It’s Nice That salutes female creativity in all its forms. On International Women’s Day, we showcase the work and opinions of an all-female cast of creatives across a range of disciplines: from filmmaking to graphic design, publishing to illustration penned by an all-female editorial team.
Look out for words of wisdom from stage designer and visual artist Es Devlin; a rare interview with The Smiling Sun creator Anne Lund on one of history’s most iconic logos; a look back at the work of Elizabeth Friedlander who was one of the first women to design a typeface; words from Grey London’s joint-CCO Caroline Pay on why we need more female leaders in the male-dominated advertising industry and an opinion piece from Tea Uglow addressing intersectionality in the creative industries among many, many more features, work and opinion pieces. Tying it all together you’ll find Laura Callaghan, the woman behind our 2018 International Women’s Day illustration.
We’re continually looking to expand our network of female creatives. If you identify as a woman and are making great work that we don’t know about, please email us.
“I'm not a designer – I was just an activist”: how The Smiling Sun became one of history's most iconic logosRuby Boddington —
The Smiling Sun is well known across the world as the face of the anti-nuclear power movement. Worn as badges, stuck on lampposts or held aloft as flags its gleeful grin has become synonymous with the fight for a world powered by renewable energy. Despite its widespread popularity, the logo’s designer has remained largely aloof. It’s Nice That managed to track down The Smiling Sun’s creator, Anne Lund – now a university lecturer – to find out more about how it came to be and how she feels looking back on it, four decades later.
Girls On Top: Grey London's joint-CCO Caroline Pay talks female leadership in ad landCaroline Pay —
By all accounts, I shouldn’t really be here. A woman from Croydon in her 40s, with a child, running an agency alongside another woman from Leicester, in her 50s? You couldn’t write it. By the normal rules of advertising engagement, we really are the odd couple.
“The grandmother of socially active art”: the generous work of Sister Corita KentLucy Bourton —
There are many ways I could begin to explain the life and work of Corita Kent, from an artist and educator to a nun and social activist. But what describes her best and most valuably, is the way that people who knew her tend to: “An A+ person,” for instance, and the fact "she saw possibilities in you you didn’t know about yet”. Or simply in their description of her kind attention, because “when she talked to you she made you feel like you were the only person there”.
The Punjab and the Black Country through the lenses of four female photographersDaphne Milner —
The connection between England’s Black Country and the Punjab may not be immediately apparent. Yet, the Black Country is host to one of the largest Punjabi diasporas outside of India. The Indian communities living in places like Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have played a central role in redefining the region’s cultural, economic and social landscape. A new photographic project, Girl Gaze: Journeys Through the Punjab and the Black Country, explores the interweaving relationships between two different geographic regions through the lenses of four female photographers.
Graphic designer Frédérique Gagnon relies on chance, exploiting dysfunction within her processRuby Boddington —
Based in her hometown of Montreal, Frédérique Gagnon has been running her own graphic design practice, Opération Béton, since 2014. With an impressive list of collaborators and clients from across the globe, Frédérique also pursues a line of research in her work, challenging the unstable nature of language, telling It’s Nice That how “my interest lies especially in the tension that exists between language and its graphic container.”
The ambitious trio behind Azeema Magazine on empowering Middle Eastern and North African womenRuby Boddington —
Azeema is the independent magazine exploring strength and femininity within Middle Eastern and North African women and women of colour. The brainchild of its founding editor, Jameela Elfaki, Azeema is the magazine she wanted to see while growing up. With a team now including deputy editor, Noor Alabdulbaqi and associate editor Sunayah Arshad, Azeema is tackling an industry head-on by filling a gap that’s been left empty for far too long. We caught up with the ambitious trio to find out more about how they are attempting to make a difference.
Malika Favre, Ram Han, Martina Paukova and Miranda Tacchia discuss the illustration industry, over WhatsappLucy Bourton —
Illustration is an incredible skill. It’s the first creative discipline introduced to toddlers and it’s an art form many adults envy. It can make you weep with laughter or provoke deep thoughts. Illustrators quite literally bring to life what words or photographs can’t describe.
Elizabeth Friedlander: one of the first women to design a typefaceBillie Muraben —
On her commission from the then Frankfurt-based Bauer Type Foundry in 1927, Elizabeth Friedlander became one of the first women to design a typeface, and particularly one of such exhaustive variation. Completed in a variety of point sizes in roman letter and cursive, and detailed in bold and swash characters, it took until 1939 for Elizabeth-Antigua and Elizabeth-Kursiv to be cut – six years after Friedlander had been forced to leave Germany.
“We need everyone to wake up.” Google’s Tea Uglow on intersectionality in the creative industriesTea Uglow —
Tea Uglow is the creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney. She works with both cultural and creative organisations across the globe exploring the space between technology and the arts and what can happen when they intersect. Her impressive output spans everything from responsive and reactive reading interfaces to immersive, 360-degree performances. She is also a transgender woman. To celebrate International Women’s Day, It’s Nice That got in touch with Tea to find out her opinions on representation and intersectionality within the creative industries.
Joana Choumali’s beautifully embroidered photographs tackle the melancholy of a community in shockJenny Brewer —
Ivory Coast-based artist Joana Choumali is known primarily for her photography, though her practice has seen her dabble in varied media to explore a common theme. Across sculpture, mixed media, collage, portraiture and documentary, Joana blurs the boundaries of her medium to explore personal identity, African identity and culture. One particularly recognisable piece from her photographic portrait series Hââbré, the last generation, which looked at the practice of scarification, was used as the lead image for Africa Is No Island, one of the opening shows at The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech (Macaal). Though the artist is exhibiting as part of the show, she is in fact taking part with a new series that displays a new addition to Joana’s toolkit – embroidery.
Laura Callaghan on how she created this year's inclusive, powerful and all embracing IWD illustrationsLucy Bourton —
Laura Callaghan has cultivated an audience of devoted illustration fans. From art directors of prestigious publications to fashion houses, Laura’s female-focused work is adored for its ornate line work and carefully chosen patterns which build a unique narrative.
"I’ve found that power really enjoys having truth spoken": stage designer Es Devlin shares decades of working wisdomBryony Stone —
In another life, stage designer Es Devlin might have been a politician. Working alongside the world’s most high profile musicians to find ever more inventive ways to translate their ideas into staggering visual executions has to require monumental levels of tact. In recent years, Es Devlin has become if not a household name, certainly one which echoes far beyond the corners of her chosen industry. Once tightly tied to the artists she works with – Beyonce, Kanye West, Adele, Take That, Miley Cyrus – these days, Es has carved a distinct identity of her own: Es Devlin, visual artist.
"If it’s about farts, draw a butt for god’s sakes": Mona Chalabi tells us how to illustrate dataBryony Stone —
Mona Chalabi describes herself as “a journalist who really loves numbers.” Mona upped sticks from London to New York to write for Nate Silver’s site FiveThirtyEight. She has written and presented for the BBC, National Geographic, Channel 4 and VICE, and was nominated for an Emmy for her video series Vagina Dispatches.
The Front is the all-female media platform at the forefront of gender activismDaphne Milner —
The vast majority of media companies are regulated by men. Dazed Media is run by Jefferson Hack; Condé Nast by Bob Sauerberg; Vice Media by Shane Smith; Time Warner by Jeff Bewkes; Netflix by Reed Hastings; 21st Century Fox by James Murdoch. The list is endless.
Yumna Al-Arashi captures the last generation of Muslim women with facial tattoosDaphne Milner —
“My Yemeni great-grandmother had tattoos on her face, which always seemed extraordinary to me. It was very common for women her age to have tattoos, but no one ever spoke about it. They would just tell me that the tattoos were from the old times,” says London-based photographer Yumna Al-Arashi. But Yumna’s curiosity was not satisfied with this vague response. Her series, Face, captures the last generation of tattooed Middle Eastern women and reflects on the gradual disappearance of this age-old tradition.
Why visibility and representation matter: Vanessa Whyte on co-founding a platform for female cinematographersLecture in Progress —
Lecture in Progress inspires and informs the next generation of talent with advice, insight and first-hand accounts that demystify the day-to-day workings of the creative industry. This article is part of the First Hand series, in which creatives share their own experiences of working within the creative industry.
Why is there a lack of women in animation, and what can we do about it?Jenny Brewer —
Where are all the women? It’s a question that comes up time and time again in conversation with animators and animation studios alike. According to advocacy group Women in Animation, 60% of animation students in the US and Europe are women, but the drop off rate as they move into industry is staggering, with only 20%–40% of professional roles held by women. But why exactly is there a lack of females in animation, and more constructively, what is the industry doing about it? To find out, we spoke to a variety of important voices in the sector, from educators and leading animation studios to female animators themselves (they do exist) about their experiences, and what actions are being taken to redress the balance.
What I learned, and worried about, as a pregnant woman in the creative industryJenny Brewer —
I was never the type of woman to daydream about pushing around a pram. I guess I assumed I would one day, but that vision was in the back of my mind, far overshadowed by ambitions for my career. Since I graduated nearly ten years ago, my priority had been work – I was lucky to have very supportive parents and friends who believed, probably more than me sometimes, that I could be successful. I feel good about where I am now, as news editor at It’s Nice That. I had to fight some pretty awful bosses along the way, one who described me as having “sharp elbows” (if I were a guy that would translate as “ambitious” but that’s a whole other subject); another with an approach to gender equality like that of Sterling Cooper. But it made me tough and I gained respect. Until I got to my late 20s and the comments started coming. Subtle, seemingly harmless jokey comments from family, friends and colleagues that most women around 30 in long-term relationships would recognise. It’s baby time. If you don’t have your usual G&T at the pub, eyes flicker with gleeful suspicion. People outrightly ask you if you want to have kids, like it’s not a hugely personal and weighted life decision that will change everything.
From Venus de Milo to Kim Kardashian: Anna Ginsburg and CNN examine beauty through the agesJenny Brewer —
Animation director Anna Ginsburg has created a short film for CNN in honour of International Women’s Day, examining the evolution of beauty through the ages. Starting from ancient sculpture and morphing seamlessly from figure to figure into modern day symbols such as Madonna and Kim Kardashian, the animation shows how our perceptions have changed. The constant throughout, Anna says, is the pressure on women to conform to body shape ideals, an idea that inspired the film and came from a deeply personal experience.