11 Women in Design Share Their Biggest Piece of Advice

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For Women's History Month, we are highlighting the people and projects you should know about all year long. 

The design industry relies on visual storytelling, which is deeply enriched by inclusivity. After all, who wants to see the same exact stories being told until the end of time? Though it's important to remember this always, during Women's History Month, we're talking extra time to reflect on the significance of women's voices in the design industry. We're especially focusing on the stories that are being told by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ designers who identify as women.

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To open up the conversation surrounding inclusion in the design industry, we reached out to a few of our favorite women in design. In the name of supporting future generations interested in this field, we asked: What is your best piece of advice for getting into the design industry? These are their answers.

1. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.

"Do not only see yourself as a designer. Simply pursuing design aesthetics or style will just make you close-minded. You need to keep up with the times and constantly explore deeper into human nature — and that's literally how you achieve design work of real value." — Li Xiang, architect, designer, and founder of X+Living

2. Keep your imagination engaged.

"It is a career in which the daily necessity of creativity and looking for new ideas always keeps your imagination active. Also, it is a very flexible profession, which is great because you have the opportunity to choose the work or area that you like the most." — Claudia Suárez Ahedo, interior designer, architect, and founder of AHS Studio

3. Embrace what you’re drawn to.

"Immerse yourself in everything that feels good to you. It will undoubtedly become your signature and what sets you apart from your colleagues." — Keia McSwain, principal designer at Kimberly + Cameron Interiors and president of the Black Interior Designers Network

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4. Find your community.

"When I was first starting out in digital design, I saw so few women — let alone queer women — in leadership roles. That really started to shift toward the end of my tenure in digital (before starting MINNA). I remember the first queer woman in leadership I saw giving me so much hope. They made me finally feel comfortable because I could see a path for someone who was like me. I sort of latched on to her and a group of other queer women who really gave me the confidence and security I needed to find my footing. Community is everything at all stages of your career." — Sara Berks, creative director and founder of MINNA

5. Become a problem solver.

"My advice would be to find a problem that you are uniquely equipped to solve in the design industry, then build the skills and acquire the resources needed to solve that problem. Given my background — born in Ghana, raised in South Africa, and having worked in various industries in the U.S. and multiple African countries — I noticed that consumers in the U.S. could not easily access contemporary home decor products from the talented designers in Africa and the Diaspora. At the same time, I also understood that in a world where information is easily accessible and at our fingertips, people yearn to be inspired and to discover the unexplored." — Nana Quagraine, founder of 54kibo

6. Remember that your perspective matters.

"Don't let the fact that you're not seeing representation be a deterrent and don't let that make you feel like it's not a space for you. It absolutely is a space for you and is needed. We need to see more of our stories told. Design is our canvas of being able to tell our unique perspectives — it just happens to be through the medium of interiors." — Shavonda Gardner, interior designer and blogger at SG Style

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7. Be unapologetic about your heritage.

"Be grateful and have pride in your heritage, as it is extremely rich. The Black diaspora has been creating geniuses for centuries in disciplines of science, medicine, gastronomy, art, textiles, literature, architectural design, and many more. So we have elders who paved the way for us. Let's be unapologetic and show our style and work to the world. Be a voice to advocate for your own individuality. Join a design community such as the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) or Black Interior Designers Network for support and guidance." — Marie Burgos, interior designer and founder of Marie Burgos Collection

8. Be willing to work your way up.

"There is no such thing as a dream design job, especially at the beginning. You have to be willing to start low and work up. Also, don't underestimate the power of connections. Attend trade shows, network, and always lead with passion and perseverance." — Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social

9. Allow yourself to question things.

"Your outsider's perspective may be your biggest strength — know that and use it! Alongside a deep respect for the craft, a curious, questioning mindset is extremely powerful in building new ideas and leaving your lasting impact on the space." — Nidhi Kapur, founder and CEO of Maiden Home

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10. Know that you’re capable.

"I think for women, especially, we tend to have this imposter syndrome where we think that we're not good enough. There is a little bit of 'fake it till you make it' with a lot of positions and situations, but I think not doing that, if at all possible, and having the confidence to go forth and do your very best, and have the wherewithal to know that you are capable of doing the work, is important." — Laura Hodges, owner and principal interior designer at Laura Hodges Studio

11. Ask for help when you need it.

"Enter into this industry with an open mind, tough exterior, and a will to learn. Find a mentor and ask ALL the questions. Absorb as much as you can! You won't know everything at first and that is okay. It's best to be authentic and honest about where you are at. This business is built on trust and honesty is always the best policy." — Carmen René Smith, principal designer at AQUILO Interiors

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Anna is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle and design content for Hunker. She's written for Apartment Therapy, the L.A. Times, Forge, and more. She previously worked as the lifestyle editor at HelloGiggles and deputy editor at So Yummy. Her email: anna.gragert@hunker.com

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