In the current design discourse, nail design appears, if at all, as an example of failed low design. But if we look closer, we discover a design that inherently combines diverse social and cultural debates. A new generation of young women has discovered nails as a pop cultural-shaped communication tool: in, and literally on, their hands, it becomes a remix of zeitgeist, creativity, humorous self-reflection, political banner, and third-wave feminism.

Judith Mair is a lecturer in the specialization Trends & Identity at the design department of ZHdK and an expert for popular culture between the poles of research and design.

Authors website:


#nails, #nailfie, #visualculture, #nailsofinstagram, #culturalcoding

Statement Nails. Female fingertips as a tool of self-empowerment | by Judith Mair

Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle playing music with their acrylic nails.

New York rapper Leikeli47 released an entire album in 2018, which revolves around the set and setting of artificial fingernails.

ISLA Nails
ISLA is a female space in Berlin by and for women where they can get their nails done, shop streetwear, join a workshop or listen to music.


Liv Thurley
Handy Work. Editorial by Liv Thurley for Polyester magazine, issue 6, 2017


WAH Nails & Beautystack
Ten years of tailor-made nail designs from London.

Credits: Beautystack