The women behind design for everyday life

As we wrap up Women’s History Month, the Bluewave team has been focused on how women designers have shaped the creative world—in particular, the idea that good design belongs in everyday life. As Bluewave’s Design Director, Karen Kamberg, says:

“[It’s all about]… our ability to take complex ideas and reduce them down to their simplest form to effectively communicate the idea, evoke an emotion and inspire action. Knowing there are infinite ways to achieve this is just as freeing as it is daunting.”

Cipe Pineles: Inspired imagery evokes emotion

Among graphic designers, Cipe (pronounced “C.P.”) Pineles is quite the revolutionary for doing just that—bringing inspired imagery to the world of print to evoke emotion.

cover of charm magazine designed by cipe pineles, showing a woman in a 1950s outfit with black text that reads "miracles for women who work" over a typewriter background
Cipe Pineles – Charm cover 1954

Hired by Condé Nast himself, Pineles would be the first to commission fine artists (like Warhol) to provide art that would accompany stories. Her direction was simple—read the brief/story, decide what to illustrate, and then produce something that would “be good enough to hang with … other work in a gallery.” Expanding on her influence in the design space, she pioneered the use of photography in layout, giving it prominence by printing large scale photos, and pushing for full-bleed imagery. This meant that simple type—think Futura—could go anywhere on the page to create more visual interest.

Pineles was a driving force behind the success of Seventeen magazine, as well.

“Seventeen’s success was based on Helen Valentine’s conviction that teenage girls represented a significant economic force, and on her ability to convince advertisers to support the magazine that reached them. Pineles made Seventeen visually elegant and lively.”


Paula Scher: All design deserves to be intelligent

Design powerhouse, Paula Scher’s legacy extends to both small creative endeavors and large businesses—which is key because as Scher says:

“It’s not just about doing design for the ‘public good.’ The design community currently thinks that if you design something to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, then that’s good, but if you design something for a bank, then that’s bad. I disagree. I think all design matters and all design deserves to be intelligent.”

Great art, and great design, are important in all aspects of life. For many of us, so much of our lives are focused on the visual and every design is a story; design exists to improve the human experience. As Karen notes,

“Saul Bass is famously quoted for the idea that design is thought made visual. Whether it’s a logo, a presentation, or a website, design is the vehicle that transports the messaging. While messaging is different from company to company, different for a charity vs. a global enterprise, the connection is still needed to bring the audience to the storyteller (the brand, the company, the charity, the artist).”
graphic design for a billboard on a building showing three half-faces with bold text that says "MoMA"
MoMA billboards by Paula Scher

This means that every visual element—down to the type and the visual role that type plays in design—is important. And to that point, Scher says:

“Once I started to see type as something with spirit and emotion, I could really manipulate it. I never drew very well, so my ability to communicate feeling through typography became really important.”


Ari Liloan: Illustration unlocks meaning

“Personally, I’m more engaged when the job centres on climate change or social justice. Nevertheless, I don’t think that illustration needs such honourable motives to be exciting. The drier the subject matter, the more important it is to make it appealing. Illustration can be the vital frosting to make something seemingly boring easily digestible. That’s what I love about it.”

Graphic illustration for a news article showing a crumpled dollar bill with LGBTQ rainbow on one side, a match burning through the middle. The match head is the shape of the coronavirus.
Ari Liloan digital illustration for NBC News

For graphic designers like Liloan, the challenge of bringing life to dry material echoes the same goals Pineles worked so hard at.

My constant striving [is] to make difficult or dry topics into something digestible. After all, the great thing about illustration is that an abstraction can be made into something amusing or at least tolerable for the viewer – irrespective of whether I’m illustrating European fiscal policy, Taylor Swift or breast cancer.


Women designers continue to inspire

Graphic designers Cipe Pineles, Paula Scher, and Ari Liloan are just a few women behind design for everyday life. They believe that every message deserves intelligent design that evokes emotion and unlocks meaning. At Bluewave, we take inspiration from these women designers as we champion the importance of design in every project.

By: Shawna Bird | Creative Project Manager

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