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WiD at ABX

Focused around a theme, the day starts with a keynote breakfast which frames the discussion and brings together diverse viewpoints on the topic. The rest of the day offers workshops that dig deeper into the issues, the presentation of the “Women in Design Award of Excellence” at a celebratory lunch, and a social hour on the expo floor. The symposium offers WiD an outlet to broadcast its values to the wider Boston community with quality programming, while giving a platform to the great women designers and work within our community.

In efforts to engage the community, WiD has developed a scholarship program which allows students and professionals to attend the symposium. Paid for by sponsors and selected by the ABX Sub-Committee, it invites professionals to join the conversation who might otherwise would not be able to attend. Additionally, all fundraising beyond the symposium expenses are donated to Rosie’s Place, a local women’s shelter.

The ABX Sub-Committee plans and organizes the entire day: defining the topic, developing the call-for-proposals, selecting the workshops, organizing the keynote and selecting its speakers, selecting scholarship recipients, soliciting sponsorships for the symposium, and coordinating the day’s events with the BSA and the WiD Awards Sub-Committee.

Past topics

2018: From the Ground Up, Grassroots Initiatives
2017: Envisioning the Future
2016: In the Public’s Interest
2015: Research Innovate Design
2014: Creative Entrepreneurship
2013: The Value of Design
2012: Software Integration in Practice
2010: Design (R)Evolution

Charlotte Bouvier / [email protected]
Mary McCarthy / [email protected]
Marin Braco / [email protected]


The theme for the Women in Design Symposium at the 2019 ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) is Empathetic Design: Crafting Spaces for People and will explore the ideas, processes, and outcomes of this design approach as they relate to the designing for both individuals and communities. In a time when the national political debate focuses on policies that exclude, discriminate, and promote barriers, it is vitally important as design professionals to ask ourselves how we create places – homes, workplaces, or public squares – that feel safe, welcoming, and inclusive?

Empathetic design strives for the equitable application of human-centered design principles, which prioritize the effects a space has on the people who occupy it. While these principles are widely used in product and web design, this symposium will investigate how they are translated to interior design, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Empathetic design seeks to expand the definitions of stakeholders, acknowledging patterns of historical marginalization.


Empathy: The initial step for design thinking is to understand the stakeholders- who will be the immediate and potential future inhabitants of the spaces we create? A space, however elegant, will not succeed if it does not address the concerns and needs of its occupants. Examples of this research can include large group meetings, surveys, one-on-one interviews, or observation. This can reveal issues, problems, and needs that the design will need to address.

Iterative Process: The second step is to test, mock-up, and prototype the proposed solutions. The key feature of the iterative process is to take feedback and use it to refine the product or solution. In the design world this was traditionally done by building models, generating sketches, and producing renderings. How has the introduction of new technology such as 3D printing and virtual reality changed our design process? With social media, we can now easily survey and receive feedback. How have designers used these new resources?


Related to the topic of Empathetic Design, which may include:


What are examples of empathy-driven projects that can serve as successful case studies, and how was success measured? Is this approach particularly suited to certain industries- if so, how? What can designers of the built environment learn from other disciplines- industrial design, fashion design, user experience design?


What new strategies have changed your design process? How have you effectively prototyped and tested ideas? What are some drawbacks, pitfalls, and challenges?


How do design professionals engage with other disciplines – cultural anthropology, sociology, public policy, healthcare – in order to better understand diverse stakeholders? How can human-centered design address recent global challenges such as equity, homelessness, immigration, gender inclusion, and sustainability?

Submit proposal online to and list WID as your sponsor. Proposals are due Monday April 15th. If you have any questions contact Mary McCarthy at [email protected] or Marin Braco at [email protected].

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