notamuse

I do not want to work for assholes.

Johanna Dreyer & Katharina Weiß

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

Pia Christmann & Ann Richter

  • Pia Christmann & Ann Richter
  • http://pandan.co/
  • The interview was conducted on 11.05.2017 in Berlin.

Pia Christmann and Ann Richter got to know each other during their studies at HGB Leipzig. In 2015 they founded Studio Pandan in Berlin after Ann had gained some experience in different international design studios and Pia had finished her studies in Leipzig. As a graphic design studio they focus on the concept and design of publications, websites and visual identities. In the interview they tell us about the ultimate project and the artistic task of design.

What was your decisive motivation for self-employment?

AR: The plan already existed during our studies. I personally think that it is important to try different things and to learn a lot during this phase. The wish to work independently evolved from the desire to decide a lot on our own and to have the most possible liberty with the design.

How do you typically work on your projects?

PC: The initial research and brainstorming usually take place between Ann and me. Thus, emerges a pool of ideas out of which we then, also in a dialogue with the customer, create a concept. In the next phase, one of us will be responsible in order to have the organizational side all bundled up.

How do you balance the conflict between economic efficiency and your own demands on the quality of design?

AR: We usually take the amount of time that the project requires. At the beginning, we estimate the work hours and of course, it is ideal if this number coincides with the workload, but the design has priority.

Do you actively go on acquisition?

Do you actively go on acquisition? processes
AR: It is a rather a mixture of active and passive acquisition, since we do not have a fixed customer base; whereby, the passive part is predominant. What mostly follows to a great project is a new request, which is very pleasing. It mostly happens via recommendations or the visibility of past projects. For the acquisition, it is beneficial if there already exists a connection to requested persons or institutions. For example, during our studies, we were responsible for the design of the exhibition »Atlas 2013—Kunststudentinnen und Kunststudenten stellen aus« at the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn. We have contacted them last year and made them aware of our office. That is how a new cooperation evolved: The six-part catalogue for the current exhibition »Comics! Mangas! Graphic Novels!«

How would you describe your style?

AR: Describing your own style is always difficult. At the beginning, we both introduced our own style and then, tried to create a common studio style. By now, we have found a good flow that could be located between classic and daring.

Do you try to involve new approaches into your work or rather rely on what you already know?

AR: Our claim is to develop a new visual language for each project. Otherwise it gets a bit boring and the appeal of creation would decrease.

Do you have any role models?

PC: We are currently working on an exhibition about Willy Fleckhaus in Munich. I am interested in his striking editorial style and the strong contrasts. But I would not say that we have one role model, but rather that there are various influences that we consciously or unconsciously integrate into our own work, cite and redevelop.
AR: The danger of idols and role models is that you emulate them too much, therefore, I prefer looking at a broad spectrum. For this reason, I am rather pluralistically oriented. I may have a top-20.

Are there too little female role models?

AR: Yes, definitely. If you look around, you will find that men dominate most design conferences. There is a tremendous need to catch up.

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

AR: We do not regard this division all black and white. Though we try to integrate our artistic part in many projects. Design can be understood as an esthetical means and as a form of authorship. In Germany, this attitude is less represented than in the Netherlands or in Switzerland, therefore there are some people that view design as a total service. Whereas, I have the feeling that the importance of design increases and I am pretty optimistic about the situation.
PC: Our attitude may be characterized through our studies at an art academy.

Do you want your signature to be recognized or is it fully about the commission?

PC: We work with available material and content and try to create a form out of it. The own handwriting is always incorporated—we do not try to exclude it.
AR: I would say that we do not have a formal handwriting, but rather an own position that shapes our work. Thereby, the form can vary depending on the project and yet still there is stringent line. We regard our work as cooperation with the client so that each project is shaped by different influences and no project equals another.

How important is the financial aspect in your work?

AR: We work a lot with the cultural sector: we would not have chosen it, if the financial aspect was our main priority. Nonetheless, once you own a studio, you automatically occupy the position of management and therefore, you need to consider it and plan wisely.

What does success mean to you personally?

PC: Success is, if you can work together with a client, while at the same time, live up to your own standards and to those of others. A project is successful, if the client and we are satisfied. The own contentment about a project that turned out to be successful as well as a positive feedback means success.
AR: I would also count recognition in the scene.

What do you do to gain more public visibility?

AR: We often use Instagram to present our works. Other than that, we do not do a lot of PR-work. But we are always very content if we get introduced on various blogs.

Are you represented in any professional networks?

AR: We are in contact with a friend, who built up the women-network in Cologne, called And She Was Like: Bäm!. In Berlin, there is also a network for women in the cultural sector: Salon. We got invited from a befriended artist and we would like to go to a meeting soon.

Do you think there are special challenges for women in the design field?

PC: That is difficult. Fundamentally, our profession is not gender-specific, but it remains the question, whether these obstacles have something to do with graphic design in specific or with the business world in general. We have already realized that we had way more female clients than male ones at the beginning, but we do not know whether it was because of chance or something else. By now, the gender ratio of our clients is a bit more balanced.

Did you ever experience any uncomfortable situation at work due to your sex?

AR: Not directly and indirectly it is hard to proof. For example, how are we supposed to know how much money an all male bureau would get paid for the jobs that we do. Via statistics, one knows that there is a gender pay gap in many jobs, but with regard to our scene, the numbers are pretty non-transparent.

What would be the ultimate project?

AR: We have not really thought about that. What would be the grail for graphic designers?
PC: I find it a lot easier to answer what I would have liked to do, instead of, which design I would like to do in the future. I would have liked to design the Nike Swoosh or the »I heart NY«-sign or the visual identity of the Olympics in Munich in 1972. Thereby, I just realized which project I find desirable: the appearance of the »Kieler Woche«.
AR: Yes that would be an honor. By the way, a woman designed the Swoosh: Carolyn Davidson. It would be great, if we could build up a new magazine and thereby assume responsibility for the art-direction and design, for example a new feminist lifestyle magazine. It would appear as a digital and a print version and be financially well off so that we could work together with stunning photographers, illustrators and copywriters. It would also be exciting to be involved in the curatorial work of a big graphic design exhibition. The longer I think about it, there are quite a few things.

Which advice can you give to young female designers?

AR: Be brave—just do it! There is nothing that you cannot do. Many women doubt too much.
PC: Push each other, help and connect!

notamuse