The first virtual version of IDSA's Women in Design Deep Dive, held Oct. 6-7, 2020, beat the odds in a socially-distant year to be one of our most intimate and impactful events yet. Nearly 500 designers from 20 different countries participated in the online experience, which celebrated the accomplishments of women across design disciplines and dove into the skills, strategies, and connection-building needed to break down barriers in industrial design and related fields.
The event grew out of IDSA's Women in Design Section, co-founded by Nancy Perkins, FIDSA and Sharyn A. Thompson, FIDSA as IDSA's first special interest section in 1992. This group has evolved over the years and grown to become more intersectional, with IDSA supporting large professional development events each year since 2017 to recognize the unique challenges, initiatives, and contributions of female-identified and non-binary designers. In turn, anyone who supports these events becomes part of a collective mission: to build a more diverse, equitable, and balanced design industry.
"It's not just about getting our seats at the table. It's about setting the etiquette."
Co-emcees Monica Tournoux, IDSA and Cori Rowley, IDSA led the two-day virtual event with aplomb, focusing on the importance of community and lifting up others so that everyone has a chance to succeed. IDSA's Women in Design Deep Dive 2020 was slated to be in-person event in Columbus, OH, similar to the sold-out 2019 event in San Francisco, CA. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit at the beginning of this year, the organizers quickly pivoted, pushing the event to October and eventually transforming it into a successful virtual gathering.
For about four hours each day, WID 2020 attendees experienced the same high caliber of content and deep connections that have become synonymous with in-person WID events. A Happy Hour on Tuesday evening added to the fun, with participants also utilizing the Zoom chat feature to share their knowledge and connect with one another throughout the event.
Day 1 - Tuesday, Oct. 6
Nancy Perkins opened the event with Ti Chang, IDSA, the current Chair of IDSA's Women in Design Section and Co-founder/Vice President of Design at Crave. Next, Liz Sanders, PhD, President of MakeTools and Associate Professor in the Design Department at The Ohio State University, offered attendees a map of design collaboration from 1980 through 2040, exploring the transition from simply designing in the past to co-designing now to "collective dreaming" in the future.
Kay Kim, senior industrial designer at Starbucks, shared how small moments can fuel big changes, and how to turn challenges into design superpowers. Lindsey Maxwell, IDSA, Vice President of TEAGUE's Aviation Design Studio, also shared her personal journey, touching on work-life balance, sexual harassment, and other issues faced by countless women in design and across industries today. Kay and Lindsey's presentations were inspiring not only because of their honesty about the difficulties they've faced, but also for the helpful strategies they provided for female designers to overcome obstacles in their design careers and in life.
Breakout sessions led by Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Co-founder and CXO of Gravity Sketch, and Natalie Schraufnagel, a consultant at PARK USA and Grow USA, showed participants how to improve their design workflow with VR and create a framework for success based on 10 design leadership principles, respectively. These sessions were followed by a fireside chat hosted by Vanessa Melendez, Principal Industrial Designer of Global Baby Care and Innovation at Procter & Gamble, with guest Tanisha Robinson, founder of W*nder. They discussed how any business can be lever for social impact, and also how their perspectives as self-described "misfits" and queer women have informed their unique pathways to innovation.
The day concluded with a robust speaker roundtable and, at 5pm, a Happy Hour that included a virtual scavenger hunt and many moments to bond with like-minded designers logging in from around the world.
Day 2 - Wednesday, Oct. 7
The energy from Day 1 spilled over into the morning of Day 2. First, Alessandra Corona, IDSA shared her process of building a sustainable sleepwear brand, River Left, by using her skill set as an industrial designer. Qualitiative researcher and strategist Leah McDougald taught attendees how to build a culture of empathy, and three women working on a project together (Emily Stokes and Alicia Kozlowski of Priority Designs, and Gina Scala of Stratasys) co-led a presentation aptly titled "W.A.D: Women-Aided Design."
Another breakout session, led by Ami Verhalen and Stefanie Norvaisas of Delve, focused on decision-making and bias throughout the design process, and how it is possible to design good decisions. This was followed by a panel discussion with four influential designers at General Motors, moderated by Sharon Gauci, IDSA, Exectutive Director of Industrial Design at GM, with panelists Crystal Windham, Director of Design for Cadillac Interiors; Robyn Keough, Creative Sculpting Group Manager, GMC Interiors, and Lucy Lee, Digital Creative Sculptor at GM. Each woman shared her path to succes and how they're working with GM to elevate the next generation of women in industrial design.
The event ended on a high note with another in-depth speaker roundtable and a call to action from the co-emcees. "Our potential is exponential," said Monica Tournoux, adding, "It's not just about getting our seats at the table. It's about setting the etiquette, and using our voices to lift others up."
The WID 2020 audience really enjoyed the experience:
SooYoung Kwon, IDSA, attendee: "Personally, being an international student who just graduated this May, I've been in a deep spiral trying to look for an opportunity during a pandemic! However, listening to Kay Kim, it felt like my voice was being heard and I loved every moment of it! Even got a little emotional. I can't wait for the future when I will look back and say, 'Wow, that was a small moment that gave me these super powers!'"
Vicki Matranga, H/IDSA, attendee: "WONDERFUL, supportive two days of content. The intimacy of Zoom joined participants in group conversations that would not have been possible in a physical setting, Just what we needed in this time of confinement, isolation and anxiety. Bravo to the organizers and presenters! Thank you to all!"
Allie Sieben, attendee: "The panelists were outstanding and shared thoughtful perspectives, relevant advice and inspirational stories. Thanks so much to everyone involved!"
Allie Agrella, attendee: "So happy to find all the women in design in one place! My heart is full after hearing speakers prioritize intersectionality and inclusivity in design."
Miranda Rokes, S/IDSA, attendee: "I had an amazing time at the virtual IDSA Women in Design conference. So empowering to hear the stories of women and listen to their journeys of becoming well-established designers."
Liz Scrogginthorpe, attendee: "This was so inspirational and motivating and am so glad I bought that ticket!"