In this blog series, we shine a light on women trailblazers in the design industry – women who have earned a Wikipedia page (or are likely to very soon). You might not know them by name, but definitely by their work and influence on the design world as a whole.
This month, we’re highlighting NYC-based designer, educator, and writer, Gail Anderson: the first woman of color to be honored with the American National Design Awards’ Lifetime Achievement from the Smithsonian Design Museum in 2018.
Anderson’s formative years as a designer took place at Rolling Stone, where she contributed her passion for bold, innovative typography that defined the magazine’s feature pages and influenced designers around her.
Looking at Anderson’s body of work, you can see how her mentor, Paula Scher, has influenced her lyrical and expressive typography style. But what is really delightful is how much playful humor is imbedded in her work, and like any great piece of art it gets better the more time you spend with it.
In 2002, Anderson began working at SpotCo to create artwork for Broadway and off-Broadway plays seen in bus stands, subway stations and billboards. The Avenue Q subway-inspired puppet-fur logo that she designed became a core part of the play’s marketing.
A love of words and passion for type has been evident throughout Anderson’s career, having co-authored several books on design, illustration and typography. One of her books, Type Tells Tales, explores typographic design as an art and as a storytelling device that expresses narratives, emotions, and voice.*
“Most of what I do is typography-driven, whether it’s through type play or working with hierarchies in editorial content,” Anderson said in a 2019 interview with Invision*. “More and more, I’m interested in creating that editorial content as much as designing it—I’m all about communication through design.”
Anderson has spoken about the stark lack of designers of color, especially in New York, where she’s based. She offers this caveat to studios looking to increase diversity: “When you make that ‘diverse’ hire, remember that person is NOT the spokesperson for an entire gender, race, ethnicity, etc.”
Her advice for budding designers and type enthusiasts: “Take pictures of type on the street and on your travels. Buy books. Save everything. Designers are collectors okay, hoarders. Take a class. Teach a class. Go on a safari. That’s on my bucket list.” *