Gender disparity is a real issue in the industrial design industry. Women account for 85% of consumer purchases but the designers of these products are rarely women. Recent reports show that industrial design is skewed toward men, with a whopping 81-95%** male designers in the industry. That is not to say that men can't design products for women, but there is real authenticity and fresh approaches in design when women bring their lived experiences to the products they use.
If you are looking to bring diverse perspectives to your products, we've rounded up 20 woman-led industrial design and innovation firms.
Aruliden was co-founded by Rinat Aruh, and she is currently the CEO. Aruliden is an agency that focuses on product design, branding, and creative strategy. Aruliden is headquartered in New York and has offices in San Francisco and Amsterdam.
Insta: @aruliden, @rinataruh
Google Meet for Google by Aruliden
Morrama is a London-based industrial design and innovation consultancy founded by Jo Barnard. Morrama primarily works with startups, and focuses on storytelling and weaving a narrative through every touchpoint of the design.
Insta: @morramadesign, @barnard_jo
Wild sustainable deodorant, for Wild by Morrama
Cheresse Thornhill is the design director at S.E.E.D., the School for Experiential Education in design, a two year design program for women from diverse backgrounds creating access into the Adidas brand and sportswear industry. S.E.E.D. uses an apprenticeship model - students are paid to learn - and operates as a studio, students work on projects that go into production.
Insta: @adidas_s.e.e.d, @cheressethornhill
S.E.E.D. at Adidas
Merle Hall is the CEO of Kinneir Dufort, a UK-based firm offering design, innovation, research, and human factors, for consumer, industrial, and medical products. XXEquals is an internal team of innovators, designers, engineers, and makers focused on delivering products and experiences tuned to women's needs, and closing the gap between perception and reality when designing for women.
Website: https://kinneirdufort.com/, www.xxequals.com
Insta: @kinneirdufort, @xxequals
Raspberry Pi keyboard and mouse, for Raspberry Pi by Kinnier Dufort
Jeanette Numbers is the co-founder of Nova, a product development studio that is "passionate about bringing life to life-changing ideas." Their client projects span a variety of areas including consumer, med tech, iOT, and mobility. Nova has offices in Providence, RI and San Francisco, CA.
The Embr Wave 2 thermal regulating wearable for Embr by Nova
Alyssa Coletti founded NonFiction Creative to focus on concept, form, and craft in product design. Nonfiction Creative designs furniture for home and corporate environments.
The Genesee chair for Gunlocke, designed by Alyssa Coletti
Angela Medlin is the founder and director of FAAS (pronounced 'faze', stands for Functional Apparel & Accessories Studio) Design Collab, located in Portland. FAAS is a "learn by doing" design education program that seeks to close the gap between under-represented creatives and the footwear/apparel industry. FAAS partners directly with global apparel and footwear brands to help students make connections for industry jobs or future entrepreneurial endeavors.
FAAS Design Collab is based in Portland, OR
Natalie Nixon, PhD is the founder of Figure 8 Thinking, which advises leaders on transformation. Figure 8 Thinking offers foresight studios for executive leadership, strategic advising, coaching, and an online course in creative thinking. Natalie Nixon is also a keynote speaker and author of "The Creativity Leap."
Natalie Nixon, founder of Figure 8 Thinking
Level is a San Francisco based design studio founded by Nichole Rouillac. Level designs hardware for a range of clients – from startups to tech giants. Level believes since the products they create touch millions of lives, women must have a bigger impact on shaping them.
The Tempo weight training platform, for Tempo by Level
Maaike Evers is the co-founder of Mike&Maaike, an industrial design studio in San Francisco. The studio works independently and with clients to innovate in the areas of product, technology, furniture, environments, and transportation.
The Windowseat Lounge Chair by Mike&Maaike
Liz Daily is based in Chicago with a focus on technical soft goods and prototyping. She combines traditional industrial design methods with a knowledge of soft goods construction techniques and fabric technology.
Liz Daily designs
Jessica Nebel is managing partner at Neongrey, a design innovation studio based in Germany. Neongrey's services industrial design, ui/ux design, design strategy, and design for spaces.
Insta: @neongreydesign, @jessicanebel_design
The Tricuro phone attachment for spine measurement, by Neongrey for Kentago
Antionette Carroll is the founder, president, and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, which is building a movement of a new generation of civic leaders: redesigners for justice. Creative Reaction Lab's mission is to educate, train, and challenge Black and Latinx youth (and allies) to become leaders in designing healthy and racially equitable communities. Creative Reaction lab's approach to design is to use a framework they created called Equity-Centered Design (ECCD).
The Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide by Creative Reaction Lab
Ayse Birsel is the co-founder and creative director of the design and innovation studio Birsel + Seck. Birsel + Seck's core team possesses a diverse range of design and business skills, and focuses on human centered design and innovation to solve complex problems for global brands.
Insta: @birselplusseck, @aysebirselseck, @designthelifeyoulove
The Overlay room divider for Herman Miller by Birsel + Seck
Stephanie Howard founded HOW AND WHY, located in Boston, MA. HOW AND WHY offers innovation strategy and creative direction to leading mission-drive brands.
Design for Timberland by HOW AND WHY
Phnam Bagley is the co-founder of Nonfiction, a creative studio in San Francisco specializing in industrial design, branding, user experience design, space architecture, engineering, and strategy. Nonfiction works with clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies to "turn science fiction into reality for a better future."
Human Headphones for Human by Nonfiction Design
Kelly Custer is the design director of Knack, a design studio focused on front-end innovation. Knack helps innovation managers at hardware brands uncover innovative product ideas, and has leveraged remote collaboration among designers since its inception.
Rol Autonomous Scooter by Knack Design
Isis Shiffer is the founder of Spitfire Industry in Brooklyn, NY. Spitfire Industry provides industrial design, packaging, web design, and branding services.
Light therapy lamps for Circadian Optics by Spitfire Industry
Wonhee Arndt is the co-founder of Studio Gorm in Eugene, Oregon. Studio Gorm designs products, furniture, lighting, interiors, and exhibitions. Their designs are informed by speculative academic research and the designers' backgrounds in craft.
Maru Bench for Memo by Studio Gorm
Betsy Goodrich is the co-founder of Manta and is currently the VP of Design and Human Factors and Usability Leader. Manta is based in Cambridge, MA and their services include human centered design, technology innovation, and product development.
Hologic Fluent, a surgical fluid management system, for Hologic by Manta
Know any women-led firms that should be featured on a list like this? Mention them in the comments below and stay tuned for a Part 2 on women-led design firms to follow!
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Thank you for your hard work to advance women/womxn in the industry. I'm a co-founder/principal of Observatory, a design consultancy firm founded in 2001. Also an associate professor/graduate program director at RISD Industrial Design Dept.
I founded the studio anke salomon product design in 2013 and have worked for well-known customers such as Kaldewei, Bulthaup, Wüsthof, Vigour, Deutsche Telekom or Rosenthal.
Thanks for this article! I head up the design group at Pensar, a Seattle based design + engineering firm focused on technology projects across a wide array of industries. We'd love to be included in part 2 of this list!
Gill Wildman Director at strategic design agency Plot, or Marei Wollersberger at Normally, or Geke van Dijk at Stby...all involved in directing/leading/running companies creating innovation. There are more too. Glad to see Natalie Nixon here.
If it does not need to be exclusively women leaders, Ami Verhalen and Stefanie Norvaisas are leadership at Delve.