of challenges in the industry, and a lot had to do with gender bias which at the start caused me to be under-estimated as a designer. To overcome this I’ve learned to be assertive, confident in my abilities, and to stand up for my ideas and let my expertise speak for itself.”
Never take rejection personally
“I don’t remember who gave me this advice, but it has been integral to my growth and success as a freelance designer: ‘Never take rejection personally.’ What it means is that just because what you create or propose wasn’t the right fit for a potential client, doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do.
This was especially important in the early stage of my career. There are thousands of opportunities out there, and thousands of potential clients. If you continue to pursue those opportunities without allowing rejection to dwindle your fire, you’ll eventually find the right fit.”
Anna loves 💖
“Margaret Zhang, the editor in Chief at Vogue China. Her expertise transcends a multitude of industries in the creative space, and her vision, experience, and business acumen is something I very much admire.”
Follow her @surbhipitt
Surabhi is a creative from, as she puts it, “Incredible India.” As a child she was always inspired by art and has since turned it into a career where she brings a whimsical touch to all things illustration: from greeting cards to advent calendars and everything in between.
Surabhi opens up about the journey to finding her style and trusting her instincts.
On what lights her creative fire
“I’m still in search of my ‘soul art style,’ so I’m doing everything I’m attracted to. I like bold minimalism, odd-body characters, and artwork with lots of texture and depth.
I can really pull off characterization of objects or people. I absolutely love illustrating greeting cards, and I love every client I have worked with because each one brought their own unique brief.”
Letting her instincts light her path
“When I was a beginner, I felt puzzled as to what I should illustrate. Should I only do comic books or characters? Or only what’s trending? As I sharpened my skills I learned that I should just illustrate whatever I like in whatever style I like. Like Nemo said, ‘just keep swimming and swimming.’ So keep designing.”
Surabhi loves 💖
Follow her @nedra.ta
Nedra Taib is a creative based in Tunis, Tunisia. After making a career switch from trained architect to artist, she now works as an illustrator and 2D animator. She’s currently on track to obtain her Ph.D. in Cinema.
Like the truly multidisciplinary designer she is, Nedra tells us she finds inspiration in all forms of art: Frank Zappa’s avant-garde lyrics, Käthe Kollwitz’s prints, manga by Q Hayashida and the contemporary artist Kiki Smith have all in some way contributed to her creative outlook.
Each new project she takes on is an opportunity to grow. She chats to us about this below.
Patience as practice
“The best piece of advice that I received was when I first started as an illustrator. My partner told me to be true to myself and adopt a style that reflects my artistic identity. In my creations, I try to convey a story and bring out emotions using metaphors and contrasts.
One important lesson that I learned throughout my journey is that I have to cultivate patience. It takes time and effort to acquire the necessary skills to achieve satisfactory results in my work.”
On turning self-doubt into motivation
“When you search for other talented artists’ work for inspiration, keep in mind that it took them a lot of hard work to be where they are. Don’t let this shake your self-confidence. Rather, let it motivate you to achieve more.”
Nedra loves 💖
“I’d like to give a shout out to the filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, who despite the male-dominated film industry, has become one of the most established directors In her field.”
Follow her @diannedequino
Dianne Dequiño is a Manila-based illustrator and IT professional who describes herself as a “tiny, queer Asian woman.” Inspired by her upbringing amongst demonstrations and communities in need, she’s proud to work with a roster of clients who are as dedicated as she is to the fight for equality. We had the opportunity to meet Dianne in person last year at our Manila meet-up, and she absolutely stole the show with her charm.
Dianne shared how she’s always been able to integrate the analytical and artistic sides of herself. In her view, the two flow together seamlessly, and she maintains that a creative mindset can be a superpower—no matter what industry you work in.
On empathy as a catalyst for creativity
“I am mostly inspired by people and their stories and how similar a lot of our experiences are, yet we all view life so uniquely. I am always in awe of our shared fortitude as humans, whether they manifest as bravery in action or an unimposing quiet strength.
I love working with clients that share my values—public servants, volunteer groups, non-profit organizations. I love knowing that the work I do, no matter how little, contributes to something significant and benefits the improvement of lives and of communities.”
And creativity as a catalyst for change
“Art played a significant role during last year’s presidential campaign season, and almost a year after, artworks created by supporters of former Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo continue to come out and inspire people.
A lot of these works were compiled into a recently launched art book “Panahon ng Paruparo” whose proceeds were donated to Angat Buhay Foundation. This is the 3rd art book of its kind that I’m humbled to have been a part of. It’s so uplifting to see the art of different forms from artists from all over the country, who came together for a cause and a shared clamor for change and unwavering hope.”
On embracing your struggles
“[My advice is] to just be fearless and embrace the extraordinary strengths being a woman can bring to the table: our unique brand of empathy, our eagerness to be seen, our unique point of view (you know, all of the things we had to learn from a lifetime of inequality).
People jumping into new careers tend to compare themselves to people who have already established themselves, and I learned early on that’s the easiest way to discourage yourself and kill your vibe. So just be unapologetically you and keep creating.”
Dianne loves 💖
“All the women creatives on 99designs. I really love and enjoy profile-hopping, and I am always inspired by your talent.”
Follow her @gokceinan_
Gökçe İnan Ünveren is a fine artist-turned-graphic designer based in Istanbul, Turkey. What started as a way to try and make money during school has turned into a fruitful 17+ year career as a professional designer. Her love of painting has influenced her creative outlook, where she infuses her projects with bold colors, patterns and brushstrokes.
As a woman in Turkey, Gökçe told us that the path to where she is today hasn’t always been easy. Though she counts herself lucky, she acknowledges that creative women in Turkey (like the rest of the world) are often overlooked for the promotions or raises they deserve. More from Gökçe below.
On culture and community as sources of inspiration
“I love traveling. It feeds my soul. I try to go to different places as much as I can. If it’s my first visit to a country, then I could just stand in a market and stare for hours at the packaging of different products (it’s happened!). It is perfect to see designs in real life and observe people.
If I had to go back and give my past self a piece of advice, I would tell her that diversity is the best way to learn different techniques and styles, and don’t be afraid to accept different jobs. You will do your best with practice. I think it is the key to being a multidisciplinary designer.”
Finding the perfect projects for her
“I really enjoy taking on illustration projects because of my painting background. But I also love branding and packaging design, and I love to see my works interacting with people in their daily lives.
If it aligns with a client’s brand requirements, I like to use illustrations, patterns and pops of color in my designs.”
And reaching the pinnacle of success
“For the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to work with people around the world—from independent movies to very commercial projects. I am enjoying it. But I also have a Don Pérignon vintage waiting to pop when I get hired as a designer and relocate for a company in Europe!”
Gökçe loves 💖
Follow her @carolineparkercreative
Caroline is a Colorado-based creative specializing in bold, beautiful branding and lush, texture-filled illustrations. A self-described “small business cheerleader,” she brings an earthy and poetic approach to her work, which she hopes inspires connection in all who interact with it.
We were lucky to work with Caroline to create an illustration for this year’s International Women’s Day, and she was a dream to collaborate with. Reading her responses to our interview, we understood why: her curiosity, compassion and love for the community are infused in everything she creates. She’ll be one to watch in 2023 and beyond.
Design is connection
“My style is bold, colorful and has an approachable human element that reminds you that the work was made by and for real people. I like to intentionally weave in the stories behind businesses for branding work, or leave behind hand-drawn brush strokes in illustrations.
The thread that weaves my work together is my human-first approach—the desire to use design as a way to drive connection to or between people in the real world.
Great design brings people from a storefront into a restaurant where they have a wonderful sit-down meal. Great design is grabbing a beautiful bottle of wine off the shelf because it catches your eye and getting to share that with your people.”
On trusting her vision
“There’s a quote out there that says when you step fully into your authentic self, you allow others to do the same. Design is special because it’s an industry where the more uniquely you express yourself and your ideas visually, the better your work becomes.
Seeing women express themselves visually in authentic and impactful ways constantly inspires me to do the same. I’ve learned to trust myself and my design decisions, and knowing the right people will find me and collaborate with me because of my unique point of view is incredibly empowering.”
Caroline loves 💖
“Lisa Tanguichi is a lettering artist whose use of color and dreamy whimsical letters blows me away. Minna Leunig paints these incredible textured silhouettes of the natural world, formed into engaging patterns. And of course, my dear friend and mentor Becca Reitz who creates with intuition and tremendous talent.”