Gender equality in design with Creative Director of Figma, Tori Hinn

Juraj Mihalik

Hi Tori. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! I’m a designer and creative director based in San Francisco. I’m a new transplant and moved here from New York! I love animals, people, color theory, and experimenting with different art forms. I also care deeply about diversity and inclusion, and it’s a thread that runs through the work that I do.

Take us through your journey, and how did you start with design?

I was always heavily involved in art as a kid. I didn’t know it was graphic design at the time, but I started making websites at around 11-12 years old. I learned to code and liked designing my layouts. I stopped for a time in high school and got deep into art and illustration. Eventually, I went to RISD and thought I would major in illustration or furniture. I ended up going to the graphic design senior show, falling in love again and declared graphic design as my major. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Where are you currently working?

I work at Figma. I started in December of 2018, so pretty recently! I’m the Creative Director there. I was freelancing in New York before. I typically worked on my own clients and contracts. I’m involved with anything concerning the brand and figuring out how it integrates with our product. My main focus is to evolve and grow the Figma brand, which is the kind of work I love doing.

New offering for organizations and fresh homepage for Figma

What is your favorite project that you worked on?

I don’t know if I have a favorite. I enjoyed working with the team at Etsy in 2018 to help brand Etsy’s new tiered subscription service. The team was awesome, so welcoming and collaborative.

Etsy

It reinforced a lot of what I’ve learned about compromise and communication. Those two things are so important when brand and product teams are working together. The project itself was challenging because we were taking this really beloved brand and injecting it with new life. We were also asking customers to pay more money for a new service, so I definitely learned more about patience and listening to the needs of customers.

Etsy

When I look back, I probably would have started exploring earlier. Timelines can creep up on you! Otherwise, I think it turned out pretty well, and we were happy with the end result.

Etsy

Tell me about your project, Women of Graphic Design.

Women of Graphic Design is a project that explores the work of women in the graphic design field, as well as their contributions to the industry, and we also aim to correct a lot of imbalances we see in design education.

It all started as part of my thesis in 2013 when I was a student at RISD. I did start it alone but was joined by Kathleen Sleboda of Draw Down Books about a year after the project began.

Women of Graphic Design

The idea behind it is pretty simple. Discover incredible work, interesting ideas, and amazing contributions to design… that happen to be made by women.

Most graphic design students in the US are women. More than half of designers working the US today are women. But only a small amount of those designers are featured in design publications, asked to speak on panels at conferences, and generally lack the same exposure and opportunity that’s offered to their male counterparts. When we teach graphic design students about the history of design, most curriculums leave out the contributions of women.

Though there were and are many men to impact the history and world of graphic design, there have been great female designers right alongside them. So I asked the question— why is a whole group being ignored in institutionalized design history? Women of GD started as a blog. It’s not meant to give a history lesson about designers 70 years ago, but rather, it’s a tool made for today’s designers to start thinking about a more balanced picture—the whole picture. And hopefully, we can start to correct some of the issues women face in design today.

Women of Graphic Design

My motivation started back when I was a student at RISD, taking History of Graphic Design, and learning about 323 graphic designers in a lecture class. Only 6% of the designers featured were women, but most of my classmates were women. At the time, I didn’t know if there just weren’t jobs for women, or if my professors weren’t educating their students properly. I wanted to enact change, not only for myself but for other women in design. I wanted to encourage them to go for the jobs they want, to do the work they want, and not apologize for it.

How did it evolve since day one?

It definitely became more of a community than I ever expected! I started it to be a catalog or a resource. I never imagined it would become this amazing community of people that I could reach out to, speak to, and find support in.

At the time WOGD started, there weren’t many other communities like it. It’s been cool to see more popping up now in recent years and to see them focused on getting opportunities into the hands of women, like YesEqual and Women Who Design. I wish they’d been around when I was starting my career!

We don’t have members, but we have contributors who helped us source work and ran the blog. One of our first contributors was Mirella Marie of Studio Vertigo in Melbourne, Australia. The blog is currently on hiatus, but as of today, we have 84,428 followers on Tumblr (the platform we run it off of). For many years, Kathleen managed the blog and the sourcing of work, and she was incredible. WOGD would not have existed without her, and I’m incredibly thankful and indebted to her.

What are your favorite projects from the community?

Oh, it’s so hard to choose. I love the ones that push at your thought process and challenge you. Maybe even make you a bit uncomfortable, like World White Web by Johanna Burai.

World White Web by Johana Burai

What’s next for WOGD?

We aren’t currently updating the blog or taking new submissions. With my schedule and a full-time job, I’m rethinking where the project will go. I started it six years ago, and my priorities and dreams are different now. I’m taking some time to dream up new things for WOGD and see how it can be most useful to the community. Keep an eye out. 🙂

I’d like for Women of GD to give women more opportunity. I’d like to see women get jobs from it, to see a lecture series, to put people in touch with one another. I’d like it to inspire more change than it already has. I think the community side of Women of GD is the most essential part of it all.

What’s an interesting or fun fact about yourself we wouldn’t find on your social media?

I’m from a small Florida town with a very southern culture, and if I’m exhausted, my southern accent comes out.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like exploring (getting lost), making ceramics, and I volunteer at a dog shelter (which I really, really love).

Bonus Question: When was the last time you ate avocado, and how was it made?

This morning! I ate it on bread, and it's in my top 5 favorite foods.

Want to stay in touch with Tori? Find her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or check her website.

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