Designing for HER

Amrita Prasad
Wednesday, 29 May 2019

At an event held in the city recently, Pushkar Ingale, design director and founder, Cohesive Labs, spoke about various design solutions for women’s health

Puskhar Ingale’s first experience of designing for women was when he was asked to create a saree guard for women on bikes while he was doing motor designing. Although, his design wasn’t a hit, this made him more sensitive towards women’s needs. 

Ingale, who is a mechanical engineer, industrial designer and an alumnus of Industrial Design Center, IIT Bombay, was a part of  IDC Pune Alumni Chapter organised last month where he spoke about the importance of designing for women. The event, which had ‘Women in Design & Design for Women’ as its theme, saw designers from various fields speaking about involving women in industrial designing and how design can make life simpler for them. Ingale, who is currently the design director and founder, Cohesive Labs, said that while a large section of the consumer base constitutes women, industries and companies often overlook their needs and preferences while designing products. 

Says Ingale, “Women users are often ‘missed out’ in product design and most of the products in market that are for women are just pink in colour or their size is shrunken to make them appear suitable for women.

Industries fail to realise that merely changing the colour or designing miniature versions of the products doesn’t help. For example, in a room full of people of both genders, women are more likely to feel cold if the air conditioner is on because ACs have quintessentially been designed for men. Similarly, many other things such as cars, smartphones etc are not designed keeping women in mind. Even the birthing bed is designed for the comfort of the doctor, and not the patient.”    

Ingale, who completed his innovation fellowship with Stanford India Biodesign and focused on solving unmet needs within acute pediatric care in India during his fellowship, has designed (along with his team) products like kangaroo mother care bag to take care of pre-term babies, an innovative dummy uterus and a model of pregnant stomach that does not exactly look like female reproductive system and can be comfortably used to teach a large group of nurses and healthcare workers in India. “I believe that having women in your design team is a key to creating inclusive designs that are sensitive to others’ needs. Women designers will have their ideas, views, suggestions and their inputs should be taken into consideration while planning the design of a product,” he says. 

Citing the example where a device embarrassed a woman, Ingale says, “Once a woman’s saree had to be lifted in order to fix a lower limb immobilisation device. It was like violating her dignity. We felt ashamed that we had to make her feel embarrassed and uncomfortable for this. To create design in women healthcare, you don’t need sophisticated tools. The idea is to make it visible, desirable which can bring a change in the perception of users so that they are prompted to accept it and understand its nuances with ease.” 

Ingale believes that design should help improve skills and make an impact on society. Hence in rural India when the kangaroo mother care bags were given to women, a lot of men were also seen wearing the bags because they wanted to support the women. “We started adding a few design elements such as zari borders to the bag so that women found then attractive and didn’t feel shy wearing them,” he informs.

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