The Editors | Collections

Women in Design History

March is Women's History Month, and all month long Design Observer will be celebrating historical women and women making history in visual culture.

We'll be hosting a series of Twitter chats each Monday in March with women designers, and we invite you all to join in celebrating women all month long with the hashtag #womendesignhistory.

To kick off the month, we've pulled together a list of some of our favorite remembrances of women who have left a significant mark in the fields of design, photography, and criticism, but who sadly are no longer with us. —The Editors

Elaine Lustig Cohen
Elaine Lustig Cohen earned pioneer status in 1955, after taking over the midtown Manhattan studio of her first husband, Alvin Lustig, following his death from diabetes that year at age 45.

Lucia Eames
Alexandra Lange remembers Lucia Eames, the only child of Charles Eames and his first wife, Catherine Woermann. An artist and designer herself, after Ray Eames’s death in 1988 Lucia Eames took on the not inconsiderable task of preserving the Eames legacy.

Mildred "Mickey" Friedman
Mildred Friedman, known as “Mickey,” was the editor of Design Quarterly and the Walker Art Center design curator for much of the ’70s and ’80s. She organized major design exhibitions including the controversial yet ground-breaking Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History (1989), the first major museum survey of the field in the United States.

Sylvia Harris
In a profession perhaps best characterized by its wish to bring clarity to a chaotic world, Sylvia Harris was a champion.

Ada Louise Huxtable
"Ada Louise Huxtable was my hero, and I am not sure I have another. She has been my hero since I was 16, and a local architect put one of her essays into my hands."

Sister Corita Kent
In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.

Marget Larsen
Marget Larsen died prematurely in 1984. She is remarkably under-represented in graphic design history, although she made significant contributions to building the San Francisco design aesthetic at a time when few women gained recognition in graphic design.

Vivan Maier
In 2008, John Maloof purchased an anonymous body of photographic images at an auction in Chicago. After spending seven months reviewing the images he found the identity of the photographer, her name was Vivian Maier.

Mary Ellen Mark
Mary Ellen Mark, noted photojournalist,  is known for her heartfelt and compassionate work. She consistently produced remarkable images throughout a career that spanned decades and as photography and photojournalism underwent radical change.

Esther McCoy
Reyner Banham wasn't cowed by many, but even he was nervous about meeting Esther McCoy.

Deborah Sussman
Deborah Sussman was a woman able to carve out a vibrant and successful career in a field traditionally dominated by men.

Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer was one of America’s first architecture critics, prolific, connected, and deeply concerned with the ethics and aesthetics of building large and small, horticultural and industrial.

Lella Vignelli
"In my ten years at Vignelli Associates, I came to understand the relationship between the two brilliant designers who ran the office. Massimo would tend to play the role of idea generator. Lella served as the critic, editing the ideas and shaping the best ones to fit the solution."

Posted in: History

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