“Most activism is brought about by us ordinary people.” — Patricia Hill Collins
One woman is clearly heeding the call. Katie Krcmarik, assistant professor of practice and visual communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recently created and exhibited at the Mott Community College Fine Arts Gallery a “monument to women in design.” Entitled “A Space of Their Own: A Monument to Women in Design,” it was an 8 x 8 x 7-foot structure that contained the names of over 1500 women in design – some famous, some not.
Krcmarik was previously a Mott art and design adjunct instructor and coauthored Communication Design 131, 132, 133: Digital Textbook. She earned a master of arts degree in educational technology at Michigan State University. She also earned an MFA in graphic design at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a bachelor of fine arts in studio art and graphic design at Wayne State University.
The theme of the 2019 International Women’s Day held March 8 was “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.” It focused on advancing gender equality, empowering women and creating sustainable change
Her modular installation, which was shown this past spring, called attention to the many women who have contributed to the design field; however, the 1500 names are “only a drop in the bucket,” Krcmarik said. Her experience has led her to believe that women are considerably underrepresented and minimized in the field, lacking in equal treatment, respect and positions of power within the world of design.
“Women are currently only 11 percent of design leadership despite being 70 percent of the students studying design,” she says. “Female artists only make up three to five percent of the work in museums. Basically, women are still denied spaces of power despite all the other advances we have made over the past few decades. I wanted to show women occupying more space in a large and physical way.”
Yes, there are noted women in various areas of design, like Austrian designer Cipe Pineles, whose modernist style is showcased in magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue and Seventeen; American graphic interface and icon designer for Apple Inc. Susan Kare; and others as well as women in advertising, product development, branding, typography and more. However, many argue that women still operate in a male-dominated industry and earn less pay, are less likely to be leaders, and are not represented on the stages of industry events.
Thus Krcmarik, an educator and artist, not only created her piece to draw attention to this state of affairs and but also to stimulate awareness and change. To that end, she gave two talks at the Mott Community College Fine Arts Gallery. She is encouraging people to learn about the history of women in design, gain an understanding of the industry’s disparities and seek a more egalitarian future.
For example, in her exhibit, the random placement of famous names next to the more unknown indicates Krcmarik’s belief that in the current patriarchal structure, “Each woman has an equal amount of space with no one being better than any other. There is no hierarchy to the piece.” In other words, women in the design world are not recognized and credited appropriately. To continue drawing viewers and stimulating discussion, the structure of her exhibit will change frequently, therefore altering the placement of the names.
Krcmarik culled the women’s names from research, her connections in the American Institute of Graphic Arts and her personal connections. Some are from Genesee County. She strives to include women of all ethnicities and anyone who identifies as female. “Ideally, I would like to continue growing this to include all women in design,” Krcmarik said.
In the future, she would like those viewing the exhibit to be able to scan the women’s names into their phones to learn about the artists. “It cannot just be about the names being there but also about sharing information about the women.”
In a press release about her Mott exhibit, Krcmarik said that creating this physical structure allows women to “take up space.” “Women need to take up space if we want to increase our presence in the power structures that define our society. Women I have taught still run into some of the same challenges. I think things have gotten better, but we still have such a long way to go to be truly viewed as equal.”