Grintroducing: Mary Hemingway

Mary Hemingway, creator of ‘Design by Women’, joins us for a chat!

In this edition of our grintroducing series, we’ve been getting to know more about designer Mary Hemingway and Design by Women, a platform that celebrates the work and achievements of women in creative.

1) Hello Mary. Thanks for taking part in our grintroducing series. For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself.

Hey! I’m a graphic designer and founder of Design by Women, a platform which aims to showcase and celebrate women, gender diverse and non-binary creatives working in the design industry. Alongside part-time work in a design agency and taking on the occasional freelance project, I like to dabble in print-making, photography and occasionally a bit of surface pattern design.


2) You founded the incredible platform that is Design By Women. What inspired you to create it?

The idea for a blog that would provide a resource network for women who take a career break and/or juggle a career in design with raising children came to me whilst doing a workshop with Chris Do called ‘Finding Your Superpower’ at Birmingham Design Festival in 2019. Getting involved with my local Ladies Wine & Design events in Birmingham also planted the seed of an idea around collecting stories of other women working in the design industry.

At that time, I also realised that when you hear about successful women designers in books, in leadership and at events and awards ceremonies, the same few names kept coming up and I wanted to find out more about all the other talented creatives out there. It was during the first UK lockdown in spring 2020 that I found time to revisit the idea and decided to start Design by Women.

Design by Women is a blog platform that also seeks to inspire emerging creatives to pursue a career in design. We hope that by showcasing work and sharing insights and stories, we can amplify voices and encourage collaboration and support for under-represented creatives at all stages of their careers.

3) There are talented designers everywhere! How do you go about curating the Design by Women blog and finding amazing women to feature?

To begin with, I literally scoured all the other creative inspiration blogs out there searching for women creatives and it was actually quite hard to find that many, so that reinforced my thinking that there was a space for what I wanted to do with Design by Women. Now we get a lot of requests for features and posts, so it has become much easier.

Initially, the features were all Midlands based designers because I wanted to give a voice to local creatives, who I felt (and still feel) rarely get heard. I also wanted to discover the stories and insights of people in a similar situation to me. It quickly became clear, within about 3 months, that it was going to reach women all over the world and so then I broadened the scope to a world-wide audience.


4) Design by Women really inspires a sense of togetherness and support for creative women. What do you enjoy most about being part of a creative community like Design by Women?

That’s nice to hear! I just love discovering inspirational work that I’ve never seen before and sharing it with the design community. It is amazing to see the range and breadth of talent out there. It’s especially satisfying when it’s an emerging designer who’s never had their work showcased before and it leads to them getting greater recognition for their talent, freelance work or helps with a job application. Also, making a space that is helping to amplify the work of under-represented creatives is fundamental to what we try and do with DbyW.


5) As well as championing women in design, you’re also a graphic designer yourself! What kind of things do you enjoy working on?

My first love is layout and editorial design, particularly brochures and magazines. So, I would say I’m naturally more of print designer, but I also enjoy branding and digital projects too. I do a lot of work in the education sector which I’ve always really enjoyed but I’d like to focus more on design projects that facilitate social change in the future.


6) Do you have a designer/illustrator/filmmaker/creative that you’re currently obsessing over and why?

No. I see so much amazing design work I couldn’t pick one!

However, some of my favourite recent finds on DbyW are:

HJK Graphics
Iranian Women of Graphic Design
Jazlyn Fung
Talia Cotton
Zoë Pulley
Giulia Boggio
Mera Kay
Mollie Rycroft-Stanley
Eva Vesikansa
Tatiana Egoshina

7) You studied in Birmingham TWICE! What is your favourite thing about the city?

Honestly, it was case of the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University) was the only textile degree course that offered me a place as I’d just completed a BTEC in Fashion way back in 1998. And when I completed my Masters in Surface Design at BCU in 2008 my son was only four, so realistically I couldn’t physically get anywhere else. Having said that I think the Birmingham design scene is now outstanding and that the Birmingham Design team have done such an impressive job of putting Birmingham and the Birmingham Design Festival on the design community map.


8) Design by Women aims to inspire women wanting to pursue a career in design. What advice would you give to people looking to start their creative career?

I believe that it’s really important not to compare yourself too much with other people and to carve your own path. I retrained to be graphic designer as a single mum in my mid-30s, after having had many other jobs, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you don’t instantly get that internship or junior role, you might have set your heart on. It can take time to refine your design skills and work out where you’re headed but that’s fine—we’re all a work in progress.

Also really think about where you want to be, in terms of what type of role and what type of employer. Research as much as you can about the different sectors you could work in and what different roles involve/what skills you need to stand out. Going in and chatting with employers – in my experience it doesn’t always have to be an internship – people might be willing to give you an hour of their time to talk about what they do and look through your portfolio. It can be daunting but can prove very useful in weeding out what would and wouldn’t suit you as a working environment and what type of jobs are out there.


9) Plan B – If you weren’t working in Design, what job could you see yourself working in?

That’s a hard question to answer because being creative has been something I’ve loved as long as I can remember. I think possibly a nurse or maybe even a vet… something like that.

Find out more about Mary’s work including Design by Women: