Let’s just put it out there: the creativity of women has always been a driving force in design. That’s not to say it wasn’t often hard to tell: when Walter Gropius launched his Bauhaus in 1919, his “new guild of craftsmen” (can we get a “craftspeople?”) included a majority of women students in its first class. Gropius quickly assigned them to the weaving studio, deeming them not suited for architectural design.
And yet they persisted: The women of the Bauhaus went on to contribute designs that have shaped the way we think about everything from textiles to furnishings to manufactured products for everyday life. As did female designers like Norma Harvey, who worked side-by-side with her father, pioneering Black architect Paul R. Williams, creating the interiors for projects that included some original influencers like Frank Sinatra. Or Maiji Isola, who defied a “no flowers” rule and defined a brand for Marimekko. Or Ray Eames, whose unerring eye, artistic talent, and passion for making things better keeps her forever on the tips of our tongues: it is, after all, “Charles and Ray Eames,” not just Charles, that we are still busy talking about.
Still, the female future of design has some road left to travel. In IIDA’s soon-to-be-released Member Demographic Survey, statistics showed that although women predominate in the broad range of mid-level positions in the design industry, they account for only a fraction of those in top leadership roles. Supporting women, as well as Black and Brown designers and industry professionals, into those upper echelons is a process that begins now, as design leaders look to invest in mentorship and sustainable career pathways that welcome and uplift, rather than sideline. I count myself fortunate to have been a female leader in design for more than two decades, and to have supported the advancement of other women personally as well as through the work of IIDA. In order to ensure a strong future for our industry, IIDA continues to provide vital sustenance for women leaders: strong networks both locally and nationally; inclusive community and mentorship; leadership opportunities through IIDA chapters and our International Board; and support and recognition for the work of small firms—which, in design, are often women-owned. One such firm is led by Samantha Josaphat-Medina, this month’s cover subject. She has described founding her design firm, Studio 397, as an act of professional survival that allowed her to claim the leadership role she longed for. Seeing that firm—and her own Black, female creative powers—flourish, she has found the confidence and courage to foster the careers of the next generation of diverse leaders in design. Samantha’s story represents a hopeful sign for what comes next: a celebration of the creativity, ingenuity and design excellence of women; and an equal seat at the table for women who lead. We at IIDA are incredibly proud to support and uplift female designers and invest in the strength they bring to our industry. We’re so excited to be a part of what’s next!
Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO
Future Female | Table of Contents This issue will be published through May 2023, check back biweekly for new articles!
Cover Story We speak with Samantha Josaphat of Studio 397 about designing meaningful spaces that foster human connection, the power of letting go, and the upsides of being an underdog. Read here
High 5 Women are considering how their work can be implemented to support a changing world and culture—we highlight 5 women breaking the rules, redefining power, and reimagining what equality looks like. Read here
How to X How to found a sustainable woman-owned business with Yvonne Hung of Otelier. Focused on apartment living, the furniture design studio is on a mission to fill any small space with joy and wellness. Read here
Scratch Pad What to read, watch, and experience this spring with a focus on women—from Katy Hessel’s recent bestseller, The Story of Art without Men, to the exhibit “Designing Women: Fashion Creators and their Interiors” at the Museum at FIT and more.
IIDA Perspective Team: Cheryl Durst, Hon FIIDA | Executive VP and CEO, IIDA Cindy Dampier | Chief Marketing Officer, IIDA Yasmin Spiro | Director of Content and Strategy, IIDA Laura Botham | Senior Digital Content Manager, IIDA Vasia Rigou | Writer and Copy Editor, IIDA Jessica Jones | Content Coordinator, IIDA