Designers Speak (Up) gives visibility to the “unsung diversity” of Aotearoa design

Amongst the overwhelming amount of industries that possess a gender imbalance, graphic design is no exception. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, a country whose design scene is less well-known to us in the West, the male-oriented profession is just as one-sided. But the graphic designer and typographer Catherine Griffiths has decided to do something about it. Last year, she created three posters that definitively renounce the patriarchy of Aotearoa New Zealand’s design scene, drawing attention to the past recipients of the prestigious Black Pin awards from 1997-2017, 40 of whom have been male in comparison to the mere three women that have claimed the prize in over 20 years.

“How has this happened? Where are the women?” asks Catherine. With skewed amounts of men on the juries and convenors, Catherine urged the Design Institute of New Zealand (who awards Black Pins) to take a long hard look at these statistics through her project Power in the Poster: 1997-2017, 43 Black Pins, 40 men, 3 women.

After receiving unanimous support on social media for the work, Catherine, along with many other passionate voices in Aotearoa, New Zealand, has launched a series of projects under the name Designers Speak (Up), in favour of creating a balanced and inclusive design scene for all. In their most recent venture Present Tense : Wāhine Too Aotearoa, the collective placed an open call to record the current landscape of women in design, including anyone that identifies as female or non-binary.

The idea originated from the artist Imogen Taylor who had expressed frustration at not being able to source women designers for her feminist zine, Femisphere. With the hopes of providing visibility to the unsung diversity in Aotearoa design, participants were invited to design a poster surrounding any social, cultural or political issue of their choice. The results of this call-out are now exhibiting at Hamilton’s Ramp Gallery, celebrating the work of designers and non-designers alike.

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