notamuse

It’s not like boys are working like this and girls are working like that.

Loraine Furter

About

»notamuse« focuses on the lack of visibility of female graphic designers in the design public. The meaning of the name is clear: not a muse. Unlike the muse, who inspires male, creative spirits through her inspiring but passive role, we are concerned with female designers who themselves are creative and actively participate in designing the creative landscape. »notamuse« places them in the center of attention on this page.

We wish for more female role models in graphic design and a more diverse design scene, beyond male graphic design heros. Therefore, in the spring of 2017 we interviewed 22 women and talked about subjects like the new working world and women in »male professions«, the differences between male and female designers and sexism in everyday working life. We discussed artistic approaches, work processes and personal experiences in the design world. This website offers the opportunity to compare the designers’ answers sorted by topic and thereby give valuable insight into design concepts, ideals and personal confrontations with gender equality, both in professional and private life. Statements of sociologists and design theoreticians complement this critical analysis.
In addition to this website we developed the book »notamuse – A New Perspective on Graphic Design«, which exclusively showcases the work of contemporary female designers. It is understood as a deliberate gesture that aims to compensate the male dominated discourse in design. The book will be published in 2018.

The team of notamuse: Silva Baum, Claudia Scheer und Lea Sievertsen (left to right)

Imprint


notamuse
Silva Baum, Claudia Scheer, Lea Sievertsen
Mainzer Str. 12
10247 Berlin

Kontakt:
hi@notamuse.de

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Code by Jens Schnitzler, Tim Rausch and Jana Reddemann

Amanda Haas

After graduating from HSLU Luzern in 2010, Amanda Haas opened her own studio in Berlin. In her conceptual but at the same time intuitive and spontaneous work, she creates integrated systems, strategies and applications for both cultural and business contexts—reaching from print to web to spatial interventions. 2014 she founded the »School of Observation«, creating multidisciplinary, experimental and design theoretical projects. In her work, Amanda Haas attaches great value to transparency and sustainability.

What was your decisive motivation for self-employment?

AH: In our industry, it is usually the case that one is either employed full time in an agency or works project-based as a freelancer. During my studies, I already had my own clients and also worked for agencies. After I graduated, I worked in an agency full time, but with the status of a freelancer, so it was actually a bogus self-employment. If I had been aware of the costs and hurdles coming from self-employment, I might have insisted on being hired. At the time, I was a bit naive, but at some point I consciously decided to become self-employed.

Who does your team consist of?

AH: In my studio, there are usually two people working. I have long refused to hire interns, because I don't really approve of this system: as an intern, you have certain advantages, but it turns out to be problematic if you work like a junior designer five days a week in one place and do not get paid. I therefore offer my interns a part-time position so that they can still work independently. In addition, I only accept students who have to complete a compulsory internship. It is important to me that both sides can benefit from each other during an internship: I pass on experience and projects, they learn from it and can become an integrated part of my studio. In a small studio, you can actually become an all-rounder and are able to do almost everything you do as a proprietor. In large agencies, this is often not the case hence there are very limited possibilities.
In addition, I work with freelancers and often collaborate with other designers, people from marketing, curators, and others.

How do you typically work on your projects?

AH: Each project has different requirements, so there is not one right approach. However, the analysis of the project is always the same: size, scope, duration, circumstances. There are several preliminary talks, because it is important for me to get to know the people involved in the project. Regardless of the design, I leave the frame as far as possible, because often the customer does not know what to expect. What follows is the proposal phase. Consulting and project management are also important parts of my work. Then the ping-pong starts. The customer delivers content, we create and return it, and so on. Some clients need a mood board that helps me understand what they like, what language they speak and what they feel comfortable with. It's always about building trust—no project works without it.

How would you describe your style?

AH: I find it difficult to define my style visually. I always care about creating order, but chaos and coincidence are part of it as well. Sometimes people tell me that they like my work because it's so reduced and simple. To me it seems rather complicated, overloaded and full of ideas. They see the surface rather than the conceptual part. For me, it is also a relief, because you often interpret a lot into the work.
I work very conceptually and for me the idea is always at the center: through it I try to implement the ideas that the customer has expressed. Therefore, the visual part becomes almost secondary and only one possible expression of the idea. In the visualization process, I often take a step back, throw the concept overboard in order to make it freer. Sometimes, I must admit, the concept really becomes apparent in the course of doing it. But my way of working changes again and again.

Do you also experiment with your design process?

AH: Sometimes I realize that I tend to over-complicate things. I then try to trust in the process, step by step, until I arrive at another idea–or just at the initial one.

Do you see an artistic mission in your work or is design rather a service?

AH: For graphic designers, there is always the dilemma between the artistic, the conviction of one's own ideas and the satisfaction of the customers. Which compromises can I make? I think it's okay to do something less according to your own preferences and to meet the expectations of the customers. Most design projects are rather a kind of service and not art. I really enjoy meeting so many different people and having to deal with my own skills again and again.
Sometimes, there are certain dynamics that push you into a purely executive position. I have already rejected such projects in the past. For example, if you have been hired for a kind of art direction and then been given an exact introduction of what each double page should look like, that's not what you agreed on in the contract. It is important that the distribution of roles is clear from the beginning, and that mutual trust is maintained throughout the work process.

Can design contribute to society?

AH: I am currently working on the conception of Hier Magazin, a magazine with and for refugees, the first issue will hopefully be published in autumn. This is my way of applying my skills to create a platform for more awareness. I could have volunteered as well, but I wanted to do that—social design. I have noticed that the sustainable and conscious life that I lead privately is not visible to the outside world—so I wanted to make an active contribution. I believe that we all have responsibility and can do something in the context that is available to us. Without active action, we agree with a phlegmatic bearing of conditions that we may not approve of.

What inspires you?

AH: Inspiration is relatively abstract for me. I enjoy being in nature, in exhibitions or walking around the city. Here, proportions and details of architecture can be exciting, a play of light, material combinations. Inspiration can also be an old book that suddenly comes to my mind during a project. Actually, it can be anything, linked to everything I do. It's not just visual things, and certainly not just graphic design context, that's hardly inspiring. But a work can of course be in the reference or tradition of something, and that's exciting.

Are there too little female role models?

AH: We can all confirm that there are hardly any women in our history books to whom an active role is attributed. Mostly, they are mentioned only as wives of famous men whose role is not explicitly stated. The same is true in graphic design. Our books are full of men who have achieved miraculous things, but it cannot be possible that the women were always at the stove at home and had children. In the past, I was very angry about that and considered it my personal mission to fight against this tradition and to prove that I can stand my own ground. This is not the case anymore. It is not so much about the gender struggle, but it remains a social debate. We often pretend it's been a long time, but it's still a hot topic right now. There is no equality at all, otherwise the books would have been rewritten.

How sexist is the design field?

AH: Oh, very! I believe that being a good-looking woman can be beneficial. However, it may also be the case that you are less valued or perceived as a designer. The less you are judged by your outer appearance, the more people focus on your work. Once I worked with older people who seemed very distracted and I did not know why. Maybe it was because they rarely work with young women…
I did experience sexist situations, where I was told that I would not be hired because I could become pregnant. This clearly shows how women are stigmatized, because with regard to men, the issue is not up for debate.
When the Mad Men series was released, all the men compared themselves to Don Draper. The women wanted to be Peggy, work their way up and show it to the men. I would rather be a female Don Draper!

What do you think about measures explicitly promoting women?

AH: At the political level yes, but it would be good if more happened there. Education must take place but especially in a smaller circle. Agencies could pay more attention to gender balance, and every woman and man must start with themselves. Men expressing sexist slogans at work must be made aware that this is not right. To defend oneself when one is lower in the hierarchy is often difficult and requires courage. Here, equals have to be much more active and engage in dialogue. »Women-promoting measures« is a big word. Although I am in an association that initially only welcomed women, I do not want to be perceived as a heinous feminist, but as an integrative one. I also want to be able to call my boyfriend a feminist, without that sounding like a dirty word. That should be possible in 2017.

Are you represented in any professional networks?

AH: I'm a project manager for The Lovers. Originally, this was the Goerlzclub Berlin, founded by Yasmine Orth, in which only women could be members. Because the approach is now more inclusive, it has been renamed The Lovers. The idea is to offer mentoring, meditation and yoga classes to young single parents, families, children and the elderly—I am a yoga teacher myself. We develop mentoring programs that work outside of gender roles. I am hardly represented in professional networks, because I rather seek exchange in other areas. From time to time, I participate in Show & Tells, where you can give each other insights into design processes.

What does success mean to you personally?

AH: My decision to go in this professional career was not driven by any financial expectations at all. Nevertheless, it is of course good to have a livelihood, because that makes me carefree. My priority is to live out things that I enjoy. I could as well have become a potter, a florist or a writer—and that can happen too. I believe that we have many facets. My kind of success means peace and happiness. It is important to me to live every day so that in the evening I think I could die now. This might sound a bit pathetic, but I do not want to do anything for a long time, which I think is pointless. That would be anti-success for me.

What do you do to relax?

AH: Close the door and then I'm gone! I walk the park, do yoga, ride home or meet friends. The spatial distance gives me mental distance. It is also a form of conditioning to take only a certain number of hours per day to work. Everything else can wait till the next day. I always used to feel that a project with even more time would get even better, but that's not necessarily true. On the contrary, I have become more free and efficient. Whenever I'm really troubled, yoga or running helps me. Afterwards, I am relaxed and can get back to the project with a fresh mind. Of course, one does not completely rule out the work. It happens very often that a project runs quietly in the background and simmers in the subconscious. Sometimes I get a new idea while I am shopping.

Which professional or personal goals do you want to achieve?

AH: So far, I've always done just that. I cannot tell where I will live in a year, or in ten. I did not think that I would stay in Berlin for such a long time and be self-employed. Thinking backwards, my life was a clear line, but forward it is not so clear. Maybe I'll work in a company that I like. Actually, in the future, I'll see myself exactly following my idea of inner success, happiness, and doing what I'm good at. That could be something completely different than graphic design.

notamuse