Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby yo » December 21st, 2012, 1:32 pm

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Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby smyoung » December 22nd, 2012, 9:39 pm


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Wow!! Thank you Yo for the post on core77 and to everyone who participated in taking the time to respond to my lingering curiosity.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby sarahsitz » December 23rd, 2012, 10:21 am


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smyoung wrote:Wow!! Thank you Yo for the post on core77 and to everyone who participated in taking the time to respond to my lingering curiosity.


Reading through this (and again, very much thank you for posting it!), it made me wonder if having a group for ID women would be helpful/good support. There is AWID, but I've never heard anything about them, and I don't know how many members they have. Do you know anything about it/does anyone?

It might get decried as being misandry, but there are concerns women have that men don't, especially in fields where more often than not, women are the minority. In my work-life, I have had both men and women as mentors, but with some topics, speaking to someone of the same gender means being met with more empathy. And there are situations women are more likely to experience than men, e.g. harassment (both outside the workplace and sometimes inside), which can be frightening to deal with alone.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby smyoung » December 24th, 2012, 4:34 pm


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@Sarahsitz, I found about AWID while googling "women in industrial design" just last week, prior to posting this topic to core forum board. AWID's website looks very outdated and not at all resourceful..not quite sure how active it is in the design community. If anyone is an active member/contributor, please feel free to chime in! There is also a group on linkedin which might be worth joining? https://www.linkedin.com/groups/IDSA-Wo ... anet_ug_hm

@leezard: I like your thought on that. All ID programs do a good job of weeding out students who are just not fit for this field of work, and within that percent there are only a handful of female designers who follow through to be in ID post graduating. I'm a tomboy myself so that logic certainly applies in my case :)

@jon_wienbrenner: Could you drop in a study link regarding the study of women inclined to be more competitive around other women? Thanks for pitching the thought from a male employer's perspective..I never thought to think of it from that angle. :lol: I have high hopes and believe that good design work will surpass biases of gender, race, etc and that this is becoming true of all professional fields beyond ID. A good friend (co-worker) of mine who also attended the IDSA conference noted how your presentation inspired her to follow suit in being curious and observant to everything at all times...Part of me struggles with keeping focus and retaining memory of objects worth nothing--your ADDesigner-trait sparked me to start a blog to record mechanically-based objects discovered...so thank y...squirrel!

@yo, AH! Kimberly Wu's work is mind blowing. Her style of illustration is unusually unique. Build block's products are absolutely gorgeous.. high quality of detailed work is worth praising.

@Ujay: Perhaps it's a known fact, but I only started noticing how my design team(of 4 guys and 2 girls) at work sometimes has tendency to drift off into technical details and nerd out about how a product is going to be constructed, with slightly less interest in how it will be used or what the overall interaction is going to be. We go in full circle of development, so it's interesting to observe how we all as individual take various focus + approach to designing a product..

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby cjs33139 » December 26th, 2012, 4:29 pm


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I am so glad you brought this theme up, smyoung, because I too have pondered this as well for the longest time, since my school days. I do have my own theories and some have already been highlighted but here is my take on it:

When I was in school, our ID dept was on the same floor as the Interior Design dept. Not too long after befriending a few interior design majors and always passing by their studios, did I notice 99 percent of the student body being female (and as someone else noticed, impeccably dressed and made up EVERYDAY!). Many of the young women I befriended were mostly clueless as to what ID was (as most lay people are) and most of the time, they were under the misconception that it was engineering-based or mechanical in nature. The name "industrial" threw most of them off because it gave connotations of "industry", hence "too mechanical and industrial-gritty for me". When they came to realize the aesthetic nature of ID (color, texture, form.... aspects they admired within interior design as well) and the problem solving involved, some were pleasantly surprised they had not gone in the direction of ID vs. Interiors. I know, because I also thought I wanted to do interiors at first (I am male) and hadn't heard of ID at the time. I soon came to realize after careful analysis of my sketches that my emphasis and attraction was always focused on the actual objects within the rooms I was designing and not the rooms themselves.

I have personally witnessed throughout my 4 year stint in school, several interiors majors in our ID classes who enjoyed the experience of building models, sketching, etc... especially if the projects involved furniture, chairs, lighting, housewares, appliances, etc. Two young women I know of actually switched mid-way through their education. When talking to them in depth, I came to notice that they too thought they wanted to be interior designers, like I did, but then realized they were most attracted to the three-dimensionality of ID, home decor and housewares, etc. I am still baffled more women are not involved in ID because not only do women mostly make purchasing decisions in the home and are more involved in how their homes look, but most of the products that they themselves enjoy are designed by men, who sometimes have no clue as to what women need. As we all know by now, most design geared towards women is a "shrink and pink" job. We truly DO need more women in ID and a female perspective. The same goes for fashion, which is baffling: why do women rely on men to design for them?!

I think ID needs more exposure in high schools and in the media. Anyone notice that even in TV sitcoms or dramas, when a character is involved in design, it's always either fashion or interiors? Even reality TV hasn't caught up! All I see are competition shows dedicated to remaking rooms or fashion-related. Ugh.

ID certainly is slowing gaining a reputation, with the advent of internet, blogs dedicated to design, etc... so I predict soon there to be a change in gender demographics within our profession. It's only a matter of time. :)

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby Mouser » December 31st, 2012, 3:16 pm


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I apologize for hijacking your topic, Smyoung, but now that we are on the subject of workforce diversity, where are the gay industrial designers? Either they weren't out when I was in school or they weren't existent. I take that back... there were 2 that I found out towards graduation were gay ; only because of their Facebook page, but the rest of the men seemed very tough and rumble straight men (not that gay men can't be "masculine") and very obvious of their love for cars, machines, tools and of course, women (sex jokes, crass comments, etc) which drove them to ID.

Before I offend anyone on the forum; I am not generalizing and claiming all straight men speak crass about women/sex or that all gay men are feminine or interested in housewares and interiors either. Just had to make that clear.

I am just making this observation from my own experience from meeting so far many married/dating, hetero industrial designers throughout my business involvements and interviews, etc.... and from the ones I encounter online or in person when a student. There are design fields that are filled with creative and openly gay men, such as fashion and interiors, but for some reason, I don't see a lot of gay men within industrial design. I could be wrong as I am fairly new to the industry and maybe many of straight men/women on here can vouch for knowing an out gay industrial designer in their midst, but it just seems that ID, just like women, doesn't seem to attract many gay men.

Can anyone comment?

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby yo » December 31st, 2012, 8:34 pm

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I've worked with several gay designers both at Nike and frog.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby ADD » January 1st, 2013, 11:46 pm

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It is just that designers are interested in many domains…including housewares and interiors…No point in generalizing it..

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby slippyfish » January 2nd, 2013, 11:33 am

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Smaller profession in terms of population, assuming roughly equal distribution the numbers of gay industrial designers could also be lower than other design fields. I don't think I've worked with any in ID. Graphics, advertising, interiors, surface pattern, many more. Guesses for why this is are probably better suited for forums catering to those fields, I think here you'll just get loads of speculation.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby pier » January 2nd, 2013, 3:39 pm


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I've worked Industrial Design since 1986 and this topic is one of the most disappointing to me. I've never worked with any women designer's. Of several ID consulting companies that I have been involved with in Canada, America and UK, again no women industrial designers. My career has been a majority in industrial product development, I've never worked on a commercial retail end product: i.e. all medical, scientific, automotive, sports and other equipment, and I learned to assume that this specificity is male dominated. It's a false premise as the end product was usually most used by female lab technician's.

I routinely visit graduation shows across this country and have noticed a fair female representation, still a minority. Indeed most of their thesis projects do strike me as feminine and I'm ambivalent whether this is positive or negative. To date the two most impressive graduate projects I've reviewed were designed by women: a real time energy usage colour-glow change light, the thing was just beautiful, and a visual information 3D representation system of massive data sets via stereolithograph prints: hold your representational data set in your hand.

When I was in school the topic of industrial design in the movies came up. The class could name three movies with industrial designers in them, all three female. We joked it appeared the male only class was getting into a female dominated profession. I don't remember the movies,keep in mind this is the mid-1980's, but one we discussed had a glasses like feedback device feeding a Schwarzenegger Total Recall like story line, with an uber stylish woman called in to design the wearable feedback device. Mindstorm, Brainstorm, something like that.

I assume the requirement to make models and use power tool shop equipment is a strong deterrent in choosing study majors. I had first hand experience with similar: I was anti-photography due to other family members being photo super geeks. It was a requirement for ID studio presentations so I took a photography elective and was the only male in a class of 32 female fashion design students. A real different experience being the visible minority, and then there was the darkroom work! Aye caramba the embarrassment swishing film development reels back and forth at chest height in a crowded blacked out room.

I assume some ID schools co-located with mechanical engineering schools is also a strong deterrent, as those are very male dominated.

I think overall this is a time issue, time passage will organically allow more women entry and success into the industrial design discipline. But I suspect it will be a microcosm of the larger working world: the practice of industrial design is becoming more specialty discipline segmented and certain segments will develop gender balance and some gender dominance.

So, if it matters, I think the industrial design world of all sub-disciplines desperately requires more women, and if one had turned up at an interview I was conducting she would receive a fair assessment.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby Travisimo » January 7th, 2013, 12:31 pm

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Good thread (even though I've just been lurking so far)

Wanted to share that we have a new woman hire this Jan as a Jr ID, the first in the couple years I've been here AND she's doing well in the field so far (Alto Sewing Machine) It's a great thing for diversity in the studio...

Just to mention, in most of my roles in design teams, there have been Sr Industrial Designers that have been women (frog, IBM, etc). They were all very talented and sometimes gave the impression of having had to have been 'tough enough' to handle navigating male dominated industries, especially the more mature woman designer at IBM who had started back when they were dressing up mainframes and it was all suits and ties.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby slippyfish » January 7th, 2013, 2:16 pm

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Re: IBM mainframe designers in suits and ties: I started watching 'Mad Men' again from the first season. My favorite character (next to Sterling) is Peggy Olsen, because of her transition from the meek secretary to creative copy writing lead. There are times she has to 'put on the pants' but most of the time her character balances the demands of creating and managing creatives with being a woman in a 1960's man's world. She takes no sh*t.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby Sam Nichol » January 10th, 2013, 8:09 am

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Sorry to re-open an older thread but I thought I'd add my 2cents.

I'm a Product & Furniture Design Final Year Student, at Nottingham Trent University. By coincidence my dissertation is on this very topic. Like many of you my course has a 50:50 Split of men and women. And yet the statistics (that I've found) show around 25% women working in the industry compared to the men.

I've considered the topic from all kinds of issues, from sexual discrimination to the creative and design-based nature of women vs men. The research and interviews I've conducted so far have come across the following:

-Women are equally creative as men, according to a study conducted by Ravenna Helson at the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research, University of California, Berkeley, Men and women are equally creative although in different ways. A Summary is that men tend to have connected 'pockets' of information that they refer to. Whereas women have a cloud of information with strong emotional connections to and from the products.

-It's not to do with the way in which women work either, all designers have different approaches to designs and design work, no matter who the designer is or their sex there is almost no correlation for every designers design process. So the design process by nature doesnt seem to be at fault, as all designers processes are so different.

-Historically yes women have been treated badly, weather design power couples having the main focus on the men of the two, such as Charles and Ray Eames. Plus the Bauhaus in 1915 had an infamous attitude to hiring sexually blind, however they had such a high level of women coming into the work place that it actually scared the bauhaus quite a bit. Thus a lot of women (on the design level) were moved to things like textiles and craft to 'keep them out of the way' (that discovery really surprised me).

-From the interviews conducted with women in the design industry, so far there is a fair amount of discrimination about. Things like manufactures/builders/fitters not trusting that a woman would know how to actually assemble a product or interior layout. One person I interviewed even said that the builder would listen to her then turn to her male intern and ask her if she really wanted that all done and if she knew what she was talking about.

-Sadly a lot of design and manufacturing companies are still run by the baby boomers, who are still in old-boys clubs and like a stationary atmosphere of women in certain places vs men in others.

As my studies and interviews go on I'll keep updating this post as it's a really interesting subject that needs a lot more looked into. Especially from an industry which is supposed to always be thinking differently and helping move the world forward.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby yo » January 12th, 2013, 5:35 pm

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Thanks for the input Sam. Also, one of the best CAD modelers I've ever worked with was a female ME at frog.

The proportion of men to women in the field certainly doesn't have anything to do with innate ability in my opinion. I think it is more cultural. We have focused a lot of the discussion on culture of the field itself accepting or encouraging a more balanced gender mix. What of the cultural influences in childhood of women away from these types of fields? Do parents encourage their daughters to pursue the typical industrial designer childhood past times? Though they should if that is what a child shows interest in.

As an aside, there was no one in my family who was particularly handy. I seemed to inherit an interest in taking things apart and study them out of thin air. I certainly felt at a disadvantage to my classmates who had fathers with active workshops in the garage where they grew up watching and assisting in all manner of household do it yourself projects. They had a comfort level in the shop that I just could never catch up to.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby nxakt » January 12th, 2013, 11:16 pm

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As a tribute to the importance of this discussion, the Core77 forum tech people could remove the word sex from the banned word list. To keep reading it as s3x detracts from this conversation and from others where the word sexy is required.

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