Star Designers: Part One,
by Maya Ober

The figure of the Male Star Designer is crucial to understanding the processes behind the Design Patriarchy. Patriarchy is based on dominance, power, hierarchy and competition, these features nurture: ego, individuality and superiority, which are socially constructed to be male characteristics. Patriarchy pre-supposes the “natural” superiority of men over women, within the gender binary division. Women are subordinated to men, who confined their social role to biology.

Historically, women were restricted to domestic roles of mothers, wives, servants etc., albeit practised design within the household, often using local crafting techniques and collaborating with other women. Gender binarism defines female as a complete opposite of male. Therefore in the hierarchical, oppressive framework of patriarchy women’s skills and creativity are sex-related and marginalised, as opposed to men’s which are praised and respected. The worship of an individual, as opposed to “collaborative”, favours men, who have been privileged to use the industry and to mark the industrial design “as a male activity” thus valued higher.

The centrality of individuals and the personality cult influence the very way in which design is perceived. To any practitioner is obvious that all design projects are collaborative on one or another level, behind Star Designer stands most of the time a group of employees and collaborators. Designers do not work in a void, very often we see similar, parallelling ideas developing in different parts of the world. Why then the cult of an individual genius is being celebrated? Instead of understanding the processes within the design field, applying intersectionality, mainstream design historians, curators, press, and industry focus on the individuals – predominantly male. Men designers achieved a privileged position, thanks to systematical very destructive tools of control, subordination, classification and prioritisation of different design disciplines, which enabled them to capitalise on the expense of women designers.