Quite frequently in the design world, like in most industries, women are largely spoken about in their relation to men. This was “so and so’s” wife – she learned so much from him, she is grateful for his influence on her own work, etc.
Sometimes it’s hard to parse what it is exactly a true partnership, and what was an antiquated determination of “how much” a woman could contribute to the field of industrial design.
But a woman’s “place” in design has no ceiling, and we want to show you that by sharing some of the creative powerhouses in our world:
Nanna Ditzel – The Pioneer
Nanna was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1923 and originally trained as a cabinetmaker before studying at the School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. She’s one of our favorites responsible for the renewal of Danish Design in the 90s.
Armed with her postmodern attitude and hatred for tradition, she was a pioneer in fiberglass, wickerwork, and foam rubber.
Unlike a lot of designers, her work stemmed from an artistic vision first and then she took functionality into consideration. This is apparent if you’ve ever been in the same room as any of her designs, their personalities seem to envelop all the attention from any other piece (or person).
Nanna will always be our First Lady of Danish Furniture Design.
Nanna Ditzel in action: She designed the Trinidad Chair for Fredericia, the Hanging Egg Chair for Sika, and Kvadrat’s Fabric “Hallingdal 65” which is used now in virtually every city worldwide, for contract projects.
Ditzel one-liner: “It is very important to take into account the way a chair’s appearance combines with the person who sits in it.”
Hella Jongerius – The Classic Colorist
Hella Jongerius was born in De Meern, a village to the west of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
She studied industrial design and taught at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, and has had design studios in both Rotterdam and Berlin.
Without risking idol worship, Hella is an incredible woman. Her mother was a pattern-maker so she grew up immersed in the world of sewing … which she immediately rejected: “I had a little sewing machine of my own, but I hated sewing.
Then there was the female thing: the cliché of men studying industrial design and women textiles.”
Despite her childhood rejection, she found herself continuously drawn back to textiles, devoting most of her life to the study of color and material.
So much so, she established Vitra’s Color and Material Library and has over a decade of meticulous work in the realm of color. Since 2006 she has vetted Vitra’s products for material and color consistency, remaining a detective and an archivist for product development. Consumerism aside, her work has been showcased at countless museums … the MoMA, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Design Museum, just to name a few.
Jongerius one-liner: “Good design doesn’t always mean polished perfection.”
Cecille Manz – The New Standard
Cecille Manz was born in Copenhagen and has worked there for most of her life.
After graduation from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – The School of Design in 1997 with additional studies at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Manz founded her own studio in Copenhagen in 1998.
An advocate of warm minimalism and one of the most iconic Danish designers, Cecille Manz has taken center stage over the past decade, most recently being named MAISON&OBJET PARIS Designer of the Year 2018.
Her creative process relies upon maintaining a balance between civilization and nature – a dichotomy that design and society have started to focus on more than ever.
Another integral part of her creative process is color, she begins any endeavor by creating a palette to work off of.
While this ensures that all of her projects have an individual identity, she also considers her pieces as intertwined sections of one big story. If you pay close enough attention, this is why you can see similar forms, materials, and shapes in many of her designs.
Not only is her portfolio cohesive and comprehensive, she’s always followed the Dutch way of craftsmanship, durability, and appreciation of organic materials.
Her range lends to her philosophy – function precedes form – she wants her designs to solve problems.
Manz one-liner: “Function is essential, and if I cannot formulate a good reason for a new product, it is better to refrain from making it.”
We’d like to rewrite some dialogue, but until then, it’s our pleasure to champion women by writing our own.