Kate Fischer speaks at the Women in Packaging Conference at M&S HQ

* 4 min read

The figures are troubling. Women account for 83% of purchases overall yet make up only 46% of designers. What’s more, despite two thirds of design students being women, many lose their drive when it comes to navigating the upper echelons of our world. Which to me, leaves a worrying disconnect between those who hold the top jobs in design and the average consumer they cater to.

But all is not lost and there are shining beacons of light, not least on our doorstep at Parker Williams, which has a legacy of strong women at the helm and is why my personal list of design heroines starts with our own Jo Saker…

 1. Jo Saker

Jo figures large in my list because I have the privilege of working with her so I know at first hand just how talented she is.

Jo has more than 20 years of experience in design. She studied at The London College of Printing and has been creative director at Enterprise IG and Bluemarlin.

Her work is fresh, modern but also always in tune with the customer, the client and the brief. She works closely with brand owners and retailers to dig deep into their brand story to bring them to life.

Favourite piece of work: There are plenty of standouts for me from Jo.  I’ve always loved the ‘Bring back the puppy’ pack for Andrex. No. 7 is a great story top, fit for purpose and designed structurally and aesthetically for women.

 2. Jessica Walsh

I haven’t had the pleasure of working with Jessica Walsh, but her talent precedes her.

A multidisciplinary graphic designer, Walsh knew this was the career for her even at the tender age of 11. She studied at RISD and worked extremely hard to position herself next to designers from whom she wanted to learn. She’s exceptionally focused and driven.

One designer she set her sights on was Stephan Sagmeister, with whom she joined forces in NYC in 2010 and where two years later, aged 25, she was made partner.

Walsh has made a mark for women in design in New York through her persistence and talent. She proves that women can be successful, beautiful, and intensely creative.

Favourite piece of work: Too many to mention, but I really love what Jessica did on the Aizone ads.

3. Paula Scher

We should all know and love Paula Scher. She’s the first that comes to mind when it comes to influential women in design.

Scher defines herself as a ‘designer-at-play’ and has proved through her career that growing as a creative is from playing, trialling new things, pushing the boundaries for the design industry as well as for herself.            

Scher was the first female principal at the well-known design agency Pentagram. She has been a hero in design and it just happens that she’s also a woman.

One of my favourite Scher quotes is:  “I don't think of design as a job. I think of it as - and I hate to use this term for it - more of a calling. If you're just doing it because it's a nice job and you want to go home and do something else, then don't do it, because nobody needs what you're going to make.”

Favourite piece of work: Again, there’s a great deal of Paula’s work that I admire. She’s a master of type-facing. Of course, she’s best known for her Public Theatre posters. But also I like what she did for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.           

4. Mary Lewis

No list of this nature would be complete without mention of Mary Lewis.

Unlike Walsh or Scher, Lewis didn’t have design in her sights from the get-go; she studied printmaking at Camberwell and taught design as a means to gain access to printmaking equipment.  Nonetheless, the result was remarkable and evident in an impressive body of work.

Lewis is well known for her work with Boots, Asda Wines, Waitrose, Harrods, Johnson & Johnson and as a consultant to M&S. She received the prestigious D&AD president’s award in 2001 for her contribution to design, to add to the many already in her trophy cabinet.  

Favourite piece of workThis is a fantastic list. I especially like Mary’s use of windows and negative space – first on Boots tights and later, on those iconic Waitrose packs.