Design is a deeply personal process, imbued with the expression and commentary of its creator.
From the hand-print artist bringing a fresh touch to interiors, to the entrepreneur using design as a tool for social change, meet five passionate women setting the design agenda of tomorrow.
1. Diane Hill
Decorative artist Diane Hill draws on Far Eastern art and ancient techniques to craft beautiful hand-painted designs for modern interiors.
Her eye-catching approach combines flamboyance with finesse.
"I think Diane Hill is going to be a really big name in the world of interiors and design,” says freelance illustrator Claire Spake. “In the short time since she launched her business just over a year ago, she has already achieved so much and pushed the boundaries of what people can do with their living and working spaces.
"What makes her work so special is the way she combines contemporary and classic design. She uses a bold style and colour combinations and yet her work always looks neat, elegant and striking."
Diane studied textile design at Manchester Metropolitan University and trained in China, where she was able to fine-tune her interest in oriental art.
“The reason I apply my paintings to interiors is because I love that impact it can have on a whole room,” Diane tells Stylist. “It changes the whole feeling and atmosphere of a space and can have a really positive impact on people. I love it when people’s instant reaction is 'wow'. If that is not their first word, then I know something is wrong!”
See more of Diane’s work on dianehill.co.uk
2. Malika Favre
Malika Favre is a French artist based in London, who uses “a bit of humour, a touch of sexiness and a re-imagination of the ordinary” to provoke the mind’s eye and infuse her arresting illustrations with character.
“I discovered Malika’s work in an art car sale in Shoreditch, and I stood up in front of her designs for a while,” says graphic designer Otilia Martin. “I have always said visual design is like sculpting – you need to carve out everything that is not essential. Malika’s work not only has this quality, but the extraordinary capacity to create visual games with the fewest possible elements. Her designs are stylish, timeless, refreshing and witty.”
Part of the appeal of Malika’s work is the way it overlays a strong narrative core with a veneer of minimalism. “Using the ‘less is more’ approach, we see so much more in her work,” says Otilia.
Designer Jessica Kumah agrees. “I love Malika’s colourful, bold prints. Although they look so simple, I really admire the craft and use of vivid colour across all of her pieces.”
Malika studied art in Paris, before moving to the UK. She set up as a freelance illustrator in 2011 and her signature panache has seen her evolve into one of Britain’s most sought-after graphic artists.
See more of Malika’s work on malikafavre.com
3. Mona Chalabi
Mona Chalabi is a data journalist who creates award-winning drawings that are designed to make numbers more relatable in the context of storytelling and social commentary.
“I think Mona Chalabi is very exciting,” says graphic designer Sinem Erkas. “She illustrates info-graphics using felt-tip pens, making academic information and statistics about difficult topics very friendly and accessible in a visually fun way.
“Her background is in journalism and editorial, so I think that’s what makes her approach to design so refreshing.”
Mona studied at the University of Edinburgh before moving to New York, where she became data editor of The Guardian US. She won an award in 2016 from the Royal Statistical Society, who hailed her use of evocative visual representation to illustrate complex data.
“I think the drawings are a great way to show data to people who think they're not interested in data,” Mona tells Stylist. “By drawing things like prison cell size or menopausal hot flushes, it makes numbers feel more real and relevant to people's lives. And because the sketches are imprecise and drawn by hand, it starts a really important conversation about just how accurate data really is.”
See more of Mona’s work on monachalabi.com
4. Rachita Saraogi
A self-styled “design-prenuer”, Rachita Saraogi uses her creative skills to bridge the gap between design and the complex social issues that we face today. She is the co-founder of Sisterhood, an organisation that is focused on helping and inspiring young women via the medium of design.
“Rachita is shaking up the design industry through a social enterprise which delivers design-focused workshops to young girls to build confidence,” says fellow graphic designer and Sisterhood partner Rebecca Thomson. “She is rewriting the rules of what it means to be a designer in the 21st century.”
Rachita says the idea for Sisterhood came about when she and her friends were studying at Central Saint Martins in London.
“We were discussing our experiences of being female creatives in this exciting and competitive industry,” she explains on her blog. “Our discoveries led us to a hypothesis that women are stronger, better and more confident when we support each other; however, our collective experiences were more often than not opposite. So how could we change this?”
Sisterhood was the answer. The project involves a podcast and lecture series, as well as school workshops for girls aged 11 to 17 that address issues such as body image, self-esteem and peer pressure.
“We hope that through these workshops, young girls are equipped and encouraged to be supportive towards themselves and each other,” says Rachita.
See more of Rachita’s work on rachita-saraogi.com
5. Sara Andreasson
Gender equality is a potent theme in the work of Swedish illustrator Sara Andreasson, whose exuberant approach draws its punch from sensual portraits and buoyant hues of oranges, burgundies and pinks.
“I love Sara Andreasson,” says London-based fashion illustrator Katie Edmunds. “All her work is about empowering women, no matter what their size, race or sexuality.
“Her aesthetics really pop as they’re loud, in-your-face and colourful. She’s so diverse and also has a sense of humour about her work. She’s part of the movement that inspires me, too – that women should always support women!”
Sara is currently based in London, where she edits independent feminist magazine BBY. She always has an eye to subverting gender stereotypes in her work, as she tells Danish design site idoart.dk: “Pictures of men and women tend to be very stereotypical, and therefore I try to use photos of men when I’m drawing women and vice versa.”
One of Sara’s most distinguished exhibitions came about as an ode to the cult hit film Clueless, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015 (the image below is from this show). Sara explored what she described as the “unapologetic girlieness” of the movie, which – despite being a rom com – managed to give “a portrayal of female friendship that still feels progressive”.
Her resulting work she describes as “a full-on femmage to girl culture”.
See more of Sara’s work on saraandreasson.se/
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