When was the last time you did something for the first time? Dare to Be First is a campaign designed to inspire girls and women to be trailblazers by highlighting historical female figures from the past and how they rose above to defy all odds and do something for the first time. The campaign involves an analysis of the history of feminism in the United States and the identification of women in history who were considered to be “Firsts,” which is a term used to signify women who were the first to achieve a particular accomplishment or goal that only men had previously done. One major goal of Dare to Be First is to inform people that feminism is a movement fueled by a desire for gender equality. This article demonstrates how a campaign such as this one starts from a small idea and eventually becomes an entire movement and how graphic design and social media can be used as tools for success.
Waves of Feminism in the United States
While there is no true beginning or end to the feminist movement for equality in the United States, a great starting point is the first-wave feminism movement. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women in the United States were not awarded the same legal rights as men. Women were forbidden from owning property, signing legal documents, serving on juries, attending universities, or having legal custody of their children. Much of the activism at this time was centered on women’s suffrage which was granted to women in 1920 in the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Leaders of this movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, would not have referred to themselves as “feminists”; rather, they would have called themselves “suffragists.”3
The term “feminist” gained popularity at the beginning of the second wave of feminism. This movement began in the 1960s and was fueled by the desire of women to gain social equality. At this time, a woman in the United States was expected to marry in her early 20s, start a family quickly, and devote her life to homemaking even if she had a college education.1 Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, is largely credited with being the spark that started the second wave of feminism. Friedan’s book was highly controversial at the time of its publication because her book challenged the notion that housewives were content with staying home and solely being the caretakers of their families.
In reality, many of these women felt trapped and unfulfilled in their lives because they had to put their dreams on hold. The second wave of feminism focused mostly on workplace and salary equality and societal and cultural change, and it sparked a change in the United States where women finally began to feel like they had a voice.
The third wave of feminism started in the 1990s.4 The idea behind this wave was expanding the parameters of feminism in order to include women of all races, classes, and sexual orientations. Leaders of the third wave sought to break away from the stereotypical definition of a “feminist” at this time, which was wrongfully stereotyped as a woman who hates men, does not shave her legs or armpits, and does not celebrate her own femininity. The idea was to change the face of feminism to let people know that being a feminist was not defined by a specific identity or lifestyle. In addition to being more inclusive, third-wave feminism focused on bringing issues to light and exposing people and events that do not demonstrate gender equality. The third wave of feminism is a great example of the idea that there will always be the need for adaptation and progress as our society goes through generational and cultural change, and its specific emphasis on diversity and bringing women’s issues into the light signifies the beginning of modern feminist movements in the United States.
Women's History at Texas A&M
Texas A&M University was established in 1876 as a military institution. It was not until April 27, 1963, that Texas A&M opened the doors for women to enroll on a “limited basis.” According to an article released by Texas A&M in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the attendance of women, the “intent was for women to be allowed to enroll at Texas A&M if their desired fields of study were not available anywhere else in the state. However, women soon started enrolling in ever-increasing numbers, and no institutional attempt was made to limit the areas in which they could study.”6 In 1969, the university allowed women to enroll in unrestricted numbers. Since the admission of female students at Texas A&M 50 years ago, there have been numerous changes to how the university runs its administration and practices inclusiveness. Examples of this are the campus making an effort to incorporate women into faculty, athletics, Corps of Cadets, and student body life in general. According to the Texas A&M Student Demographics from fall 2017, the campus is currently made up of 47.27% women.7 There are many successes as a university that can be greatly attributed to all of the women who have attended or worked at Texas A&M. In the last 50 years, there have been numerous accomplishments achieved by women at Texas A&M, range from the first female Dean of Engineering to the first female collegiate All-American athlete, the first woman leader of the Corps of Cadets, and the first female student body president.
Why this Campaign, and Why Now?
The United States is currently in the fourth wave of feminism. Jennifer Baumgardner released a book in 2011 that defined the fourth wave as having started in 2008 and as different than past waves because of the use of newer forms of technology. Social media has gained tremendous popularity in the last decade, and other forms of technology have shown us how fast and easy information can be spread across the world today. The fourth wave of feminism combines political, psychological, and spiritual factors all into one and is fueled by the digital age, making communication and the spread of information easier than ever before. 2
One of the main problems with the current wave is that social media can warp perceptions leading to people having stereotypical ideas about feminists, making it hard for perceptions in society to move forward and become more positive. Many people believe that there is a certain type of person who is a feminist. Additionally, many still do not entertain the idea that a man can be a feminist, too. Being able to provide “education and clarification of what beliefs fall under ‘feminism’ are vital in creating equality and positive change in society”.5
An approach that may spark fresh ideas into society is the idea of looking at women in history as a direct reference. Studying famous women in history and analyzing their stories can explain much of why things are the way they are today. Their individual cases can oftentimes display acts of courage and unprecedented strength. The most impactful historical female figures all had one thing in common: they were the first to do something amazing in their fields and set chain reactions for generations that came after them.
The difference between other campaigns and Dare to Be First is that it does not focus on the heavier and political issues. Rather, Dare to Be First takes an empowering and light-hearted approach by highlighting women in history and their past accomplishments and demonstrating how their accomplishments have had a lasting effect on women today. The campaign is designed to inspire girls and women to be unafraid to embrace their true selves and have the freedom to practice any interest they have. This approach was selected because the fight for women’s rights is multidimensional and many people have opposing opinions on different women’s rights topics. The goal was to take an approach that the majority of people could agree upon, which is using stories from history to show that trailblazing women will inspire and empower later generations to do the same.
Design, Development, and Methods
The right aesthetic for this campaign was chosen by figuring out who the target audience was and how the aesthetic of the campaign would be used to target this specific group. It was important to consider the targeted audience for the campaign: girls, women, and leaders of movements that align with Dare to Be First’s beliefs. The color palette (Figure 1) was chosen because of its use of bright colors such as yellow, orange, and pink to represent a bright future and femininity. The navy blue was chosen as a reminder of seriousness. The fonts chosen on the official logo (Figure 2) follow the same meanings as the colors. The script font chosen for “first” was designed to represent free-spiritedness and freedom, and the thin, simplistic and clean font chosen for “DARE TO BE” represents a clean, stable, firm, and modern approach. The logo was initially created as a sketch on pen and paper and then transferred to Adobe Illustrator to vectorize it and clean it up. All of the graphics in the DTBF campaign were made in Adobe Illustrator.
THE SCRIPT FONT CHOSEN FOR “FIRST” WAS DESIGNED TO REPRESENT FREE-SPIRITEDNESS AND FREEDOM, AND THE THIN, SIMPLISTIC AND CLEAN FONT CHOSEN FOR “DARE TO BE” REPRESENTS A CLEAN, STABLE, FIRM, AND MODERN APPROACH.
The Dare to Be First campaign had two main deliverables. The first was an environmental installation that was on display at the Memorial Student Center on November 7 and 8, 2017 (Figure 3A & 3B). The second is a short promotional video that highlights four modern women embracing their unique abilities and compares them with women in history who paved the way for them to be able to practice these talents today. Other secondary deliverables included stickers, posters, interactive note cards, and social media graphics.
Figure 3A. Front side of installation at a left angle.
Figure 3B. Front side of installation at a right angle.
The inspiration for the environmental graphic originated from Lee Taekeyom, a professor at Appalachian State University. Lee partnered with Texas A&M professors of the Visualization Vertical Studio course, Sherman Finch and Anatol Bologan, to have students in their class complete projects inspired by his idea of creating a live 3D typography piece designed for display in public areas around Texas A&M University’s campus. Each group in the class had the option to create a piece with any theme, aesthetic, and purpose, as long as it met the criteria of being large scale, displayed in a public setting and used typography to convey its message. At this point in time, Dare to Be First already had developed a concept based on highlighting the accomplishments of women in history. Since the environmental installation would be unique to A&M’s campus, the idea arose to put a timeline of Aggie women’s history on one side of the installation and a powerful typographic image on the other, combining an art piece with an educational one. Thus, the idea for the Dare to Be First environmental installation was born.
Building the installation was a lengthy process and required three people and four nights of labor to complete. The building process for the installation took place over several days between October 30 to November 3, 2017. The base for the installation was a ten-paneled canvas room divider purchased online that was just under seven feet tall and 14 feet wide. Each panel of the installation was carefully printed onto semi-matte paper and cut with an X-ACTO knife to fit the panels. Then, spray adhesive glue was carefully applied to the panels and paper, and they were cemented into place with the help of three sets of hands. This process was continued for all 20 panels (front and back of ten panels) and left to dry for about three days.
On November 7, 2017, the Dare to Be First Environmental Installation was installed in the 12th Man hallway on the first floor of the Memorial Student Center on Texas A&M University’s campus (Figure 3A & 3B). It remained there until the evening of November 8, 2017. While the installation was up, my campaign partners, Alex Hueste and Eman Al-Zubeidi, and I stood by the exhibit to answer questions and have discussions with people who were interested. The location of this exhibit was in an extremely high traffic area on Texas A&M’s campus which led to a great deal of interest and many visitors stopping by. Additionally, the Dare to Be First Environmental Installation was also on display during the Texas A&M Department of Visualization’s semi-annual show in the Langford Architecture Building C on December 7, 2017, along with a documentary video that chronicled the entire journey from start to finish.
Four uniquely talented women were chosen to represent the Dare to Be First campaign as spokeswomen: a biomedical engineering PhD candidate, a hip-hop dancer, a violinist, and a powerlifter. These four women were interviewed and filmed performing their talents. The four women “Firsts” from history that were chosen to compare them with were Marie Curie, Perla Primus, Emmanuelle Boisvert, and Karyn Marshall. Marie Curie was the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize in 1903 for her work in chemistry, and she was compared with the PhD candidate. This pair represented the scenes in the video, “Dare to Be Bright.” Perla Primus was the first African American modern dancer to gain popularity in 1943 for her talents, and she was compared with the hip-hop dancer. This pair represented “Dare to Be Bold.” Emmanuelle Boisvert was the first female concertmaster of a major symphony orchestra in the United States in 1988, and she was compared with the violinist. This pair represented “Dare to Be Heard.” Lastly, Karyn Marshall was the first woman to lift over 300 lbs. in 1987, and she was compared with the powerlifter. This pair represented “Dare to Be Strong.” We felt that it was important to make the connection between the women from history and the women in today’s world because without the “Firsts,” all four of the spokeswomen may not have had the opportunity to embrace their unique talents today.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL INSTALLATION
Each woman was filmed demonstrating their talents and being interviewed (Figure 8A, 8B, 8C, & 8D). The scenes for the video were filmed using a Canon EOS-5D Mark II. In a few of the scenes, dramatic lighting was set up to create a focal point. The other two scenes were filmed in the natural environment of where the women practiced their talents. Alex Hueste and I assisted, but Eman Al-Zubeidi was responsible for the majority of the filming and editing of the video. It was edited and rendered using Adobe After Effects.
In addition to the main deliverables, there were several supporting elements to the Dare to Be First campaign. The most notable designs are the ones on the @beafirst.campaign Instagram account that were posted to gain a following and generate interest in the campaign (Figures 6A, 6B & 6C, and Figures 7A, 7B, 7C & 7D).
The Dare to Be First campaign is an effort to confront old issues with a new approach. Feminism and women’s rights in the United States remain a controversial topic due to many conflicting opinions in society. The fight for equality is extremely complicated and “operates in occupational, educational, judicial, economic and social—including romantic—sphere[s].”8 There is no one right or wrong opinion, and there is no exact start or end to the fight. While there will always be issues and disagreements in the discussion of feminism, Dare to Be First offers a refreshing and easily agreeable approach. By using examples of women from the past and displaying how their hard work paved the way for women today, it is clear to see how their resilience has left a lasting and positive impact for future generations. Dare to Be First follows a feminine and trendy aesthetic that incorporates a series of contrasts between history and the present and between seriousness and freedom in the design. Its use of bright, bold colors and fun scripts was created to attract a wide range of female audiences, from young to old. The campaign is an example of a modern and trendy marketing approach and aligns with the values of successful marketing strategies in 2018.
I would like to thank my campaign partners, Alex Hueste and Eman Al-Zubeidi, for their dedication to our cause and our friendship. Alex is responsible for the creation of the majority of the design elements, including the logo design, environmental installation design, and graphic elements from the promotional video. Eman is to credit for the majority of the film production and editing in the promotional video. However, we all worked tirelessly and cohesively as a team to give the Dare to Be First campaign life.
Caroline Piazza '18
Caroline Piazza is a graduating senior visualization major from Plano, Texas. Caroline participated in the 2017–2018 class of the Undergraduate Research Scholars where she completed her thesis, which culminated in this article, under the direction and guidance of Professor Anatol Bologan. After graduation, Caroline hopes to to begin working toward her goal of becoming a corporate art or creative director.
1. “1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for Women.” Tavaana, E-Collaborative for Civic Education, https://tavaana.org/en/content/1960s-70s-american-feminist-movement-breaking-down-barriers-women.
2. Baumgardner, Jennifer. 2011. “F’em! Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts.” Berkeley, California: Seal Press
3. Bisignani, Dana. 2015. “History of Feminism in the U.S.: The First Wave.” The Gender Press, genderpressing.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/feminism-the-first-wave-2/.
4. Evans, Elizabeth. 2015. The Politics of Third Wave Feminisms: Neoliberalism, Intersectionality, and the State in Britain and the US. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 22.
5. Garvin, Monica. 2018. “‘I Don’t Hate Men’: Understanding the Actual vs. Perceived Definition of Feminism.” The Tiger, Clemson University, www.thetigernews.com/outlook/i-don-t-hate-men-understanding-the-actual-vs-perceived/article_9937e1fc-14de-11e8-94db-27600b18bd2f.html
6. Stephenson, Lane. 2013. “Texas A&M To Commemorate 50th Anniversary Of Admission Of Women, Minority Inclusiveness.” Texas A&M Today, today.tamu.edu/2013/08/27/texas-am-to-commemorate-50th-anniversary-of-admission-of-women-minority-inclusiveness.
7. Texas A&M University, “Accountability - Measuring the Pursuit of Excellence.” Student Demographics, Texas A&M University, accountability.tamu.edu/All-Metrics/Mixed-Metrics/Student-Demographics.
8. Zawisza, Magdalena. 2016. “Why do so many women oppose feminism? A psychologist explains.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/why-do-so-many-women-oppose-feminism-a7382691.html.