To mark the end of the academic year, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan holds its Spring Symposium every May. In addition to honoring recent PhD graduates, this event allows students and faculty to discuss the tensions between feminist theory and practice.
During my time as the event and communication coordinator for the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, I organized over 70 departmental events. Among the most complicated was the annual Spring Symposium, which combined the celebration of a graduation ceremony with the intellectualism of an academic conference. In 2018, the symposium’s title was “Living a Feminist Life”—and it was my job to create a graphic identity for that theme.
One of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies’ defining principles is that feminist scholarship should not be confined to the ivory tower—it belongs in daily life. I began thinking about everyday items that could be associated with both the department and spring. The first thing that came to mind were flowers, which were everywhere within and outside our building. Though I was initially hesitant to use a symbol associated with “traditional” femininity, I began to wonder if there was a way to subvert ideas about feminine aesthetics.
The final design for the Spring Symposium made flowers out of feminism—literally. Using the feminist symbol, a fist raised in the Venus symbol, I created flower petals in purple and green, colors associated with the women’s suffrage movement.
The design was well-received by the department’s students and faculty—so much so that the chair asked for a permanent version of the poster to go up in our building. The same idea was adapted for the following year’s Spring Symposium, though I expanded the design’s color palette.