Edited by Briar Levit
192 pages, softcover, $27.50
Published by Princeton Architectural Press
Like a scene out of Mad Men, designer and typographer Betti Broadwater Haft remembered her entry into the graphic arts industry in the 1950s as a time when her portfolio doubled as a shield against a handsy employer. The prospects in the industry were extremely limited for women, and her job offer once included “Thursdays with the boss.” Haft realized her two options: “Either be treated as a bimbo or an alien.”
Baseline Shift includes Haft among the accomplished women in print and publishing who, despite absurd biases from employers (“women have difficulty standing up” and “working women are defeminized,” etc.), have made notable achievements in the field—yet are overlooked in the industry’s history. The roster includes pioneers like Elizabeth (Harris) Glover, who in 1638 was reportedly the first woman involved in US commercial printing, and Bea Feitler, the Brazilian designer who became art director of Ms. magazine in the 1970s.
Editor and designer Briar Levit includes profiles from design writers and educators with rarely seen images, like the striking programs of Louise E. Jefferson, owner of the first Black-owned printing company in Harlem. Framing the stories within historical and economic contexts, the book also honors the print collectives who combined writing and art with political activism to advance the Suffragette, Black Liberation and Women’s Liberation movements. Baseline Shift offers a contrast to graphic design’s White male history. These impressive examples showcase women whose work and legacy must be preserved. —Ruth Hagopian