Graphic designer Sally Piskuric has always been passionate about empowering women – as has her creative partner, Alison Lasek. So, when the duo decided to team up for Melbourne Design Week, they saw the creative brief to ‘design the world you want’ as an opportunity to explore female creativity, representation, freedom and advocacy.
“Up to Us brings women together to create community and solidarity, which for me is so critical in today’s world. It gives women in design a platform and a voice to showcase their incredible talents and discuss the issues that matter most to them. It also gives them a chance to be hopeful, optimistic and feel inspired to make change,” reflects Sally.
This agenda felt particularly critical to Sally given her increasing frustration at media coverage of women’s safety, pay inequality, the challenges of motherhood, women suffering with chronic pain and burnout in recent years. “I wanted to take this frustration and channel it into something positive,” she says. “And after two years of the design industry feeling disconnected due to Covid, I really wanted to bring people together.”
Drawing on Melbourne’s talented stock of female designers across a diverse cross-section of creative disciplines, Up to Us does just that. Participants are paired with a female practitioner from another creative discipline and tasked with designing solutions to problems that predominantly affect women. “Too often we see men making decisions that impact women’s health, employment and freedoms. Up to Us is about seeing a world where women can design for other women and for themselves,” Sally explains.
Having worked as a graphic designer for 16 years in branding and environmental design, Sally’s awareness of the challenges women face in the design industry underpins the project. “I feel that in many industries, but very much so in design, women need to prove themselves. They need to show a precedent of the exact type of work they are being asked to produce and are often given less chances,” Sally reflects. “I find that there is often more confidence placed in men, greater risks are allowed to be taken and failures are accepted more readily.”
Then there are the added challenges of women deciding whether to have children and considering the possible impacts on their professional careers. “We are seeing more and more women start their own practices and studios to allow for greater flexibility,” Sally observes. “I also think as the user experience becomes vital to good design, the value of empathy is being highlighted – it’s a skill that many women excel at.”
The Up to Us line-up is testament to this, with thoughtful and diverse works produced by 22 Australian creatives – both established and emerging. “We were so grateful for the excitement and enthusiasm we received from the creatives we approached, many of whom have advocated for women’s issues, mentored other female designers and fought hard to give women interesting opportunities,” Sally says.
“We were so grateful for the excitement and enthusiasm we received from the creatives we approached, many of whom have advocated for women’s issues, mentored other female designers and fought hard to give women interesting opportunities,” Sally says.
The creativity explored in the Up to Us exhibition is buoyed by an accompanying speaker series, Up to Us Talks: A Conversation with Female Creatives About the World They Want, revealing key insights and experiences from Evi O, Josie Young, Courtney Holm, Amy Mills, Lily Gloria, Jo Hook, Mirella Arapian (Mek/Womentor) & Fatuma Ndenzako (Collective Closets) and Kerryn Moscicki (Radical Yes). Funds raised from the speaker series will be donated to two charity organisations addressing domestic violence in the community: Djirra and Safe Steps.
With a long-standing passion for problem solving and collaboration, Sally naturally embraced the opportunity to curate an exhibition centred around women in the creative community she holds dear. “I love working in multidisciplinary design environments and collaborating on projects that can positively impact the community,” she reveals. Looking to the future, Sally hopes to maintain Up to Us as an annual platform to exchange ideas and bring awareness to issues affecting people identifying as women and girls in our communities – illuminating the ongoing utopian question: what if it is up to us?
Up to Us launches on Thursday March 27 at 6.30pm and will run for 10 days at Le Space Gallery.