Wednesday 28 March 2012

Ways of Seeing

Watch the second episode of John Berger's BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972) here, to get an early example of a feminist reading of art and advertising.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a publication edited by Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie in 1973 with the aim to strengthen a feminist network in the US and raise consciousness for different kinds of movements and associations concerned with feminist issues.

Working for a University, Kirsten Grimstad was initially assigned to put together a bibliography of women’s studies, but then decided to include also contemporary activities of women and women’s groups to take the research beyond scholarly scope. During the summer of 1973, Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie were then taking the road for an extensive trip through the US, meeting all the individuals and initiatives that are introduced in the catalog personally and gathering information for the publication. 

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog consists of several chapters such as art, communications, work and money, child care, self help, self-defense, getting justice and buliding the movement. The Catalog introduces women-run presses, bookstores, bands, law firms, banks, organizations and enterprises as well as schools and non-sexist playgroups for children and include their contact information.
"These projects express a rejection of the values of existing institutional structures and, unlike the hip male counter-culture, represent an active attempt to reshape culture through changing values and consciousness." (from the foreword)

The format and layout of the New Woman’s Survival Catalog are similar to the Whole Earth Catalog.
Further comparison on an ideological level might be interesting: starting from the difference between "WHOLE" and "WOMAN" in the respective titles – the first seems objective whereas the second is by definition subjective...
Quite striking is also "Survival" as part of the title (and mission).

The catalog itself as well as the projects and initiatives that it introduces are the outcome of non-hierarchic collective work and decision-making structures and processes. It also shows an urge for communication and exchange of experiences.

There is a video interview with Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie that provides more background information:

Sunday 25 March 2012

Nicolete Gray

‘Nicolete Gray's life was marked by many and diverse achievements, but it is as the historian and advocate and exponent of lettering that she will be chiefly remembered.’ Read the rest of her obituary from The Independent in 1997 here.

Feminist Design is Caring, Inclusive, Relational

‘There is a prevalent notion in the professional world that only if you have eight or more uninterrupted hours per day can you do significant work. But if you respond to other human beings… you never really have eight uninterrupted hours in a row. Relational existence is only attached to gender by history – not by genes, not by biology, not by some essential ‘femaleness’. … A relational person allows notions about other people to interrupt the trajectory of thinking or designing…’
(Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, ‘Feminist Design is Caring, Inclusive, Relational’, interview by Ellen Lupton, Eye 8, p.14) Read the whole article here.

Friday 23 March 2012

Nat Hunter

Nat Hunter of Tokyo Digital 'maintains that women can be apologetic for themselves, whereas successful men have opinions and egos, and aren’t afraid to put them across. She stresses the importance of women being assertive with their opinions.' Read a little bit more here. Comments please!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

The Girl Effect

The Girl Effect is an awareness campaign focused on the importance of girls’ education in solving global poverty. Visit their website for more information and inspiration. The film is both a moving call to action, and an explanation of a very interesting idea.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Gender bias in book publishing

Research shows that gender bias in books publishing remains acute. Study by Vida shows that the great majority of quality-press reviews are still by and about male writers. Read the article on The Guardian.

Typography & Gender

A great MA dissertation by Julián David Moncada Tobar, from Master of Arts in Typeface Design, University of Reading, 2011.

Friday 16 March 2012

Gudrun Zapf von Hesse

Can someone please fill in the Wikipedia on Gudrun Zapf von Hesse?
Her page is tiny compared to that of her husband, Hermann Zapf.
I think this is a photo of her:

Here are some of her typeface designs:

Naomi Wolf

There was a chat session with Naomi Wolf on feminism on the Guardian website earlier today, read the full transcript here or her column 'How we can connect with feminism's global future' here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Dear Sirs

I received a letter today starting with "Dear Sirs" (Did they assume only men run graphic design studios or was it just a typo?). It reminded me of this interview with Frith Kerr.


Writing a generic email, and starting with ‘Dear Sir’.

Monday 12 March 2012

Interview with Marsha Rowe

A What I find most fascinating is that you decided to share all the tasks except graphic design.
M No, that did come in. Because those days it was still all cut out, big pasted up on boards, everyone ended up getting much more involved in what type size, headings and the images and what to chose.

A So there was an involvement in the design?
M Yes there was, but there was a person co-ordinating and making the final decisions. And everyone got to learn a bit but some people couldn’t do it. It was a skill, you have to be very good with your hands to do those paste ups and you have to have a flare for it, so it just couldn’t be easily collectivised. You still had people responsible for specific things, so right up to collective days, you had someone in charge with design, and someone responsible for music or features.

I interviewed Marsha Rowe, the founder of Spare Rib, for Treating of Matters in 2010. You can read it in full here.

Spare Rib's first dummy, 1972

The Time of the Signs

A great interview with Margaret Calvert by Phil Baines. Read it here.

Sunday 11 March 2012

The Bare Facts

The facts say it all... Here is our presentation from the Feminism and Graphic Design conference at Iaspis last week: a data visualisation of gender divisions within graphic design today. It's only the beginning of our research and it's far from complete, so please get in touch if you want to contribute in making this real. 

Designer Breakfasts

Designer Breakfasts – Where are the Women?
Tuesday 20 March, 8 –10am

There are fewer women than men at the top of mainstream design agencies. Attempting to identify reasons for this gender imbalance provokes assumption and generalization best corrected by hearing a range of real case studies.

The panel will draw on their very different experiences and perspectives to test this theory and the validity of commonly held explanations for it – among them the conflicting demands of family and work, the cut-throat nature of traditional business, the wish for a more collaborative and co-operative way of working and the opportunity to create a portfolio career and better work/life balance offered by modern communications technologies. They will also be looking at ways of making the most of all the talent available, male or female, in a world where inclusiveness and openness to change are increasingly important to commercial success.

With Penny Baxter, Nat Hunter, Jack Renwick and Jacky O’Leary.

Design Museum, London.
More info here.

They will put a video online afterwards, so if £26 is a bit pricey, save your bucks for better causes!

Saturday 10 March 2012

Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012

A new book by Gerda Breuer und Julia Meer, published by Jovis in March 2012.
"Why do apparently so few women feature in the history of design? Why is it still the case that so few women speak at conferences? Why are previously well-known women “forgotten”? What effects does the gender debate have on today’s everyday working life? Are women judged today solely on the basis of their quality of work? Since professionalization began, female graphic designers have been working actively and successfully, but the artificial synthesis of masculinity and artistic genius has repeatedly prevented women—with few exceptions—to be recognised in “official” design history. Still today, despite the claim that the gender issue is obsolete in graphic design, only a tiny percentage of active female designers enjoy public acclaim." Buy the book here.

Friday 9 March 2012

All Work and Low Pay: The Story of Women and Work

An exhibition curated by Dr Clare Rose at the Women's Library (until August 23rd): "‘It’s time to change the perception that, in the past, the majority of women in Britain were housewives. Women’s work has always been essential to the economy, even though they had to work incredibly long hours to support themselves and their families. The fantastic array of pictures, books, posters and objects in the exhibition shows how much women have achieved. But campaigning continues: there is still a pay gap between men and women."

The Women's Library is located in Old Castle Street, next to London Metropolitan University's Calcutta House.

Shocking Pink!

Excellent article on the Shocking Pink magazine, its makers, and 80s feminism in Britain, on the superb the F-word blog. 

Blogs just don’t look this much fun...

Thursday 8 March 2012

Wanted: More Women in ICT!

Neelie Kroes
Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Brussels, 7th March 2012

"It's my dream to get every European digital. But what a challenge! Today, one in four European adults has never used the Internet. We need to do something about that. This in an age where the Internet is the tool to do everything – buy, socialise, read the news, get public services, apply for jobs. Those one in four adults have never benefited from any of those online opportunities. Yet they also have the most to gain: because, all too often, it's the same people who are also at risk of other kinds of exclusion: the poor, the elderly, the less educated. 

And remember that today, unemployment, especially among young people, is a cancer in our society. But in the not so distant future, 90% of jobs could require digital skills. We'd better get ready and "skill up". So I welcome today's event. It's a practical demonstration of how we can help get everyone online: in a direct and pragmatic way. It's a smart move to have this event on International Women's Day. Because there's a real problem here. Not enough girls are going into ICT careers. That's such a shame given they are both fascinating, and central to our economy and society. How do we get more girls involved? Three ways.

First, we must show the many ways in which ICT empowers women. Whether it's helping people with family commitments work or train from home. Or a tool for self-expression: ICT can help women. Already we're seeing more and more sites delivering for women – sites like Mumsnet or Pinterest. But I'm convinced we can go further. Because there's a virtuous circle here: the more women see that ICT delivers for them, the more they will want to get involved; the more they get involved the better it can adapt to their needs.

Second, start young. At school, as many as 90% of girls are interested in ICT. But they don't convert that into university study – and that's where the boys overtake.

And third, role models are important. If all girls hear is that ICT is for boys who like sitting alone in their rooms – well, that's what they'll believe. But if girls meet people who are positive about ICT, if they realise that ICT careers are exciting and exuberant, with the chance to travel, to help others and to work independently — then they will be turned on to it.

So I'm glad we have so many great role models right here in the room: businesswomen and activists, politicians and policymakers. You can help us spread the word and show that ICT is for everyone.
I want to play my part too. Today I and others have made a powerful and clear statement. That technology isn't a boy's world. That we need to bring together the ICT revolution and the gender equality revolution. That the exponential growth in ICT shouldn't just be governed by Moore's Law: but by a "more women" law. If you believe in those ideas: sign up too, and join the movement of digital women."

Read the full press release at here

Spare Rib

Spare Rib was launched in 1972, emerging out of the counter culture of the late 1960s. It was part of the 'underground' press, providing a feminist alternative to commercial women’s magazines. The first magazine of its kind in the UK, its purpose was to investigate and present alternatives to the traditional gender roles for women. An extensive collection of most if not all publications can be found in the Women's Library reference/reading room in London.

Happy Women's Day!

‘The Women’s Year Goes On’
Undated [ca. 1975] women’s movement poster

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Gender Inequality in Language

Tracking gender inequality in language: "Starting in the 1960s with the influence of feminism, and in the 1970s with political correctness (the two have somewhat overlapping agendas), there has been an effort to replace the use of gender-biased terms and terms that inaccurately apply to one sex with more inclusive terms", writes Orin Hargraves. Read the full article here.

Rise of Capitalism and the Witch-Hunts

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici (Autonomedia, 2004)

“Federici’s book is a crucial contribution to the long history of resistance to the violence of the global capitalist enclosures. The long-time anti-empire feminist activist and scholar situates the witch-hunts within a history of five centuries of capitalist globalization. The witch-hunts, her book argues, were as foundational to the production of the modern proletariat and modern capitalism as the expropriation of the European peasantry, the genocidal campaigns of colonization in the America, and the African slave trade.”
– Fiona Jeffries, ‘Rain Review of Books’

A witch rides a goat through the sky, causing a rain of fire.
Woodcut from Francesco-Maria Guazzo, ‘Compendium Maleficarum’ (1610).
p.217 in ‘Caliban and the Witch’

Monday 5 March 2012

Beatrice Warde and The Crystal Goblet

Beatrice Warde was an American typographer, editor and educator who spent much of her working life in England. Warde published her investigations on the origins of the Garamond typeface in The Fleuron (then edited by Stanley Morison) under the pen-name Paul Beaujon. She described 'Paul Beaujon' as 'a man of long grey beard, four grandchildren, a great interest in antique furniture and a rather vague address in Montparesse.' After publishing her discovery of Garamond's origin, "Paul Beaujon" was offered a part-time post in 1927 as editor of the Monotype Recorder, and Warde accepted—to the astonishment of Lanston Monotype Corporation executives in London, who were expecting a man. She was promoted to publicity manager in 1929, a post she retained until her retirement in 1960.

Her famous and influential essay on typography "The Crystal Goblet" was first delivered as a speech, called "Printing Should Be Invisible," given to the British Typographers' Guild at the St Bride Institute in London, on October 7, 1930. The essay calls for increased clarity in printing and typography. It has has since been reprinted many times and is a touchstone for the concept of "clear" typography and the straightforward presentation of content. Throughout the essay, Warde argues for the discipline and humility required to create quietly set, "transparent" book pages. Read more on Beatrice Warde here.

This Is a Printing Office, by Beatrice Warde, 1932.