Women Behind Iconic Brands

Blog Post by: Sarah Obialero

Across the world, women are taking the reins when it comes to design. Today, over 50% of the graphic design profession is made up of women. And that number is growing – fast!

As women grow in this profession, I think it’s important we recognize the female trailblazers that have impacted and inspired all designers that followed. I want to highlight three incredible female designers that have created some of the world’s most iconic brand identities.

#1 Carolyn Davidson – 1971: Nike

The Nike swoosh is one of, if not the most, recognized icon in the world. It literally doesn’t even need to say its name – that’s how powerful this image is.  Carolyn’s thought when designing this visual masterpiece was to represent the movement of a runner as they jump off the ground.  Such a simple yet perfect concept for this brand.

Carolyn designed this logo for a mere $35 (about $200 today) to earn some extra cash while she was a design student in Portland. She continued to work with the Nike brand until 1983 and has been given shares in the brand that are now worth over $1 million. 

Today Carolyn engages in hobbies and volunteer work, including weekly duties at the Ronald McDonald House at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center in Oregon.

Cheers to you, Carolyn Davidson!

#2 Ruth Kedar – 1998: Google

Ruth was an art professor at Stanford when she was approached by two students about the opportunity to design a logo for their startup business. Little did she know at the time that she would design one of the world’s most recognized logos for one of the most valuable companies in history, the tech giant, Google.

Since then, Ruth has created logos for other widely recognized companies like Adobe, Coupons.com, UCSF, and one that’s probably not so widely known, but a company that my husband currently works for, called Quotient Technology.

Aside from being etched in history as the woman behind the Google logo, she also holds a 5thdegree black belt in the Martial Art of Aikido and teaches Aikido in Redwood City, CA.

Talk about a total badass lady!

#3 Paula Scher – 1991-Today: Too many to name

Paula is one of the most acclaimed graphic designers in the world, and a true mastermind when it comes typography.  She has been described as the “master conjurer of the instantly familiar,” and will go down in history books as that and much more.

Paula has a rich history in the graphic design field that started in the 70’s. In 1991, she was the first female principal at the world’s largest design agency, Pentagram in New York, where she still is today.  There, she has created brand identities, promotional materials and beyond for brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Shake Shack, Museum of Modern Art, Tiffany & Co., Citi Bank, and on and on. In 2001, Paula was awarded the AIGA Medal, which is basically the equivalent to winning an Oscar in the design profession. The highest of honors. Her work is displayed in museums all over the world and she will forever be one of the greatest designers of all time.

Thank You

I am so incredibly inspired by these women, and so many other women in the design world that helped paved the way for me and so many others to enter the world of graphic design, typography, and digital art. My admiration of these figures helps fuel my desire to continue to be innovative, creative, and bold in my designs.

Thank you, Carolyn, Ruth and Paula, for being such important and inspirational figures in the world of graphic design. Your work has made a mark on the world that will never be forgotten.