• Women in Industrial Design Forum, Sat., July 15, 2017 (Photo - Juan Posada, ArtCenter College of Design).

      Women in Industrial Design Forum, Sat., July 15, 2017 (Photo – Juan Posada, ArtCenter College of Design).

      After attending the Women in Industrial Design Forum on Saturday, July 15, 2017, at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, I was impressed by the complexity of a field of which I had previously known little. After listening to five panels (all “manned” by women) stretched out during the day, I realized the potential minefields in working in a dynamic industry that needs to balance design and development, vision and practicality, right-brain and left-brain thinking.

      By Garrett Rowlan

      Furthermore, the integration of women in what had been a predominantly male-dominated arena presented an additional wrinkle of misperception and misunderstanding. These are the consequences of an evolution noted in the conference’s opening remarks, changes that go back to the 1970’s when the college itself was primarily male-dominated and tuition (as wryly noted) was less considerably less than today.

      Fees rise, but so has the percentage of women learning the field of design, and therein lies the rub. Frequently the panelists emphasized the need to “be yourself” to the audience, and yet misperceptions remain. For example, one panelist alluded to the inadvisability of women wearing rings in the interview process because rings, it is assumed, mean engagement, marriage, perhaps pregnancy, and certainly the abandonment of a company in order to follow a man wherever his career takes him.

      Another panelist, working in the design field of CMF (color, material, finish), spoke of the dismissive way other engineers downplayed her efforts as only contributing “pretty colors” to the development process. It’s an attitude to which she has often felt like saying, “You come over here, buster, and try and do my job.”

      Design research and strategy experts (L - R) Jessie Kawata, Industrial Design Lead and Creative Innovation Strategist, NASA/JPL; Jenn Kuca, Senior Strategic Designer, BCG Digital Ventures; Eunji Park, Lead Design Strategist, Karten Design; and Angie Park, Hybrid UX Researcher, Sony (Photo - Juan Posada, ArtCenter College of Design).

      Design research and strategy experts (L – R) Jessie Kawata, Industrial Design Lead and Creative Innovation Strategist, NASA/JPL; Jenn Kuca, Senior Strategic Designer, BCG Digital Ventures; Eunji Park, Lead Design Strategist, Karten Design; and Angie Park, Hybrid UX Researcher, Sony (Photo – Juan Posada, ArtCenter College of Design).

      In another panel, Chiara Ferrari (ArtCenter faculty), who grew up and studied in Italy but now works in the United States, amused the crowd when she hinted that attitudes toward women in her native country are why she was from Italy.

      And yet the panels implied that increasingly the field of design requires qualities like empathy, cooperation, and flexibility. Certainly no one was saying that these traits belong exclusively to women, yet I did hear panelists say they believed women were more detail-oriented, better collaborators, communicators, and better prepared—at least in the area of job readiness. One panelists said she believed that women believed they had to be one-hundred percent ready for a new job or task, while men felt that they were good to go at sixty percent.

      Regardless of a woman’s (or anyone’s) level of preparation, Katie Dill (a designer for Airbnb) in a one-on-one conversation with Maggie Hendrie (Chair, Interaction Design, at the ArtCenter) came up with what seemed like excellent advice. She spoke of “speaking into their listening”—that is, finding out what interviewers or clients are looking to hear and saying it.

      I also saw nods from the crowd of 200 or so (a guess) as another panelist, Emily Sawamura (ArtCenter faculty) gave advice that cut across genders. She emphasized (as did others, for that matter) the importance of bringing a distinct point of view to the table. To do this, she encouraged the audience to go out and do things. “Don’t sit at home watching the same YouTube videos that everyone else is watching.”

      One final note. During the downtime of the conference, I read from Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, a literary biopic of Marilyn Monroe. Of course, the issues that the women on the podium and in the audience faced were light-years from MM’s largely failed fight against typecasting as the “dumb blonde” in Hollywood movies of the 1950’s. Still I left the conference feeling that some problems are never fully solved, but only moved into a new context.

      Garrett Rowlan has been writing all of his life. In addition to being a writer, Garrett is a big supporter of social justice issues. His first novel will be published next year.


      We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.

      Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.

      While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.

      You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.

      Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)

      Contributor

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *