Exhibition now open 

27.08–23.10

Gabinete Gráfico, Porto

Manifesto

Why are women absent in design history? Why have women who were notable during their careers been forgotten? What mechanisms have permitted this omission? Some of these questions were asked in 1986 by British design historian Cheryl Buckley1, and though it may seem that we are walking a road towards equality — that these historiographical problems no longer exist — in the 35 years since then, how much has changed?  

Over half the designers working today are women, yet women account for fewer than a third of creative directors. Women continue to be underrepresented at industry events; and where there are women speakers, they are consistently given less stage time than their male counterparts2. These statistics in an industry which prides itself on creativity and innovation are damning. Though these numbers are improving, should the presence of women in these positions of ‘success’ be celebrated as a victory for equality? Where success is defined as progression and conformity within the same structures which so recently propagated such inequality?

While it is necessary to redress the balance of the canon through the identification and study of the work of female designers, that alone is not enough. It is critical to understand how, and by whom, history is made — to interrupt history3, so we can begin the process of unlearning, reconstructing and relearning it. The canon is not simply overpopulated by men, it is also overwhelmingly propagated by men. They are the educators, the bosses, the clients. They are the editors, publishers, curators and the speakers. It’s time to give space to women, and propose these Errata to graphic design history. As bell hooks noted “Attempts to improve the representation of women cannot only append women to existing histories — these methods of history must themselves be transformed”4.

To truly acknowledge women in design, we must also acknowledge that design is not a solitary practice but rather a collective process, far away from the simple and linear story that design history—with its focus on clear narratives and overwhelmingly white, western, cisgendered, able-bodied male design stars—teaches us. It is the work of many minds, many hands, many disciplines, and the messy histories5 which this plurality creates makes it easy to obscure, to cherry-pick a simple, single story, and ignore the contributions of women who have worked in design since before design was work. 

The visibility of women in graphic design is greater today than it has ever been, but in truth for as long as there have been designers, there have been women designers. Their absence in design history is a failure of memory as much as it is a failure of industry. The methods by which we choose to record and recount history, the stories we tell to make sense or make sensational, are in need of deconstruction. 

Errata aims to present women’s contributions that have been overlooked, ignored and forgotten by Portuguese design history and in doing so to reveal those mechanisms still present that consent to these omissions. The landscape and socio-political history of Portugal is particular, but the systems which devalue, omit and ignore the work of women are universal, and in sharing this research as widely as possible we hope to contribute to this necessary discussion.

History is an entangled, messy thing. To start pulling at any one thread, as we do here with women, is to see how many other threads are bound up in the same knotted mess. To see how many other stories are missing from The Story. Where, then, are the women designers? Where, then, the BIPoC; the queer; the collective; the reclusive; the untrained and the unnamed? We can only hope that soon the pages of errata will outnumber the pages of the Story, and through critical engagement in rewriting, relearning and reclaiming these many histories, we can make that happen.
 

1 Cheryl Buckley, Made in Patriarchy: Towards a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design
2 Design Census
3 Ece Canlı, Design History Interrupted: A Queer-Feminist Perspective
4 bell hooks, Feminist Theory: from margin to center
5 Martha Scotford, Messy History vs. Neat History: Towards an Expanded View of Women in Graphic Design


 

 

Exhibition

PORTO, 27.08–24.10.2021

GABINETE GRÁFICO, MUSEU DA CIDADE

The first public exhibition of the Errata research project is currently on show at the Gabinete Grafico of Museu da Cidade in Porto from 27 August–24 October 2021.

Through collecting, documenting and displaying the works of Portuguese women graphic designers from throughout the twentieth century, this exhibition will bring to the fore practitioners who have been overlooked by canonical design history.

By engaging with these objects, their stories and the contexts in which they were made, the exhibition both shines a light upon this undervalued section of design history, and also upon the mechanisms of industry, society and historiography which allowed these women to be forgotten.

Podcast

The Errata podcast is an audio archive and research tool, documenting and reflecting on issues facing women designers in Portugal through conversations with thinkers, curators, historians and designers, about their experiences and work

E0: Intro

An introduction to the podcast and the research project Errata - a feminist amendment to Portuguese graphic design history

E1: Vera Sacchetti

With the curator and writer Vera Sacchetti we talked about the trajectory that took her from the Communication Design BA in Porto to the D-Crit MA in New York and also about her motivations to develop more recent curatorial projects that investigate the role of women in design, such as A Woman’s Work and Add to the Cake. We discussed how can women be added to design history and how can we question the past in the present with an eye in the future. This podcast is in Portuguese.

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E2: Susana Carvalho

In this second episode, the graphic designer Susana Carvalho, talks about her professional path and the role that the punk and hardcore movements had in her feminist awakening. Susana explains how the type world is only apparently male dominated, and how that perception is directly connected with the obliviousness of the collaborative nature of the design process. We also talked about the responsibilities of design educators and her motivations for bringing female authors to her students. 

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E3: Maria Helena Souto P1

As part of the research process for Errata, we spoke not only with practitioners but also people who have studied Portuguese design history. Here we speak with historian Maria Helena Matos, Associate Professor at IADE, about the National Institute of Industrial Research (Instituto Nacional de Investigação Industrial) and its important role in affirming, consolidating and disseminating design in Portugal. We also touched upon the importance of Maria Helena Matos and the designers Alda Rosa and Cristina Reis in the Institute and in the Portuguese Design exhibitions of 1971 and 1973. This podcast is in Portuguese.

Maria Helena Souto is an Associate Professor in IADE, was the scientific responsible of the european projecto MoMoWo, a significant project that aims to give visibility to women in design in which Helena was the Portuguese representative. Souto was responsible for the research project Design in Portugal 1960-1974 that culminated in the exhibition Rehearsal for an archive: Time and Word. Design in Portugal (1960-1974) that was held in MUDE, Lisbon in 2016. Souto’s contribution to Portuguese Design History is very significant, but even more important is the efforts she’s been doing in the fight against the invisibility of women. 

 

See also:
MoMoWo
Design in Portugal 1960-1974
Rehearsal for an archive: Time and Word. Design in Portugal (1960-1974)

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E4: Maria Helena Souto P2

The fourth episode of the Errata Podcast is the continuation of the conversation we had with the historian Maria Helena Souto. In this episode we discuss Maria Keil, particularly her multidisciplinary work and her contribution to Portuguese graphic design. This episode is in Portuguese.

Maria Helena Souto is an Associate Professor in IADE, was the scientific responsible of the european projecto MoMoWo, a significant project that aims to give visibility to women in design in which Helena was the Portuguese representative. Souto was responsible for the research project Design in Portugal 1960-1974 that culminated in the exhibition Rehearsal for an archive: Time and Word. Design in Portugal (1960-1974) that was held in MUDE, Lisbon in 2016. Souto’s contribution to Portuguese Design History is very significant, but even more important is the efforts she’s been doing in the fight against the invisibility of women. 

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E5: Né Santelmo

In episode 5, Né Santelmo takes us on a journey through the multidisciplinary interests that have shaped her career since the early 80s. We discussed collaboration and the process of a design project, and how experimentation has defined her practice. We also spoke about Pã Design, the studio Né founded with the designer Ana Menezes, and if being a female duo had any significance in the making and reception of their work.

Cover of the record Surrealizar by Ban from 1988 with photography by João Nunes and graphic design by Né Santelmo
Né Santelmo, Portrait, 1986, original in photographic paper with mecanorma pen, photography by João Nunes
Cover of the record Requiem pelos Vivos by Requiem pelos Vivos from 1988. Design by João Nunes and Né Santelmo. Photography by João Nunes

See also:

Aurora envolta em Nevoeiro, artigo sobre Né Santelmo na Fonoteca do Porto por Isabel Duarte

Vai de Roda

Surrealizar, Ban

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E6: Emília Ferreira

In episode 6, we had a conversation with Emília Ferreira about the invisibility of women in history, and how the balance of the canon can be corrected through the identification and study of women’s work. We spoke in more detail about the artists Sarah Affonso and Mily Possoz, the context in which they lived, and the work they did in graphic arts.

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E7: Joana & Mariana

In episode 7 I had a conversation with designers Joana & Mariana about how design is documented and how feminism can be a tool to interrupt current design history. We talked about how a studio practice can crossover with research and design theory and how design is not a neutral practice and doesn’t not always solve problems.

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Publications

Errata, exhibition catalogue, 2021

Published to accompany the exhibition in Gabinete Gráfico, the Errata catalogue is now out of stock of its original print run. To keep the catalogue accessible to as many people as possible, a digital version is available here, to download in its entirety. 

 

Errata
Published 2021
ISBN 978-989-33-2227-7
 

Download the catalogue here

 

ABOUT ERRATA

Errata is a para-academic research project and publishing platform, concentrating on the visibility of women in Portuguese graphic design history. 

Disseminated through public exhibitions and events, an ongoing series of Podcasts and publishing, the Errata project engages with criticism, education and research to uncover the invisible stories of women designers in Portugal and facilitate dialogues exploring methods of improving gender representation in graphic design history.

Colophon

Email errata.design@gmail.com
Instagram @Errata.Design
Facebook Errata.Design
 

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Project and research
Isabel Duarte with Olinda Martins

Graphic Design 
ID-AE Studio

Fonts
Atlas Grotesk was generously supplied 
by Susana Carvalho Carvalho Bernau
Errata by Irregular Type

Web Development
Queo

Sound post-production
Pedro Augusto

Acknowledgements 
Errata would not have been possible without the support, expertise and generosity of Cristiana Serejo, Ece Canlı, Elvia Vasconcelos, Fiona Churchman, Futuress, Igor Ramos, José Bártolo, Jorge Silva, Louise Darblay, Luiza Prado, Maria David, Maria Helena Souto, Maria João Macedo, Mariana Pestana, Museu da Cidade, Nina Paim, Nuno Coelho, Rafael Ferreira, Susana Carvalho, Vera Sacchetti, Zeina El Maasri and countless others.

Project supported by Criatório