Networking, Resilience, and Balance

Lessons from Successful Women Design Entrepreneurs

From designing products that we use every day to crafting the tools we need to live a more sustainable life; industrial design is all around us. While this field has traditionally been male-dominated, women are shaking things up and making a name for themselves in the industry. In fact, some of the most innovative and exciting industrial design studios today are run by women! So, grab your sketchbook and let’s take a closer look at some of the badass women who have started their own industrial design studios. Get ready to be inspired!

The Whys

One of the things that I am curious about is how and why so many women have opened their own practice. I asked a group of successful women design entrepreneurs about what led them to open their own studios.

For Isis Shiffer, founder and design lead, Spitfire Industry in Brooklyn, NY, her love for working with diverse clients and teams from various disciplines was likely a strong motivator for her to start her own studio. By owning her own business, she could have greater control over the types of projects she takes on and the clients she works with. This can be important for individuals who have a passion for a specific type of work or working with certain types of people.

On the other hand, the founder and creative director of Level Design in San Francisco, Nichole Roulliac, had the desire to lead her own studio and bring a new energy and perspective to the design industry that highlights the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace. ‘As a female founder, I saw firsthand how important it was to create a space that not only celebrated diversity but actively sought it out. I wanted to build a company that valued diverse perspectives and ideas, and that actively sought to create a more inclusive industry,’ said Roulliac. This aligns with a larger trend of women starting their own businesses to create more opportunities for themselves and to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations. Both designers recognized the need for a fresh perspective and decided to take the leap to become design entrepreneurs.

Jennifer Linnane’s experience as a successful solo-preneur and industrial designer highlights the benefits of being a freelancer, such as the flexibility to work on a variety of interesting projects and to build a successful business around one’s unique skills. This flexibility and independence can be appealing for many individuals who want to take control of their career and work on projects that align with their values and goals.

The Challenges

However, running a consulting practice or starting a business also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is finding and securing clients, which often requires developing new skills such as networking, branding, and communicating effectively with clients. As Brittany Gene of Brittany Gene Design points out, scoping projects and learning how to communicate and contract with clients is crucial for success.

Building a strong network of fellow industrial designers and professionals outside of the design industry can also be an important factor in building a successful practice. This can help to provide support, advice, and potential referrals for new projects. It’s important for entrepreneurs to continuously develop new skills and maintain connections with others in their industry to stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques and to keep their business growing.

Overall, while becoming a design entrepreneur can offer many opportunities, it also requires hard work, dedication, consistent and clear communication skills and a willingness to continuously learn and adapt to new challenges.

Jennifer Linnane emphasizes the importance of confidence when it comes to freelancing, as you are essentially presenting yourself as an expert in your field highlighting your ability to partner with your client to deliver results. Additionally, resilience is necessary because not every day will go as planned. This highlights the need for adaptability and the ability to handle challenges and setbacks to succeed as a freelancer or design entrepreneur.

As the founder and principal of Interwoven Design Group, I have found that balancing innovation with practical business requirements and deadlines can be a challenge. Jen Linnane, who shares similar beliefs, argues that innovation and creativity can sometimes conflict with predictability, which is necessary for meeting business requirements, budgets, and deadlines. As a design entrepreneur, having both strong design skills and business acumen is essential for success. Achieving a balance between these two areas is crucial for running a thriving firm.

In summary, while becoming a design entrepreneur can offer many opportunities, it also requires hard work, dedication, consistent and clear communication skills, and a willingness to continuously learn and adapt to a new challenges. Freelancers and design entrepreneurs alike need confidence and resilience, and finding a balance between innovation and practical business requirements is essential for success.

The Hows

When doing researching for this article, the most common question asked by people who want to open their own firm ask is how to find new clients. The top answer from successful design entrepreneurs was networking. Isia Shiffer explains that 80% of her clients come from word of mouth and repeat business. Jeanette Numbers emphasizes the importance of building authentic connections with people to foster good business relationships and ultimately good projects and Nichole Roulliac expands her network by asking her contacts to connect her with their contacts. Most of the women entrepreneurs I spoke with spend on average 10-12 hours per week expanding their networks and fielding requests for info and proposals.

If you’re considering starting your own practice, this group has some great advice. Jeanette Numbers suggests surrounding yourself with a strong team and having faith in your team members. Brittany Gene advises investing in yourself and the tools you use every day. Nichole Roulliac stresses the importance of perseverance and staying true to yourself. Additionally, having a unique point of view and asking the “whys” rather than just the “hows” is important, according to Numbers.

However, even with a great support network and the right tools, burnout is a common issue among entrepreneurs. Isis Shiffer reminds us that it’s important to take breaks to recharge our brains, and Nichole Roulliac suggests being part of a strong network of allies who can support each other during difficult times.

Jeanette Numbers says “surround yourself with a strong team, have faith in your team members and Keep moving forward”.  Brittany Gene adds “invest in yourself and the tools you use every day. It’s so easy to pick a cheaper option when buying tools but it can be the costliest in the long run.”  supporting this adds Roulliac is to have perseverance and staying true to yourself.  And Numbers goes on to say it’s important to have a unique point of view and strong perseverance, that she thrives on asking the whys, not just the how’s. 

But even with setting up a great support network and investing in the right tools and equipment Shiffer adds that “Burnout is common, real, and avoidable.  A lot of entrepreneurs have the sense that if they aren’t always working, they’re somehow failing, but this isn’t the case at all. You need to let your brain recharge to be good at any job.”

Roulliac, “Industrial design is a rollercoaster. Like any service industry, from hospitality to retail, there will be a huge, overwhelming rush of work – then a silence while you await the next storm.” “One thing that will help you through is being part of a strong, genuine network of allies who can support one another when times are tough”

Your Future Awaits

So there you have it, folks! From Brooklyn, NY to San Francisco and places in between, these badass women are changing the game in industrial design. They’re not only creating innovative products and solutions, but they’re also challenging the traditional gender roles and expectations in the industry.

Whether you’re thinking of starting your own design studio or just looking to learn more about industrial design, take some inspiration from these women. Remember to network, invest in yourself and your tools, stay true to your unique point of view, and don’t forget to take breaks to recharge!

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be reading about your success story and how you’ve helped to transform the world of industrial design. So grab your sketchbook, put on some tunes, and let’s get to work!

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Designs Created by AI

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. As a group of aesthetically obsessed designers, there are a lot of beautiful products, objects and events we love and enjoy. These recommendations make our daily lives special and inviting and we want to share them with you. This issue is a guide to Designs Created by AI!

The Smart List: Designs Created by AI

NASA’s new AI generated parts

NASA has submersed themselves in incorporating artificial intelligence, much like the kind we have all experimented with in creating images, text, and music based on human prompts. These one of a kind components, known as Evolved Structures, are now being integrated into space-bound equipment. This remarkable lineup includes astrophysics balloon observatories, Earth-atmosphere scanners, planetary instruments, and space telescopes. Designers, harnessing the power of CAD software such as Autodesk, nTopology, and Divergent3D, have been delving into the realm of generative capabilities for years. According to Ryan McClelland, a research engineer at NASA, these awe-inspiring structures, influenced by science fiction shows, have been meticulously generated using precise prompts. He further highlights that conventional manufacturing tools are typically not deemed capable of producing such unique parts. As McClelland aptly puts it, “Most people would simply find it hard to believe that these parts could be created through that process—until someone actually did it.”

via Fast Company

Sneakers designed with H.U.E. by DeepObjects and PUMA

Deep Objects began on a groundbreaking mission to develop an AI engine that relied heavily on human input. Operating covertly for nearly two years, the creative studio known as FTR has been at the forefront of this project. This “decentralized design studio” takes a million potential solutions and distills them into a singular outcome. Enter the Hueristic Unsupervised Entity (H.U.E.), an engine that has astoundingly showcased an array of sneaker variations. The creators elucidate that this tool serves as a means to explore, engage, and scrutinize technology in order to unleash creativity and advance the field of design. Deep Objects elaborates, stating, “Now, people and designers alike are actively and massively engaging with it, which holds immense power. At Deep Objects, our aim is to investigate how a more controlled and proactive relationship between designers, AI, and ‘consumers’ can yield extraordinary design objects.”


Paragraphica Text-to-Image Camera

Paragraphica, an innovative camera powered by artificial intelligence, has emerged as a remarkable creation. Devised by Bjørn Karmann, this lensless camera employs location data to provide users with real-time descriptions of their surroundings, which are then transformed into distinctive visual representations of the scenes. Equipped with buttons, the camera allows users to control the collection of surrounding data, including weather conditions and points of interest. These parameters grant users the ability to govern both the description and the resulting image. Karmann elaborates, stating, “Interestingly the photos do capture some reminiscent moods and emotions from the place but in an uncanny way, as the photos never really look exactly like where I am.”

via Designboom

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The Search for Sustainability

How New Materials are Shaping Industrial Design

In recent years, industrial designers have been challenged to find new materials that can meet the demands of today’s ever-changing world. With an emphasis on sustainability and functionality, the search for new materials has intensified, leading to innovative and inspiring discoveries that are changing the way products are designed, manufactured, and used. In this article, we will explore some of these new materials, including their functions and the impact they have on industrial design.

New Materials: An Introduction

New materials refer to the novel substances, composites, or combinations thereof, that possess properties and characteristics that make them suitable for use in the design and development of products. These materials may offer enhanced mechanical, electrical, thermal, or optical properties, as well as features such as biodegradability, sustainability, and reduced environmental impact. New materials may be developed through various approaches, such as advances in material science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and additive manufacturing, and can lead to innovative products that address real-world challenges in industries ranging from healthcare to transportation to consumer goods. As such, new materials play a critical role in enabling product designers to create sustainable and high-performance products that meet the evolving needs of society.

The development of new materials has become essential in addressing environmental concerns and creating sustainable solutions in industrial design. One approach is to integrate living organisms into building materials, as seen in the bio-concrete tiles developed by Brigitte Kock and Irene Roca Moracia. These tiles are an innovative example of how new materials can address real-world issues by absorbing water and reducing urban heat island effects. On the other hand, bio-plastics offer an eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to traditional plastics, significantly reducing plastic waste and its harmful impact on the environment. The use of these new materials demonstrates a shift towards a more sustainable approach to industrial design, leading to a greener and healthier future for our planet.


Bio-plastics are a category of materials that are derived from renewable resources and have gained popularity in recent years due to their sustainability and eco-friendliness. These materials are made from plant-based sources such as corn starch, potato starch, and sugarcane, which makes them biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

One of the most significant advantages of bio-plastics is that they can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans, which is one of the biggest environmental issues we face today. Unlike traditional plastics, which can take hundreds of years to degrade, bio-plastics are biodegradable and break down much faster, leaving behind fewer harmful residues.

In addition to their environmental benefits, bio-plastics also have numerous practical applications in industrial design. They can be used to create a wide range of products, including coffee cups, cutlery, and packaging materials. These products are not only more sustainable, but they also offer a range of unique features and properties, such as heat resistance, water resistance, and durability.

One example of footwear that uses bio-plastics is the “Futurecraft Loop” sneaker, developed by Adidas. The sneaker’s upper is made from 100% reusable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is a type of bio-plastic derived from natural materials like corn and castor beans. The unique design of the sneaker allows it to be easily disassembled and recycled, with the recycled TPU being used to create new shoes. This innovative approach to design and materials creates a closed-loop system that minimizes waste and reduces the environmental impact of the footwear industry.

Overall, the impact of bio-plastics on the environment and industrial design is significant, and they represent a promising solution to the plastic waste problem. By using bio-plastics in their designs, industrial designers can create products that are both functional and sustainable, contributing to a more eco-friendly future.

Natural Fiber Welding: A New Material

Natural Fiber Welding is a technology that uses plant-based materials, such as cotton and flax, to create new sustainable alternatives to traditional synthetic materials like plastic and leather. The company behind this technology has developed a patented process that transforms natural fibers into a durable, flexible, and customizable material that can be used in a wide range of applications, including furniture, apparel, and automotive products.

The process involves using enzymes and natural chemistry to break down the plant fibers into their basic components, which are then reassembled into a new material that has similar properties to leather or synthetic fabrics. The resulting material is biodegradable, non-toxic, and more sustainable than traditional materials, as it requires fewer resources to produce and has a lower environmental impact.

One example of a product that uses Natural Fiber Welding is the “Mirage” chair by the furniture company Steelcase. The chair features a unique backrest and seat made from the company’s patented plant-based material, which is created using Natural Fiber Welding technology.

The material used in the chair is made from natural fibers like flax and cotton, which are processed using enzymes and natural chemistry to create a material that is both durable and flexible. The resulting material has a similar look and feel to leather but is much more sustainable and ethical, as it is biodegradable, non-toxic, and requires fewer resources to produce.

The Mirage chair is an excellent example of how Natural Fiber Welding can be used to create innovative and sustainable products that meet the needs of today’s consumers while minimizing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

Sustainability: Sourcing New Materials

One of the biggest challenges that industrial designers face when sourcing new materials is sustainability. With an emphasis on creating a more sustainable future, it is important that new materials are sourced responsibly and ethically. This includes ensuring that materials are not harmful to the environment or contribute to deforestation, pollution, or exploitation.

To overcome these hurdles, designers can use databases that provide information about the sustainability of materials. These databases can be found online and offer information about the environmental impact of materials, including their carbon footprint, water usage, and more. By using these databases, designers can make informed decisions about the materials they use, ensuring that they are sustainable and ethical.

Here are three databases where you can find information about new materials:

  1. Materials Project: This is a database that provides information on the physical and chemical properties of materials. It includes data on more than 100,000 materials and is free to use for academic and research purposes.
  2. MatWeb: This is a searchable database of materials and their properties. It includes data on metals, plastics, ceramics, and other materials, and is used by engineers, designers, and researchers to find materials that meet specific requirements.
  3. SciFinder: This is a database that provides access to a vast collection of scientific research, including information on new materials. It includes data on materials science, engineering, chemistry, and other related fields, and is used by scientists, researchers, and engineers to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their fields.

In addition to databases, designers can also work with suppliers and manufacturers who prioritize sustainability. This includes sourcing materials from local or ethical sources, using renewable energy, and reducing waste and emissions. By working with these suppliers, designers can ensure that their materials are sustainable and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Getting Materials in House: Ordering and Cost

Another challenge that industrial designers face when sourcing new materials is getting materials in house to prototype and cost. This can be difficult, as many new materials are not readily available or can be expensive to source.

To overcome these hurdles, designers can work with suppliers who offer samples or small quantities of materials. This allows designers to test and prototype their designs

without committing to large quantities of expensive materials. Designers can also work with manufacturers who offer custom material development services, allowing them to create materials that meet their specific needs and requirements.

When it comes to cost, designers can explore alternative materials or look for ways to optimize their design to reduce material usage. For example, using lightweight materials can reduce transportation costs and lower the carbon footprint of the product. Designers can also explore ways to use recycled materials or incorporate waste materials into their designs, reducing the overall cost and environmental impact.


In conclusion, the search for new materials is an essential part of industrial design. New materials offer unique properties and features that can improve product performance, aesthetics, and sustainability. Bio-concrete tiles, bio-plastics, and natural fiber are just a few examples of new materials that are changing the way products are designed and manufactured.

To overcome the challenges of sourcing and using new materials, designers can use databases, work with sustainable suppliers and manufacturers, and explore alternative materials or design optimization. By embracing new materials and sustainable practices, designers can create products that are both functional and environmentally responsible, contributing to a more sustainable future.

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New Material Databases

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. As a group of aesthetically obsessed designers, there are a lot of beautiful products, objects, and resources that we love and enjoy. These products improve the quality of our daily lives and we want to share them with you. This issue is a collection of material databases, incredible tools to help you find new and sustainable materials for prototyping and manufacturing!

Smart List: New Material Databases


At the beginning of 2023, A Plastic Planet unveiled an innovative online platform, PlasticFree, aimed at assisting designers of all industries in their quest for plastic-free materials while navigating the complex realm of sustainable options. By subscribing to this service, users gain access to comprehensive reports on over 100 plastic alternatives, offering valuable insights into their properties, production methods, and sourcing.

The PlasticFree database caters specifically to sectors heavily reliant on plastic, such as packaging and textiles, with plans to expand its coverage to buildings and construction later this year. This unique platform serves as a valuable resource, combining a material library with a design tool. It not only presents case studies showcasing how these materials are already being utilized across five continents but also allows users to create mood boards to gather inspiration for their projects.

The development of PlasticFree is the culmination of over two years of dedicated research and collaboration with a council comprised of esteemed scientists, business leaders, and industry experts. A Plastic Planet’s goal is to empower architects and designers with the knowledge and resources necessary to make informed choices that contribute to a plastic-free future.

via Dezeen


Materiom is a free online resource that enables everyone to make their own raw materials, as long as you can follow a recipe. By making this knowledge accessible, Materiom accelerates material development and lowers barriers to entry for makers around the world.

Materiom offers recipes of varying complexities on a scale of 1 to 5. These recipes can be found organized in different categories based on their material type and composition. Similar to a cooking recipe, the instructions are broken down into easy steps that are comprehensive and detailed. 

The recipes yield all types of materials, including a 3D printing paste that is made of egg shells. Check out the database HERE!

via Core77


MaterialDistrict is the foremost platform for connecting innovative materials worldwide. As a premier source of inspiration for high-end materials, MaterialDistrict is invaluable to research and design experts across industries who utilize the platform to explore fresh material solutions.

The extensive database presents a multitude of articles introducing novel materials to global audiences. These articles not only delve into the characteristics and potential applications of the materials but also provide insights into the manufacturing process. By effectively presenting accessible materials to designers worldwide, MaterialDistrict opens up a realm of boundless possibilities.

MaterialDistrict fuels global innovation by bridging material requirements with suitable solutions. Through the MaterialDistrict network, collaborative innovation is encouraged to foster a superior, more sustainable, and higher-quality society.

via MaterialDistrict

Material ConneXion

Material ConneXion, established more than two decades ago, originated as a valuable resource catering to furniture and architectural design. Today, it has evolved into a global materials library and consultancy, earning recognition for its pioneering problem-solving capabilities across many industries and brands such as Adidas, Target, BMW, and Puma.

Alongside the curation of material libraries and collections worldwide, MCX specializes in assisting companies in identifying materials that elevate the performance, aesthetics, and sustainability of their projects. With its headquarters in New York, the company boasts additional branches in Bangkok, Bilbao, Daegu, Milan, Skövde, and Tokyo, while simultaneously maintaining an extensive online materials database.

At the heart of Material ConneXion lies a physical library housing an impressive collection of over 10,000 materials and processes. These resources are meticulously categorized based on their chemical composition, encompassing polymers, naturals, metals, glass, processes, ceramics, cement-based, and carbon-based options.

via Material ConneXion

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Design News N. 038

The Interwoven Design News is your tiny dose of design, technology and other important news, curated monthly by Interwoven Design. In this series we share the latest on our favorite topics, including craft competitions, design history, sustainable design and design in NYC! This issue includes: the LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize 2023, Early Patterns: Reintroducing Akari of the 1950’s, Little Sun solar-powered lighting collection, Generation Paper: A Fashion Phenom of the 1960’s and NYCxDESIGN Festival 2023.

Photo: Mokume-gane, Vase, Ryuhei Sako, 2017


The LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize is a competition that acknowledges and supports artisans from all over the world. The LOEWE FOUNDATION aims to identify people who have an exceptional ability to create work with the highest level of aesthetic value that reflects the maker’s personal vision and abilities. 

The entries span all types of art, including but not limited to ceramics, jewelry, furniture, sculpture and textiles. Each piece is an original work, created within the last 5 years and partly or fully hand made. The Jury includes very well known creatives along with an expert panel that judges and selects finalists to present in an exhibition in Isamu Noguchi’s former studio, across from The Noguchi Museum.

The LOEWE FOUNDATION strives to continue innovation and celebrate craftsmanship and its importance in today’s culture.


The Noguchi Museum, Photo: Wally Gobetz

Early Patterns: Reintroducing Akari of the 1950’s

For the first time in decades, The Noguchi Museum will present six rare models, Isamu Noguchi designed Akari light sculptures. The designs were originally created in the early 1950’s and made by Japanese manufacturer, Ozeki & Co., Ltd.. One table top scale light sculpture in specific is directly related to the Japanese lantern and was inspired after a night time fishing trip by Noguchi himself. The traditional forms contain bamboo collars that “feature colorful, abstract patterns silk-screened onto the mulberry bark (washi) paper.”

These limited quantity designs originally became available only in Japan and France in the 1950’s. The release of the Akari light sculptures is aligned with the previously mentioned LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize exhibitions at the Isamu Noguchi Studio. This will be the public’s first opportunity to view the works in person and opportunity to purchase.


Photo Credit: ©Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2023.

Little Sun solar-powered lighting collection

Ikea has partners with Little Sun, Olafur Eliasson’s and Fredrik Ottesen’s brand that marries art and science by creating lighting tools that run on solar power. The motivation behind Little Sun’s creation was to give people anywhere access to solar energy without regular electricity. The collaboration consists of two designs that are limited edition, solar-powered lamps. Ikea approached the Little Sun team with an idea, and Eliasson and Ottesen saw it as an opportunity to spread awareness and spark a conversation to a huge audience. The team explained their motivation, “My hope is that more designs will simply be solar without being necessarily ‘solar design’, that is, the solar aspect will be taken for granted as normal,” adds Eliasson. “This is because solar energy must be available to all. The power of the sun is abundant, inexpensive. It helps individuals and families own their access to power at the source, which makes them more self-sufficient, independent, and resilient.”

via Wallpaper

Generation Paper: A Fashion Phenom of the 1960s at Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Photo: Interwoven Design

Generation Paper: A Fashion Phenom of the 1960’s

Now through August 27, 2023, visit the 1960’s short-lived phenomenon of 80 rare garments and accessories on display at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan! Paper fashion was used to show how paper could replicate and behave like woven fabric. Women began wearing paper dresses that introduced a new world of innovation. Generation Paper creates a link between craft, design and commerce by the development of semi-synthetic materials.

The fashion line, which began as a promotional campaign for Scott Paper Company in 1966, introduced bold, pop art inspired garments spanning from iconic silhouettes to dresses and even bikinis. This little known fashion history demonstrated a mixture of confidence, durability and creativeness.

via Museum of Arts and Design

Photo: Roberto Vivancos

NYCxDESIGN Festival 2023

The time of the year has arrived! The NYCxDesign Festival takes place from May 18 – 25, 2023. Last year’s event included over 200 events across all five boroughs of New York City. Events focusing on the broad world of design span from major exhibitions, installations, panels, virtual events to trade shows. NYCxDESIGN is known to showcase new and upcoming talent as well as existing key innovation in the city. From product design, interior design, to fashion, graphics and many others, the collections of creatives now attracts over hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the world. Everyone is welcome!


That sums up this month’s Interwoven Design News, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!