Creating with Empathy, Inclusivity, and Purpose for All

Daniela Maci´as leads the Core77 Design Awards Home & Living category featuring consumer products or services designed for use in a domestic setting. Examples include home accessories, appliances, home electronics, smart home products, and security systems.

Everyday items like soap and pet food do more than just freshen and feed. For Daniela Maci´as, the Global Industrial Design Manager for Colgate-Palmolive, products like these present an opportunity for designers to create with empathy, inclusivity, and purpose – the guiding principles behind much of her work.

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Daniela Maci´as, Global Industrial Design Manager for Colgate-Palmolive.

The Mexico native has spent the last 15 years overseeing the design process for bottles, caps, bar soaps, and much more across categories, brands, and markets. It’s a journey that took her from one of Colgate’s manufacturing facilities to their regional corporate offices in Mexico City to her current role in the company’s global headquarters in New York. It also informed her perspective on making good design accessible to everyone and the need for products that effectively combine function and purpose.

For Daniela, these products aren’t just items on a store shelf; they are experiences, ones that millions of people around the world love and trust enough to bring home regularly. In return, she believes those consumers deserve thoughtful design and products that can improve their lives. “My belief in the democratization of good design comes from growing up in Mexico, a country of deep inequalities, and from witnessing in my practice how meaningful and purposeful design of even the smallest product can help bridge some of those inequalities and drive positive change,” she said.

Early in her career, Daniela was tasked with designing accessible deodorant solutions for low-income communities – an everyday item that many take for granted. As she described: “Going into people’s homes and talking to them about their experiences around deodorant, I learned that most couldn’t afford it regularly. This led to behaviors such as shared family use, avoiding social situations, and limiting its use to special occasions – the lack of affordable solutions was ultimately impacting how people felt about themselves, relate to others, and went about their lives.”

The first bottle Daniela ever designed at Colgate Palmolive, launched in 2012 and is still in the market, for haircare brand Palmolive Optims. This project opened many doors for Daniela and led to her current role.

The experience was one of many that cemented Daniela’s conviction around linking empathy and purpose and incorporating diverse user feedback throughout the design process to achieve a human-centric design that is viable for mass production. “As designers, we hold a significant responsibility to nudge our teams towards making better choices that prioritize human centricity, based on deep insights of people’s everyday lives in diverse contexts,” she said. Daniela acknowledges that leading teams through the design innovation process can involve uncertainty and discomfort but encourages designers to stay true to a shared vision and belief – and never lose sight of the end user.

One area that Daniela has embraced throughout her career, particularly as a self-described “foreign-born woman of color leading product creation at a global CPG,” is the need for diversity in industrial design. As she said, “There are infinite missed opportunities when diverse voices are not included in the conversation and there is only a homogeneous range of perspectives to inform the creation of everything around us.”

That lack of representation has caused delays in creating products of relevance for much of the world’s population – including women. Daniela illustrates this point with several examples: wearable breast pumps were not introduced until 2017, female crash test dummies until 2022, and a spacesuit designed for women until 2023. According to Daniela, women hold only 18% of industrial design roles in the U.S. (and only 9% of senior positions), with an even lower representation among women of color. That’s a mismatch when one considers her statement that women make 80% of household buying decisions.

She also underscores the importance of diverse voices being represented against the backdrop of the climate crisis, given that the global south is expected to bear many of the adverse effects. In Daniela’s view, inclusivity is necessary to “ensure that the environmental challenges we solve through design are relevant in their context, empathetic to the people impacted by it, and responsible in their execution.” To create truly human-centered products, Daniela stresses that designers hold a unique, transformative power to design both for and with the underrepresented and underserved to “drive positive change, champion inclusivity, and make lives better through every creative decision, one design at a time.”

In this vein, she advises entrants to the Core77 Design Awards to consider the essence and fundamental purpose of their work, to go beyond aesthetics and functionality to reach thoughtful innovation with a meaningful impact that fits in people’s lives. What problem is it solving? How is it contributing to making someone’s life better? Can this be produced in a sustainable/ethical way? Is it intuitive and friendly to its users? And a fundamental question: Why does this need to exist?

As Daniela said, “I believe these questions must become essential in our practice if we intend to address real problems today and leave a better world for those who come after us.”

The paper towel pump was created by the LDA Design Team in collaboration with Frank Yang at simplehuman.

The winner of the 2023 Core77 Design Awards Home & Living category was the Paper Towel Pump by LDA for simplehuman, an all-in-one cleanup kit that integrates a paper towel holder and a removable spray pump (‘yes’ to improving our daily lives).

Do you have a human-centric design creation that will knock our socks off? Submit it to the 2024 Core77 Design Awards.

Source: core77

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