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Mar 08, 2023 By Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA
Perspective: Future Female
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Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA introduces this year's first issue of Perspective: Female Future
By Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA Mar 08, 2023
Published in Perspective

Let’s just put it out there: the creativity of women has always been a driving force in design.

That’s not to say it wasn’t often hard to tell: when Walter Gropius launched his Bauhaus in 1919, his “new guild of craftsmen” (can we get a “craftspeople?”) included a majority of women students in its first class. Gropius quickly assigned them to the weaving studio, deeming them not suited for architectural design.

And yet they persisted: The women of the Bauhaus went on to contribute designs that have shaped the way we think about everything from textiles to furnishings to manufactured products for everyday life. As did female designers like Norma Harvey, who worked side-by-side with her father, pioneering Black architect Paul R. Williams, creating the interiors for projects that included some original influencers like Frank Sinatra. Or Maiji Isola, who defied a “no flowers” rule and defined a brand for Marimekko. Or Ray Eames, whose unerring eye, artistic talent, and passion for making things better keeps her forever on the tips of our tongues: it is, after all, “Charles and Ray Eames,” not just Charles, that we are still busy talking about.

IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA
IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA

Still, the female future of design has some road left to travel. In IIDA’s soon-to-be-released Member Demographic Survey, statistics showed that although women predominate in the broad range of mid-level positions in the design industry, they account for only a fraction of those in top leadership roles. Supporting women, as well as Black and Brown designers and industry professionals, into those upper echelons is a process that begins now, as design leaders look to invest in mentorship and sustainable career pathways that welcome and uplift, rather than sideline.

I count myself fortunate to have been a female leader in design for more than two decades, and to have supported the advancement of other women personally as well as through the work of IIDA. In order to ensure a strong future for our industry, IIDA continues to provide vital sustenance for women leaders: strong networks both locally and nationally; inclusive community and mentorship; leadership opportunities through IIDA chapters and our International Board; and support and recognition for the work of small firms—which, in design, are often women-owned.

One such firm is led by Samantha Josaphat-Medina, this month’s cover subject. She has described founding her design firm, Studio 397, as an act of professional survival that allowed her to claim the leadership role she longed for. Seeing that firm—and her own Black, female creative powers—flourish, she has found the confidence and courage to foster the careers of the next generation of diverse leaders in design.

Samantha’s story represents a hopeful sign for what comes next: a celebration of the creativity, ingenuity and design excellence of women; and an equal seat at the table for women who lead. We at IIDA are incredibly proud to support and uplift female designers and invest in the strength they bring to our industry.

We’re so excited to be a part of what’s next!

Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA
IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO

Future Female | Table of Contents

This issue will be published through May 2023, check back biweekly for new articles!


Drawing on the features and original style of the 1920’s bank building, The Banya bathhouse in coastal Australia is an art-deco inspired immersive social, bathing, and dining oasis designed by Mardi Borrack. Read more



Meet five women-led product and furniture design firms that are creating pieces that enhance the human-experience and influenced by culture—these unique designs represent diverse approaches to design. Read more


A Day in the Life

Project Designer at MKDA Miami Brianna Hunter, IIDA, talks inspiration, motivation, her career, and what she is excited about as she walks us through a typical day. From morning affirmations and the perfect smoothie recipe to site visits and technical design.
Read here



Nominated by their peers, six emerging women designers share how they are making a name for themselves in the commercial interior design industry. We talk to Jill Dexter, IIDA, Elizabeth Fallon, Kamille Glenn, Veronica McCracken, IIDA, Midori Shim, IIDA, and Karlijn Sibbel.
Read here


Member Exclusive

Learn what the Studio 397 founder Samantha Josaphat was up to while spending a month in Civita Italy studying cultural sustainability.
Read here*

*You must be an IIDA member to access this content


Talk Talk

Sarah McGarry, IIDA and Rene Stremel, IIDA of Clic Design Studios discuss how to branch out on your own, and share practical advice for the next generations of female designers interested in starting their own companies. Read more

Cover Story

We speak with Samantha Josaphat of Studio 397 about designing meaningful spaces that foster human connection, the power of letting go, and the upsides of being an underdog.
Read here

How to X

How to found a sustainable woman-owned business with Yvonne Hung of Otelier. Focused on apartment living, the furniture design studio is on a mission to fill any small space with joy and wellness.
Read here

Scratch Pad

What to read, watch, and experience this spring with a focus on women—from Katy Hessel’s recent bestseller, The Story of Art without Men, to the exhibit “Designing Women: Fashion Creators and their Interiors” at the Museum at FIT and more. Read here

IIDA Perspective Team:

Cheryl Durst, Hon FIIDA | Executive VP and CEO, IIDA
Cindy Dampier |
Chief Marketing Officer, IIDA
Yasmin Spiro |
Director of Content and Strategy, IIDA
Laura Botham |
Senior Digital Content Manager, IIDA
Vasia Rigou |
Writer and Copy Editor, IIDA
Jessica Jones |
Content Coordinator, IIDA

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