Behind the Names: W+iD T-Shirt
Updated: Jan 19
In Fall 2019, Women+ in Design Pgh set out to create its first piece of swag: a T-shirt (produced by the amazing local Etna Print Circus) simply stating "Zaha & Paula & Beatrix & Florence were just the beginning". They are definitive icons in their fields: Zaha Hadid in architecture, Beatrix Farrand in landscape design, Florence Knoll in interior design, and Paula Scher in graphic design. But they are also, often, the only female names that come forward in a discussion of quintessential pioneers of these same fields. We asked local W+iD practitioners to share their personal connections to these amazing women, how they impacted their work and affected their understanding of being a woman in design.
The first thing that stuck with me about Beatrix Farrand was her name. It really stands out in a crowd. Once I learned more about her, I discovered that being outstanding was a theme. As the only woman among the eleven founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Farrand capitalized on relationships to increase her knowledge as well as to expand her portfolio. While her connections may have helped to get her foot in the door, it was her reputation over the course of her work that led to more. She is an example of how surrounding oneself with exceptional people has positive impacts on your personal performance.
I have always appreciated the level of detail apparent in her designs. While not all of the work is highly ornate, it is thoughtful and appropriate to the setting. She had a reputation for meticulous drawings and record keeping improving the ongoing maintenance of her work, simultaneously creating an archive. Further, her understanding and use of native species in complex arrangements resulted in longer flowering seasons and minimized the issues prevalent with the use of ornamental or imported species.
Beatrix Farrand was a woman who let her personal interests and forward-thinking approach to her work guide her long, successful career. I admire her self-assured approach, driven by personal interest and passion and the thoughtfulness of how the company we keep influences our success.
By Terrie Brightman RLA, ASLA
Scher is one of the most well-known graphic designers. Period. No need for the qualifier of female graphic designer. She transcends that. She is basically a rock star. Her approach to typography transformed graphic design and she has served as inspiration to pretty much every graphic designer. Her work has always been a step ahead of everyone and she just keeps getting better. Whether you know it or not, you have seen her work-logos for Windows, CNN, Citibank, Tiffany & Co., the High Line, plus her hundreds of album covers and posters. She is honest, smart, passionate and everything I want to be as a designer. She is definitely a Founding Mother of design.
By Kim Rader ACE
Associate | Graphic Designer
When I was an undergrad at the University of Virginia in the late 1990’s, the Office of Career Planning and Placement offered one-week externship placements over winter break. As soon as I saw “Zaha Hadid Architects” on the list, I knew had to apply. Although their offices were in London and I had no idea how I would get there, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. A week after my application went in, I received a call from one of their lead architects, “I’m so sorry,” he said, “I’m not sure how we got on that list. We don’t accept student interns.”
This was probably for the best, as I have found it’s a good idea not to get too close to your idols. They tend to be surprisingly fallible up close, and I never wanted Zaha to fall from the pedestal I’d placed her on. To be clear, I’m not a huge fan of her architecture. The one building of hers I’ve been inside of — the library at the University of Economics in Vienna — felt like a cruise ship, and its stark white curves left me a little disoriented. No, it was more the idea of Zaha, what she symbolized, that mattered to me.
Zaha had such a strong and clear creative vision and was notoriously uncompromising in her designs. She was accepted into the pantheon of Great Architects (all male, mostly white) because she (intentionally or not) emulated their authoritative and top-down leadership style. For a long time she resisted the label “woman architect” until she realized there were legions of women (like me) looking to her as a role model and guide. Not that I have an ounce of her talent or any desire to lead as she did. But I continue to look to her to know that my work may someday be of value to the world, my creative vision might one day resonate with those who come across it, my career could be an inspiration to other women designers.
When I heard she had passed away — tragically early — I was working at the DC Office of Planning. Someone had seen the news online and read the headline aloud. The room went silent. None of us were practicing architects, but we understood what the world had lost. There will never be another Zaha Hadid. But there will continue to be many of us looking to her legacy to help us understand who we want to become and knowing we can achieve it.
By Emily Pierson-Brown
Associate AIA, LEED Green Associate
Despite being recognized as the matriarch of interior design, Florence Knoll Bassett actually never referred to herself as one.
Many of Florence’s ideas and techniques have had a lasting impact on the interior design profession still today. Her “paste ups” and the “total design approach” have become a standard within projects small and large, encompassing all design markets.
To me, the legacy of Florence Knoll Bassett lives on in those unafraid to push the boundaries of what any profession is currently known to be. This is especially true in regards to interior design; which continues to evolve, whether your title is Interior Designer or not.
By Jane Hallinan
IIDA, LEED Green Associate