Women in Design

It is known to all the limited time women have had in a position of power and has had the capability to influence. In the last 100 years, we have had many influential women that have changed the views of designers in today’s world; such as Lucienne Day, Charlotte Perriand, Zaha Hadid etc.

Nevertheless, who are some of the women that are currently leading in the creative industries and paving the future for the new millennial creators?

In celebration of International Women's Day, I am dedicating this article to all the women that stand for innovation and has given the world incredible designs one after the other.

Alison Brooks


Canadian-born Alison Brooks is the ONLY architect in the UK to have won the Stirling Prize, Manser Medal and the Stephen Lawrence Prize – three of the top awards in the industry. What a great start to the list. Some of her designs include Smile (Chelsea School of Art), the Accordia Masterplan (Cambridge), her installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and the first high-rise for the Greenwich Peninsula in London.

Sadie Morgan


Sadie Morgan is an English designer and founder of dRMM, an RIBA Strirling Prize winning architecture practice, which she runs with two of others. She is also the youngest individual to hold the position as President of the Architecture Association School of Architecture.

Vivienne Westwood

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Fashion designer,  businesswoman and  ICON. Considered one of the most unconventional and outspoken fashion designers in the world, Westwood rose to fame in the late 1970s when her early designs helped shape the look of the punk rock movement. One of the most established and commercially known designers in the world.

Julia Peyton-Jones


A British curator, a mother for the first time at the age of 64 and gallery director, currently Senior Global Director at Thaddaeus gallery in London, Paris and Salzburg. She was also the Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London for 25 years. In 2000 she inaugurated the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a project that has since become an iconic annual celebration of Architecture. Every year, an architect who has previously never been commissioned to work in the United Kingdom is invited to create a temporary structure at the Gallery.  Peyton-Jones has been awarded the Architectural Review’s 2016 Ada Huxtable Prize, which is the National Book Award for Contemporary Thought.

Ilse Crawford

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Ilse Crawford is British Designer and founder of the interior design company Studio Ilse. She has worked with well known articles, Architects journal and Elle Decoration. Studio Ilse has designed interiors such as the Soho House club in New York, Babington House, the Electric Cinema, and the Hong Kong restaurant Duddell’s, as well as pieces for Georg Jensen and IKEA. She has also been appointed an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the 2014 New Year Honours.

Denise Scott Brown


Denise Scott Brown is the wife of a legend, late Robert Venturi. Even throughout the harder times for women in such a competitive industry, she has established herself as a legend as well in many ways; American architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia. The 2 partners are considered some of the most influential Architects of the 20th century. Some of her recent awards include; Jane Drew Prize; 2017 and AIA Gold Medal; 2016.

Jeanne Gang


Jeanne Gang is the founder and leader of Studio Gang (established in 1997), an architecture and urban design practice with offices in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Her Aqua tower in Chicago is currently the tallest Female-designed building in the world. Gang and her Studio were awarded the 2013 National Design Award for Architecture. Gang was named the 2016 Woman Architect of the Year by the Architectural Review. In 2017, she was honoured with the Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award and Fellowship in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. In 2018, she was elected an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), a lifetime honour.

Annie Leibovitz


Annie Leibowitz is an American Portrait Photographer. She is best known for her engaging portraits—particularly of celebrities. Leibowitz started her career working as a commercial photographer for Rolling Stone magazine in the 70’s and continues to work for magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue. Leibovitz is famously known to be the last person to have professionally taken a photo of John Lennon, before his murder on the same day. She then became the first woman to hold a solo exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery in 1991. Leibovitz authored and published the book Annie Leibovitz at Work, explaining how some of her most iconic images came to be. The artist’s photographs are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

Iris Van Herpen


Iris Van Herpen is a young Dutch Fashion Designer known for her fantasy couture work. Van Herpen is a pioneer in utilising 3D-printing as a garment construction technique, and an innovator using technology as one of the guiding principles in her work. Van Herpen's multidisciplinary approach to creation had allowed her to collaborate with many other industries in designing, such as architect Philip Beesley. TIME Magazine names Iris van Herpen's 3D printed dresses one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2011. TIME Magazine names Iris van Herpen's 3D printed dresses one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2011. She has had various museum exhibitions, including in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Cooper- Hewitt Museum in New York, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Kelly Hoppen


Kelly Hoppen is a South African born, British interior designer, author, and proprietor of Kelly Hoppen Interiors. With over 40 years’ experience at the forefront of the design industry, Kelly Hoppen is one of the most celebrated and sought-after interior designers in the world. As well as designing apartments, houses and yachts for an ever-expanding international private client list, Kelly also undertakes commercial design projects including hotels, restaurants, office spaces and aircraft interiors. She is famously known as the “Queen of Taupe”, after her love for neutral pallets . In March 2009 Kelly received an MBE for services to Interior Design.

Kelly Wearstler


Kelly Wearstler is an American Interior Designer at the top of her A-game. She is admired for her bold style and amazing furniture designs. She designed the interior of the Avalon, a late 1940s-era hotel in Beverly Hills, which subsequently launched her career into hotel interior design. Some of Wearstler's awards include Vogue’s Best Dressed list, Architectural Digest’s preeminent Top 100 Architecture & Interior Design list, French AD’s World’s Top Interior Designers, and TIME Style & Design’s elite “Design 100” group of global creatives. The New Yorker once called her “the presiding grande dame of West Coast interior design”. In 1995 Kelly Wearstler opened her design firm, Kelly Wearstler Interior Design (KWID).

Shantell Martin

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Shantell Martin is a British visual artist best known for her stream-of-consciousness drawings and light projections. A fashion and design icon in her own right, Martin has collaborated with iconic brands such as Nike, Vitra, Max Mara, Tiffany & Co., and in 2018, Puma launched a global capsule collection featuring her drawings. Other collaborations include with the prestigious New York City Ballet and even Kendrick Lamar.

India Mahdavi

India Mahdavi is an Iranian-born French architect and designer. She graduated in architecture (DPLG - Paris), industrial design (Copper Union, NYC), graphic design (School of Visual Arts, NYC) and furniture design (Parson’s NYC), before becoming Christian Liaigre’s artistic director for 7 years. Her design style in interior design is known ‘joy-seekers’ and associated with happiness and colour. She has designed many private residences, hotels, restaurants, and shops all over the world, from Paris to London, New York, Egypt, Sydney. Her works include, suites at the Claridge’s in London, Café Français in Paris, Restaurant The Gallery at sketch in London, Rivington in New York and many more. (Ps: One of my favourite designers ever.)

To conclude, these are only a few women constructing a mark in this world of visionaries and we should all be inspired to strive and be as dedicated and motivated as these creative geniuses. To women.




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A customer I could have saved

I always make a meaningful effort to go back and call our previous clients, even the clients we didn’t get and the clients that just went cold.

I make a habit to do this at least once a month and it’s one of the best things for me to do.

Sometimes the calls last 5 mins, others an hour!

It’s always interesting because things change: they have a new job, or just had a baby. The call has even been one of of the biggest turning points because it’s been known to be the “perfect timing” call when we are hired on the spot.

Why do I do it?

I want our company to learn the components that play a part in the decision making process of our customers and find out if we can do any better.

I ask the most painful questions like “What was the reason why you chose not to go with us?”

This question is super important to me, it’s years of asking this question that got us where we today.

But also “How was the experience with your company of choice?”

I want to hear that everything went well, but that not always the case.

Our company is framed around constantly wanting our customers to remove the chance of hindsight, to provide a great experience to the ones that understand the value we offer and sincerely wishing the best of luck to the ones we don’t serve.

Today I had one of those calls, and it has really struck a moment of upset with me because we almost had this one, this client wanted us last year and we wanted them, but we failed to respond fast enough with a quote and they decided to go with someone else. I remember it like it was yesterday.

This call was meant to happen because they missed my call to them and returned the call.

Me: Hey… it’s James from Akiva Projects we were in conversation with you last year and unfortunately we didn’t end up working together but I wanted to check in with you to see how the project went in the end, did you manage to find someone?

Client: “In short it wasn’t a great experience, the company I hired didn’t finish and they just took my money, I wish I could make a claim but I’m just tired of it and I’m unlikely to get my money back”

This potential client, who is a civil engineer, admitted that trying to handle all sorts of tradesmen was tough, I have asked him to come on the podcast to tell us his story.

So many people up and down the country experience something like this but I wish they didn’t.

I’m always asking myself the question of why and how situations like this occur.

Were there enough checks done on the company?

Did you get references from previous customers?

Did you brief the contractor on your expectations?

Was there just a communication break down?

I can’t imagine thinking that there is a single company out there with a clear agenda to steal money from any client.

Even on the rare projects where our very own contractors have let us down, I’m the last man standing, I won’t walk away, it has to be fixed.

The thing is, deciding to contact our company is usually a spontaneous one, when you have decided that you can no longer see the colour of those walls, or you have just moved and the thought of hiring someone seems dreamy but it’s a luxurious decision and should you really …?

The hard truth is you should!

For your own sanity and time.

Unless you are prepared of course to do a stint in project management, learn the trade, the materials used and why, and the order in which things are done.

Everyone is skilled at what they do, doctors, mechanics, dentists, but you hardly ever find the average homeowner under car engine, or giving themselves dental treatment so why on earth do we allow builders to come in, tear your house apart, go home, switch their phone off until the next day, leave thing half done with no explanation, chase them, chase suppliers and just end up in a position where you’re desperately wanting them to leave your home and finish off the rest yourself, scarred from ever hiring someone else again.

When an enquiry comes through it’s exciting and I look forward to speaking with them.

If Akiva can prevent another client experiencing what this client did by any means, I will be happy that we have done our job, if we manage to bring the client on board, even better.

Renovating your home the right way is more serious than you may think, don’t just hire anyone, do your research thoroughly and document everything.