The paradoxical comfort zone. An investigation into how students and professional women in Australian graphic design experience [in]visibility.

Jane Connory (Monash University)
2018 Conference

This paper looks to theorise the states of visibility and invisibility (that is [in]visibility) experienced by women in the Australian graphic design industry, post 1960. Visibility, as a form of authorship, self-promotion and presence in historical narratives, is the professional ambition for many graphic designers, however invisibility is often viewed as a negative choice. Invisibility for women – that is a whole or partial state of absence in comparison to men – along with visibility, is the focus of this investigation. Interviews were conducted with twenty-four women, identified as significant contributors to Australian graphic design by their peers. These were then transcribed and analysed using grounded theory and an [in]visibility framework, developed by Ruth Simpson and Patricia Lewis (Simpson and Lewis, 2007). The results, focusing on the ‘deep’ drivers of invisibility, reveal a diversity of emotive experiences related to comfort levels and has led to the development of a survey instrument for further enquiry. The survey – titled Comfort and [In]Visibility – gauges and validates the emotive comfort zones of individual women within the states of [in]visibility. Surveying students and professional women in Australian graphic design, the initial analyses show both common and disparate attitudes towards [in]visibility. We may conclude from this research that women generally feel comfortable with being visible but can feel just as comfortable with being invisible, at the same time; what we call ‘the paradox of comfort zones’.

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About the author

Jane Connory is a PhD candidate and teaching associate at Monash University, Art, Design and Architecture, working towards a gender inclusive history of Australian graphic design. She was awarded a Master of Communication Design (Design Management) with Distinction from RMIT in 2016 and has been a practicing designer in the advertising, branding and publishing sectors, in both London and Melbourne, since 1997. Alongside her research exploring the visibility of women in design, she is currently the National Head of Communications at the Design Institute of Australian, the Vice President of the Creative Women’s Circle board and consultant to the Australian Graphic Design Association.