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5 influential female graphic designers

  • Written byCarys Thomas
  • Published date 09 March 2022

Have you ever wondered who designed the logo on your favourite Nike trainers? You may not have known that it was Carolyn Davidson, an iconic female graphic designer who designed the Nike Swoosh logo in 1971 while studying at Portland State University.

While you may have heard about many influential male graphic designers, there are also many talented female designers who have made their mark in the industry over the years and deserve to be celebrated.

We’ve compiled an overview of 5 influential female graphic designers that have each made inspiring contributions to the world of design. If you’re hoping to follow in their footsteps, take a look at our guide on how to become a graphic designer.

1# Carolyn Davidson

Carolyn Davidson started out studying journalism in Portland but later had a change of heart and switched to a design course, achieving a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 1971. Carolyn went on to meet Phil Knight, co-founder of the Nike brand, while he was teaching an accounting course at the university.

Carolyn needed some money to pay for an oil painting class when Knight approached her and offered her some work for what was to become the infamous Nike brand. Carolyn designed the logo for Knight and his co-founder in 1971 and received $35 for her efforts. Shaped as a wing of the Greek goddess of Victory, the logo depicts an arc of movement and was designed to represent motion and speed.

2# Susan Kare

San Francisco-based artist and graphic designer Susan Kare has designed thousands of software icons that have an important role in technological history. Susan graduated from New York University with a PhD in fine arts and went on to secure work at Apple as the creator of screen graphics in the Macintosh group.

Despite her lack of software experience at the time, Susan developed the distinctive icons, typefaces, and other pixel elements that are now widely recognised as characteristic of the Apple brand. Her prolific work shaped the core visual language of the original Macintosh in the creation of many desktop icons and typefaces.

Susan went on to work as a design consultant for several other prestigious companies including Microsoft, IBM, Sony Pictures, Facebook and Pinterest.

3# Margaret Calvert

Most of us will have come into contact with British graphic designer and typographer Margaret Calvert’s work at some point.

Born in South Africa in 1936, Margaret moved to England some years later and enrolled at Chelsea College of Art. It was here that Margaret developed an interest in typography and lettering under the supervision of one of her professors, Jock Kinnear. When Kinnear was tasked with designing the signage for Gatwick Airport, he invited Margaret to work with him. Together, they went on to design many of the road signs used throughout the United Kingdom, as well as the famous ‘Transport’ typeface which incorporated both upper and lower-case sans-serif lettering.

Margaret has designed signage for British rail, motorways, airports and roads and her work has had a significant impact on British transport culture, making her one of the most influential female graphic designers in the UK.

4# Morag Myerscough

Morag Myerscough is an award-winning London-based artist and designer known for her bold, colourful projects that often integrate graphics and type within urban architectural environments. After studying at Central Saint Martins, Morag went on to study at the Royal Academy of Art. Her work is often characterised by her passion for colour, and her bright, engaging designs and installations can be seen to transform and rejuvenate buildings and other public spaces, including hospital wards, cultural hubs, town centres and cafes.

Morag has worked with many clients and organisations over the years, including the British Council, Battersea Power Station, the Design Museum, and University Hospital.

5# Sarah Boris

Born in London and raised by French parents, Sarah Boris is an award-winning graphic designer, creative director and artist based in London. Sarah has designed for some of the UK’s top cultural institutions, including the Tate, Barbican Centre and the Architecture Foundation. In 2015, Sarah established her own graphic design practice and now works on a number of branding, editorial, web design, illustration and screenprinting projects with a particular focus on editorial design and publishing.

Sarah’s notable projects include the bestselling monograph JR: Can Art Change the World? which was published by Phaidon in 2015. Sarah was also previously a guest lecturer at London College of Communication.

If you’ve been inspired by the work of these talented designers and want to learn more about the art of graphic design, check out our upcoming short courses on the subject.

You may also be interested in our Graphics Folio Online Short Course, which is designed to help you build a solid foundation in graphic communication design practice over a four-week period.

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