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Women In Web Design: Group Interview

A couple of weeks ago we published the article Expert Advice for Students and Young Web Designers1, in which we presented a group interview with professional designers and developers. We tried to find answers to questions that are particularly useful and interesting for those just starting to design websites for a living or considering diving into the Web design industry.

In the comments to that article, many readers wished we’d invited more female designers on the panel — in particular because, “There is no way of discerning how the experience of a female designer might differ, simply because there is a complete lack of representation.” So, we decided to prepare an article featuring specifically professional women designers giving their expert advice for young Web designers.

Today, we are glad to present a group interview of successful women working in the Web design field. These 16 female professionals will discuss inspirational topics such as the influences that have had a big impact on their work, as well as practical details, like how they managed to get where they are today. Of the 15 questions we asked, one obviously had to be about how these women have positioned themselves in this male-dominated community. We also look at the challenges they face in their careers as designers. So let’s get started by meeting these people, whom we thank once again for their thoughtful interviews. Here are their names and positions:

You may be interested in the following related posts:

1. Who are your role models, and what styles influence your work the most? Link

Sarah Parmenter42
Sarah Parmenter43

Sarah Parmenter Link

Rachel Andrew was a great role model to me. I always remember seeing her in .Net magazine. She was the one who really made me realize that it wasn’t just a boy’s job and that girls were also flourishing in this “new” medium.

As far as designs that influence me, I hate to be cliche, but Apple was the one really pushing its own style early on. Its style was heavily designed beautiful elements on fairly simplistic, white space layouts. This is something I looked up to and tried to model my early websites on.

Jan Cavan Link

I’ve always been a fan of the works of Michael Heald of Fully Illustrated44. As for the way I design, I’m not sure if any particular person has influenced me, but I certainly find inspiration from the work of other designers and my surroundings.

milo317 Link

Role model: none. Influenced by contemporary architecture and classic art.

Grace Smith Link

I don’t really have a Web design role model. There are those in the industry who have my upmost respect, such as Andy Budd45, Jason Santa Maria46 and Mark Boulton47 (to name just a few). Alongside these, I like to look outside of Web design to people like Seth Godin48, Jonathan Ive49 and Michael Bierut, because constantly looking only to those in your industry can be limiting to your growth as a designer.

I feel my style as a Web designer has slowly evolved but has been pretty consistent since I started freelancing. I like detail, attention to typography and giving the content room to “breathe” and flow. I would probably say, then, that the move towards grids and minimalism in Web design has influenced my style the most over the past few years.

Elena Scanteie Link

I don’t really have a specific role model. My role model is imaginary. My path to hopefully perfecting Web and blog design takes a lot of different inspirations. I bookmark three to six (portfolios, websites, blogs) per day, but I hardly find time to look over those in detail. I do appreciate the large websites with a clean professional look, and also I like those small blogs, websites, personal pages that have an inspiring graphic element that makes me say, “That is a cool site!”

I don’t like naming designers because I’m more likely to just take a wide variety of URLs from many different designers. Sometimes a designer can make one great website, and then the next project is a complete bomb, so giving up names isn’t what I do. The last bit also applies to me. :) Anyway, after a great project, a designer must expect some dips in the road. Success after success is an illusion!

2. Is it difficult for female designers to find their place in the design community? Link

Amber Weinberg50
Amber Weinberg51

Amber Weinberg Link

In design school almost every student was female, so I don’t think so. I find that most of my clients (agencies and other freelancers) are male, but it is definitely not rare to see women designers, and I have quite a few as clients. 99% of what I do is actually front-end development (CSS, HTML, WordPress), which I think is even rarer to find a woman in. I get comments (which are annoying, honestly) from men that they’ve never seen a woman developer before… it makes me feel like an nearly extinct bird or something :)

Inayaili de Leon Link

I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to find a place, but it certainly is a community with predominantly male designers. I guess if you do good work and are generally a nice person, you’ll have as much success as any of your male counterparts.

Grace Smith Link

I personally don’t believe it is difficult. Talent speaks much louder than gender. Good work is good work. I’ve never had any issues with being a woman in the industry, and I feel I’ve had the same opportunities as my male counterparts. Although, it is still disappointing to go to conferences and rarely see many female speakers. Is this because gender is still a factor in the industry, or is it simply because there are fewer of us?

However, I think part of the problem lies in the lack of willingness among many female designers to get involved in self-promotion. I believe as a whole that we don’t tend to bang the drum about our work as hard or market ourselves as strongly. In Jeffrey Zeldman’s article “Women in Web Design: Just the Stats,” he writes in the comments something that reinforces my thoughts on this:

More men brag than women; it seems to be a culturally learned behaviour. Several absolutely brilliant women I know cannot be persuaded to write or lecture or otherwise promote themselves… There’s a concensus that women, however smart or talented, are less likely than men to put themselves forward. We all miss out by not hearing their voices.

Without a doubt, the industry is male-dominated. For example, just in the UK, women make up only around 39% of those in the design industry (Design Council). I think this is mainly because Web design is still confused with IT in general. Many females feel you have to be a math, science or programming whiz to pursue it as a career and simply don’t believe they have the ability.

Jan Cavan Link

Sometimes it is, and yes, it is a male-dominated industry. I didn’t really realize this until there was one time I didn’t get a job that I applied for solely because I was female.

3. How did you manage to get where you are now? What did you study, and how did you become interested in design? Link

Kristi Colvin52
Kristi Kolvin53

Kristi Colvin Link

I am primarily self-taught, though I did take some graphic design courses at a community college in Houston, Texas, from a wonderful, real-life experienced former corporate art director. I floundered a bit in my 20s (I’m 44 now), seeking the right career path. I did some creative things, like visual merchandising and catering, where I learned skills that factor into projects I do now. I attended a university in my home town for some basic courses, but then moved to Houston and didn’t know what I wanted to do.

The Web as a medium in which you could express creativity was just taking off (this was in the mid ’90s), and between the graphic design courses and teaching myself HTML (no courses existed yet to teach Web design), I just sort of wound up doing website design in addition to the print design I was doing for some book authors.

I created a fairly popular vegetarian website and used it to teach myself all sorts of things, in addition to doing all the recipe creation, article-writing and graphics every month, like a monthly magazine. I also implemented a cookbook script, email for users, greeting cards and other technical features, and used all of those things as experimental lessons. Very early on, I met a developer who wanted me to design interfaces for his Web products, and that is how I began designing software and learning about user experience and human factors analysis. Because of the work I did for him, I wound up becoming a specialist in software design, usability and product marketing.

But the experience with my vegetarian website is what gave me the confidence to pursue design as a career. I did not take the typical path of being taught by an instructor and then going out and getting a job to gain experience. I taught myself what I was interested in, gained experience and, once I had mastered the skills of my trade, offered my services doing that for others. I’ve been mostly self-employed since about 1993 for that reason.

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

I come from a background in communications, writing and media studies. So, being more than design-specific, I have long been fascinated by how we communicate. Whether this communication is visual, written or any combination of media makes little matter to me. I’m interested in what can be improved in the way we communicate. Honestly, I cannot remember how far back this fascination goes. I’m sure it started very early in my life.

Rachel Andrew Link

I’m an ex-dancer and old enough that Web development couldn’t have been a career choice when I was at school anyway!

I started developing websites at a very basic level in 1996. At that point, there wasn’t a lot to learn, so I developed my skills as the Web developed. Initially, I thought that, with an arts background, “design” might be something I could do. As time went by, the more technical side of the Web became more interesting to me, and I am purely a Web developer these days. I don’t do any design at all.

Adelle Charles Link

I’ve always loved art and design since I was a little kid. I loved to draw and paint. As I got older, I realized that anything but math would suit me well, and that’s when I realized that anything creative was for me. I went to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and received my BFA in graphic design in 2001. After college, I worked for a few design firms and then fell in the television industry. I worked as the art director for a CBS and FOX affiliate for six years until it was time do my own thing. I started Fuel Your Creativity over two years ago, then met my business partner Joshua Smibert54, and we co-founded FUEL8355. The “start-up” life and love for entrepreneurship grew from there.

Lynda Weinman Link

I am not actually a designer. I teach computer design tools and have built a strong sense of design aesthetics over my years of being around design and designers. I am self-taught in all areas, with no formal design or computer training. I followed my interest and passion and worked hard to teach myself things — plus added in a little bit of guts and tenacity.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson Link

Design was always a hobby of mine, dating back to the mid ’90s. I do not have any formal education in design or Web development. Like many out there, all of my skills and knowledge come from self-teaching and hands-on experience. I started my adult life in a career as a registered nurse and did design as a hobby on the side, and it just grew from there.

To get my name out there, I spent the first few years in design giving away my work for free. This manifested in things like downloadable HTML themes and blog themes for Movable Type and WordPress. I also released several free WordPress themes to the public back in 2003 and 2004. That is a good way to circulate your name and talents; if your stuff is good, people will use it.

From there, my design business evolved organically through word of mouth and through people using my work that I was giving away. My business grew and flourished in 2003, so much so that I was able to earn a decent enough living to leave my full-time job as a nurse and to focus on work that I love doing and that allows me to work from home and spend more time with my family.

[What did you study, and how did you become interested in design?]
I never studied a bit of design, aside from reading Smashing Magazine — heh :). I became interested in design through an insatiable interest in and curiosity about everything related to the Web and the Internet.

[When did you realize that you’d like to design on a daily basis?]
I slowly built my design business as a hobby. When my days started bleeding into my nights and I had more work than I could handle alone, I realized that I needed to give up one thing or the other. Either my nursing career had to go or my design work had to go — or at the very least be tempered. I realized that I would always have my nursing degree, but not always have the opportunity to work for myself, doing a job that I love and making a decent living at the same time.

When I was sleeping only 15 to 20 minutes every night by doing both jobs, that is when I realized I wanted to do design on a daily basis.

Sarah Parmenter Link

I was always drawing from a young age. I remember my parents giving me rolls and rolls of wall-lining paper to draw on because I used to run them out of paper so quickly. As long as I had a pencil, crayon or felt tip in my hands, I was happy. Going digital, though, was something I did much later on. My school wasn’t great on technology facilities, so I studied fine art until I left school, all the while practicing Web coding and digital graphic design in the spare hours I had at home. I guess design was always in my blood. I’m not sure where it comes from, though, because neither of my parents are like this at all. Web design interested me when the Internet was still in its infancy, and I was lucky enough to jump on board at that time, when we were still designing table-based layouts!

4. What are the most difficult challenges a designer faces in her career? Link

Eva-Lotta Lamm56
Eva-Lotta Lamm5717

Eva-Lotta Lamm Link

I think one of the biggest challenges is to make your designs and ideas reality. Developing a great concept or design is one thing, and making that concept a reality is quite another. On this path, you face a lot of challenges and obstacles. You have to communicate your design to stakeholders, clients and developers; you have to convince those who make decisions that your solution is the right thing to do; you face time, budget and technical constraints, and you have to decide where to compromise and where to defend the “soul” of your concept. (Mike Kruzeniski gave quite an interesting talk at Interaction10 about how his design team approach this problem at Microsoft: “Poetry and Polemics in Creating Experience.”)

milo317 Link

Finding your own unique style, staying up to date on the latest technology and gaining a presence in the design universe.

Gisele Jaquenod Link

Maybe it’s because I am a very positive person, but I can’t really think of “difficult problems.” But there are challenges for sure, as in every profession. I for one have experienced, when developing projects, that making your opinion heard is sometimes hard, because people (employers or co-workers) consider the perspective of designers to be too artistic or utopian and not practical or commercial enough. I don’t think they realize that many designers are shaped as much by marketing as by visual language. We can be good advisors. But of course, it’s just a matter of showing what you’re made of; eventually they’ll realize you can be a much more important piece of the puzzle.

Claire Baxter Link

Looking back over my career, I can see that it’s easy to find oneself stuck in a creative rut. Although this happens to every designer at some point, continually striving to push the limits of your own creativity and of the status quo is essential to maintaining your footing in the design field. No one makes any waves by doing what their colleague did last week or last month. So, I’d say that finding inspiration in unlikely places keeps me busy and keeps my work from going stale.

Kristi Colvin Link

The term “designer” is very broad and can create challenges in understanding one’s skills and limitations. Some people are great designers and not technically skilled at implementation. Others are more technical than design-savvy. I think the first challenge is to determine what you’re truly good at and then, if you’re self-employed or seeking employment, being able both to demonstrate your talent and to craft a polished message, which can be hard.

I can do a client’s website so much faster than my own portfolio, for example. Sometimes knowing what to emphasize or focus on is hard, but you have to find the right words to communicate in a way that is understandable to the people who hired you (those people themselves not being designers). A great designer can increase a company’s revenues more than they realize (design is a subliminal selling aid), so finding the right creative fit and giving a designer room to create, experiment and push the envelope is really important to getting their best work.

Another significant challenge for designers is simply keeping up, especially if they’re self-employed, because now they have to deal with marketing themselves and all of the client administration and accounting. Throw in social media, and it’s hard many days just to find time to design anything!

5. What would you recommend to students who aspire to working in design? Link

Lisa Sabin-Wilson58
Lisa Sabin-Wilson59

Lisa Sabin-Wilson Link

Never stop learning, and never stop seeking out new knowledge. Technology moves at an extremely rapid pace, so while you may have graduated with that design degree, that doesn’t mean your schooling will ever end. A big part of my daily focus is keeping up with emerging and ever-changing technology, which moves in the blink of an eye. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you realize you don’t. Just make sure to leave enough time in your routine to refresh your brain on everything that is happening around you from a technology standpoint.

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

No matter the field, I believe we must follow our passion and gifts. Not to do so is to disregard the fact that we have each been given something unique and special in this world and that part of life’s challenge is to honor that. In turn, with confidence and strength in our convictions, I believe there is nothing we as individuals or humanity cannot do.

Adelle Charles Link

Get into the field early, and gain experience through internships, if possible. Work for free. No, not free like that. Gain the kind of experience you’d like by getting in touch with some awesome brands and asking them if they’d be cool with you re-designing a campaign or logo for your portfolio. That’s much better than making stuff up, like some people do. You’ll then have those connections, and who knows what possibilities will turn up from that outreach. Really concentrate on your preparation and presentation60.

F. Claire Baxter61
F. Claire Baxter62

Claire Baxter Link

Don’t be afraid to work outside of your comfort zone. This helps you find your voice and personal style. Seek out and follow constructive criticism. Take a business course, especially if you aspire to work as a freelance or run your own studio. Familiarize yourself with as many artistic disciplines as possible. If you’re an aspiring Web designer, learn the fundamentals of print design and layout (and vice versa). A well-rounded understanding of multiple design disciplines will help you better communicate with a team of multi-disciplinary artists as you move through your career, which is invaluable.

Kristi Colvin Link

Experience is much more critical than formal education. School projects may not contain elements of real-world issues, such as time and budget constraints, difficult client communications, mistakes at the printer, failed technology. Experience also helps build a portfolio, so in addition to school projects, I would try to do freelance work, intern at a real agency or creative place or even create your own real projects: blog, software, directory, something that will serve as real job and teaching experience.

6. How does a student determine whether design is for them or they should pursue another career? Link

Rachel Andrew63
Rachel Andrew64

Rachel Andrew Link

Do what you love doing. That goes for any career. If you are bored with the industry now, then it probably isn’t for you! If you love what you are doing, then work and fun can merge a lot of the time, which is a much better way to live than dreading the 9:00-to-5:00 every day. Yes, you need talent, but enthusiasm, a love of what you do and hard work can get you a long way. :)

Inayaili de Leon Link

If you don’t love it, then you should pursue another career; and that applies to any career, right? When you love design, you want to know more. You look at the world around you with your “designer eyes,” and you can’t really do it any other way. You can’t shut off. This is both a cursing and a blessing, which you’ll learn to live with and enjoy.

Claire Baxter Link

A genuine love of what you do, coupled with a desire to set yourself apart from the pack and continually push the limits of your creativity are traits inherent to any successful designer. Given the transient nature of our industry, it’s essential that designers perpetually strive to create something newer, bigger and bolder. Without this passion, drive and initiative, designers will find themselves disheartened and stuck in a creative bottleneck. So, I guess the short answer to this question is: passion (although a little patience and a thick skin wouldn’t hurt either). If you enjoy doing what you do and have the talent and diligence to see it through, go for it!

Sarah Parmenter Link

You have to be enthusiastic about everything around you: fonts on a movie poster, the way a label on a bottle of milk is designed, everything. Liking design just isn’t enough these days. I gave a talk to students wanting to pursue a Web career a couple of years back, and by the end of it about half still wanted to do it and half didn’t. I gave them a balanced talk on the ups and downs of Web design.

Sometimes things sound more glamourous than they actually are. As wonderful as the worldwide and local conferences and other meet-ups sound, the reality is that you sit at your desk 300-odd days a year. Some people just aren’t cut out to sit in front of a screen eight-plus hours per day, and that’s absolutely fine.

7. How did you adapt your skills and knowledge to the challenges you faced? Link

Adelle Charles65
Adelle Charles66

Adelle Charles Link

I listened, read67 and learned from various outlets. My own personal experiences certainly helped lead me to where I am today. I’m sort of stubborn, so I don’t give up until I’ve achieved all of my goals!

Amber Weinberg Link

The school I went to was really “old school” in that it really only taught print design principles. It had one Web design class, but it was behind in terms of using CSS and tables. I feel bad for my fellow students, because I know a lot of them are struggling to find work, because print design is a shrinking field, and most of them aren’t holding design jobs right now. Lucky for me, I got into Web design and development when I was kid, so it was easy for me to adapt the print design principles that I learned to Web design, until I was able to freelance on my own and find a niche fully in development.

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

As a head-strong, independent personality, my experience is likely different than that of many others. Instead of starting out with a company and then moving to freelance, I started out freelance and stayed that way for the majority of my career. It wasn’t until I turned 46 that I decided to accept an actual employee position with Opera Software, if for no other reason than I finally found a company whose ethics and ideas with regard to the Web, the world and communications are most compatible with my own. The biggest challenge? Remembering that I have bosses! I tend to work quite well with others but am coming from a lifetime of making my own decisions without checking with powers that be. This is a change for me, and I’ve made a few blunders in this regard.

Rachel Andrew Link

I’m completely self-taught, which I feel has always been advantageous to me, as I continue to teach myself new things all the time. You have to when you work in this area.

Lynda Weinman Link

Every new project and client is an opportunity to learn a new skill. I love to learn, and I view mistakes and setbacks as lessons, not tragedies.

8. What are the most significant things you wish you had known when starting out designing websites? Link

Elena Scanteie68
Elena Scanteie69

Elena Scanteie Link

There are many things that I should know about, but one that bothers me constantly is the lack of self-promotion. It sometimes makes me regret the road I’ve taken, and other times it makes me work that much harder to achieve my goals. This job takes a tremendous amount of time, and you hardly notice when the hours have passed and you haven’t gotten the result you desired.

Eva-Lotta Lamm Link

Almost all the things I know today plus the things I’ll learn in the future. Being a good (and hopefully great) designer is the sum of a lot of small and big bits of actual knowledge but most of all experiences and hours of practice that you’ve put in over the course of your career. There is no recipe or quick top-10 tips list that make you design great websites overnight. But some fundamental things will help you on the way to becoming a better designer:

  • Being able to listen (users, customers, clients, stakeholders, anybody who is great in his or her field).
  • Being open-minded and curious (to discover and explore the unknown).
  • Being passionate about what you do. Doing just the minimum to get by or doing things you are not really interested in will not push you to improve your skills and thinking.
  • Working hard. Revising things. Doing them again, but better.

Oh, and one easy thing: write and sketch down everything. Capture your thoughts and ideas when they pop into your head. It’s amazing how quickly you forget a lot of good stuff.

milo Link

IE hacks ;P

Gisele Jaquenod Link

Oh, so many things. I have learned all I know about making websites by making them, so for me the whole road has been a learning experience. But I would have loved to have known much more about usability in general terms, not just Web design. You can get so many wonderful things from studying a bit about it.

Claire Baxter Link

It took a while for me to realize that quality is better than quantity. When I first started designing, I over-extended myself, thinking I was somehow obliged to take on any project that presented itself. As a result, I got a lot of work, but very few projects made it into my portfolio. I’ve since learned to sit back and analyze a project’s scope before committing time and resources to the client. That’s not to say that I don’t still occasionally over-extend myself, but long hours are the nature of the business!

Kristi Colvin Link

How to do more technical things so that I could do them all by myself. In truth, I don’t want to learn technical necessities like JavaScript, fancy CSS, Flash animation, etc. But when you have a great idea and can do the website mostly yourself, not knowing how to do these things can slow you down. These days, though, I don’t do anything technical (I work mostly in Photoshop and Illustrator), and I let developers bring my designs to life. The downside, even still, is that I’ll use a WordPress theme or something to make a website myself, and I’ll get a little stuck because of a technical issue that I cannot fix myself.

9. What is the most disappointing mistake or problem that you’ve encountered in your careeer? Link

Lynda Weinman70
Lynda Weinman71

Lynda Weinman Link

When I was teaching at Art Center College of Design, I wanted to become the Computer Graphics Department Chair and was overlooked for consideration. I remember crying in the office of the Graphic Design Chair (the only time I’ve ever cried in someone’s office!) and telling her prophetically that I might someday be the most famous computer graphics teacher to ever work here. I left right as my writing career was taking off and had hundreds of thousands of fans of my books encouraging me to go off on my own. Going off on my own turned out to be the best move I ever made, but I was heartbroken to leave Art Center and really felt that I could have transformed its department.

Amber Weinberg Link

The lack of professionalism between clients and freelancers and between freelancers themselves. It’s common for me to see freelancers cursing on their Twitter accounts or posting inappropriate things. Not only do clients see this, but it scares them away. This is also a huge faux-pas if the freelancer is using the account for their business (which most are). I also have had clients try to get extra revisions without paying full price or without paying the full rate. They would never do this to a doctor, lawyer or other professional, so why would they do it to us? You should never take someone on as a client who does this.

Inayaili de Leon Link

I guess one of the biggest problems is evaluating yourself on a monetary basis. You always end up devaluing yourself, especially in the beginning.

Grace Smith Link

The most disappointing problem I encountered was a non-paying client. It was at the beginning of my freelance career, and fortunately it was only a relatively small amount. But it did teach me the importance of choosing clients wisely and just how essential a rock-solid contract was.

Kristi Colvin Link

Honestly, myself. I was told just yesterday that I have always and continually under-priced my services, which was kind of hard to hear but not inaccurate. I have also stopped and started a lot: rebranding, taking a job then going back out on my own, etc. And that has hurt me overall, although I have stabilized and committed to my own brand and changed my company around this year to rectify that.

One of the things I should have done differently in the past (but which I have done now) is find a strong partner who has skills that I lack or don’t have time for, such as business management. I brought on a CEO to do business development and manage this company so that we can grow and so that I have time to create and do the things that help our clients succeed and focus on products and new ideas and opportunities. One person usually can’t do it all. Finding a great partner or company environment that allows you to explore and do your best work is often the difference between a happy designer and a struggling one.

10. What should students and new designers focus on outside of their course work to advance in their careers? Link

Grace Smith72
Grace Smith73

Grace Smith Link

I think it’s important for any student or designer to take the time to be involved in the local Web community around them. Learning and sharing from others who are already in the field you’re aspiring to can only help to advance your knowledge of the industry itself, which will make you a more well-rounded designer.

It’s often through these types of events and conferences that we meet people and companies who share our interests and goals (which creates opportunities to work together), which is of course exactly what you want as a person just starting out in their career.

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

World culture and languages, history, art, philosophy, architecture, food. Also, travel: find out what others experience, and get a taste of what the world is really like, not just what we see through familiar media. Be social, be friendly, learn as much as you can about diversity and humanity. And ultimately work constantly towards improving oneself in all ways, personally and professionally, no matter how often we might stumble or be overwhelmed.

Rachel Andrew Link

Do real-world projects, whether it’s developing a website for a group, church or friend’s business or contributing to an open-source project. Real-world experience gives you something to put in your portfolio and helps you apply the skills you are learning in practical ways.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson Link

In my studio, I have three different types of “designers”:

  • The guy (or gal) who purely does design (that is, graphic design with Photoshop, Adobe, etc.);
  • The guy (or gal) who does not do graphic design but can code some seriously sexy CSS and develop themes in HTML, Flash and different CMS tools;
  • The guy (or gal) who does both.

This last one, the one who does both, brings home the biggest dollars from our projects.

11. What job-search advice do you have for recent graduates? Link

Jan Cavan74
Jan Cavan75

Jan Cavan Link

Love what you do, and keep on practicing! Start building you own Web presence too!

Eva-Lotta Lamm Link

My advice would be to not leave it until graduation to start doing “real” jobs. It’s important to get real job experience early on, be it through internships, small freelance jobs or volunteer work. Experience outside of university projects helps you build an interesting portfolio and get some ideas about how design works in the professional world. Internships and freelancing are also great for building a first network of contacts and for demonstrating that you are great to work with, which can often lead to a “proper” job after you’ve finished university. I actually got my first job after graduating at the same agency where I had done a six-month internship a year before. A few weeks before my graduation, I got an email from my former boss asking if I could imagine taking a permanent job with them, and two weeks after my final exam I moved to Paris and started working.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson Link

Don’t neglect social media tools in your job search. My last five hires in our studios were done through various social-media networking through websites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Adelle Charles Link

Plenty has changed since I graduated. It was much easier to find a job with a good resume and a semi-good college portfolio in my field, and it wasn’t even that long ago! Now, you really have to stand out from the crowd and do things differently. Get creative in how you plan to get that job you would love to have. The sky’s the limit really. If you can get in front of your dream job, that’s half the battle. And I am a big proponent of always giving a killer “leave behind” so that you’re memorable and it doesn’t get thrown in a desk drawer.

12. What should new freelancers do during the first few months of their business to succeed? Link

Gisele Jaquenod76
Gisele Jaquenod77

Gisele Jaquenod Link

I think the key these days is to network and market yourself. Many of us are out there, so one of the first steps has to be to get your name out. Make sure you know what you can and cannot do (everyone has different abilities); focus on your strengths; and also make sure you enjoy doing it (it makes it all so much easier)!

Lynda Weinman Link

A lot of listening and practicing being sensitive to what the client wants and to the goals and priorities of the job. I think newbies are often very reluctant to ask questions or to appear not to know something, but it’s actually better to be forthcoming about what you don’t know than to assume and make a misstep because of it.

Amber Weinberg Link

Don’t give up. I went for two months before I started getting steady work, but by no means did I just sit around for those two months. I spent my days marketing myself, through Twitter, on blogs and job boards and emailing agencies. I even started my own blog, and the traffic and SEO points that I got from it have really helped clients find me.

Rachel Andrew Link

Use your networks. Make sure everyone you know knows you are available. Twitter, Facebook and so on are fantastic for this. It goes without saying, you need your own website to point people to. Even if you are a developer rather than a designer, use your website to write about interesting things or to showcase some experiments or sample code.

Eva-Lotta Lamm Link

It’s been quite a while now since I’ve been freelancing, so I may not be the best person to ask. But in general, I’d say the same things apply that would be needed to succeed in any job. Be a pleasure to work with. Be reliable. Communicate with your clients so that they know what to expect and how the project is going. Be confident in your work but ready to listen and learn. Follow your instincts, and always do the best work you can in the situation.

13. What are some of the best ways for new designers to find clients? Link


milo Link

A strong portfolio, you own unique style, some well-done freebies and stamina.

Amber Weinberg Link

Go after them. Don’t expect clients to come to you if you’re new to the industry. What worked the best for me was cold-emailing agencies for their overflow work. Some people might think that’s spamming, but it isn’t if it’s short, relevant and only done to a company once.

Elena Scanteie Link

If I knew the secret ingredient to this question, I wouldn’t make it public :D. From what I can tell, the best way to find clients is to be good at what you do and to be extremely critical of your own work and to tell yourself that other designers can do what you do cheaper and faster. That will boost your imagination and work ethic. At the beginning of our careers, we all sold our creativity cheaper, and that is normal for someone starting out. In time, work quality grows, and the income grows as well. Then, you arrive at a point when clients come to you and not the other way around. Another thing is who you know, and using items such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to find more clients.

Jan Cavan Link

Build your Web presence. Once you get your name out there, clients usually come to you.

14. What are your personal organization or time-management tips for a professional designer’s workflow? Link

Molly Holzschlag80
Molly Holzschlag81

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

I work in utter and complete chaos. It’s not for everyone, but somehow I’ve managed to get a lot done despite that. :)

Sarah Parmenter Link

I would actually love to know how other people handle their work days. My days seem to be so split up into different sections at the moment, it’s almost impossible to manage. Things have been hectic because I’ve been designing the UIs for a few iPad apps, and those have obviously been on deadlines.

But generally I use an app called The Hit List. I turn off all IM apps until a particular task is done, and I tend to work late to compensate for the lapses in concentration that invariably happen during the day.

Grace Smith Link

A few of my tips to stay productive and organized are:

  1. Plan ahead
    I usually plan my tasks (using TaskPaper) at the end of each day. This enables me to evaluate exactly what I need to accomplish, and it means I have a clear picture of how the next day will look, and it helps keep me focused and efficient. This prep usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes. During this time, I also usually tie up any loose ends from the day’s work.
  2. Deal with emails immediately
    Whenever I receive an email, I either respond, filter, delete or archive it. Constantly looking back over each email every time I check my inbox adds up to hours of wasted time each week. So, I try to look at each email only once. I’ve also found that setting up filters, canned responses and labels is an excellent way to automate my inbox and increase my productivity because it allows me to spend more time on work and less time in email!
  3. Track time
    I use a combination of Rescue Time and Toggl to track where my time goes. These apps log the hours worked on both client and personal projects and have highlighted areas in my own workflow that I’ve then been able to tweak to improve my overall productivity. It’s easy to get to the end of a project and find out you’ve actually worked for an awful lot less than you quoted, simply because you weren’t tracking exactly where and how your time was being spent.
  4. The dreaded admin
    It’s not a favorite task of any business owner, but it is essential to keeping our business organized (no one wants to spend time figuring out their accounts come tax time). So, I take some time each Friday morning to make sure all of the week’s affairs are in order. This could be invoicing, filing or accounts. It’s not fun, but then I know the rest of my week will be free of disruptions from these types of tasks.

Adelle Charles Link

I use Things82 for personal organization and management of my daily to-dos and operations management of FUEL8355. I find that working with timelines keeps me in check and ahead of the game for the most part. If I let myself get behind, I get too distracted, and that’s never a good thing when trying to be creative!

Gisele Jaquenod Link

Oh my. I am actually not so good with time management. I am always overworked. But I love every minute of it. However, I always advise not to take on too much; not just because you need to be rested to work properly, but because you might not be able to complete your projects — and nowadays, an online reputation can be destroyed much faster than it can be built. So, just make sure you can handle everything you take on. You could always recommend a friend. This is what I do when I can’t take on work. I recommend the client to contact someone who I trust can please them.

Lynda Weinman Link

I am very disciplined. If I don’t have time to visit with friends, go to a party or see a movie, I’ll put work first, and always have. I see a lot of people who don’t have self-discipline or strong work ethics, and they don’t go far to be honest. Almost all super-successful people work very, very hard.

15. How do you handle the pressure of deadlines and find time for your family? Link

Inayaili de Leon84
Inayaili de Leon85

Inayaili de Leon Link

I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, so that means I can work late or during the weekend if need be. I like to have deadlines. If you have good relationships with your clients and good communication skills, the deadlines won’t be completely ridiculous. You can either plan your time well and get your bit done in time, or you can just plain procrastinate and then freak out at the last minute — it’s up to you. I think I’d go mental if I didn’t have deadlines. Projects would just drag on and on. I wouldn’t be able to stop changing things here and there. It’s good to know when it’s time to stop and say, “It’s done.”

Molly E. Holzschlag Link

I don’t. This is why I’m unmarried and have no children. That’s not what I intended, but it’s the way life worked out for me. I used to regret it, but now I realize that I’ve received a different kind of blessing. I have been able to travel the world and meet some of the most incredible people, from paupers to princes. For me, to travel and interact with such an array of humanity is the greatest gift of my life, and I feel very, very blessed for it.

Adelle Charles Link

It’s tough. I work a lot of hours, and I’m most productive at night, so I usually get more done in the late evenings, when I can concentrate in peace. I always save certain hours for family time. Start-ups are hard and demanding, but I always find time for my family. It’s a bonus (but imperative) that they are very supportive and patient.

Elena Scanteie Link

Along with my husband Vlad (who is also a designer), we cry to ourselves about deadline pressures. I cry on his shoulder, and he cries on mine. It’s a fair deal. I personally have a great friend and partner at Design Disease in the person of Jacob Gower, who deals with all of my clients from the first moments to the end of the projects. This way, I have the comfort to work in peace.

There are no magical solutions in the career of a designer. Every single person has a different path, a different vision, a different result, and that makes this job unique.

Lynda Weinman Link

It’s been a huge challenge, and I am not sure I’ve entirely succeeded. I am definitely a workaholic, and it has hurt my family’s feelings many times. I think they know me so well now and see that my hard work has paid off, so they aren’t as critical any longer. It helps that my daughter is 20 now and has her own life to lead, but when she was younger she was upset with me quite often. I am not sure that I balanced life and work well at all.

Sarah Parmenter Link

Deadlines are fine; they go straight in the diary. As long as the client has provided everything I need to meet the deadline, it comes and goes without any hiccups. Family is a bit more tricky. I’m not too good at balancing this, because I now work from home, and it’s even harder when you have access to everything on an iPhone. I’m never away from my emails. I’ve gotten into the really bad habit of checking them, too, when I wake up at night. Generally though, the work-life balance is fairly okay. I work hard during the week, and I like to make my weekends a real break.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson Link

I sleep on the couch a lot. I’m kidding; I don’t really!

About three years ago, I realized it was getting to be very difficult handling everything on my own. As a freelancer turned studio owner, I wore all the hats in the shop: accountant, bookkeeper, maintenance person, receptionist and eventually, when I hired staff, personal director and counsellor. I was also taking on creative projects, so my time was extremely thin.

It was then that I hired a virtual assistant to help me with the day-to-day administrative tasks of running a business. She helps me with email, new project requests, accounts receivable and payables, just about anything I need to help me re-focus my time away from administrative duties and back onto the creative work I love doing.

When you aren’t getting enough sleep, eating enough food, drinking enough water, and your family is wondering whether you’ve gone missing, that is generally when you know you need to either scale back a little or hire.

You may be interested in the following related posts:


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  1. 1

    Nice article.

  2. 2

    Federica Sibella

    May 11, 2010 5:56 am

    Very interesting group interview, very interesting point of views, very nice tips for the beginners. It’s good to find out that web design is not only a place for men ;-) and I did particularly appreciate your effort to give voices to outstanding women since I’m a woman in web design as well!
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. 3

    Ciprian Palici

    May 11, 2010 5:56 am

    Sarah Parmenter is that kind of designer to whom you will say YES for every proposal :) I think I would loose my words…

  4. 7

    Ooooooooooh, Ciprian, you are so shallow :)

    • 8

      Haha, but spot on!

      Very nice article with a very different point of view than the one a lot of us are used to.

    • 9

      Actually, I was wondering why in the article featuring the women designers you showed their pictures but not the men? I know I’m over thinking it when I start to believe it is because you might think their looks have something to do with their abilities. Besides, I want to look at the guys and judge them on their looks. ;)

      • 10

        Probably because all geeks die to see a girl without going out their rooms

      • 11


        May 12, 2010 5:23 am

        Yes, I noticed that too and it kind of did make me throw up a little in my mouth.

  5. 12

    Dani Kelley

    May 11, 2010 6:00 am

    I have an associate’s degree in graphic design, and a one-year certificate in web & multimedia development. While I was a graphic design major, there were a lot of other girls. When I switched to web & multimedia, I was *the* only girl. One of my jobs early on was to create a website for an auto service center. I nailed the design and began development, then was permitted (since I was an intern) to meet directly with the client. He was shocked that a girl had designed his site.

    Thanks so much for this article – it’s good to see other women in the web design field who are thriving, and gives me hope to one day be the thriver as well :-)

  6. 13

    Thank you so much for this! =D

  7. 14


  8. 15

    What next? Men in webdesign? :P

  9. 16

    Great informative interview. It’s nice to see other successful females in web design. I’ve come across clients, who all too often, are looking for a “web guy,” because they don’t even consider women capable of web development.

    The previous design firm I worked for had a client who refused to work with me on his website because I was a woman (he was of Middle Eastern descent). I’d never been insulted in all my life, but in the end, he turned out to be such a troublesome client that the company dropped him. And, in the end, I dropped that company and went freelance. Which was the best decision I’d ever made.

    I’m sure many of my clients think I am a male (it’s the name), but I’ve corrected a few on more than one occasion.

  10. 17

    Nice post, the site and work of Claire, Sarah Parmenter and Kristi are gorgeous.

  11. 18


  12. 19

    Nice interview, but I don’t see the point of making it females only. As Amber said, it’s almost all females in design school.

    • 20

      Design School maybe – but when you get into Front-end Development (the techy side) as Amber said it’s a lot more difficult to find us Girly’s.

      I did Internet Engineering at Uni – Software Engineering with an internet twist as I call it. The ratio was about 1:40 Female to Male.

      I currently work as a front-end web dev and there are 16 in our team – and as my Boss says when he introduces me to new team members, I’m the “only girl in the team” – I’m wondering if I need to wear more makeup or something… is it not obvious enough?!!

  13. 21

    Very nice to see an article about women in web design! I started my career as a web designer when i was only 19 years old and everybody was shocked to hear that a girl can be a web designer.

    I still keep web design very close to my heart even now when i am an art director. I hope that one day i will have a small appearance as a cool woman art director in one of your articles, hahaha.

    Anyway, great post. Keep it up!

  14. 22

    Are we all going to pretend that it was sheer coincidence that let Sarah Parmenter’s image to be the first one in this post?

    Nice post btw! :)

  15. 23

    Great article – nice to hear other people’s experience in the industry and some good advice in here too! I usually get a raised eyebrow or an “Ohhh!” when I say I’m a web designer. I understand it is a male dominated field, but I still find those exclaimations a bit surprising!

  16. 24

    I enjoyed this article and thought that the answers to the last question in particular were very interesting. Do any other freelancers out there (men or women) have any further thoughts on work/family balancing?
    On another note, I do find it a little strange that articles about women in design tend to feature pictures of the designers themselves. This rarely happens for articles on other topics.

    • 25


      The article on Advice for Young Web Designers featured not one picture of the interviewees.

      Why not feature screenshots/images of the women’s work? Smashing failed again. I don’t know why I keep returning to this let-down of a site. Even if they manage to include women in the end, they still didn’t get it right. Much like all the other lists on the web of women designers that only showcase their faces. Embarrassing.

      • 26

        I completely agree – as a female I feel offended that they chose to illustrate their words with portraits instead of examples of their work. I’d also love to hear why they did this.

        • 27

          Vitaly Friedman

          May 11, 2010 8:09 am

          The reason was very simple. In the previous article we haven’t featured the work either. This time instead of using abstract photos we decided to feature real photos instead. There was no reason for that.

          We didn’t showcase the work of designers in the previous group interview. And if I remember correctly, nobody actually complained about the lack of design showcased in this previous post. So I am not sure why it is a problem now.

          Please feel free to ignore the images if you want to and visit the page of the great designers featured in this interview, I am sure you’ll find a plenty of examples.

          Still, I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience – we didn’t mean for this article to look offensive in any way.

          • 28

            Thats the point exactly – when the article was about men who are designers, there was no need to picture them because the assumption that designers = male, and that readers of web designer blog = male means that no visual pleasure could be derived from featuring photos of the male designers themselves.

            But flip the tables, now the article is about women who are designers. Here, designers = female, but readership is still presumed = male (because c’mon who are we kidding, women aren’t real web designers or developers, right?). So to compensate for making your male readers sit through your political correctness of covering your asses by dragging out the handful of female designers you could scrounge up, you reward them by showing your male readers the female form. You discredited the validity of the statements and the quality of their work by turning this space into a peep show.

            Good job.

          • 29


            May 12, 2010 5:31 am

            “So I am not sure why it is a problem now.”

            Which is kind of the problem…

            “Please feel free to ignore the images if you want to and visit the page of the great designers featured in this interview, I am sure you’ll find a plenty of examples.

            Still, I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience – we didn’t mean for this article to look offensive in any way.”

            It is not ‘offensive’ it just makes you look unaware of what you are doing, unproffessional and slightly clueless. Every time you deviate from your common modus operandi you deviate on the side of stereotypical behaviour. Which is of course not surprising, what is surprising is that you just don’t seem to notice these things, even when someone highlights it and even when you are trying your best. You do get points for actually trying, but you’re not quite there yet.

          • 30

            Dr. Girlfriend

            May 11, 2010 11:56 pm

            Sorry, Vitaly; I think Meg, Elise and the other critical commenters are correct:

            1. You omit women from the original article.
            2. You try to correct your oversight by publishing an article featuring all women in web design.
            3. You then feature photos of these very talented women instead of examples of their work (very weird considering that Smashing Mag is famous for its “round-up” articles, usually accompanied by appropriate artwork or examples from the subject’s portfolio).
            4. You lead your article with a photo of Sarah Parmenter right next to a “cartoon” of a blonde bimbo with an exaggerated, Barbie doll figure and chest, then you act surprised when we call you on your poor choices here. Give me a break.

            Is it any wonder that many of the comments after the article are sexualized and offensive?

            This was disappointing on so many levels.

          • 31

            To be honest, I first look at the picture and thought: man, Sarah Parmenter, is one hot Lady Designer. Then I clicked on her name and went to her site then I thought: “she is beautiful and also does awesome design work!.

            I know a lot of you ladies feel offended because of the pictures. But those pictures made the men click to go see their portfolios.

            Like you gals never used your lady skills to attract clients.. please.

            If I was a woman and looked like Sarah, I would put my picture on my site and a phone number ” Call for Design Work”. I’m sure I’d get a lot of clients. (This is just a shallow comment from many of the men` perspectives here..)

            If they showed actual work instead of the portraits, I’d still went to the ” about” page to see how they look like. It’s how things work..

          • 32

            Julian Gaviria

            May 12, 2010 10:38 am

            Jesus Christ, it is not that big of a deal. I don’t see any females that were featured in this article complaining. You complain because women are not included in the original article and now you complain because there is “too much women” in this one. Get a life! And if you feel offended then just simply leave the website.

            Awesome article and my respect goes toward female web designers. Milo is a beast!

        • 33

          David Puerto

          May 11, 2010 8:19 am

          This is fairly easy for me to answer. There’s a shortage of attractive women in the design workplace as it draws slackers and bums. Not that there is a shortage of these types at my place of employment, however, I am a slacker and a bum. All the hot chicks are into the sciences… medicine, nursing, engineering, because they are not only more attractive, much-much more athletic, and intelligent; they also get the ways of the world. Hopefully by spotlighting some better than average looking females through imagery (which appeals to men), more attractive women will want to compete and take on design as a career and enter the workforce. Trust me I know how marketing and advertising work.

          • 34

            I also noticed the photos of the designers, and when I got to the comment section to complain like some of the other ladies above, I also noticed some of the comments made by the male readers.
            Yes, Web Design is a male dominated industry, and I’m impressed that Smashing Mag has had the forward thinking to focus on the female point of view, but instead of treating us as equals, you’ve actually gone and drawn attention away from the opinions and experiences by featuring photos of each designer, this is asking for them to be ridiculed by the men!
            Your explanation that the previous post featured abstract images and not designers work has nothing to do with the complaints, it’s because when you interview male designers you don’t feature their photos, but do when you interview women; so sexualizing women who are trying to be professional. You’re simply making our job even harder, yea, cheers!

          • 35

            @Elise : I’m a man and I’m not ridiculing or sexualizing women by appreciating faces with names. Nor do I see it as a distraction from the content. In fact, I see it as SM correcting themselves whereas they could have included photos of men in the previous article. You would do well to be more humble in your approach and outlook on this article and appreciate that women (who are a minority in this industry) are featured and revered. If anything the complaints I’ve read from women here have reflected negatively on them in my mind. *shakes head*

        • 36

          Stephanie Sullivan

          May 11, 2010 2:34 pm

          As a successful woman who’s business is web design, I’m amazed that the comments on an article about successful women is complaining that their pictures were used. Does this mean you think they only chose attractive women, not successful women? Quite honestly, I’m happy to put a face to some of the names I already know.

          As to the comment about sexualizing women with these photos—Hogwash! Most of the photos were headshots and guess what else? It’s more than likely Smashing Magazine didn’t run around the web grabbing any shot they could find of these women. My bet is that when they were interviewed, they were asked for a picture as well. They could have declined. But every time I speak, and every time I’m in a magazine, a headshot is requested. That’s just how most things work. It personalizes the web. (And in those cases the men are pictured as well.)

          I wish the previous group interview article (that turned out to be men) did the same so that when I speak at or attend a conference, I can recognize people—men or women. An article that was as much about how people got into design and how they manage their lives is personal. If it talked about design techniques only and showed their faces, that might be different. Now that you know who they are, go look at their portfolios.

          I’ll get off my soapbox. I just find the constant, “where are the women,” conversation is starting to get exhausting… and then when someone makes an effort, we beat them up for “doing it wrong”. I’m pretty sure these women were portrayed as they wanted to be (they can correct me if I’m wrong). I found the article well done. And I say thanks to Smashing Magazine for featuring some successful women in our field!

        • 37

          This is an interview which is supposed to inform the users about the opinions of the designers and not to showcase their work. That would go beyond the scope of this article.

          Anyways, this is an interesting article and I’d like to read more interviews in future :)

      • 38

        “Much like all the other lists on the web of women designers that only showcase their faces” – what? links please, otherwise I feel confused: there are lots of web design blogs in my RSS list but I don’t remember any of them featuring this topic (except short post on Noupe back in April).

        I’m shocked to see these comments because there have been lots of comments lately where people were asking to highlight the topic “women in web design”. Finally, Smashing posts a great group interview and I see complaints again. Yes, they posted the designers’ photos, what’s wrong with that? I don’t know why but I rarely stumble across women’s portfolios on the Web, so it was very interesting for me to read their thoughts and see how they look too, pure curiosity.

        I’m a woman too and I’m not offended by this post. Simply because there is nothing to be offended by.

  17. 39

    In french, we never say female. “Femelle” is only for animals (dogs, cats, ..), not humans. We say “woman”. So everytime i read an article written in english and talking about “classification par sexe” (french name for “genders”), it’s like i’m exploring a kind of zoo ^^ Interesting article, anyway. Nice tits ! (;Djoke). Hope not feel offended, Lindsey.

  18. 40

    David Puerto

    May 11, 2010 8:11 am

    I like how you put the least attractive web designer at the top.

  19. 41

    Sarah Parmenter will you be my design teacher….I’ll work for free

  20. 42

    Kristi Colvin

    May 11, 2010 8:44 am

    Thanks SO much for including me in this article with these fantastic and talented women. It is so interesting to hear their advice and experiences and get a little glimpse into their backgrounds and what led them here. I really appreciate it and looking forward to following those ladies I may not already know well.

  21. 43

    its ‘interesting’ how the commenter’s are as much concerned with how the female designers look as they are with what they actually said! Surely this article is supposed to trigger discussion of the female perspective on design, and not simply be reduced to the same old crud about how attractive they are (groan)…maybe I missed something but is it 1950 again!?
    nice article by the way….probably better to just ensure all features are gender balanced in future…we do make up 50% of the planet funnily enough!

  22. 44

    David Puerto

    May 11, 2010 8:57 am

    No I will not make out with you!

  23. 45

    Thanks buddy…really helpful article for fresher like me

  24. 46

    This was a great design article. Women can succeed in web design and this was a great way to recognize them.


  25. 47

    anonymous (berlinerin)

    May 11, 2010 10:31 am

    A rather nice surprise, thank you, Vitali for putting this together, and to all the designers for participating.

    As another suggestion, perhaps you can make sure in any future group interviews or discussions women are equally present. That would be a great contribution to addressing the gender imbalance in web design.


    It’s a real shame though the comments are overrun by sexist str8-d00ds. Irrespective of the choice to use headshots for this article, it’s exactly the attitudes of assholes like this that underlines how far we have to go.

    (Oh, and don’t try and pass your sexist comments off as a ‘joke’, either. It’s not.)

  26. 48

    matthew carleton

    May 11, 2010 10:39 am

    There is some really great work here.

    Although I gotta say I am a little shock at the lack of quality of some work that has been highlighted here. I would think that smashing would have higher standards to the work they showcase.

  27. 49

    Wilson Junior

    May 11, 2010 10:43 am

    Wow! What a pretty designer is Sarah Parmenter! I’m down on my knees, praying to work with her, one day of my ordinary life! :´o

  28. 50

    Nile Flores

    May 11, 2010 11:49 am

    There are a lot of web designers who are women. Surprisingly a lot of mom bloggers too. A few of these gals are much newer to the scene… it was much different when Lisa and I started out designing years ago. I know Lisa has been in the biz for years and it has been an honor to meet her through WordCamp. I cannot wait to see her and all the others at this year’s WordCamp Chicago, let alone share my speech there.

    Congrats gals for all the hard work you have done in the web design field… you do the rest of us proud!

  29. 51

    anonymous (berlinerin)

    May 11, 2010 11:51 am

    Maybe I should point out to all the men who posted comments about the designers that focus on their looks, make remarks like ‘nice tits’ and so on:

    This is sexual harassment.

    If you do this in your workplace, you will lose your job.

  30. 52

    I am loving this article. If only there were more women designers out there who promoted themselves as well. Myself included lol.

    Great job ladies, and I’ll definitely keep all your tips in mind.

  31. 53

    Floris Fiedeldij Dop

    May 11, 2010 12:09 pm

    I think I speak for all men when I say: *giggity*

    And in a more serious note; excellent interview, great great great. Keep up the good work, it’s very nice to see some (female) key player names answer questions :)

    • 54


      no, you just speak for douchebag perv geeks like yourself.

      • 55

        @Evan You called him a douchebag and came out looking like one yourself. Congratz.

        Its VERY obvious that this article hand picked the best looking ones to headline. I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m saying that we as humans, like to look at attractive people. Its nature.

        That being said… “giggity”

        • 56

          So as a straight woman, where are my pics of the hot male designers? Nice job trying to erase the genders from something that’s clearly not gender neutral.

  32. 57

    Sarah Parmenter is hot!!

  33. 58

    I think this is a great article, but I would really like to know why there were ZERO women in the first article to begin with. Hello?

  34. 59

    Drew Wiltsey

    May 11, 2010 6:34 pm

    I’ve never found a shortage of women working in the design industry. Maybe it depends on location. As far as women developers, my boss is the best I’ve ever seen and the only other developer I’ve worked for was also a woman. I just think they would rather be noticed as designers, not female designers.

  35. 60

    Allen Walker

    May 11, 2010 7:44 pm

    You should do Blacks in web design next.

  36. 61

    This is most useful and inspiring not only to the novice but also to the experienced designers and web developers…..great …please keep up the good work.

  37. 62

    My, the outpatients were out in force, today, weren’t they?

    By and large the answers were great (though some were too terse to be useful) but the ones to question #3 were greatly appreciated (hardly surprising, as I’m not a big fan of educational institutions).

  38. 63

    Sergiu Naslau

    May 11, 2010 9:31 pm

    I don’t see the point of this article: women in web design. Like it matters if you’re a woman or a man in the design industry, not the gender is the differential aspect, but the work/design itself. another “wish I had something else to do” offered by smashingmagazine. But, there is a but, I could not pass this read and not see that…. Sarah Parmenter is so HOT!

  39. 64

    Detailed and Crisp Points. Thanks for the Post.

  40. 65

    okay… so…

    … where’s the 10 top (best-looking) men in web design article?

  41. 66

    Why show their faces? Why not show their website design? I think if the article was with men, they would show a screenshot. The comments about the ‘looks’ of the artist reinforces this.

  42. 67

    Kristi Nguyen

    May 11, 2010 11:13 pm

    Thank you for posting this! It’s great to see design from a female perspective.

  43. 68

    Edgar Leijs

    May 11, 2010 11:14 pm

    Compliments! Luckily they do exist!

  44. 69

    Rachel Reveley

    May 11, 2010 11:44 pm

    When I was at college doing a design BTec there was a good balance of males and females in the firsst year when we were doing art and general design. In the second year, most of the girls chose fashion and textiles and the boys chose 3d and graphics. When I went on to do just graphics at uni, the number went down to 4 girls and 10 boys.

    As a web designer and front-end developer in the UK I come across very few other women who also do both the design and front end coding but those who do tend to be slightly laddette (myself included).

    I think being a woman in an industry that is male-dominated tho not stereotyped as so has its perks. Companies are often keen to balance their male/female ratio and will do so when they see someone with the right skills.

    From my own experience iI think any inbalance is due more to interest or lack thereof but i think this is changing as tastes move away from sparse Swiss and Bauhaus inspired styles and towrads more decorative, illustrative and warmer styles.

  45. 70

    What? Women in webdesign??? Thats impossible…oh wait …the year is 2010… Guess what guys women can do it too.

  46. 71

    Christina Rosepapa

    May 12, 2010 9:26 am

    Interesting points. I agree that you have to love it because it is constant and takes time. You are never done learning, and being challenged. Internet has made everything a playing field. Nice photographs of the women–would have liked to see screen shots of their websites or work.

  47. 72

    Thank you. As a woman who’s currently still studying Web Design & Interactive Media, I’ve always wondered how women in my field are faring. Thanks!

  48. 73

    Amos Vryhof

    May 12, 2010 2:40 am

    I clicked through to most of the designers’ websites and must say I’m impressed. There is an old adage that says women often have a better sense of style and coordination than men. Granted it’s a bit sexist, but I have noticed more often than not that it is true.

  49. 74

    Loved the last one… what a real question with real answers and scary that most of their work negatively effects their families or prevents them having one! I find that very sad and am maybe lucky to be a female web designer with a husband who is in the same industry (SEO).

    Thank you for an exceptional article and thanks for listening to your readers!

  50. 75

    I’m glad to see all those talented designers. I dont know many women in web design.
    It was very inspiring.


  51. 76

    As a female owner of a web design/dev studio, I was happy to see this article. Yay chicks! I find that being female helps me relate to clients in a more compassionate and understanding way – less ‘business’ and more friendly. I think women have an easier time putting people at ease – and in an industry where our clients know so little about what we do, that comfort it invaluable.

    Y’all are reading way too much in to the intention behind the photos – seriously. You think that much thought went into showing the ‘female form’ ??

    I would have liked to see some screengrabs of work though, for sure.

  52. 77

    Veerle Pieters?

  53. 78

    The order of photos reminds me of a beauty contest )))
    Definitely, Sarah is the #1. She is very pretty :)

  54. 79

    Rudra Ganguly

    May 12, 2010 5:31 am

    Lots of things I learned today. Thanks.

  55. 80

    Thelma Prado

    May 12, 2010 8:57 am

    I love this article, it´s very interesting and encourage to women designers!

  56. 81

    Day by day women are entering in the world of technology. This practice will develop web engineering more effective in our daily life. I also wanted to know about female web designer. But know only some person. In this post I meet with some brilliant designer who can teach me many things. So I think this post is very interesting and informative article. I will write a post on this article in my blog as soon as possible. (

    Thank you SM team.

  57. 82


    May 12, 2010 12:21 pm

    hahaha, Smashing tried to make the article stand out by putting the hottest girls near the top. They figured all the designer nerds that know how hard it is to find cute girls into electronic mediums of design and thought that it would be a great turn around.

    1. Ten best website designs of 2010
    2. Ten best free fonts
    3. 10 best looking hotties that are into webdesign.

    haha busted !!!!!

  58. 83

    Amazing Sey

    May 12, 2010 2:08 pm

    “Success after success is an illusion!”
    That is not true, success is no accident, you work at it. I think the quality of design services you provide is dependent upon the quality of time you commit to it. So don’t commit to several projects at a time. The quality of your designs may be compromised.

  59. 84

    Ricardo Rodrigues

    May 12, 2010 3:03 pm

    Ok, i’m in love with Claire Baxter, geek girl with a punkish look, its just too much for my heart. XD

    Now, about the article, i’m working doing quality assurance at the moment, for some serious and complex government apps (mostly using oracle and java) and there’s a lot of female developers and dba’s, so i wouldnt dare to say that dev women are in extintion.

  60. 85

    Drew Wiltsey

    May 12, 2010 5:50 pm

    Should I be including ‘woman’ and ‘female’ in my tags when I write about designers, developers and artist who are women?

  61. 86

    Although I would have much rather seen actual work over glamour shots (attractive does = more traffic!), I think it’s a nice article. As a female who’s been in the industry for a while, I appreciate hearing from other women.

    On another note, I wish the quality selected was a little better… I know and work with so many female designers who put the people highlighted on this site (not just this post) to shame… but not the point, i guess.

  62. 87

    See? Regardless of gender it’s the same boring story all around! Love what you do, never stop learning and sleep when you’re dead.

    Well done.

  63. 88

    didn’t read the post, but noticed the better looking girls were top :)
    i’m kidding, all great looking gals, saved to read to tomorrow.

    yes hotmail

  64. 89

    Great interview :)
    Veerle Peters should have been part of this interview though, because she is definitely a huge driving force in the web design world.

  65. 90


    May 12, 2010 10:25 pm

    Great Article! Very Insightful

  66. 91

    Very inspiring article….thnx smashing and al the females out there for your gr8

    interview……Keep posting such inspiring articles which is really helpful…

    Thanks a ton. And gurl power rocks….

  67. 92

    Adrian Lazariuc

    May 12, 2010 11:59 pm

    Nice article and interviews. If you want an update to your list you can visit these 2 posts I have created some time ago:


  68. 93

    Gr8 Artical.

  69. 94

    I too was a little thrown off by SM showing head shots of these designers rather than screenshots of their work. And after checking out some of their sites, I wasn’t overly impressed.
    – Lynda Weinman, you inspire me. So much of today’s talent on the web is because exists.
    – Milo, you do awesome work….your site rocks!

  70. 95

    Dave Bloggs

    May 13, 2010 8:24 am

    Great article. I don’t mean to criticise, but the only thing that I didn’t like is this:

    ” Is it difficult for female designers to find their place in the design community? ”

    This felt very sexist to me, eg why would it be different / more difficult for a female designer to find their place in any community, especially in a design community where your imagination is the limit.

    Other than that, fantastic article! Brilliant read. I might even read it again later! I’ve certainly learnt a few things from this. Thank you! :)

    • 96

      It’s a valid question for a group of professional women, still, unfortunately. It’s hard to be taken seriously as soon as people find out you’re a woman (all you have to do to see the proof is look at how many of the comments on this article are sexist and ignore their work entirely). It’s just like so many other things in our society today. When a woman is on the news, they talk about her wardrobe or her makeup and ask about how she balances her work with her family (with the overt insinuation that she alone is responsible for the family). When a man who is in otherwise an identical position has the same coverage, they talk about what the man does/did. Well, we’ve made progress in that there’s acknowledgment that women are capable of getting into that position in the first place, but really, I want people to focus on my work, not on what designer label I’m wearing or how I manage to do this “extra” stuff in addition to my supposed obligation to the home. By ignoring their work, the work is downplayed and treated as less serious. And that’s one of the things that contributes to making it harder for a woman to find a place in the design community… hence the question…

  71. 97

    As a female designer myself, I find it both comforting (same experience) and sad that it seems so hard to have a successful career AND a family. These are all women who work from home or have flexible hours and struggle to make it work. What hope is there for those of us in the corporate world?

    I know that Life/Work balance is difficult for all designers. Any tips?

  72. 98

    Alexander Winifred

    May 14, 2010 1:36 am

    Yes, you’re right. ‘Sarah Parmenter is hot’. That’s the subject here in the comments:) LOL.

  73. 99

    Alexander Winifred

    May 14, 2010 1:41 am

    I am so following Sarah Parmenter on twitter. Haha

  74. 100

    Alexander Winifred

    May 14, 2010 1:42 am

    Too bad, guys. Sarah’s getting married soon.:(

  75. 101

    It’s almost like not being sexist is the new sexist. lol.

    Equal representation does not mean segregation into their own post with pretty pictures showing how lovely and feminine female web designers are. If the people on your panel had the right expertise and experience then the sex they are should be irrelevant.

    I have not encountered any sexism in my career as a web designer. But I am pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to ask a woman “How do you handle the pressure of deadlines and find time for your family?” in a job interview. Why not just “How do you handle the pressure of deadlines?” I notice this question wasn’t in the other group post. The answers were not even enlightening and so became irrelevant anyway.

    And the less said about the “Is it difficult for female designers to find their place in the design community” question the better.

    I think all the people you have featured are great and deserve exposure, but I don’t really understand the reasoning behind the different questions or seperating the women from the men.

  76. 102

    This is always so encouraging, and I love seeing other woman out there doing what they love. It makes me not feel so alone. Thank you!

  77. 103

    how about an article about woman – who are real hard core devs … that would be very interesting

  78. 104

    angel sanchez y sanchez

    May 16, 2010 11:37 pm

    girl power! my wife is also a designer, and i love her point of views when we discuss an art.

  79. 105

    Hey, why always women? I want a “Bald men in web design” article and I want to be interviewed :P

    (: nice article.

  80. 106

    Great article! It’s a good lesson for female designers such as myself. And really, I’ve been wondering where all the women designers are! ;)

  81. 107

    Carina Javier

    May 19, 2010 10:05 pm

    Great article! I myself being a female web designer for 7+ years now know first hand that there are very few women in web design. It is very hard to get the upper hand when men pretty much run the majority of the web design world. But don’t under estimate us, we’re just as good as any guy in the business.

  82. 108

    Sue Jenkins

    May 20, 2010 8:16 am

    I wish you would have interviewed me too. I’ve been at it since 1995 and working professionally with my company since 1997, along with teaching, creating software training programs, and writing 7 instructional books, including “Dreamweaver For Dummies”, “Web Design For Dummies”, and the upcoming “Smashing Photoshop CS5: 100 Professional Techniques” for Smashing Magazine/Wiley. Maybe next time, eh?

  83. 109

    Marta Spendowska

    June 1, 2010 1:12 pm

    Great roundup.
    But it is kind of sad that we have a web design and web design by women.
    Same with art—so many book about Women in Art ( like—the is no Men in Art).Ha!

    Hopefully there will be more and thanks for all the links!

    Marta Spendowska

  84. 110

    No Veerle? Aw..

  85. 111

    this is very encouraging, thanks. If you have a dream just follow it!!!!

  86. 112

    Nice article… but it’s not as difficult being a female web designer or developer from the “getting” and “doing” work point of view as it is to get any kind of credibility from peers or recognition in the overall community; the number of female conference speakers is a good barometer for this. I work both in design and music and can attest to the same problem in the music industry. The design community online is EXACTLY like the good ol’ days where men get all the attention, speak at all the conferences, decide who’s invited to what, etc. I can relate strongly to some of Lynda and Molly’s points as I am also older and had a long road – including being passed over for promotions, not hired because “my partner might not like me traveling” and countless other obstacles – in order to arrive where I am today as a successful freelancer supporting a family of five (my partner is an artist). As far as I can see, in many ways, in the 30+ years I’ve been a designer, NOTHING has changed, despite the enormous number of women now in the field. Perhaps women need to be more self-congratulatory? We’re obviously doing something wrong or not complaining loud enough! Or not offering a hand up to enough females ourselves when in a position to do so… it is often hard for a succesful woman to help her own when she’s in a position where she’s judged daily by the “guys” in their private club; hard to play both sides. But maybe I’m jaded…

  87. 113

    My favorite excerpt:
    In my studio, I have three different types of “designers”:
    The guy (or gal) who purely does design (that is, graphic design with Photoshop, Adobe, etc.);
    The guy (or gal) who does not do graphic design but can code some seriously sexy CSS and develop themes in HTML, Flash and different CMS tools;
    The guy (or gal) who does both.
    This last one, the one who does both, brings home the biggest dollars from our projects. -Lisa Sabin-Wilson

    I was a little disappointed that the article seemed to focus primarily on design and not so much on development. In the corporate and agency world there is a distinction because the creative process is segmented so the developer is handed a design to implement. I also believe there is an issue with job descriptions and salaries. A developer typically will earn more than a designer but if you have knowledge of both there isn’t an established place for you yet. I’ve had 8 interviews recently and they all wanted to know if I’m a designer or a developer. I think great design doesn’t leave out the gestalt principle when it comes to functionality. Great design encompasses form and function and doesn’t put them into separate job descriptions and different offices. And the point of this article is that these women are great designers and even though the developer side didn’t seem to be the main focus of the article it can be inferred that they all have some developer skills and would reinforce you to learn as much as you possibly can about your trade.

  88. 114

    For me this was an encouraging read…to just know I’m not the only one going through the joys and pressures of web design and development as a freelancer/self employed entity. I hope one day I too will find some success in what I love. Until then I guess I’ll keep persevering.

  89. 115

    I’m pleased I stumbled upon your site on ask. Thanks for the sensible critique. My wife and i were just getting ready to do some research about this. I’m thrilled to see these great details currently being shared freely out there.

  90. 116

    Excellent article. But what about OLDER (woman) designers? I’ve been using computers for twenty years, and have a degree in Studio Art/Photography. I plan on getting a certificate in web design. I have no doubt that I can do it, but am very apprehensive about my age. Is there a stigma against older people entering the field or will the skill of my work be able to get me jobs?
    There are so many over 40 (and older than that) out of jobs, trying to shift in the work force. What’s the perception about us? It is possible to be computer savvy, though the first televsion shows you saw were in black and white!

  91. 117

    Yes, what about the older women? I am a 48 year old woman and I’ve been a web designer since 1998, before that I was enthralled with DTP (Desk Top Publishing).

    It seems to me that more freelance web designers are women, as I truly believe there is a bias in hiring. I haven’t been able to get a corporate job for over 10 years … tried as I might. So, to all the women out there good luck landing a job as a web designer or web developer in the corporate world. And you will need even more luck if you are over 40! But, I think the agism goes for guys too in the tech world.

    But, take heart. If you love what you do you can have your own freelance business (in the long run much better than a corporate job). And many women business owners prefer to work with a female web designer, so the work is out there. Now, women — get busy! And if you can’t get a corporate job take as much as the freelancing pie as you can :) And tout your freedom as much as you can to your male counterpart slaving away for corporate.


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