Design Researcher Yvonne Lin Shares the Secrets of Designing for Women in DEC Dialogues

Yvonne Lin, associate director for Smart Design, shared about her experiences designing for women in a Feb. 1 DEC Dialogues lecture.

“A good product is like a good mate,” said Yvonne Lin, associate director of Smart Design.

Lin spoke to students in the Integrative Design Process (IDP) course on Feb. 1 as part of the ongoing, College of Design, Engineering and Commerce (DEC) Dialogues series, which brings prominent designers, engineers and business professionals to campus for lectures.

As a founding member of Smart Design’s Femme Den research group that advocates for gender-appropriate design techniques, Lin spoke about how gender influences what people want in a product. Her talk, entitled “Object of My Affection,” focused on the traits that make a product work for all consumers.

Women make or influence 80 percent of consumer purchases, yet 71 percent of women feel that brands only consider them for beauty and cleaning products, Lin said, leaving a significant market for those who can do a better job of designing products that meet women’s needs.

“At Femme Den, our question was, ‘How do you make a woman fall in love with your product?’” she said. While conducting her research, Lin said she noticed that many women assign personality traits to products when they describe them. “As designers, we know all products are designed, but most people don’t think about products that way,” she said. “Other people tend to personify their products.”

With that discovery in mind, Femme Den conducted surveys to chart the most important “personality traits” that products can have. They discovered that, like with a good mate, women wanted products that exude high social status, and are attractive, trustworthy, intelligent, empathetic and exciting. By understanding how each of those traits translates to product design, Lin said, the designers can move past the traditional “shrink it and pink it” approach to designing for women and create something that will be truly valued.

Following the talk, students in the course had the opportunity to talk with Lin in a question and answer session. They asked about her favorite products and where she saw the design industry moving in regards to creating more opportunities for female designers. Lin said that only 11.5 percent of current industrial designers are women.

“I think that the concept of designing for women is in the incubation stage,” Lin said. “The industry is just starting to realize that there is huge unmet potential, but when there is money to be made, someone is going to make it.”

In addition to speaking in the DEC Dialogues series, Lin is also a member of PhilaU’s DEC Fellows program, which brings experts to campus to hold workshops to help enhance the College of Design, Engineering and Commerce curriculum.

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