Brave New Normal establishes a role for intergenerational mentoring for women navigating graphic design careers in a post-Covid-19 world.
At a glance
- Realised over a three-year period, a collaborative project between the RCA, Hidden Women of Design (HoWD) and the Women’s Design + Research Unit (WD+RU)
- Pilot project questions received narratives about career lifecycles and explores how different kinds of knowledge are valued in informing future working practices for women graphic designers in the post-pandemic landscape
- A three-phased research-focussed approach involving online workshops, in addition to collecting original interviews and questionnaires from women facing graphic design career challenges during the pandemic
- New insights published as an evaluative project report Brave New Normal: Intergenerational Mentoring + Women in Graphic Design (2022) which begins to address a substantial gap in the existing literature concerning the future of work for women professionals within graphic design
Brave New Normal aimed to understand how intergenerational mentoring informs how women might navigate graphic design careers in a post-Covid-19 world. The project sought to establish a definition of intergenerational mentoring that moved away from traditional models of a mentor/mentee relationship characterised by generational age, toward a more equitable dialogic model of knowledge exchange foregrounding career stages.
The research was undertaken at the height of the pandemic in the UK. It raised timely questions around the ways intergenerational support networks aid in mitigating biases (e.g., gender, race, sexuality, class) in the workplace, how women in graphic design experience relationships as important to their professional lives, and how establishing ways in which the personal histories of women working in graphic design throughout the pandemic crisis gave insights into the possible futures of work.
The research builds on the partners’ organisational interests and research by critically engaging with issues around diversity, voice, graphic design canon, and professional practice.
This research was made possible by an award from the RKEI Research Development Fund, Royal College of Art (2021–22).
Brave New Normal has two main aims. First, to focus on and capture a broad range of women’s experiences of working in the UK’s graphic design profession. Second, to explore the role of intergenerational mentoring within the field of graphic design and propose new paradigms. Through a series of interactive workshops, interviews, and an online questionnaire, the project engaged with a cross-section of women working in the industry and in education who, as co-researchers, helped shape and inform the report.
Plans for dissemination include a social media campaign designed both to help grow these mentoring networks, and to invite further discussion on the issues that are important to women regarding the future of work in a post-pandemic world.
Brave New Normal: Phase 1 (July 2020), consisted of an initial ‘scoping meeting’ facilitated by the organisers (N=3) and attended by individuals (N=10) selected from the organisers’ existing networks (WD+RU and HWoD). Participants were invited to submit a 5-minute sketch of their career/current situation in advance to kick-start the discussion. The event provided a semi-structured conversational platform, from which a set of questions or themes were identified to inform a more detailed and exploratory second phase workshop. Brave New Normal: Phase 2 (March 2021), comprised a participatory workshop, facilitated by the organisers and members of the Advisory Board, and attended by women working across the sector (N=18). An online questionnaire (N=38) sent to early-, mid-, and senior- or late- career designers, ran concurrently to semi-structured in-depth interviews (N=8).
Brave New Normal is the result of a research collaboration between the Royal College of Art, Hidden Women of Design (HoWD) and the Women’s Design + Research Unit (WD+RU). The partnership began pre-pandemic (November 2019), focussing on shared concerns about changes in the longevity of design careers within an increasingly youth focussed job market. In early 2020, these conversations intensified in response to the rise of Covid-19, and the additional challenge this brought. Brave New Normal is the outcome of these conversations formalised as a funded research project running from July 2020 to March 2022.
“I was really inspired to read the Brave New Normal report. Many of the report’s insights really chime with what has been emerging from our research, especially around the importance of mutual learning and challenging ideas of what mentoring models might be. We’ve included your report in our mentoring resources, so thank you!”Professor of Design and Social Innovation, University of Northumbria