5 Influential Women in the World of Modern Design

We’ve celebrated women all month long in our Friday Five column in honor of Women’s History month, but we didn’t want it to end there. While design has long been a male-dominated field, we’re finally seeing the balance shift with more and more notable women not just entering the arena, but taking over and permanently cementing their names in history. Today, we’re taking a look at five influential women in the world of modern design who deserve to be household names.

Photo courtesy of Cecilie Manz

Fresh off a Designer of the Year win from Maison&Objet 2018, award-winning Danish designer Cecilie Manz continues breaking the mold in the design world working with major brands, like Fritz Hansen, B&O, Muuto, Duravit, Georg Jensen Damask, Iittala, Fredericia Furniture, and more, creating everything from bathtubs, furniture, speakers, lighting, textiles, objects, and glassware. Her Scandinavian roots prominently show through in each of her designs with a clean, minimalist approach that brands and consumers both appreciate.

Beoplay P2 Bluetooth speaker for B&O Play

Caravaggio™ lighting for Fritz Hansen \\\ Photo by Christian B / YELLOWS

Aitio shelves and storage boxes for Iittala

Photo by Laurel Golio, courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Japan-born, Brooklyn-based Nao Tamura brings a clean, serene aesthetic to everything she creates, no matter what material she’s working with. Whether it’s wood or glass, her thoughtful designs merge both her Japanese and New York cultures resulting in pieces that very easily fall into the category of art and not just product design. Along with many awards under her belt, the prolific designer works with a multitude of brands, including nanimarquina, Hem, Wonderglass, Established & Sons, HBF, Nikari, and Artek ,to name a few.

Quill rug collection for nanimarquina

Kanso Bench with Table for HBF

Flow[T] chandelier for Wonderglass

Photo by Evan Miller

Lauren Larson is 1/2 of the duo behind Material Lust, a New York City based design studio she co-founded with partner Christian Swafford. The pair met at Parsons The New School for Design where she earned her BFA and quickly got to work steadily building a diverse portfolio of forward-thinking work that redefines the dark side of design. Their bold work stands out for all the right reasons, leaving a majestic impression that you’ll never forget and never want to. From furniture, lighting, textiles, art, an experimental space named the ANNEX, and a side endeavor called Orphan Work, it’s no doubt that Larson, and Material Lust, will continue breaking the chains and leaving basic design behind.

Crawl Chair

Opioid Painting

002 Pendant from Orphan Work

Photo courtesy of Cristina Celestino

Born in Pordenone, Italy, Cristina Celestino first worked as an architect after graduation before changing gears to focus on interior architecture and design. She founded her design brand, Attico Design, in 2009 when she moved to Milan and since then has been designing for brands like Seletti, Fendi, Tonelli Design, Nilufar, Fujifilm, Bulgari, and Sergio Rossi. Her partnership with Fendi in 2016 led to The Happy Room collection, which made its debut at Design Miami/, featuring pieces that were indeed happy. She has a knack for the way she boldly uses materials and her unique color palettes, resulting in her interiors being as equally mesmerizing as her pieces of furniture and design objects.

The Happy Room for Fendi

Laguna glassware by Attica Design

Sergio Rossi boutique

Photo by Noah Kalina

Neri Oxman is an Israeli-born architect, designer, and researcher based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where besides founding Mediated Matter research group, she is also a professor at the MIT Media Lab. She earned her PhD in Design Computation as a MIT Presidential Fellow, coining ‘Material Ecology’ to describe the research she was doing. Oxman’s award-winning work can be found in permanent locations, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), the Smithsonian Institution, and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. She blends technology and biology in her work, a rarely occurring mix in the design world, pushing the boundaries of art and design and paving a way that’s never been seen before.

Vespers mask \\\ Photo by Yoram Reshef

Mushtari 3D printed wearable \\\ Photo by Yoram Reshef

Ancient Yet Modern installation for Lexus Design Award

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.