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The problem with aspirational design (and what designers should do instead)

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Ada-Rhodes Short is the senior mechatronics design engineer at the sex-tech company Lora DiCarlo. She spoke to Doreen Lorenzo for Designing Women, a series of interviews with brilliant women in the design industry.

Doreen Lorenzo: Your product Osé [a robotic sex toy] launched to a little bit of controversy at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. What do you think about that?

Ada-Rhodes Short: We put an incredible amount of work into Osé, and I think we really captured lightning in a bottle. We’d really made something amazing, and when I found out that we were getting a CES design innovation award in the robotics and drones category, I was just on-the-moon thrilled.

Then when we found out that the award was being rescinded, it was just completely devastating. It took the wind out of our sails. We worked on this great product that uses all these cutting-edge technologies and design practices, but we’re not going to get any professional recognition for it because it’s a product designed for women and people with vaginas to enjoy their bodies. But when we got past that initial shock and [CEO] Lora Haddock decided that we were going to tell our story anyway and fight back, it was really amazing to get all this support from our community. [The award was later reinstated.]

Osé [Photo: courtesy Lora DiCarlo]DL: Talking about what happened at CES, do you think business and tech are out of step with diversity and the changing beliefs that creative young people have, particularly women and minorities?

ARS: Absolutely. My side hustle is teaching mechanical engineering at Oregon State University where my class is only 10% female, 90% men. That’s a big bottleneck going into the industry. But even that is based on larger cultural context, where we’re........

© Fast Company