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Industrial design students light the future for female adventurers

Female team creates products for backcountry sports like climbing, canyoneering

The “shrink it and pink it” approach is rarely the answer to designing products for women. Smart companies know having a true female point-of-view makes all the difference in creating effective products for the female market.

A group of five female industrial design students discovered that first-hand this semester as they and their classmates came up with new ideas for light products for outdoor equipment manufacturer Black Diamond.

“At first, we didn’t think about designing just for women,” said Cecily Sumsion, a junior industrial design major from Draper. “But through our research, we found out there’s a huge market for them, especially in the outdoor industry.”

The team discovered an unmet need for mobile lighting products made specifically for women and decided to combine their efforts to create a female product line with four light devices:

  • A bracelet that doubles as a table-top ambient light source
  • An adaptable light bracelet that can be worn on a wrist, hung on a jacket or worn as a headlamp
  • A thin, pocket-sized device that glows
  • A headlamp with straps that accommodate a woman’s hair while also working with a helmet

One of the students also designed the point of purchase display for the product line.

The student group, called the “Femme Den” after a professional female design organization, combined efforts after encouragement from professor Bryan Howell. He said he wanted to explore the mix between a male-dominated outdoor products company and outstanding female lead design thinking.

“Black Diamond is testosterone-driven, and it was a challenging opportunity to introduce them to intelligent, meaningful, ‘estrogenized’ products for women,” Howell said. “I’m very pleased with their results so far, and so is Black Diamond.”

Each product is designed for women and addresses different needs that a woman might have while in the outdoors. For example, the group found that women like the social aspect of camping, but current light options (such as blindingly bright headlamps) are an obstacle to that social element as it gets darker.

“I wanted to help increase social interaction with my product,” said Sumsion, who designed the pocket-sized light device. “It will create ambiance so friends can interact longer.”

Tressa Furner, who designed a light bracelet that helps women feel safe during isolated moments in the outdoors, said that working with other women positively influenced the design concepts of the group.

“I’d spent all these years in industrial design trying to think like a guy, trying to conform to the masculine way of thinking,” Furner said. “I’d get frustrated because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. This project opened my eyes to realize it’s OK to use my innate talents and interests and design like a woman.”

This project involved two semesters of research, design, presentations and collaboration and will wrap up in a final showcase on Thursday, April 11 from 6-8 p.m. in the BYU Conference Center.

“This class gives students an outstanding project for their portfolio that demonstrates their full knowledge of the industrial design process, from start to finish,” Howell said.

The group of female industrial design students includes juniors Tressa Furner, Jenn Siggard, Cecily Sumsion and Kassie Walburger and senior Raquel Eisele.


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  4/14/2013 4:42 PM by Katharine

Where can I get one of the head lights? They are amazing!

  4/13/2013 3:07 PM by Kiley

that is so awesome!!!! Go Girls!!! cool products.

Story Highlights

  • A final showcase for the creative work for the students is planned for Thursday, April 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the BYU Conference Center.

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Tressa Furner, Raquel Eisele, Kassie Walburger, Cecily Sumsion and Jenn Siggard make up the BYU Industrial Design "Femme Den."

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Kassie Walburger designed this headlamp concept.

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A light bracelet designed by Tressa Furner.

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An adaptable light product that can be worn on the wrist or on the head, designed by Raquel Eisele.

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The pocket-sized light device designed by Cecily Sumsion.

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Tressa Furner works on some sketches for her light product.

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Members of the BYU industrial design "Femme Den" work through concepts for their product designs.

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Team member Jenn Siggard created the point of purchase display for the light product line.
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