Giving life to creative life: Facebook designers write to honor women

By The Facebook Design Team
7 min to read
March 8, 2021
Four women use different tools to build a sculpture of the numerals 2021.


In celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked the Facebook Design community about women who sparked their creativity during a difficult year. Find out who put a match to our collective imagination.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s health, livelihoods, sanity, and more, and this has been as true for Facebook designers as it has been for anyone. It’s within this context that we reflect on what Women’s History Month means for us. In doing so, we acknowledge — from sources across the globe and from our own experiences — that women have been disproportionately affected by the global health crisis.

But we in the design community know women to be powerful creative forces no matter what’s happening in the world. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re sharing our personal tales with women who helped us get through the rough year that had us doubting that we’d be able to make anything at all. Here are a smattering of stories to inspire your year ahead.

Who were the women who helped you create this past year?

Maryanne Moodie inspired me to buy a six-foot loom and take up weaving when we went into lockdown. And while I'm not anywhere near finished, the act of sitting down and doing something slow and creative has kept me sane during this past year. I actually ended up getting rid of my dining table to make space for it. And I sometimes start weaving before I start my workday to clear my head or over the weekend with a good audiobook to keep me company.

— Miriam T., Product Design Manager, London

Animation of a woman weaving with a loom.

If I had to choose just one person to write about, I’d have to choose my wife. My wife — who trades off childcare with me so I can have meetings and think deeply at work, who gives me smart feedback on my creative endeavors, and who makes sure there’s intentional time for me to work on personal projects — is honestly the only choice. This year especially, so many of us would have no time to have a single creative consideration, let alone get something done, without our partners.

— Gina P., Content Design Manager, New York City

I've been inspired by my own daughters. As young adults (18 and 20), this has been an incredibly challenging time for them, but they have found their own way to feed their souls through making, and we have encouraged and supported each other in our projects as well. One of my daughters has been writing and recording her own music, and the other has gone deep into knitting and made gifts for family and friends. It warms my heart to see that creativity is a source of therapy and resilience for them, as it is for me.

— Margaret S., VP Product Design, Menlo Park

This past year I was inspired by all the female entrepreneurs I see in the world. They have changed the way I perceive myself and relate to my skills and talents. These business leaders' thinking and life examples have pushed me to believe more in myself, to see that it's hard but possible to juggle motherhood, style and business — and be a badass while doing all of those things at once.

— Dana G., Design Program Manager, Tel Aviv

A woman rocks her baby while participating in a work-related video call.

In 2019, I saw a talk called "The Siren Call of Self-Neglect" by design research manager, innovation leader, and founder Vivianne Castillo. She discussed the importance of user experience researchers looking after themselves given how much time they spend deeply hearing other people and the risk of compassion fatigue. This perspective drew from Vivianne’s background in psychology and trauma counseling. Throughout last year, I thought often about Vivianne’s work; it shifted the way I think about self-care and, in turn, helped me further my own efforts toward making technology more empathetic, inclusive, and human.

— Kristin H., Director of Research, Menlo Park

Sarah Sentilles is a brilliant writer who leads workshops and creative retreats. Her book "Draw Your Weapons" won the PEN American. She pushes for art making especially during tragedy and conflict, asserting it as a bold form of protest when the world is literally and figuratively on fire. Because of her coaching and virtual retreats, I finished another draft of a book I've been working on forever.

— Ella H., Product Design Director, Menlo Park

I’ve been holding an overall anxiousness this past year. Many of you probably relate. We underestimate the toll of lockdowns and the disruption to everyday life, so it’s critical for me to create moments of calm. One gift of 2020 is that I spend every day with my children. My ten-year-old daughter has to create art — it’s deep within her to make things. I thankfully haven’t lost my inspiration to create. I am one of the lucky ones who get to do it for a living. But this past year has definitely dampened my spark. So I steal some from my daughter. I come out of my video calls, and she has a whole mess of art supplies out and is in the throes of making. And I sit there next to her, grab a colored pencil and a piece of paper and just do what she is doing. And for a couple of moments, the whole world melts away, and I steal a moment of peace.

— Kevin S., Product Designer, New York City

Animation of a girl and her father drawing on separate surfaces.

As we all adapted to the new realities of COVID-19 and working from home, I was experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. Everything had changed in a matter of weeks; I was feeling sad and was finding it difficult to focus at work.

It was around that time that Facebook VP Head of Design Alicia D. published a piece for employees titled “Time for Compassionate Prioritization." She shared what she did to look after herself, her family, and her colleagues as she faced a deeply personal, all-encompassing challenge through the lens of compassion, saying: "As you juggle adjusting to working from home and balancing a lot of demands on yourself at an uncertain time, try to bring compassion to the process: Be honest about what you can accomplish and what you need to get it done."

Reading her words gave me a great deal of freedom. I was empowered to be direct with my manager and colleagues about things I could and couldn't do, was more forgiving with myself when I couldn't keep my promises as well as I could have, and I was open about special needs I had. I ended up having a very successful year, despite the lockdown, and I couldn't have done it without Alicia's example and willingness to embody our values.

— Jeffrey T., Content Designer, London

Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s first Digital Minister and the first transgender woman administrative officer, has inspired me to shape a more imaginative future. She plays a crucial role in forming digital democracy and promoting social innovation, which has led to Taiwan’s success in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Tang’s example motivates me to think beyond the status quo when designing products. Her strong empathy and humble leadership have also inspired me to devote myself to creating an open, equal, and transparent team culture.

— YuRong C., Product Designer, Singapore

A woman sketches a webpage on a dry erase board while her colleagues watch and discuss over a video call.

Sallie Krawcheck is the incredible CEO and powerhouse behind Ellevest, and she frequently uses her voice to show and teach women how to advance in their careers and grow their personal wealth. And when I decided to organize a virtual not-for-profit conference last year, she reached out personally to donate her time and serve as one of our main speakers. Thanks to her and the entire team, we were able to educate over 4,000 women at the event on how to take control of their own financial journey.

— Lily K., Product Designer, San Francisco

Alice Wong is a brilliant disability rights activist, media maker and podcaster based in San Francisco. In her book “Disability Visibility,” she gathers first-person essays celebrating the vastness of disabled stories and diversity. She's been a great inspiration for me in my work leading the accessible design initiative at Facebook. Her enthusiasm and commitment to the cause inspired me even more to live and work in alignment with my vision and values.

— Caterina F., Product Designer, San Francisco

Two women, one standing and one sitting in a wheelchair holding a copy of Disability Visibility, exchange thoughts about the book.

Who are the women who have influenced my creative output over the past year? Our preschool teachers. There’s no way I would have had the capacity to collaborate, focus, or write anything at all this past year without the women who teach my daughter, Valentina and Echo. They give their care and time to my kid every day of the week, and I am so grateful. Childcare providers are critical to society, and I hope every company that cares about design sees their impact.

— Talia L., Content Designer, Seattle

I got burned-out during the lockdown and paused my personal art project for a while. I’ve looked to designer Chelsea Klukas and her tech fashion startup, Lumen Couture, for inspiration. Chelsea manages to have a day job and a passion project at the same time, and she’s doing a great job on both of them. Chelsea's success has motivated me to keep creating. My new 100-day project is about to start after a six-month pause.

— Tiantian X., Product Designer, Seattle

A woman sits at a desk, her back turned to us, as thought bubbles above her display an ice cream bar, a ghost, and an a Penrose triangle.

Dolly Parton is someone who always inspires me to create not only because of her talent, but because of how she lifts other people up. Her endless energy, kindness and resilience help me realize that anything is possible. A quote I turned to a lot in 2020 was, “If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.”

— Casey C., Content Designer, San Francisco

Every time I get to work with my colleague, Amanda L., I learn from her leadership, support, and encouragement. She’s always recognized and encouraged my involvement in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Most recently, she invited me to join a small team working to meaningfully engage with the design community at-large, especially now that we’re in a remote environment. Having the space and opportunity to brainstorm with colleagues and organize events is satisfying. And ultimately, thinking about how to inspire others has resulted in us being inspired ourselves.

— Paola M., Product Design Manager, Menlo Park

Nupol Kiazolu is known online by her handle Nupol Justice. She is an NYC-based activist, but you can see her all over the U.S. organizing and fighting for Black lives. What I admire about her is that she is a Presence. She’s vulnerable, spreads truths, and acknowledges the threats that exist for Black organizers. And she models the human reality behind activism. Between her calls for action and demands for justice are stories of her life, her family, and photos of her simply living. It’s enough to help inspire other women to see that you, too, can do the work. I continue to strive toward being as bold and brilliant of a leader, and in 2020, Nupol’s work helped light a fire in me.

— Angela P., Content Designer, New York City

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