Black history month and women's history month occurring back to back certainly give every industry ample time for examining the diversity issues in their respective fields. As it stands, almost no industries stand quite as siloed in their diversity DNA as industrial and product design. While people of color, especially African Americans, are the lowest represented in these fields, women are not far behind. Even though they are over half the population, they make up only 19% of industrial designers in the US. And while their respective plight is nearly identical, a seat and a voice at the table, the factors that keep people of color and women underrepresented are at times quite different. Their journeys have also been rather disparate. Unlike people of color, women, as early as the beginning of the 20th century, began making headway into the male-dominated fields of product and industrial--but you probably haven't heard of many of them.
Famous Female Industrial Designers?
Naming "famous" industrial designers (male or female) is hard for the everyday person. Though most people can probably name a few: Eames or Dyson, for example. If you cannot, you will find no judgment here; designers are often better known by their work rather than their name. Like anything these days, it is easier to Google than to recall. To prove our point on the obscurity of female industrial designers, we encourage you to. One thing Google is sure to serve up (in abundance) under the search term "famous industrial designers" is a sea of whey-faced men. One thing you will not find is very many women gracing those top twenty lists. Even worse, when they appear, it is most often as a side-note to a man, be it husband or studio. Which is worse--chaperoned representation or under-representation-- we can't say. But, happily(??), the tide has turned towards the latter.
There is Still Work to be Done: Women in ID
Just because women in industrial design were not and, to some extent, still are not very visible does not mean there is a shortage of amazing female product designs and industrial designers. On the contrary, when we qualified our search by adding the word "female," the internet did not disappoint in disclosing a laundry list of hyper-talented industrial "designing women" and organizations championing them. It would be nice to one day drop the qualifiers on searches of this nature and see the full spectrum of colors and genders above the fold, but there is still work to be done. And who better to contribute to this work than us at Speck Design, a product design consultancy teeming with talent and diversity?
Breaking the Bias Means Making the Invisible, Visible
Throughout our research for blogs and articles on diversity, we have noticed a trifecta of shortcomings plaguing the industrial design and STEM disciplines: a lack of visibility, a lack of exposure, and a lack of role models within these cohorts. Not only do we believe these are a large part of the representation problems in these industries, but also something we have the power to affect through our new blog series called ID Her: Profiles of Women in Industrial Design. And, what better place to start than in our very own house.
Female Industrial Designer Spotlight: Dani Nguyen
Meet Dani, she'll be the first to admit she is a "young" industrial designer, but that's kind of what we love about her! Her designs and ideas are fresh and bold, and free from the skepticism that sometimes accompanies experience. In that sense, we hope she will never change, but we can't wait to see her evolve in her position as an industrial designer here at Speck Design. After graduating from San Jose State University during the earliest peak of the pandemic (spring of 2020), like most Covid graduates, the going was not easy. But, through sheer will and persistence, backed by a whole lot of talent, this bright industrial designer landed safely (and happily) with Speck.
Industrial Designs By Dani Nguyen
One look at Dani's portfolio tells you a lot about who she is: thoughtful, caring, creative, and dedicated to the "human" part of human-centered design. You can see this in her creations like the Embrace pillow, which uses lighting and touch to connect loved ones who live apart (*spoiler alert it can simulate hugs). Or, Coto: a cook-together-kit that facilitates quality time with loved ones: Her propensity for emotionally connecting users to the products they use and one another is strong. To talk to her is to be reminded of why many of us got into design in the first place--to make the world a better place with our designs. If she is any representation of what the next wave of female industrial designers entering the workforce is like, the future of product design indeed looks bright. As Dani unapologetically pointed out, women do tend to be more emotional designers, but that's a good thing, and we couldn't agree more.
If you would like to learn more about Dani and her design process, take a look at her already impressive portfolio at www.dialei.design. Also, keep an eye on the latest products coming out of Speck Design. Not only will you be sure to see her hallmark innovation shine through them, but the deep emotional connections they invoke will indeed have her feminine fingerprints all over them. In short, we are a better product design company with the unique perspective and well-spring of talent Dani brings, and we're nothing short of proud to introduce her as the first in our ID Her series entry