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mary hemingway

Hey Mary, first of all how are you?

I’m good thanks and looking forward to relaxing this weekend!

Give us some fun facts about yourself!

I’m not sure how ‘fun’ these facts are, but here you go…

After completing a degree in textile design my first full-time job after graduating was making wedding dresses.

I retrained to become a graphic designer in my mid 30s.

I love searching for and finding visual inspiration anywhere and everywhere, it’s my favourite part of the creative process.

One of my favourite ways to relax is reading and I have a large and ever-growing collection of books and magazines—design and non-design related.

For those that do not know who is Mary?

I’m a graphic designer and founder of Design by Women, a platform which aims to showcase and celebrate women and gender expansive creatives working in the design industry. Alongside part-time work in a design agency and taking on the occasional freelance project, I like to dabble in illustration, photography and occasionally surface pattern design.

LTC was a lockdown project and so was Design by Women. What inspired you to start something of this kind in such an uncertain and difficult time?

The idea for a blog that would provide a resource network for women who take a career break and/or juggle a career in design with raising children came to me whilst doing a workshop with Chris Do called ‘Finding Your Superpower’ at Birmingham Design Festival in 2019. Getting involved with my local Ladies Wine & Design events in Birmingham also planted the idea of collecting stories of other women working in the design industry. I realised that when you hear about successful women designers the same few names keep coming up and I wanted to find out more about all the other talented creatives out there. It was during the first UK lockdown in spring 2020 that I found time to revisit the idea and decided to start Design by Women.

Leading on from this, what is Design by Women?

Design by Women is a blog platform that aims to showcase women and gender expansive creatives currently working in the design industry and inspire emerging creatives to pursue a career in design. We hope that by showcasing work and sharing insights and stories, we can amplify voices and encourage collaboration and support for under-represented creatives at all stages of their careers.

Why is it so important to celebrate women, marginalised genders and gender non-conforming creatives?

It’s important to help close the gender pay gap, to diversify recruitment, especially in leadership roles, and to contest misogynistic behaviour across the creative industries and society as a whole.

How big of an issue do you think gender inequality is not only in design but in all the creative industries and society as a whole?

It’s a huge and complex issue. It’s not only about gender but also inextricably linked to race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and various other factors. As I mentioned above, it’s the binary structures that we operate within as a society that need to be addressed before we can hope to see more significant changes across the creative industries—to some extent, I believe, you can’t change one without the other.

Leading on from this what advice would you give to young creatives in these groups?

Don’t let these obstacles put you off! For all the barriers and challenges you may face, there’s a big creative network and design community out there, who are usually more than willing to offer advice and support. Additionally, don’t be worried about taking a non-traditional route into the creative industry—the degree/internship/junior designer journey can often exclude under-represented groups—carving your own path is fine. It’s your portfolio of work and attitude that will count the most.

You originally started out by studying textile design and then made the switch to graphic design, what influenced this?

Whilst studying for a masters in surface pattern I realised my work is very graphic in nature, I’ve always loved collaging images together to create something new and using my photography to inspire my work. This led me to think that a career in graphic design would work for my skills set. Also, I was a single mum at the time I decided to make the switch and noticed there were a lot more jobs in graphic than textile design in the Midlands (where I’m based) so it made sense from that perspective too.

Tough question time... which do you prefer?

I love both print design and graphic design—I think the two disciplines overlap in a lot of ways.

Since 2016 you have been a freelance designer, what made you take the plunge?

I’d been working as an in-house designer for four years after re-training and wanted to gain a wider breath of experiences and greater control over the type of work I took on.

Any advice for people wanting to go freelance?

Go for it and enjoy the freedom! But also have a contingency plan, it can take up to a year (maybe more) to establish a client base and working process you feel comfortable with. Your income stream will probably dip up and down, so you’ll need some savings or a part-time job with some regular income to fall back on until you get going.

Is there anyone in the creative industry that you would like to give a shoutout to?

Way too many to mention!  But some features we’ve had on design by women that I particularly enjoyed working on are listed below:

For my final question, what’s next for Mary Hemingway?

We have an upcoming careers series on DbyW that I’m super excited about. It will primarily focus on career journeys, pivotal moments, and advice for creatives (at any stage) looking to take the next step in their careers. We hope it will be useful for designers thinking about progressing from mid-weight to senior or senior to creative director etc. But also inspire emerging creatives by showing them role models and the different routes they can take in the design industry.

I’d love to be able to carve out more time for Design by Women initiatives and take on more varied freelance projects that use design as a tool for social change. There’s a lot happening in the world right now and sometimes that can be overwhelming, so I’d also really like to take some time to figure out what I want to do next.

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