JACQUELINE CASEY: A FORGOTTEN DESIGN HERO

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The uprising of female activists pushing for gender equality is a prevailing following that can be seen throughout the world. With gender equality issues being prevalent throughout centuries, the new wave of self emancipation and freedom has seen the fight for women’s rights in equal pay, abolishment of domestic violence and overall equality. It’s a known fact that the workforce, politics and many more fields were predominantly male driven. Similarly, women working in the design field lacked recognition, whereby their primary role was within administration and assistant positions.  This dramatic change now sees women worldwide as Directors, Presidents and Senior Designers, coming a long way from what the design industry once was. However, many female artists and designers go unrecognised. When even searching for graphic, industrial or fashion designers more than likely a male designer will be the first listed. It is a fact that since 1970, female students have comprised over 50 per cent of graphic design graduates.  [1] It is this ongoing push to have female designers recognised and rewarded for their work which they execute equally as great as their male counterparts.

Jacqueline S. Casey; a female graphic designer born in Quincy, Massachusetts, is responsible for introducing the International Typographic Style to the US. Casey is best known for the type posters she created for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, majority of designers will have never heard of Casey, in comparison to someone like Joseph Muller Brockman, whose work is at equal talent of Casey’s. It is blatantly clear that design has shadowed women in the industry, despite the large group of women working within graphic design. Casey’s posters focused on the use of a striking image combined with bold typography, with hierarchy at the forefront, having small supporting details in small text. Casey’s work pays homage the influence of the Grid, established by the post-war graphic designers in Switzerland. In 1972, Casey took over as director of the Office of Publications, where she designed a series of posters to advertise MIT exhibitions and their events events, alongside her fellow male designers Ralph Coburn and Dietmar Winkler. This already gives evidence to a women working in a mans world. Research in the secondary education system today  shows that women have a better self concept of ability in all female learning environments. [8] This alludes to the idea of marginalised and sidestepped women in design industry, where a predominantly male environment can potentially hinder female design capabilities where equality isn’t evident.

There a many barriers that can determine women being successful at work. These include their work being ‘task oriented’ instead of ‘career oriented’, the latter requiring experience with liaising with the client, taking the stance to make decisions to influence the running of the firm, acquiring the confidence to put forward one’s own designs as being the most creative and best solution and so on. If the organisational culture is male dominated, women get the subtle message that they are not really expected to do those things, or at least to do them well. [9]

Casey’s design style was strongly influenced by the Swiss designers. It is a blend of the cleanliness of Italian and Swiss design. The most common typeface used which can be seen in her artwork, were Helvetica and Universe; making these typefaces work in clean and neat conjunction with the geometric structure of her design. Thérèse Moll was another Swiss female designer, who Casey credited her to introducing her to the grid and its design intention, stating; ‘She introduced the office to European typography… This use of proportions in designing publications series became a useful tool for developing MIT’s image.’ In Casey’s ‘Goya’ Poster, it’s clearly evident that Typography plays a primary role in Casey’s artwork.  In each of Casey’s posters, a visual element attracts the viewer and the text provides supporting information. The female stereotype in the design industry, notes that women designers do sedentary work on textiles, fashion and ‘pretty pictures’ (graphics), while the men do the ‘rougher’ ‘more practical’ work of designing consumer and industrial products. [10] Casey challenges this stereotype, in most of her best work she includes a visual metaphor, as is evidently included on her ‘Goya’ Poster, with the use of a ‘blood splat’ as the forefront symbol for her poster; Goya: The Disasters of War. Casey’s designs emit simplicity, structure and functionality. By adhering to the grid structure, and formal use of hierarchy through type, Casey’s designs create a consistent series with the hope to challenge our imagination, and to search and discover a more profound understanding of the intentions of the design. Casey’s legacy should be noted. Her work has been permanently stored in art museums such as in the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the USIA, and the Library of Congress. Casey’s design work is also displayed in many design magazines and and is in the books on the history of graphic design. When reflective upon Casey’s success, McQuiston explains how it can be seen why so many women in the design field want to be acknowledged for the ideas and work they produce. It is opposed to the traditions of being singled out for the fact that they happen to be women. [11]

It can be seen that there are in fact forgotten design heroes which deserve equal recognition as their male coworkers. Jacqueline Casey’s recognisable and widely appreciated work for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), through the International Typographic style should not go unnoticed. As Margaret Bruce clearly explains; “Indeed, women designers have played a tremendous part in the shaping of particular ‘ways of seeing’ or paradigms of design, but have not always been acknowledged,” [12]   it is clear that many successful design treatments and the historical progress of design itself, are due to the women in the industry, and therefore it is the ongoing step towards achieving equal recognition for them.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. Connory, Jane. Plotting the Historical Pipeline of Women in Graphic Design, 2017. DHARN, 2

2. Connory, Jane. Plotting the Historical Pipeline of Women in Graphic Design, 2017. DHARN, 4

3. Potter, S, Lewis, J and Roy, R ‘The commercial aspects of design: the effects of subsidised design inputs on the competitiveness of small and medium sized firms’ 1980 Paper for the 2nd International Congress of Industrial Engineering, Nancy, Frame, 119

4. Bruce, Margaret. ‘A missing link: women and industrial design’ 1980, Design Studies Vol 6 No 3, 119

5. McQuiston, L. Women in design: a contemporary view. 1988. Trefoil Publications, London, UK

6. Bruce, Margaret. ‘A missing link: women and industrial design’ 1980, Design Studies Vol 6 No 3, 118

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