Sitting with the mess is a research project by Nina M Gibbes for the fulfilment of the Master of Communication Design degree at RMIT University in Melbourne. The project investigates how designers are making space to address the inherent gender and cultural biases present in the canon of graphic design and in the wider industry. This research project comprises a series of interviews with design educators and designers, as well as the development of a practical workshop for designers and students to engage with messy design history through the construction of crossword puzzles.

While this website houses the completed project for my master’s degree, I must acknowledge that this is an ongoing project and a constant work in progress. It is a space that will shift and change over time as I learn, discover and talk to more people. If you would like to speak with me or be involved with this ongoing project please get in touch, I would love to talk and make work with you.


Crosswords:tools to sit with some messy design history

In addition to the numerous interviews published on this website, this research project involved a messy design history workshop with Melbourne based designers Zenobia Ahmed and Dennis Grauel. We met up over Jitsi for numerous collaborative sessions to discuss and share knowledge on various texts we had collected, followed by a creative exercise in building crossword puzzles in response to the research we had done on various stories of women in design. Using the crossword puzzle as a design tool to explore stories of women in design, the workshop as a model for research and collaboration provided an opportunity to devote the time, and attention to stories that may have been left out of mainstream design history books. 

These artefacts also serve to confront individuals about their knowledge of design history and its potentially narrow perspective, and the importance of bringing these stories forward.
The methods described here allowed me to engage in research that is practice-based and is now an ongoing project that I will make space for in my graphic design practice. This page shows the puzzles Dennis, Zenobia and I created during this workshop. Feel free to save them and try to solve them!

This workshop took place over numerous days between September and October 2020. The collected texts used to create these puzzles can be found on our publicly available Are.na board here.

Women Type Designers

Women Type Designers by Dennis Grauel

Women in Printmaking, Typography and Design

Women in printmaking, typography and design by Zenobia Ahmed

Some Messy Design History

Some Messy Design History by Nina Gibbes