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Show RCA 2019

Ruth Sykes

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'Sexism, our stock-in-trade': Feminism and female graphic designers’ educational and professional experiences in London during feminism’s second wave

The dissertation examines how ideologies of second wave feminism during the 1970s and 1980s affected women studying and practising graphic design in London. It argues that while feminist pedagogy was an active agent in some locations of graphic design higher education in London, the profession remained largely impervious to feminism. The dissertation exposes how societal patriarchal structures were imported into the graphic design profession, preserving the male gendering of the job role, and the implications of this for women working in graphic design. 


  • Graphic design history often overlooks the contribution of women. My research asks why this is, why it’s a problem, and what can be done about it. I hope that an increased awareness of how gender bias leads to historical underrepresentation and undervaluation can contribute to the move towards gender equality in graphic design today. I aim to incorporate this research into my teaching practice wherever contextual studies overlaps with graphic design practice, and in exhibitions, workshops and design and writing projects.

  • Previous degrees

  • BA Graphic Design, Central Saint Martins, 2001; BA History, Unversity of Sussex, 1990
  • Experiences

  • Associate lecturer, Central Saint Martins, 2003 – present; Co-founder, REG Design, London, 2003 – present
  • Exhibitions

  • I Don't Know Her Name, But I Know Her Work, Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection Window Gallery, London, 2017; A+: 100 Years of Graphic Communication by Women at Central Saint Martins, Central Saint Martins Window Gallery, 2016
  • Publications

  • 'We Should Work to Recognise Women Designers Who Never Got Their Due', American Institute of Graphic Arts Eye On Design, 1, 2018, pp. 108–9; 'Lettering and Typography from the A+ Exhibition', Typographic 70, 2017, pp. 10–13; 'The Central School and the Poster Girls', in Poster Girls, ed. by David Bownes (London: London Transport Museum, 2017), pp. 88–01
Royal College of Art