Sarah Bischoff ’99 wanted to know about the women.
As associate professor of interior design at Endicott College in Massachusetts, she read textbooks with entire chapters on the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, or Michelangelo but little to no information on the accomplishments of their female contemporaries.
She decided to write her own.
The book, Design Like a Girl: 30 Groundbreaking Architects and Designers Throughout History, is designed for kids ages 8 to 14. “Young readers deserve to see female role models who are just like them—someone who was an only child, raised by a single parent, part of the LGBTQ+ community, biracial, or gifted with a range of abilities,” said Bischoff. “It’s not your typical Google list of important women in design. I wanted to showcase the diversity in our field.”
In her book, Bischoff traces the stories of women like Zeynep Fadillioglu, the first woman to design a mosque; Louise Blanchard Bethune, who declined to submit her work to the World’s Columbian Exhibition at the 1893 World’s Fair because of a discrepancy in pay between male and female designers; and Beverly Loraine Greene, the first known African-American female licensed architect in the United States.
“These women not only succeeded in their field but did so while fighting for their place at the table. They started organizations that support women [and] used these platforms to fight for rights and become role models to all those that followed,” said Bischoff.
The book is special because of the subject matter and because it features art and illustrations from 22 student and young Endicott alumni illustrators. “I had them research their contribution to the built environment and incorporate their subject’s design style into their illustration,” said Bischoff. “It just highlights what a creative field design can be.”
She studied sociology at Colby
At Colby, Bischoff majored in sociology and minored in art, finding her way to interior design after graduation. “What I loved about sociology was understanding people,” she said. “With design, you’re creating the built environment for people around you. You’re making three-dimensional, experiential art for society.”
Bischoff brought this sociological lens to her interior design practice for eight years before joining the Endicott faculty in 2012. “There’s no, ‘I picked blue because I like blue.’ It’s about understanding the different parts of our society, diving deeper into those communities and what they need.” she said. “Sociology works its way into art. I see a constant fluidity between the two.”
She credits her Colby education with helping find these interdisciplinary connections and kickstart her career in design. “Colby gave me this safe, beautiful space to be known and to be home, but then it also helped me expand. I had the ability to make my education what I wanted it to be.”
Now, she’s helping the next generation of designers find their visual voice—including her 11-year-old daughter. “My whole-heart inspiration for this book is my daughter. She’s the coolest kid I know,” said Bischoff. “I want her to be able to see herself in whatever she wants to do. I want her to know that she can be whoever she wants to be, and that’s ultimately why I wrote this book, for kids to be able to dream.”