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Ferocious Kitty-cats

About two weeks ago a foul-mouthed, dirty-minded friend of mine (if you are reading, you know who you are) sent me an e-mail that read, “Have you seen the latest cover of STEP magazine? Think �pussies’ when you see it.” I had not seen it yet. Knowing that the issue was about women and predisposed to find something relating to female genitalia — I can do an inventory of the images I expected to see but I will spare you — I was less than riveted when I saw the grid of kittens with women designer names labeling each of them. “Cute,” I thought. And moved on.

(Spread throughout this article are opinions from leading women designers about the cover and the issue.)

Earlier this week, Drew Davies, an author on Be A Design Group, wrote — in the spirit of naive controversy — a post titled Female Designers are Pussies, in which he revels in the irony and ambiguity of the cover to claim foul on the possible misrepresentation of women through the use of kittens. He goes on to explain that Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler of Number 17 designed the cover, then deconstructs STEP’s Editor, Emily Potts’ introduction, proclaims the cover to be aiming for “shock value” and warns that “at the risk of sounding like a prude or a fuddy-duddy,” but ultimately admits, “I’m a bit troubled by the cover.” I suggested some late-night Cable TV watching and shrugged off the whole discussion as a moot one. After a few e-mails with others, it seems that there are some questions about the cover. So, I went out and bought the damned thing to see what the fuss was all about.

It is amusing that the STEP cover is getting so much attention. I like to think that Bonnie and Emily employed a provocative visual pun to engage designers in a deeper conversation. It worked.

It is interesting to me that no one is talking much about the issues raised in the magazine. As much as I enjoy critical debate on design there is room for us to explore other cultural and personal issues. Last summer in Aspen I had a chance to spend time with Cheryl Towler Weese who was featured in the article. Cheryl is the mother of twin girls, runs a successful design firm, and has given countless hours serving on the AIGA board of directors. Her experiences as a young mother and designer touched me deeply. I came away with a new respect and profound appreciation for Cheryl and her generation of great women designers. I applaud Emily Potts for providing a forum for women to discuss design and the consequences of personal choices we make in our lives.

Ann Willoughby / Willoughby Design Group

As a guy who enjoys looking at kittens in sinks, and pitting kittens against each other in battles of cuteness I was more entertained by the kittens themselves and the choices made on each kitten to represent each woman — which may be more subconsciously effective than a session at the shrink — than any sexual undercurrent or any implications on the demeaning of women as defenseless, cuddly felines. Again, I smirked and proceeded — more on the cover in coming paragraphs — to the inside where I was pleasantly surprised by the kitties’ pounce. Men beware.

In The Establishment, Emily Potts interviews the women that “represent the cream of the crop of the design world.” The list includes Ann Willoughby, Lynda Decker, Bonnie Siegler, Ellen Lupton, Louise Fili, Paula Scher, Jennifer Morla, Kim Baer, Deanna Kuhlmann-Leavitt, Cheryl Heller, Jeri Heiden, our own Debbie Millman, Sharon Werner, Cheryl Towler Weese, Robynne Raye, Jessica Helfand and Emily Oberman. As with any list, or edition, or feature on women, women are (perversely?) subjected to comparisons against their male counterparts — a tradition that I would assume would be inane in the year 2005 — and this string of interviews is no different. In a series of questions, the women respond candidly and honestly, providing a glimpse at their lives at work and at play and sometimes at their wishes and regrets. However, things get comparative midway. Potts asks, “Do you think you approach projects differently than men?” Jessica Helfand responds, “My sense is that men in meetings want to win. They want to dominate, to show they are in control, to be the smartest person in the room.” Then, in contrast, “Women are more subtle, on average, and better at handling several things at once, including the egos of the men they’re in meetings with.” To the same question, Deanna Kuhlmann-Leavitt offers, “I think I am probably more intuitive than my male counterparts,” and adds, “emotion and intuition are more pronounced in women.” Slightly uncomfortable, I adjust myself in my seat and slightly raise my right eyebrow.

I don’t quite understand what all the hoopla is about. The Number 17 cover is quite brilliant: witty, smart, ironic and furry cover all the important bases, and I find it sad that I need to jump in and defend it. I had to ask myself when was the last time I laughed out loud when a magazine — design or otherwise — arrived in the mail?

Anything open to interpretation has potential for many views whether good or bad. That’s what makes art so wonderful — or books versus movies. If you attempt to censor or condemn because of the way you interpret a particular piece, then we are sucking out all potential for creativity — both from the creator and the viewer. If the cover was so direct and obvious that there was clearly one primary interpretation and it was inherently negative or destructive, that’s one thing. But it’s sad when we are offered a chance to be creative as viewers and knock it down because of how we personally choose to interpret it. Then we all lose. I think that forcing design into such a restricted space is boring and I’ll never do it.

Robynne Raye / Modern Dog

Potts further probes, “Why do you think men tend to be more successful? Are the reasons behavioral or systemic?” Bonnie Siegler thinks, “… if we were men, we would be paid more money for the same work.” Scientific research still to be presented, your honor. Kim Baer attributes this to businesses responding well to “alpha dogs — people who are comfortable projecting their sense of leadership and self worth.” While women can surely project a sense of leadership and self worth, I really doubt Baer is calling any woman an “alpha dog”. Jeri Heiden proposes that “Male ego and a sense of entitlement, mixed with societal approval” is what makes men more successful. Cheryl Towler Weese offers, “My business partner [Kathy Fredrickson] and I tend to be less bombastic and aggressive than many of our male peers….” At this point I am strongly starting to wonder what if men were making similar statements about their female counterparts? Chauvinistic, sexist, macho, men…Inescapable adjectives. I read on.

“If you are as successful as male counterparts,” continues Potts, “do you think your experience is typical of women designers? Why?” In a final blow to men, Sharon Werner responds, “I think men are successful because they tell people they are successful, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think women tend to just keep working and don’t really look up long enough to talk about it.” As I said earlier, the interview is engaging and thoughtful and the above comments represent around a tenth of the content, yet it is telling of the shift that has happened in the past decades — as more and more women are in high-stake corporate positions or successfully lead small firms — wherein it is okay for women to flaunt their achievements… and, well, condescend men. In the same manner that they felt condescended upon before. Men call women soft, passive, emotional, whiny. Women now call men — to their faces, because they can! — egotistical, aggressive, power-trip-happy and insensitive. Fair assumptions on both sides, with their exceptions as disclaimers, of course. Again, I picture a Men of Design issue — the cover are, what, monkeys? Dogs? Weasels? — where we are painted into a corner with questions that compare us to women and we were to respond honestly. I don’t think we would get out alive, unscarred from accusations of machism. It is a shame that this stigma still exists and that we have to make an issue (pun intended) out of it, time and time again.

When I received this issue a week ago, I immediately wrote to Bonnie Siegler and asked if she’d seen the cover, whereupon she told me she designed it.

I felt both relieved (knowing Bonnie and Emily did it meant it was ironic, and we can all use more irony in our lives) and anxious (because I suspected, rightly as it turned out, that it would ruffle a lot of feathers.)

Sadly, to most people, kittens aren’t great metaphors for women, period. But maybe we should all lighten up about it: if it brings a lot of attention to the magazine and more people read it as a result, then this is good for business, right? I would have been much more upset if we’d been pictured as, say, strippers. A little provocation isn’t altogether a bad thing, so long as nobody’s being humiliated. Kittens may be cute and fuzzy and even mindless, but they’re not humiliating.

Then again, I’d have been much happier to be pictured as, say, Einstein or Michaelangelo. Better yet: Nigella Lawson.

Jessica Helfand / Winterhouse Studio

In her introduction, Potts talks about putting together a list of judges for the upcoming STEP competition, Design 100, and realizing that there are no women on it, leading to the idea for this issue. (If you are wondering, Jilly Simmons is the only woman judge in the pool of five). I am always surprised how regularly this question comes up: Where are the women? On Speak Up, for instance, there are three women authors among over a dozen manly men — Rebecca Gimenez, a former Speak Up author certainly questioned the trend; twice. In all three editions of Stop Being Sheep we have featured no more than three women per volume and the way we do the process is we look at comments, not names, so there is little gender bias. On Design Observer it is two women out of seven authors; BADG is all men. In this year’s AIGA National Design Conference only five of eighteen main stage presenters were women. The venues and platforms are there, are we really that stubborn that we turn to men for our design needs? Or is it that women need to step up to the task more aggressively? And isn’t it interesting that some of the most popular design publications are headed by women? Joyce Rutter Kaye at Print, Bryn Mooth at HOW, Emily Potts at STEP, Julie Lasky at I.D., Susan Szenasy at Metropolis, are all Editors in Chief. Is it time to drop the Men vs. Women argument or can it still go for another decade? Until we have a woman as Commander in Chief? Can’t we all just laugh about the kitten cover? Or are we still going to giggle about the “pussy” puns?

The problem is not about the cover, but about the (unresolved?) relationships and interactions between men and women in the workplace and through cultural and societal values and interpretations — and it is this diminishing, yet ever-present, friction that is responsible of our constant struggle with the distincion (if any) between men and women and its many visual manifestations.

I’d like to see this cover be first of a series, with other appropriate groups: men, legends of design, principals of large firms, difficult clients. Hmmm… monkeys, snakes, turtles, pit bulls, vultures, rats. Now that wouldn’t be very nice, or accurate, would it? But kittens are soooo cute, and the cover, designed by two powerful women in the business, was meant to be ironic.

For more than 40 years women have been the vast majority of students — in some schools 70 percent — in undergraduate and graduate design programs across the country. And finally a cover, “Women Rock.” With kittens. Why do women have to be objectified and infantalized? In 1981, I was thrilled that my firm was going to be featured in CA. Until I read the first sentence: “Ellen Shapiro knew she wanted to be a graphic designer since she was a little kid… ‘I have pictures I drew in the first grade ‘Our Trip to the Train Station’ with the company logos in the right colors on the airplanes and train cars.’&rfquo; Yeah, those were facts I told the writer, Rose DeNeve, in answer to her questions. But did they have to be the lead of the article? How would it sound to open a profile with, “Massimo Vignelli knew he wanted to be a graphic designer since he was a little boy?” Not that I’m of his stature, but it points out the absurdity of statements about women (that still seem perfectly normal to many people).

How do the featured women feel about the cover? Do they prefer their names matched to little kittens, or the earlier concept, the rocks as breasts? Hey, here’s an idea: pioneer women in little bonnets driving covered wagons.

After all this, I’ll probably go out and buy a copy. So on that level it’s a success.

Ellen Shapiro / Shapiro Design

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.28.2005 BY Armin
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Armin, some very nice points.

It seems to me, that the response to this cover, and to most things like it, has more to do with the sensitivity of one's Offend-O-Meter. On the other hand, as a white male I am barely even aware of, much less do I have to deal with, any of society's latent sexism.


Jessica Helfland: Then again, I’d have been much happier to be pictured as... Nigella Lawson.

Eeeeeeeww! The woman oozes "look how sexy I am", but in a way that makes people (me, at least) cringe with embarrassment for her.


Ellen Shapiro: In 1981, I was thrilled that my firm was going to be featured in CA. Until I read the first sentence: “Ellen Shapiro knew she wanted to be a graphic designer since she was a little kid… �I have pictures I drew in the first grade �Our Trip to the Train Station’ with the company logos in the right colors on the airplanes and train cars.’&rfquo; Yeah, those were facts I told the writer, Rose DeNeve, in answer to her questions. But did they have to be the lead of the article? How would it sound to open a profile with, “Massimo Vignelli knew he wanted to be a graphic designer since he was a little boy?” Not that I’m of his stature, but it points out the absurdity of statements about women (that still seem perfectly normal to many people).

1. That sounds like the level of writing that is found in CA

2. But what's so bad about it? Put any name in there. Put mine in there. So what. This is a writing issue, not a gender issue.

On Oct.29.2005 at 01:36 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

A friend called me to express outrage about this cover, and I responded that for me the image was more silly or even stupid than offensive. But like several other people you mention, I had assumed (knowing Bonnie and Emily) that it was meant to be ironic, or, to put it another way, stupid on purpose. It's hard to argue with stupid on purpose.

(Or to quote the members of Spinal Tap on this very subject of cover design: there's a fine line between clever and stupid.)

In the article, Armin wonders what a Men of Design issue would look like. This reminds me of the universal response to kids who ask, "If there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, why isn't there a Children's Day?"

As every parent knows, the correct response is: every day is Children's Day.

If you're a subscriber to Print, CA, How, Step, Graphis or ID, I guarantee you already own many copies of their special Men of Design issues. They just forgot to label them as such.

On Oct.29.2005 at 04:11 PM
lorraine wild’s comment is:

And the journalists of those "Men of Design" magazines rarely ever ask the male designers questions about lifestyle, balance, child-rearing, etc. like the questions that are routinely posed in interviews with female designers. And, as Armin notices, men are not asked to air their opinions of the women who are their peers or their clients. So despite all that attention, there is a lot about men designers we simply don't know. I wonder if we ever will?

On Oct.29.2005 at 07:26 PM
Dizzy’s comment is:

I'm just happy to see more stock photography on the cover of Step. Nice!

On Oct.29.2005 at 11:14 PM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

this makes my top 40:

its no joke!

On Oct.30.2005 at 01:08 AM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

I think, actually, that it's an indication of how far we've come that we actually can associate kittens with women and have a collective laugh about it. Do that in the mid '80s, and I think you'd be in some serious shit.

For me the cover has a kitsch appeal (Tan knows what I mean), and for that reason if I were to design a "Men of ..." cover, I think I'd use a grid of unicorns.

But as Michael B. already noted, there already are hundreds; thousands of "Men of ... "

I grew up in the 70s with a feminist mother and the segregation of men and women has always rankled me. Why "Auto Mechanics for Women"? Why "Women Writers"? Why "Women in Business"? There's an intimation that we can't compete unless separated into our own playing field—surely true only of athletes.

Just as we've come beyond the insecurity of being humorously associated with small fluffy animals, I would like to think we've come beyond having to put on a show in our own little arena. I don't think there is "equality" yet, but I do think that if magazine editors want to include more women, they should just include more women on an everyday basis. It would take some effort, just to remember at first, but after time it would come naturally, and one day we can have a cover with fairies & unicorns or kittens & puppies or rats & mice.

I, btw, am a kind of also-ran in this issue, and was disappointed not to be assigned a cover kitten. Oh well, maybe one day I'll get to be an Orangutan.

Now I think I'll go look at some more kittens in sinks.

On Oct.30.2005 at 01:17 AM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

I think Dizzy hits on an equally important point here: the stock thing. I usually check the credits- just to be sure I can still guess who I'm looking at. Some of our best magazines- like CA - do this on occasion too (remember the photo issue a few years back? of the lips? it was stock!) They also make

incredibly poor editorial decisions. (but, then again, crediting blame is ultimately the entrant's duty.)

On Oct.30.2005 at 01:23 AM
unnikrishna Menon Damodaran’s comment is:

What is the difference between a female designer and a male designer?


So the basic idea of differentiating is absurd.

Female chauvinist cats or

Male chauvinist pigs/dogs- or any animal will do.

Finally STEP-In Design should worry about animal lovers.

A suit may be in the waiting?

Animals have rights?

On Oct.30.2005 at 06:02 AM
Tan’s comment is:

What Marian said. Word.

I think it's important to recognize women leaders in our field. I also think it'd be equally fascinating to recognize leaders who are African-Americans in our field. Or Asian-Americans. Or Hispanics. Or Gay/Lesbian. How many other ways can we divide our little bag of M&Ms?

Sure, I understand that the men/women thing goes back to the very beginning. I understand that there are challenges that are unique to women in our field that still exist as barriers to equality — salaries, family planning, titles, and many other perfectly valid issues. But just a thought — why not focus on those specific issues directly if that's the real intent of the discussion? Is it really helpful to just segregate the gender for the sake of it? Doesn't it feel just a little bit like "She is a great design leader...for a woman" pandering? Doesn't this type of recognition in some small way propagate the problem?

Congratulations to these amazing women. They are all incredibly talented designers and leaders — regardless of their gender.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going back to watching my Sportscenter and enjoying my higher salary.

Just a parting thought — instead of kittens, why can't we all be fish?

On Oct.30.2005 at 06:38 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

I'm a stray kitten! (Does that make me a transexual?)

a big YOU ARE SO RIGHT ON, DARLIN' to Tan and Marion.

On Oct.30.2005 at 07:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Related (well-timed!) reading for a Sunday morning:

"Women can stand on the Empire State Building and scream to the heavens that they are equal to men and liberated, but until they have the same anatomy, it's a lie."

What's a Modern Girl to Do? by Maureen Dowd in today's NYTimes Magazine.

> "If there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, why isn't there a Children's Day?"

As an aside, in Mexico, April 30 is Children's Day.

> So despite all that attention, there is a lot about men designers we simply don't know.

That is a very interesting point. And part of it, I think, is that men are not supposed to open up about paternity or emotions — it's unmanly. So, Lorraine, I wouldn't hold my (well, your) breath.

On Oct.30.2005 at 08:02 AM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Tan: Mike is waiting for the German-Filipino edition of Step.

On Oct.30.2005 at 12:53 PM
Emily Potts’s comment is:

I am extremely proud of the Women in Design issue and I think the cover is doing it's job very well--i.e. generating conversations and debates like the ones posted here and Be A Design Group. That's what good design is supposed to do.

Armin, it's interesting that you only focused on a couple of the answers in my article that addressed the differences between men and women, when many of the women actually pointed out that they feel equal with men. For instance, for the question "If you are as successful as male counterparts, do you think your experience is typical of women designers?" Cheryl Heller answered, "This gets to the point where gender needs to be put aside. People who are successful make their own opportunities and don't wait for them passively." and Deanna Kuhlmann Leavitt said, "I am a successful businessperson because I work at it. It doesn't matter if I am a man or a woman .... With a lot of luck and some skill I got off to a great start in this business and it's mine to screw up."

This issue is a celebration of women designers. It is not a male-bashing exercise. But, let's not act like there has never been any disparity in salaries and opportunities for women over the years--there has been (and still is) so it's important to address these issues and talk about how far we've come.

by the way, if we were to do a Men of Design issue, I think we would have to put roosters on the cover.

On Oct.31.2005 at 10:05 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Armin, it's interesting that you only focused on a couple of the answers in my article that addressed the differences between men and women

Emily, indeed, I very purposedly focused — while acknowledging that it was a very small percent of the actual answers (the interview is engaging and thoughtful and the above comments represent around a tenth of the content) — on those answers because the other ones were answers that you would expect; these were a representation of how women see men in the business world and I thought it was a more interesting approach than we all praising how men and women are equal — which, clearly, we are not, not even today. And I felt like I needed to point that out. In case it comes off the wrong way, I am not being defensive I just wanted to explain a little bit more of my point of view and why I chose to focus on certain comments. Readers are more than invited to read the full interview and come to their own conclusions and find what interests them.

> This issue is a celebration of women designers. It is not a male-bashing exercise.

True. And I may have — ever so slightly — painted the issue as such. It's a great issue, with great work. Next edition let's make it all male-bashing all the time!

On Oct.31.2005 at 11:06 AM
Nate Voss’s comment is:

While reading this post, Armin (excellent, by the way), I realized that Be A Design Group's Authors page is sorely lacking in feminine presence, um, right about the time you call us out on it.

One of our original authors was the highly talented Omaha based designer Jill Rizzo, who has since left the site as a full-time author. So yes, we are a room full of roosters at the moment.

On Oct.31.2005 at 11:22 AM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

Men of Design issue...roosters.

tender pussies. ruthless cocks. she knows her audience.

On Oct.31.2005 at 01:22 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:


On Oct.31.2005 at 10:21 PM
pk’s comment is:

jelly dongs would be more accurate.

On Nov.01.2005 at 01:22 AM
Michael Dooley’s comment is:

Elsewhere on Speak Up M. Kingsley, in his critique of the "40 Best Magazine Covers," states with regard to the striking image on the April 1965 Harper's Bazaar, that he "... can't quite figure out what makes this worthy of the list. If it's the fashion, then shouldn't it have something more representative of that era, like Twiggy?"

The eight-page Step interview with Ruth Ansel provides potentially useful information to consider in response, such as the following:

While celebrity names alone are no proof of merit, designers might be interested to know credits for that particular cover include art directors Ansel and Bea Feitler, photographer Richard Avedon, and model Jean Shrimpton, who held equal status with Twiggy as a style icon of the time.

Plus, the cover had a "lenticular blinking eye pasted on newsstand copies worldwide." So there's the "gimmick" factor, not apparent in reproduction.

Additionally, Ansel cites that particular issue as an "outstanding experience" for her during her tenure at Bazaar. She speaks at length, but just to quote an excerpt, "We got permission from NASA to put model Jean Shrimpton in a space suit and photograph her on our cover and inside our issue as the first woman astronaut. It caused a sensation. That was well before its time; nobody believed a woman would become an astronaut. And of course we know differently now."

On Nov.02.2005 at 02:47 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

Michael — I suspect you might be a bit older than me, and therefore might have more of a personal reaction upon seeing the lovely face of Jean Shrimpton. While I was slightly familiar with her presence in the 1960's; I was at that time too immature to comprehend her glamor — probably because Raquel Welch and Ursula Andress had (and still have) such a hold over my childish libido.

In contrast, I certainly do remember Twiggy's presence in American media: as the punch line to the occasional Johnny Carson joke and on numerous magazine covers.

If we were to hold a "brand-off" between the two models, I would stay with Twiggy.

1. Her short haircut was more identifiable than Shrimpton's, as was her skinny body.

2. Her features were more distinctive: widely-set doe eyes, pale complexion, high forehead.

3. People were alarmed enough about her weight to coin the term "Twiggy Syndrome".

4. She had her own clothing line, dolls, cosmetics, lunchboxes...

5. "Twiggy" is certainly a more memorable name.

I agree that the presence of bold-face named photographers and art directors is not proof of merit, and in this case one could strongly argue that Richard Avedon did greater work than that particular Bazaar cover. I wouldn't even have to show them to you. All I would have to do is just describe them: psychedelic images of the Beatles, Dovima with elephants, Nastassja Kinski with a snake, the bald beekeeper covered in bees... (I guess animals could be considered as one of his gimmicks).

Avedon's work spanned the range between capital "A" art and monthly magazines. His many covers for Self aren't as good as our Bazaar example, but there is a similarity of intent. And in my mind, that intent wasn't necessarily 'greatness' — lenticular blinking eye notwithstanding.

Besides, Fleur Cowles' Flair did the tricky gimmick cover first. Sadly, it wasn't published during the past 40 years, disqualifying it from inclusion in the ASME list.

I would argue that if a great Avedon magazine cover is the goal, then you can't beat this October 21, 1976 Rolling Stone.

This issue of featured 69 images of politicians, union leaders, bankers and other members of the power elite in his typical full-frame, white background manner and was a bigger 'event' — lack of girls in space suits notwithstanding.

To me, the inclusion of the Bazaar cover is a bit arbitrary. The list was supposed to be comprised of the 'great', and while Ruth Ansel may have had an 'outstanding experience' in that issue's creation; it strikes me as a 60's-ish cover of a well-known model (hiding her famous bangs, by the way) in a kooky 60's head thingy. So really, it's all about the head thingy.

In that case, why not this cover?

Sandra's face is more (for lack of a better word) quirky and thus more identifiable than Shrimpton's classic beauty; and instead of simply framing, the Surface cover is more playful with transparencies.

But really, we're belaboring something other than my main themes: the general archetypes present in the 40 'greatest' covers, and the harsh fact that these lists are arbitrary anyway — as are design magazine issues like Step's 'Women of Design'.

One could spend a couple months parsing the merits of each and every single magazine cover in the ASME list. Unfortunately, lack of time, and the need to pay the mortgage, prevented me from doing so.

By the way... I've only flipped through the issue on the newsstand... did the editors of Step include any historical reference to the first female graphic designer to appear on a national magazine? You know, http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/002315.html#002315" target="_blank">Corita.

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:00 AM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

By the way... I've only flipped through the issue on the newsstand... did the editors of Step include any historical reference to the first female graphic designer to appear on a national magazine? You know, Corita.

There is a small blurb about Corita in the timeline. I think we were both hoping for a more extensive overview of her work and contribution because as you've pointed out before, she is often overlooked in design history. (And because I don't believe the issue was as visually exciting as it could've been.)

Maybe there should be another issue called "The Other Women in Design"? My list would include Sister Corita, Margo Chase, Haley Johnson, Laurie DeMartino, Lana Rigsby and Noreen Morioka, among others.

On Nov.02.2005 at 11:20 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

Robynne — In my list, I would scratch out Noreen Morioka and include Carol Devine Carson, Stacy Drummond, and Deborah "I likes my East Germany" Norcross.

On Nov.02.2005 at 11:54 AM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

And I completely forgot about Gail Anderson. I don't know if she made it into the issue, but it shows how easy it is to forget other significant women.

On Nov.02.2005 at 01:23 PM
Michael Dooley’s comment is:

The Comics Journal message board is having their own, heated "who should be on the list?"-style discussion that was provoked by ArtNews Online's "Why Have There Been No Great Women Comic-Book Artists?"

On Nov.05.2005 at 02:39 PM
Noreen Morioka’s comment is:

I hate being scratched out...but, thanks, Robynne I still got a lot of work to catch up.

On Nov.16.2005 at 01:17 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


I'm aware during the Kodak Rebrand I informed our Public I was taking a Sabbatical from writing on Design Blogs for at least 6 months or an undetermined amount of time.

While catching up on some reading and perusing Be A Design Group website. The ill fated issue of Women Of Design.

Unfortunately, I have not been Blogging. Furthermore, I didn't know this Editorial Discussion was covered by Be A Design Group and my HOME Speak Up. Shows just how OUT OF TOUCH I really am.

In the Beginning, when the issue was released, I looked through the Credits to see if I was Credited with Pitching this Idea to Emily Potts.

To my Dismay I was not credited. Emily Potts took Center Stage and mislead Step Inside Design Reading Public she gave Birth to the Idea of a Single Issue Dedicated to Women Designers. Which is Emphatically

Not True. Evidence Revealed, YOU BE THE JUDGE!!!!!!

I had Dialog with two Editors, Julie Lasky and Emily Potts. I asked Julie Lasky to Publish an Issue Dedicated to Women Designer(s. And Ms. Lasky informed me she Dedicated a Single Issue on Women Designer(s) when she was the Editor of Interiors Magazine. This must been some time ago, because I don't remember the issue. I had no reason to doubt the information she disseminated.

The next conversation I engaged was with Emily Potts when she contacted me when I posted commentary on Speak Up in reference to my All Time List of Great Design Publications.

My Commentary was Commenced during the Editorial Discussion of the Revitalization of Print and HOW Magazines by Pentagram Partners, J. Abbott Miller and DJ Stout.

Link Below:

Redesigning A Design Magazine.

Author Debbie Millman

Click Comments, for Editorial Commentary.


I explained to Ms Potts I was very familiar with Step and it was formerly named Step By Step Graphics. Reference was made in my email.

Within Women of Design Issue of Step Ms Potts take SOLE Responsibility for coming up with the Idea for Women in Design. Didn't break my heart. Nevertheless her comments were False and Disingenuous. I sincerely wanted to write Ms Potts and inquire, why I was not Acknowledged as Inspiration for Step Inside Design, Women of Design Issue. Credit in this Respect should be Shared.

No Surprise, Emily Potts is a Credit Monger!!!!!

And has not learned to Share.

Other comments on subject matter can be found under.

Book Review, Cipe Pineless: Two Remembrances

Reviewed by Bryrony Gomez-Palacio

Click Comments, for Editorial Commentary.


My Reason for not contacting Emily Potts in reference to this discussion. I sincerely wasn't interested in Raining on the Accomplishment of Women Designer(s). And turning this into a Bitch and Moan Session. A few of the Women Designers whom I know, I consider Genuine Friends.

After careful consideration and reading the Comments on

Be A Design Group and Speak Up tonight.

I thought it PRIME TIME to Reveal the Truth. Most Important, inform the World Audience of said Design Blogs the Catalyst and Brains behind the Step Inside Design, Women Of Design Publication was none other than

Mr. Wonderful...


Critique of the Issue

Everything has already been said about the Cover,

I won't exacerbate bullet points already iterated.

I thought the Publication Lacked Racial Diversity.

It was too Cliquish. It was the usual Suspects.

A publication of that Magnitude must include Elinor Selame, The First Lady of American Corporate Identity.

Whom Founded BrandEquity International Forty Two (42) years ago.

At the same time, A Publication of this Magnitude must include Margaret Youngblood of Landor Fame.

Identity Designer Extraordinaire. Whom has Developed and Design more First Tier Corporate Identities in the 21st Century than any man Practicing to date.

Margaret Youngblood is no longer employed at Landor.

Neither was Connie Birdsall included in Women of Design.

Connie Birdsall is a Senior Partner, as well, the Admiral of Identity Design at Lippincott & Margulies and has been the Intellectual Force behind the Success of L&M for over Twenty Years.

To my knowledge has never had an Article written about her extraordinary Identity Design Career.

Anne Reeves, Anne Reeves has silently steered the Ship at Shimokochi-Reeves making it a Force to be Reckoned for over twenty years. Anne Partners with her Husband Mamoru Shimokochi both former Design Associates at Bass Yager. It is impossible not to recognize the work of Shimokochi-Reeves. A trip to the supermarket Silk Soy Milk, Knott’s Berry Farm Foods, Lawry’s Foods, Inc. While at Bass Yager, United Airlines, Avery International, Inc. and United Way (many others).

Sylvia Harris one of the Foremost African American Designer(s) of the 20th and 21st Century. Sylvia Harris was Co Founder of Renowned New York Identity and Design Consultancy 212 Associates. Her Accomplishments to numerous to mention.

First and Foremost is Rose Marie Tissi.

Undeniably the Greatest Female Designer Practicing Today Bar None. To my knowledge has never been published in an American Design Magazine.

While I'm on the subject, there were no Women Designers of Color in this Issue

I purposely did not recommend any African American Female Designers. Just to witness, what I knew to be already True. None would be named, I was Correct.

There was not one Asian, Middle Eastern, African,

East Indian, American Indian, Latin, Hispanic Women Designers Selected to Celebrate this Landmark Issue.

There is no Reason, Bryrony Gomez-Palacio should not have been Prominently Featured in Step Inside Design, Women of Design Issue.

I Wonder Why???

Although, I never heard from Emily Potts in reference to the Women Of Design Issue after she Ran with my Idea. I learned from another Designer featured in Women Of Design, my Idea was brought into Fruition.

Named Reference in Cipe Pineless Book Review.

Without hearing from Emily Potts. I wrote her again in September to give her my list. And she told me it was too late. The issue was in production. Rose Marie Tissi was on my list. She told me none of the women on my list made it into the publication. Although, there is no interview with Rose Marie Tissi and she is not featured in the Publication. She is mentioned within the Timeline of Women Designer(s) as noted accomplishment. Forming a Design Partnership with Siegfried Odermatt 1968. Either Emily Potts has Select Memory or didn't have a Clue to what she was talking about.

My Correspondence to Emily Potts

----- Original Message -----

From: DesignMaven

To: potts@dgusa.com

Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 11:31 AM

Subject: DesignMaven


Emily Potts

Editor, STEP inside design

6000 N. Forest Park Dr.

Peoria, IL 61614

Dear Ms. Potts:

Many thanks for contacting me. I was delighted to hear from you. In receipt of your transmission June 22, 2005

The Hotmail account is not my primary account. Its use

is for online communication within weblogs.

I am familiar with Step Inside Design. Actually purchased an issue last summer. The issue which featured AIGA Design Luminaries and Gala 2004. I have perused other issues. Fact of Matter in the big picture other than Idea Magazine. None of the Design Publications offer me the type of Journalism I'm interested. My expertise is Corporate Identity. None of the Design Publications abroad or in the United States offer a miniscule amount of feature articles devoted to this subject matter. If Identity Design is the Pinnacle of Visual Communication; why no feature articles devoted to the subject matter.

At the same time, none of the publications other than Idea Magazine are cross cultural enough for me to attract my interest. I'm interested in reading success stories of all nationalities and ethnicity of Designer(s). This is what makes Idea Magazine Great. I cannot say the same for American Design Publications. Furthermore, I am not so interested in Design Luminaries of current day Design Practice. Realistically, now days, I'm more interested in reading the story about the Designer that actually did the work. Not the person that take credit for the work. I am also interested in Women Designer(s) This is something I can lend my considerable expertise, salaried of course. Why not feature within Step Inside Design a entire Global Issue Featuring Women Identity Designers. Which has never been done before in Design History. This is something that will break barriers and set a new precedent.

With this knowledge, I trust you will consider these recommendations to improve the journalistic quality and integrity of Step Inside Design.

Thank you for your time and attention:



For the Record, my correspondance was edited for Clarity, it did not stop at my Pitch for a Publication Dedicated to Women in Design. I went on to Pitch another Idea in Reference to Corporate Identity.

Thought is Pertinent to mention I edited my letter and only omitted my Real Name in Email and Closing.

Lesson Learned:

Never Pitch an Idea unless you are Commissioned.

There are a lot of Brain Dead Decision Makers that have NO TALENT and are Opportunistic. They Engage in Skull Duggery because that's their TRUE CALLING IN LIFE.

They are Vultures, Scavengers and Feed on the Bowel Remains of Intelligent Design Genius.

Taste Like Chicken??? I Bet!!!!!


P.S. No Further Comments, See you Guys sometime after Ground Hog Day. Back to Hibernation.


On Jan.24.2006 at 05:20 AM
felicks suckwell’s comment is:

On Jan.24.2006 at 01:14 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

For anyone interested.

Emily Potts has Decided to Post a Comment on Be A Design Group in Reference to my Post.

I noticed she did not Choose to Post the Comment on my HOME Speak Up.

??? I wonder Why.

Anyone interested can Read Emily Potts Comment.


As well, I left a Rebuttal.

No Further Comments from me on this Subject Matter online.


On Jan.28.2006 at 07:51 PM
Robynne ’s comment is:

What's with the hostility, DM?

How do you know this idea was not planted long ago? And why make such a public spectacle of your grievances?

On Jan.29.2006 at 12:50 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


Would you say William Drenttel was being Hostile???

Would you say William Drenttel was making a Public Spectacle of his Grievances???

Read his Editorial!!!!!

Bird in Hand: When Does A Copy Become Plagiarism?

Author William Drenttel



On Jan.29.2006 at 04:29 PM
Robynne ’s comment is:

DM: You are wanting "credit" for an article idea, that is frankly, not that "original". Do you really think you were the first to ever mention this idea to Emily?

On Jan.29.2006 at 08:00 PM
Anonymous’s comment is:

Ms Raye, Are you and Attorney?

It appears to me you've done enough damage leaking this story to DM in the first place.

Furthermore, it appears you are trying to save face and exonerate yourself to stay in good standing with Step because you may be libel for leaking their Nov/Dec issue.

I question your motives engaging discussion in an online forum with the accuser. Seems two-faced

to me based on your gregarious nature with the accuser in July.

DM, you'd be wise not to engage in further online discussion.

That's my .02 cent

On Jan.30.2006 at 07:46 AM
Emily Potts’s comment is:

Here is what I posted at Be A Design Group in response to Design Maven's ridiculous accusations. I'm not going to participate in this discussion any longer as it is hostile (on DM's part) and is irrelevant when you see my note, below.

First of all, is this a joke?

I did not credit you for the Women of Design issue, because I did not get the idea for the issue from you. Editorial calendars are typically conceived the year before they are published—i.e. content for 2005 was planned in the summer of 2004 so we could publish and distribute our editorial calendar to advertisers in the fall of 2004. Furthermore, I met in person with several of my female editorial advisors in New York in March 2005 to discuss the issue—present were Bonnie Siegler, Ina Saltz, Alice Twemlow, and writer Helen Walters. Content was planned and the writing assignments were made well in advance to receiving Design Maven’s note in June 2005. Another point: I don’t recall ever seeing that note from Design Maven—I’m not saying I didn’t receive it, just don’t recall it.

I’m sure I didn’t even need to respond to this as most people can figure out that magazine editors don’t just plan content on the fly—i.e. there’s no way I would have planned the entire Nov/Dec issue after reading a letter I received in June. This is the most ridiculous claim I’ve ever heard and I take offense to the name calling.

On Jan.30.2006 at 08:11 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

My Last Words Post from Be A Design Group.


If you’re OFFENDED. I’m even MORE Offended that you TAKE Executive Privilege and have no Recollection of my Transmission.

What did Ronald Reagan call it???

Plausible Deniability. Meaning you know the Truth but don't have to Acknowledge the Truth.

I stand behind my Record of being Forthright and Truthful.

There are TWO FRIENDS that have the actual Emails in their Possession.

One a Historically Significant Designer. The other a Friend I regularly engage in offline Dialog.

It has been my Experience, People that DENY or have no Recollection have something to HIDE!!!!!

I stand behind my Comments and Post of your Electronic Correspondance as well the validity of my email to you. Nothwithstanding my Contribution of Pitching this Idea to you Women In Design.

Upon receipt of my Email, you should’ve written back to say Step Inside Design does not Engage in Unsolicited Pitches That would’ve been Professional Protocol and Proper Etiquette.

Most important, I wouldn't have a Leg to Stand On.

You cannot Fabricate Email. It is dated and time stamped.

The ISP has a Record of every Electronic Transmission sent and received.

Any Forensic Expert will attest my Email to you is not Fabricated.

I certainly don’t have an History of Lying.

I assume Speak Up is also Fabricating it’s date and Post for the month of July with my Exchange with one of the Designers Featured in Women of Design.

As stated in my Third Post on Be A Design Group.

I’m Calling your Bluff and Raising the STAKES.

If I am LYING as you Allude.

SUE ME!!!!!!!

It’s your Reputation on the line, NOT MINE.

An Aside, this issue is not about nor has it ever been about Credit although I mention it in my opening statement. This issue is about Intellectual Property.

And Protecting one's Intellectual Property when Engaging in Dialog.


On Jan.30.2006 at 09:04 AM
Armin’s comment is:

This kind of discussion is not what Speak Up was made for. The parties involved have said most of what they had to say on the matter, so hopefully this is the end of that. I don't like to close comments on threads so I kindly invite you to keep discussing on BADG or off-line but not here, please.

On Jan.30.2006 at 09:11 AM
Robynne ’s comment is:


You sound a lot like someone I used to know from Seattle. My motive is simply stepping in for someone I know would never do what DM is accusing.

Okay Armin, I'm done.

On Jan.30.2006 at 11:10 AM
more weak blogging....’s comment is:

news flash...the subject of doing an article about "women in design" is NOT a new idea, how anyone can think an idea like this can be “stolen" boggles my mind. raking people over the coals by showing emails and calling anyone a “monger” especially here and in this forum is hilarious. this really is the state of design people fighting over ideas that are rehashed in magazines constantly to sell images of women in design that are the same women as last time. you want ownership and credit? come up with something original, fresh and please god interesting! as for women in design? you left off the women who work for me! this is pathetic!

On Jan.31.2006 at 02:08 PM