This Marker Brand Literally Highlighted Women Lost Between the Lines of History
When Hidden Figures came out in 2016, we were treated to a universe many had no idea existed. Whole buildings of mathematicians, scientists and other specialists were mobilized to send astronauts to the moon—and among them were a number of women, including black women, known as "computers."
What else—or rather, who else—have we failed to see in history?
There's a proverb in French: "Cherchez la femme," or "Look for the woman." It's essentially the equivalent to "Behind every great man is a great woman." But the world is changing, and so is the way it focuses on who it honors and why.
To that end, for highlighter client Stabilo Boss, DDB Germany seized on a series of monochromatic images and did something remarkably simple: It highlighted just a few women who were instrumental to human advancement.
Keeping with the theme of Hidden Figures, among them is scientist Katherine Johnson, whose math skills made it possible for Apollo II to return to Earth safely. If not for the telltale yellow streak, you wouldn't even know she was there.
Next, meet Edith Wilson, the First Lady of President Woodrow Wilson. When a stroke sent him into paralysis, she took over a number of his presidential duties for over a year as a shadow steward. For this reason, she's sometimes called America's first female president.
Last is Lise Meitner, one of two women standing behind a row of men in the image below. The Austrian-Swedish physicist worked alongside Otto Hahn in leading a group of scientists who ultimately discovered nuclear fission. But it was only Hahn who received the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
It isn't often that an agency can take a piece of office equipment and infuse its purpose with greater meaning. The core job of a highlighter is to underline what may otherwise get lost between the lines, and in this case, it's used to resonant effect in times that call for it.
History is messy. Because it can't all be kept, it's up to those recording it to make choices about who and what matters. And partly because humans are pattern seekers—which is so critical to storytelling—historians, victors, politicians and others in power have often made choices that deify the same types of people over and over again.
What we inherit is a story that is neat, one that justifies and cultivates condescending stereotypes like "Behind every man…" But it's a narrative that's far from complete, or even representative of the diversity necessary to fuel innovation.
It helps, however, to highlight the heroes lost in plain sight.
A number of women were responsible for making this work happen. In the spirit of the campaign, we've highlighted them for you.
Client: Stabilo Boss
Agency: DDB - Germany
Chief Creative Officer: Dennis May
Executive Creative Director: Kristine Holzhausen
Executive Creative Director: Stefan Rehne
Art Director: Vera Ickert
Copywriter: Teresa Berude
Graphic Design: Kathrin Stenger
Post Production: Stefan Kranefeld Imaging
Planning Director: Christian Bihn
Account Director: Philipp Starck
Junior Account Manager: Malte Kraft