Where are the Women?

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women in industrial design

On the 21st of August, Anna Moloney-Reisch proudly represented Warringah Plastics by exhibiting at the opening night of: Where are the Women – Women in Industrial Design. An exhibition curated by Cathy Lockhart, Lecturer in Integrated Product Design at the UTS School of Design and part of Sydney Design 2014; that aims to recognise and celebrate the growing number of women practising across a range of disciplines whose foundations can be found in industrial design.

Cathy Lockhart at Where are the Women

The exhibition addresses a known, but often not talked about concern throughout the industry. The participation of women in Industrial Design education has increased over the past 10 years, rising in an environment that is historically been inundated with male students. Yet despite these positive gains women are not represented more widely in the profession. Women are considerably under-represented in the distinguished Australian International Design Awards. If asked to name some notable Australian industrial designers names might come to mind like Alberto Alessi, Mark Armstrong, Richard Carlson, Dr. Stephen Cummings, Ian Edgar, Marc Newson, Carl Nielsen, Robert Pataki and Brian Smyth. But where are the women? Are they working in other industries? Is our education system failing female designers? Or is the underlying culture of design and manufacturing not alluring or inviting to women?

Regardless of your views, the exhibition provides a great encouragement to current female industrial designers by showcasing some of the amazing work done by designers in the industry. It is also aims to illustrate the individual circumstances that contributed to the success of these designers.

Anna Moloney Reisch

Anna, an experienced product development manager at Warrignah Plastics showcased some of her key developments in her position which include the industrial design of our popular Hard Top trailer cover line. The Hard Top, a streamlined trailer lid that can increase storage and protect its contents, is a great example of form follows function. The Hard Top’s compound curves provide great strength and manufacturability and also reduces wind resistance. Another key development of Anna’s is our distortion print forming process called ‘Print n Form’ which involves creating plastic printed parts which is best demonstrated by our infamous alien head. Anna has pioneered this process to deliver innovative solutions for the gaming and point of sale industry.

alien head - distortion printing

Hard Top with back drop warringah plastics

You will find fourteen alumnae participants and twelve current industrial design students at the exhibition, and like Anna they all form part of a growing and much needed presence in design and manufacturing. The term ‘industrial designer’ has been with us for just under a century and as a profession it developed in Germany in the industrialisation of consumer products by an association known as Deutscher Werkbund or German Association of Craftsmen. The Deutscher Werkbund was a precursor to the Bauhaus art school which combined traditional crafts and mass-production techniques. At Warringah Plastics we firmly believe in the tight integration between design and manufacturing and it is why our product development managers are not just skilled in sales and customer service but have a strong foundation in design and engineering. High quality industrial design is integral to our manufacturing operations, it means we have designers who don’t just consider how a product should look and feel but also understand the economics of manufacturing. This encompasses producing parts that have high material yields, are fit for purpose and are of exceptional quality. It is this synergy or creators and makers that is ‘the Warringah way’, and an ethos that has served us for over four decades.

This year Warringah Plastics was nominated as a finalist in the prestigious Manufacturers Monthly Endeavour Awards for the consumer/trade product category for our Hard Top trailer cover. As I glanced around the room during the award ceremony one couldn’t help but notice the under-representation of women in the room. There are many deeply rooted social constructs that stem back hundreds of years which contributed to the makeup of the award ceremony that night. However the history of design and manufacturing and female participation has had a long intertwined history. From the female reinforcement in the industrial manufacturing of armaments in WW2 to Anna Castelli Ferrieri, the famous industrial designer at the Kartell furniture company; women have had a pivotal role in industry. As we have seen increasingly in the past few decades women will play a more and more substantial role in the design and manufacture of products in a whole range of industries. The increased participation of women in industrial design, engineering, science and programming education, positions women at the forefront of automated manufacturing which will remove the cultural barrier that has regrettably held back women for so long.

A turret lathe operator machining parts for planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant

A turret lathe operator machining parts for planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. October, 1942. Used with permission.

Iconic industrial design from Anna Castelli Ferrieri

Iconic industrial design from Anna Castelli Ferrieri

We are proud to support UTS and other universities by participating in a number of endeavours including mentor talks to industrial design students, our participation in the UTS Engineering Internship Program, our partnership with UTS projects like the Designing Out Crime unit, as well as providing subsidised manufacturing solutions to current students. Design and manufacturing in Australia has a challenging future ahead, however with the increased participation of women, a focus on education, entrepreneurship and innovation, Australia could be at the forefront of an exciting era of product development and the birth of new product categories.

Why not check out Where are the Women? before it runs out at the Carlton Project Space at Carlton Street (Central Park), Chippendale; Tuesday-Saturday 12-4PM closing 13th of September, so don’t miss out!

Shot from Women In Industrial Design Sydney 2014