My search for female industrial design role models

Jo Barnard, Founder of Morrama highlights why it is so important to be championing female designers across the world, celebrating the role models young designers so need.

Jo Barnard

Founder Morrama


I left University in 2014, graduating from a majority male class led by 90% male tutors, and having completed a one-year industry placement for a predominantly all-male design consultancy.

I’d been brought up to believe that I could do anything my brother or male counterparts could, so this wasn’t going to stop me following my dreams as a designer. But I have distinct memories of desperately searching for successful women in the industry. I was craving role models.

Other than Rae Eames, history of design class gave me man after man after man and in the news, it was Dyson, Ives, Heatherwick, Conran. During a Google search one day I stumbled across Ti Chang’s name. It was around the same time as her sex toy brand Crave was hitting the headlines and finally, I had found one name in the industry who was well known and established as a female designer, and vocal about it. One.

Coming on for seven years later it’s much easier to find stories of successful female designers as they rise up above the middleweight ranks to lead teams across the world. But we need to be championing them more.

Where are the women?

Research by the Design Museum puts the percentage of women in design in the UK at 22% in 2018, with little growth in this figure since then. I wrote an article about the lack of women in design almost six years ago and it saddens me greatly to read it again and for every aspect of it to still feel so necessary.

Industrial design courses today have a more even gender split than ever before, but this still isn’t translating into the industry at the same rate. A much deeper discussion needs to be had as to the many reasons why this is happening, but above all else, young female designers need role models. They need to see that there IS a place for them to build a career, make a difference, and be successful as an industrial designer.

If we really want to boost innovation in this country, focusing at least in some part on solving the lack of diversity in the design industry would be a good place to start.

Jo Barnard

Diversify to innovate

A study by McKinsey in 2020 showed that company profits are up to 50% higher when women are well represented in senior positions. It is bad business not to have a diverse team, so it’s bad leaders who aren’t making the decisions to hire more women.

And it’s not only true of women. There is a shortage of diverse voices and backgrounds across the industry. It’s definitely not going to be the ultimate solution, but if we really want to boost innovation in this country, focusing at least in some part on solving the lack of diversity in the design industry would be a good place to start.

Who’s leading the way?

Over the last week I’ve been collating and networking with female design talent, working on incredible projects right across the world, and reading about their inspiring stories.

This list below is a very small selection of those names who I find particularly inspiring. You can find the full list on this LinkedIn post, where I hope the broad representation of nationalities, ages and identities provides inspiration to the next generation of women looking to find their place in an industry.

Ana Arriola, Director of Product Design & AI

Although not an industrial designer in the purest sense, Ana has led teams at Samsung, PlayStation, Facebook and Microsoft to name a few. She is heavily committed to making AI and product experience as inclusive as possible, building on her personal experiences as a non-binary trans Latinx woman.

Clara Gaggero Westaway, Co-founder and Creative Director of Special Projects

Bridging the digital and physical, Clara and Co-Founder Adrian bring a background in magic into making products that challenge mainstream ways of thinking. Her award-winning designs have earned London-based Special Projects a client list including Google, Samsung and Lego.

Grace Hina Lee, Principal Designer at Logitech

Grace has a hefty portfolio of considered tech products including the UE Boom speakers and Jay Bird earphones. Having worked at Samsung she has become design principal at Logitech in San Francisco.

Ivy Ross, Head of Hardware at Google

Responsible for leading Google’s charge into consumer products and injecting tactility, warmth and emotion into the world’s most powerful information technology company. She has some incredibly insightful things to say about design; worth a Google search.

Patricia Moore, Designer and gerontologist

Recognized by ID Magazine as one of the ‘40 most Socially Conscious Designers’ in the world, Pattie spent years 1979-81 travelling around America impersonating an 80-year-old woman to understand how it really was to live with the impairments of age. We have her to thank for opening the design industries eyes to inclusive design.

Guest Author

Jo Barnard

Founder Morrama


Jo is an experienced and passionate designer and founded industrial design and innovation agency studio Morrama just one year after graduating from University. Prior to establishing Morrama, Jo worked with a number of large-scale clients including John Lewis, TomTom and GravityLight. A champion of female empowerment within design and of the role of sustainability to create a better design industry, Jo has established an incredible understanding of all things design, from the idea curation phase right through to manufacturing and distribution as she continues to push the boundaries of innovation with Morrama on a day-to-day basis.

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Design Role Models