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March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD)—a day dedicated to celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

This year’s IWD edition encourages the world to #ChooseToChallenge, and call out inequality and gender bias.

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions, and design is no exception to the rule, research by AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) and Google shows. No less than 53.5% of designers in the U.S. are women, yet only 11% are put in leadership positions. 

We believe that we are all in charge of creating an inclusive world, and for yet another year, Creatopy invites you to celebrate women every day.

In this article, we choose to celebrate the women we admire in design, honor their accomplishments, applaud their success, and most importantly, acknowledge the challenges they faced in their journeys.

With this in mind, we reached out to leading graphic designers and exceptional visual storytellers from all across the world.

Here are their genuine replies when asked about the challenges they face:

Shanti Sparrow
Illustrator, Designer, and Educator


“One of the biggest challenges I face as my career progresses is addressing the lack of gender equality in positions of leadership. As a design educator, I have watched many new generations of designers graduate – the majority of each class is female, yet this is not reflected in positions of leadership within the design industry.

According to AIGA, women hold only 11% of leadership positions and we, on average, make less money over our careers. This unfortunate reality is compounded if you are a woman of color.

My challenge is to find ways to empower women when opportunities arise. Simple actions like referring work to women-founded studios, encouraging peers to charge higher rates or publicly recognizing the achievements of women help to encourage balance. Aspirations need inspiration, where possible, I try to be visible in my leadership roles – representation is incredibly important in addressing this issue.”

Shanti_Sparrow_celebrating-women-in-design
Shanti Sparrow

Shanti Sparrow is an award-winning Australian illustrator, designer, and educator at Shillington School of Design. Self-proclaimed dreamer with a bold, highly energetic approach to design, she currently lives and creates in New York.

Shanti has poster and brochure design down to a fine art, finding her gateway to self-expression by experimenting with strong, descriptive typography and confident color palettes. She combines scanned textures, vector patterns, and different digital collage techniques and manages to create an illustration style that never ceases to turn heads and spark mind-expanding ideas.

Specializing as a conceptual designer, Shanti Sparrow also teams up with many non-profit organizations to raise funds and awareness for leading humanitarian, environmental, and research-based causes.

Check out her Behance profile.

Marta Veludo
Graphic Designer and Art Director


“Gender roles in my profession has never really been a question, mostly because I am a freelancer and I am neither in contact with toxic masculine environments nor do I have team peers I don’t like. But that changed since I became a mother 3 years ago! As career-focused as I was, I got quite shocked by the change. Mostly regarding time + creativity. 

Society always requires more from designers: stay up to date, do faster and better and crazier, and always push the limits. I realized that I don’t know many freelancing mother graphic designers that kept this rhythm. Even when I was pregnant, I researched articles about it and only found one by Jessica Hische.

I am invited to talks, and I am almost the only mother & designer. You wonder why! I can keep doing this because me and my partner are a team (most of the times), and I am lucky to have found a team at work too, but I know society doesn’t treat us equally, in what is to be expected as a mother and a designer.

For the introduction at the moment, I am more of a studio, rather than one women band. I have a team of 2 great designers with me!”

Marta_Veludo
Marta Veludo

There’s something about Marta Veludos work that just screams: “GIRL POWER!”.

Currently working in Amsterdam, she is a trendsetting art director and designer who brings her one-of-a-kind vision into cultural and commercial projects.

Marta has worked with many high-end brands like Google, Adidas, Reebok, Lego, Heineken, Vice, The Bookstore Foundation, and The Amsterdam Spanish Film Festival. 

She mostly gets inspired by popular culture, folk art, and pound shops. She believes that non-industry influences are an absolute must for the creative act and that great ideas happen when engaged in everyday life activities. 

Be it in digital or real life, Marta Veludo never fails to build beautiful, uncommonly engaging experiences.

Follow her on Instagram.

Teresa Sdralevich
Designer of Political, Social, and Cultural Posters


“My biggest challenge as a designer is to give voice to a never-ending struggle, to serve the cause by creating images that may push mentalities a few inches forward. I would love to create empowering, collective symbols for women to share and use as a weapon. I am happy to see that more and more young women create their own signs and narrative.

Whether because of my character or circumstances, I never experienced a negative bias for being a woman, but I reckon the absurdity of a profession where classes are usually 80% feminine: unfortunately most of these talented girls will be relegated to the less appealing and least paid jobs – if they don’t disappear altogether from the radars.

A challenge at the future tense: my visual education is filled by great works by male designers – I am thinking about a book that would pay a tribute to women designers overshadowed by their (male) partners or simply forgotten. Let’s fill the gap! It’s all part of the puzzle we can contribute to change.”

Celebrating-Women--8-Inspiring-Stories-From-Leading-Designers_Teresa_SdralevichTeresa Sdralevich

Teresa Sdralevich is an acclaimed graphic designer, illustrator, author, and silkscreen printer. Born in Milan, Italy, and currently living in Brussels, Belgium, her weighty work on political, social, and cultural topics has been displayed in collective exhibitions and solo shows.

Teresa is committed to fighting inequality and violence towards women, and her stunning, avant-garde work has made a mark on the entire industry.  

Her love for visual storytelling, unique posters, and books has led her to contribute to several publications, both as an illustrator and author. She even wrote a prize-winning book herself: “The Poster Power: Great Posters and How to Make Them.”

Teresa Sdralevich is genuinely passionate about knowledge-sharing initiatives and workshops. From Haïti, Sarajevo, London, or Bologna, she loves to travel and host workshops to pass on the knowledge that she acquired thanks to other talented people.

The challenge of giving form to a message and an idea still thrills her, and her interpretation never disappoints. 

Follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Jing Zhang
Designer and Illustrator


“The biggest challenge for me as a woman in design is the constant battle with family time. I’m raising a little girl who needs all my attention.
It is challenging to stay inspired and creative while looking after your family at the same time.

My day is strictly planned. So is my work.”

amsterdam_jing_zhang
Jing Zhang

Jing Zhang is a London-based Chinese designer and illustrator. She crafts her own narrative with a vivacious, rich in detail style that makes whimsical information design accessible to the entire world.

Jing’s clients’ portfolio is outstanding, coming on strong with names like the European Parliament, HSBC, General Electric, IBM, Canon, Samsung, and Adobe.  

If you are an avid traveler, you may have come across Jing’s work in the world’s hottest urban spots, be it at the underground stations or on maps and buses. Her illustrations have the right elements to grip everyone’s imagination, from London to Paris, Dubai, Australia, and the U.S. 

Check out her Behance profile.

Verena Michelitsch
Graphic Designer and Art Director


“For me, (my biggest challenge) in the second year of running my own business, it’s mostly planning out projects and working on many things in parallel while I still have to be laser-focused on the design part.

Good design just needs time and can’t be rushed, but often I really have to set myself blocks of hours to get things done. I love to work on many things in parallel, I’d get bored otherwise, but this can also be challenging.”


Verena Michelitsch

Verena Michelitsch is an Austrian independent graphic designer and art director based in the city of New York. Her remarkable vision breathes life into brands and reshapes their identity without reservation. 

As an especially versatile artist, Verena handles everything from concept, visual expressions, graphic design, and illustration to editorial design and art direction.

At the core of her unique artistic vision are all forms of art, including shows and museums, but she also gets inspired by traveling and engaging in insightful conversations.

Verena Michelitsch worked with many big names and tech industry giants, including Nasa/JPL, Apple, Facebook, Bottega Veneta, and The Smithsonian.

She has also built a worldwide network of designers, brand strategists, animators, editors, producers, writers, and developers, with who she regularly collaborates on large-scale projects.

Follow her on Instagram.

Charity Ekpo
Graphic Designer and Illustrator


“My biggest challenge would be not only being a woman but a woman of color in design. Because of the major lack of WOC (or for me specifically, black women) in these creative spaces, it can make you feel like you’re out of place. It’s easy not to see yourself in higher positions because those that occupy them don’t look like you, and it’s easier to feel or be tokenized.

I cannot emphasize enough how important representation is and creating work environments where everyone’s presence and thoughts are welcome to avoid issues like this and then some.

We should all be aiming to create more diverse and inclusive spaces no matter what kind of business it is. But especially in marketing and advertising where you’ll be connecting with audiences of all races, ethnicities, ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations. Your team should be as reflective of the audiences you’re looking to reach.”


Charity Ekpo

Charity Ekpo is a graphic designer and illustrator from Kansas, currently residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She enjoys exploring with vibrant, energetic colors and playing around with sassy, uplifting subject matters via illustration, lettering, and animation. 

When it comes to ideating and creating content marketing assets, Charity has a razor-sharp vision, and she masters an array of design branches such as video, GIFs, photography, and, naturally, graphics and illustrations. 

Charity takes great pride in producing design work that aims to empower women as much as possible. With the help of fun colors and compelling messages, her work is a bona fide manifest to encourage women to be unapologetically bold and strong. 

Follow her on Instagram.

Raewyn Brandon
Freelance Graphic & Web Designer


 “I would say the biggest challenge for me as a woman in design, is juggling work and mum life simultaneously. Women are amazing multi-taskers, but it’s definitely something else to juggle looking after the home, baby, and trying to be creative all at the same time!”

 Raewyn Brandon
Raewyn Brandon

Raewyn Brandon is a creative freelance graphic and web designer based in New Zealand.

Her work is the absolute proof that less is more.

As a former Lead Designer at Behance/Adobe, her clean signature style has undoubtedly contributed to the expansion of digital minimalism. Her ability to convey information by only using essential design elements is outstanding.

Raewyn lives and works in her studio in Mount Maunganui, and whether she’s working on a simple logo or the branding of an entire company, she strives to provide excellence in everything she does.

Check out her Behance profile.

Elaine Chernov
Illustrator and Design Director


“My biggest challenge has been knowing my value. Not just understanding what my rates should be, but deeply believing in my own value as a professional.”

Elaine_Chernov
Elaine Chernov

Elaine Chernov is an illustrator and design director based in Los Angeles, California.

She is passionate about hand-drawing, and with an elegant, unique illustration style, she turns everything she touches into art. 

With experience of over a decade, Elaine runs her own design and marketing shop, Shipshape Studio. She has worked with huge brands like Sprite, Bombay Sapphire, Organic Valley, and MillerCoors.

When she’s not leading the design department of her studio, she loves to work on illustrations and hand lettering projects.  

Follow her on Dribbble.


Side Note: Speaking of celebrating women and increasing the visibility of their success, we can’t leave out our amazing graphic designer and illustrator, Gyöngyi Balogh. 

Gyöngyi Balogh
Graphic Designer and Illustrator at Creatopy


“I fell in love with the richly illustrated colorful pages of manuals early in the first grade, and since then, art has remained my passion. I love to draw, experiment, and try out different environments simply by observing the world around me and learning new things every day. Design means life to me. All these years, the biggest challenge I’ve experienced as a woman was probably dealing with very stiff briefs that would not allow me to deliver my creative input and expertise to a project.

The difference in tastes and preferences expressed through bitter criticism was also something that I had to learn to deal with. These might or might not be connected to the fact that I am a female designer. But while it’s essential to be flexible and adjust my style and voice to fit the client’s needs and vision, I believe that authenticity is also critical. Luckily, personal projects can help me with that.

Regarding criticism, it has now become fuel to creative fire and my motivation. I’ve learned to give 120% and let go of the negative things. I try to focus on the process and have fun creating—although it’s not always easy. At the end of the day, art is my biggest passion, and I can’t let it turn into something else.”

creatopy.com-powerful-messages-from-women-in-tech

Gyöngyi Balogh is a passionate designer and illustrator at Creatopy, where she creates editorial and product illustrations. During her freelance career, Gyöngyi has worked on various illustration projects for advertising, children’s books, and products. She has also worked on logos, animations, and video editing projects.

When it comes to personal style, she prefers to be versatile and loves to pique her curiosity and stay open to improvement in diverse design areas and environments. 

Follow her on Dribbble.

Final Thoughts 

First, I’d like to thank Shanti Sparrow, Marta Veludo, Teresa Sdralevich, Jing Zhang, Verena Michelitsch, Charity Ekpo, Raewyn Brandon, and Elaine Chernov for taking time off their busy schedules to be in this project. 

We believe that we all have a part to play in the battle of forging a gender-equal world. Creatopy encourages and applauds all women’s empowerment initiatives in all industries and fields.

Happy International Women’s Day! 

P.S. While Women’s Day is a special occasion, it’s essential to celebrate and empower women every day.


Read more on this topic:

Diana Bolboaca
Communications and Outreach Team Leader at Creatopy, passionate about creating meaningful connections and partnerships. When not swapping emails, I chase contemporary art and consume what most people would define as “too much music”. Drop me a line at [email protected]

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