Sophie Cheam, IDSA
Vice Chair, IDSA San Francisco Chapter
Sophie Cheam, IDSA, is a graduate of the master's program in industrial design at Academy of Art University and holds a degree in psychology and anthropology. "I’ve always been interested in people’s motives," says Cheam. "Why do we do certain things? How do we justify it? And how do we interact with others and our environment? Psychology and anthropology encompasses all of that and it’s allowed me to view the world through empathic eyes."
In fact, that’s how she approaches any design challenge. "Our focus is on how we can enhance people’s quality of life and by understanding human behaviors in relation to mental process, and social and environmental context, I can quickly assess the root cause of the issue from a holistic view."
While in school, she got her start in industrial design creating the second model of the Cocoon Cam which was showcased at the White House’s first Demo Day hosted by President Obama. "I was shocked," recalls Cheam of her reaction. "Shocked that this was an opportunity that I had ; someone entrusted me to deliver this project; and that President Obama would see it. At the time, I kept this project under the radar until the day it was showcased because I couldn’t even digest the scope of this opportunity. Even as a student, I was keen on seeking out my own opportunities beyond what was already offered. This was a prime example of that."
Since then, Cheam has picked up awards for two additional projects. She is now working in Silicon Valley and has rejoined the Cocoon Cam team to relaunch the first baby monitor that detects vitals without the use of wearables.
In 2016, she became vice chair of IDSA's San Francisco Chapter. "The Bay Area attracts so much talent," recognizes Cheam. "It’s competitive for a reason. Being part of the IDSA SF community allows designer to expand their minds with the current trends and hot topics in design. Every time we have an event, I guarantee you that there is at least one piece of information that will leave you inspired or intrigued to find out more about a subject matter. After all, part of our job is to innovate. How can you innovate without evolving your own understanding of the world?"
IDSA SF is the first IDSA chapter with an all-female slate of officers. "You don’t have to accept the status quo," declares Cheam. "Just because it may currently be a male dominated field, women designers, students or professionals, need to be proactive about what they want and how they want to impact the world through design. If you want to see more women designers in leading roles, then become one. As in everything else in design—it’s a process. It has to start somewhere."