Featured Project

The Girl Effect Studio

In the fall of 2014, Designmatters and ArtCenter’s Product Design department collaborated with the Nike Foundation, Yale School of Management and fuseproject to address the challenge of empowering adolescent girls living in poverty around the world.

Student teams on both coasts built on existing everyday practices and developed social impact design ideas for income-generating and time-saving tools and techniques that would be widely accessible, radically affordable and could be used intuitively by girls in diverse cultures all over the world.

In this innovative studio, ArtCenter’s commitment to global social and economic justice reflected the Nike Foundation’s belief that adolescent girls can play a crucial role in solving the toughest problems facing the world. When a girl living in poverty has the chance to reach her full potential, she isn’t the only one who escapes the circumstances she was born into. She brings her family, community and country with her. This is called the Girl Effect.

Too often the reality for a girl in poverty is a life of limited education, unending household responsibilities and unfulfilling income-generating work to help support her family. However, research has shown that when an adolescent girl in poverty is able to stay in school, delay marriage and delay having children, not only do her life chances radically change, but the children she will later have are far more likely to be healthy and educated.

The “Girl Effect” Studio represents a groundbreaking international challenge that builds on the pioneering efforts of the Girl Effect movement, created in 2008 by the Nike Foundation in partnership with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.

The “Girl Effect” Studio challenged student teams to develop an ecosystem of access to tools, products, and services, with integrated scalable and sustainable business models and strategies. The focus of the studio was to create innovative, affordable and accessible physical assets that are currently not available to girls living in poverty.

As part of their design research and conceptual development process, students explored many “A Day in the Life” scenarios and considered the current tools girls use daily for sewing, mending, cooking, cleaning, fetching water and firewood, as well as other tasks. The teams were faced with the overall project goal of generating new time-saving tools and practices that could create potential income opportunities that girls could easily learn, acquire and leverage.

ArtCenter students were teamed with MBA students from Yale School of Management’s Design and Innovation Club who offered concurrent strategic integration to the proposed design concepts during the ideation, development and making phases of the studio. This unique and collaborative pairing informed the design students’ understanding of the rationale behind developing viable business models. Meanwhile it also allowed their business counterparts to gain a deeper understanding of the iterative ideation and prototyping design processes necessary to bringing new products and services to life.

Since the students were unable to perform hands-on fieldwork due to the studio’s global scope, the Nike Foundation and fuseproject provided initial detailed research and framework, allowing students to explore verticals and cross them with human benefits to create advantageous global strategies and prototypes.

Among this studio’s many impressive outcomes was Flo, an inexpensive cleaning, crying and carrying kit for reusable sanitary pads. Flo, which was spearheaded by Product Design student, Mariko Iwai, went on to garner great media acclaim and a prestigious gold IDEA award.