For Shillington Post 08—The Creative Women Issue, we interviewed the New York-based designer Deva Pardue whose worked for some big names like The Wing, The Museum of Modern Art and Pentagram. We talked to Deva about her creative journey, the importance of being part of a creative community and founding For All Womankind, an initiative for female empowerment. Since starting in 2016, the company has been committed to raising money for not-for-profit organizations to advance women’s rights and equality.
Tell us a bit about your creative journey, influences and how you got to where you are now?
My dad was a designer when I was growing up so I’ve been around design my whole life. That said, I never really considered design as something I wanted to pursue—perhaps because of the familiarity—until I was two years into a psychology major and realized that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. When I made the shift to graphic design I decided to transfer to the School of Visual Arts and move to New York. I wanted to take Paula Scher’s class and to work at Pentagram—two dreams I somehow made come true. I spent five years at Pentagram and it was like going to grad school, I learnt so much!
What are some of your proudest career achievements to date?
Landing a job a Pentagram was definitely a proud moment. My dad had always really admired the company too so I was proud to have made him proud! The success of For All Womankind also made me very proud. It’s super cool to have created something that so many people around the world could identify with and use to express their passion and emotions around a subject that’s so important to me—it’s very rewarding to see something you put out into the world make such visibly vast and positive impact.
Speaking of For All Womankind, you founded the initiative as a result of the 2016 election. What were your goals when you launched?
I launched with just a few posters for sale right after the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the goal of raising money for the Center for Reproductive Rights and Emily’s List. A couple of months later, around the time of the Women’s March in January 2017, I put up free downloads of the Femme Fists illustration for the march.
Thousands of people were downloading them, and within three days my Instagram went from 700 followers to 12,000.
Then Rihanna grammed it and it just sort of snowballed after that. Since then, I’ve made lots more merch and have been able to raise more than $25,000 for organisations I believe in!
After the now-iconic Femme Fists illustration went viral it was appropriated and used without credit by various fashion brands and corporations. How did you deal with this blatant plagiarism of your work?
It’s been a somewhat draining experience that’s resulted in me learning a lot about intellectual property and copyright laws! You know, it’s somewhat expected for images of protest to enter the zeitgeist, take on a life of their own, and inspire similar iterations—that’s kind of how you know it’s made a big impact and to a certain extent, it’s OK, even a good thing. But when a major corporation or fashion brand appropriates the design and uses it to make a profit without getting permission and giving credit it crosses a line—they’re making money off of something that I’m selling in order to raise money for non-profits and that feels really crappy.
You’ve worked as a Creative Director for The Wing, a network of work and community spaces for women. Tell us about that.
I worked on The Wing’s branding while at Pentagram and under the direction of Emily Oberman. It was a really fun project from the get-go, the founders had a great vision and the team we had working on it was amazing. When I went freelance I continued working with The Wing on a project by project basis, I was a member at that time so I got to experience it from that perspective which has proven to be really valuable. When they asked me to come on full time it just felt really right—I was connected to the brand both personally and professionally and I really loved the identity we’d created.
The opportunity to help shape and evolve that over time seemed like a really great challenge with a lot of potential. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’ve grown so much in the two years I’ve been full time. I’ve learned how to grow and manage a team of creatives, how to walk the line between staying on brand while keeping things interesting and fresh at the same time. The Wing does so many things—environmental design, advertising, experiential, retail, editorial, brand partnerships, etc.—there’s so much variety in the work and we produce so much so it’s very creatively satisfying.
Do you think it’s important for women creatives to be part of communities like The Wing, The Yellow Collective, Freelancing Females and Ladies, Wine & Design?
I think it’s important for people to have support systems and communities that they can lean on and that help empower them to reach their full potential and that means different things for different people.
For me, that manifests in my tight friendship group of women creatives as well as at The Wing.
Big thanks to Deva for the interview! Make sure to keep up to date with her work through her website. For more articles from our in-house publication, check out The Creative Women Issue of the Shillington Post.
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