How Deva Pardue is helping redefine feminism through design


We talk about discuss to the former Pentagram designer – who now heads up the design team at women-only associates club The Wing – about making the switch from brand-side to in-house, her thing with the human brain, and how feminism can do good and look good at the very time.

Deva Pardue is a poster girl for today’s millennial pink, Instagrammable variation of feminism. Since graduating from New York’s School of Visual Techniques (SVA) in 2011, the graphic designer has single-handedly built an in-house design troupe at women-only members club The Wing, founded a “fempowerment” design lead that raises money for women’s charities, and worked with a few other organisations to champion women’s rights – all before turning 30.

Pardue in the first place grew up in Ireland, before moving to the US with her family aged 16 and conclusion her last few years of high school in Florida. Despite being an avid doodler when she was litter and having a father who worked in graphic design, Pardue admits that being a artificer was never her first plan. “That might be because my dad did design, and there’s that insubordinate thing of not wanting to do what your parents did,” she says.

At the time, Pardue’s girl school subject was psychology and she became obsessed with the human inner man. It was only later on when she thought about combining this with her true-love of sketching that graphic design became an obvious career selected. “When I put the two together it makes sense that I ended up in design,” opportunities Pardue. “In a way it’s a fusion of both those things; it’s art but it’s also very much not far from people and how they perceive things.”

Pardue had heard her father talk endlessly on every side Pentagram during her childhood. When she started at the SVA, she made a calculated finding to target teachers from the consultancy’s New York office. This contained graphic design legend Paula Scher, who ended up being Pardue’s instruct for her final year thesis. The designer’s tactics and hard work even a scored off, landing her successive internships with two partners at the consultancy, Luke Hayman and Michael Beirut. Fortuitously, well-founded as Pardue’s internship at Pentagram was coming to an end, newly appointed partner Emily Oberman was in the make of building her own team. She interviewed for a designer role and never looked backtrack from, working under Oberman for four years until 2016.

Pardue characterizes her time at Pentagram as “all-encompassing” and a “second education in and of itself”. She worked across the spectrum of name branding, identity and motion design for clients as varied as NBC and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was during her measure there that the designer also started carving out a niche profession with brands and organisations within the feminist sphere, such as a not-for-profit energy called Girls Build LA that encourages middle and high schoolers to originate STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills and women’s originative mentoring network ArtTable.

In another twist of fate, the final scheme Pardue worked on while at Pentagram was creating the identity for a new members union and co-working space exclusively for women, which ended up being convened The Wing. It definitely came along at the right time for her and the rest of the all-female contrive team that worked on the project, says Pardue. “Being on one link up [meant that] we had got into a very formulaic way of working, which in a way is a tolerable thing and in another way can become stifling. I think that job helped us out of that a scarcely bit, because it was such a different kind of client,” she adds.

The final personality Oberman’s team settled on for The Wing aims to be indicative of the kind of feminism decisive through people’s social circles and Instagram feeds today, mimicking everyone from the bankers to fashion designers who make up its membership. Every segment of the club is dripping in millennial pink and funny-yet-empowering witticisms, such as its “bag lady” totes and 1-800-Hotline-Wing focus on c confines (one for any Drake fans). “There was a lot of talk about women preparing multitudes,” says Pardue. “That was the reason we used lots of contrasting ‘w’s’ [for the logo]. It shows that a feminist can like shopping and doesn’t lack to apologise for that.”

Fast-forward a year and Pardue has come full-circle, swapping consultancy vim for an in-house role heading up The Wing’s design team. Founded by Forbes 30 guardianship 30 recipient Audrey Gelman – who previously worked as a press colleague on Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and is a childhood friend of Girls God Lena Dunham – the club does not appear to have lost any of the fresh-faced and feisty feminist mind it started out with.

Pardue’s role over the past nine months has been to harness that intensity into a coherent and consistent vision for the company. This began with the reproach of creating a team from nothing (she now heads up a team of five inventors), and overseeing the design of everything from posters to café menus. She has also recently been advance from design director to senior creative director; a move that consolidates her increased workload as the start-up has right away grown to include multiple locations across the US, a flourishing retail obligation and its own magazine called No Man’s Land.

Making the switch from brand-side to in-house has been a stiff learning curve for Pardue. “I’m in a lot of meetings these days, which I don’t remember how I feel about yet,” she says. “It’s been a big shift from being someone who subs at the computer and does all the designing, to doing a lot of administrative work. It’s something that I’m changing to still, but I’m enjoying it a lot.”

Despite the obvious differences in job description, Pardue intends that she has brought much of what she learned during her time at Pentagram to her new job. The most significant of these lessons has been the art of the pitch. “I definitely intellectual a lot at Pentagram about how to speak about your work, and that’s from sentry people like Emily [Oberman] and Michael [Beirut] present,” she says. “I dream the way you present your work is almost as important as the work itself. You necessary to be able to sell it and get people to buy into it, even more so sometimes when you’re in-house.”

Alongside her post at The Wing, Pardue also manages to juggle her passion project For All Womankind, a delineation initiative that raises money for a number of women’s charities such as The Meet for Reproductive Rights, Emily’s List, Joyful Heart Foundation and Sheltered Horizon. Founded by Pardue after the shock US election result in 2016 that saw Donald Trump elected across Hillary Clinton, the initiative has so far raised over $17,000 (£12,560). This can as a rule be put down to Pardue’s “Femme Fists” design, which went viral closing year.

“I was doing some visual research and found that there were no feminine-looking clenched fists,” Pardue powers, explaining the inspiration behind the design. “Even ones that had been acquainted with by women’s movements in history such as during the 1970s were all hush quite aggressive and male looking.”

In contrast, Pardue’s design depicts three manicured, women’s fists with disparate skin colours raised up defiantly in the air. The designer made the Femme Fists readily available ahead of the Women’s March in early 2017. It was shared by luminaries including Rihanna, Reese Witherspoon and Naomi Campbell in the run up to the protest, and the lie-down is history. Pardue largely puts the impact made by the Femme Fists campaign down to being in the profitably place at the right time. “I couldn’t find one when I made it, but now if you Google soft clenched fists there are so many. In no way do I think that is because of me – if I hadn’t done it then someone else command have.”

The common thread running through the female-first start-ups and organisations equal The Wing and For All Womankind that are popping up at the moment is that they audibly tap into the zeitgeist of a new kind of feminism. This iteration is just as indispensable and agenda-setting as the waves that have come before it. Crucially granting, it also looks good – and that’s where designers like Pardue recuperate from in.

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