The Femme Den
Why we should listen to the Super Women at SMART Design
By Holly Burns
Issue 3 Spring 2010
Women are not inherently passive or peaceful. We’re not inherently anything but human. ~Robin Morgan
Four employees at SMART Design are designing for what women are – not what they’re assumed to be. Whitney Hopkins, Agnete Enga, Erica Eden and Yvonne Lin are members of an internal collective, the Femme Den, at Smart Design. They got started in 2005 when Nike hired two of the women to help an all-male design team turn around the low sales of their women’s watches. Before then, Nike’s watches had been designed to include athletic gadgets that made for a rather bulky watch. With the help of the women designers the watches were redesigned, sales quickly increased, and the value of Femme Den realized.
Filling a gap. The Femme Den’s primary complaint about current design for women is that design teams often try to target female consumers by making things pink or using other stereotypes in an effort to reach the female market. According to The Femme Den, “women buy or influence up to 80% of consumer goods.” Yet, the design world as a whole does not design with this in mind.
Why it’s successful. Using their strategic design toolkit, The Femme Den designs products while keeping the female brain and body in mind. In their own words, “Our end game is to bridge the gap between assumptions and realities about women to explore the underdeveloped opportunity for good design.” The Femme Den often gathers men and women separately, to informally discuss design so they can take their perspectives into account.
From medical attire to army fatigues and equipment to technology, the women of the Femme Den are rethinking design in order to ergonomically accommodate the female gender and improve performance. Read about their five guidelines to help designers make the connection by clicking here. While I’m not completely sold on their name (reminds me of a room that might be at Hugh Hefner’s estate), I do like their ideas and “smart design.” What do you think? Check out this Fast Company article for more details about the Femme Den.