How to add feminist approaches into design courses

Sharra Vostral, Deana McDonagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The universal male has been the dominant model within the design process. However, male is not universal, and in fact men possess racial, gendered and political identities. This paper addresses the illusion of 'neutrality' and offers proactive design pedagogy to enable feminist design approaches, leading to more appropriate design outcomes for wider communities. The authors designed an upperlevel undergraduate course that blended industrial design and feminist theory to make gender visible within the design process. What became evident is that women have had to accommodate technology, products and their environments, and the instructors asked students to design the material objects to embrace women. There has been a degree of lip service given to integrating female voices within new product development (e.g. Volvo car prototype, pink washing), but it is extremely timely to introduce a course that actively and tangibly ensures design outcomes that acknowledge female users and nonusers. Product opportunities are being missed when designers succumb to outdated stereotypes. By encompassing a multiplicity of women's identities as users, the material landscape can better meet the needs of many different women. The application of empathic design approaches yields innovative outcomes by demanding that students deploy a rigorous analysis of the task/user/environment model in their design processes to create woman-friendly objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
JournalDesign Principles and Practices
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Design Pedagogy
  • Design Process
  • Empathy
  • Feminism
  • Feminist
  • Feminist Research Approaches
  • Feminist Theory
  • Gender
  • Identity
  • Industrial Design
  • Pedagogy
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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