Design for Women: Katie Schlott Talks Inclusive Design

To celebrate International Women’s Day, IA Collaborative Partner Katie Schlott sat down with Bill Staikos of the Be Customer Led podcast. In the conversation, Katie explains why inclusive design is so important today. She talks about why she started a Design for Women capability at IA. She talks about ways that companies can innovate to meet women’s needs now and in the future.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day…think about, how are you integrating your various products, services or solutions to solve bigger, more systemic challenges facing women?

Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

During the podcast, Katie explains what inclusive design is more broadly. She talks about what inclusive design means for women. She emphasizes the importance of including the perspective of all women when designing new products and services.

Katie mentions statistics from the book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. This book illustrates the many opportunities we have create new and better products and services for women.

When you’re designing for and marketing to the same homogeneous demographics time and time again, you’re missing out on huge areas of opportunity for equity and innovation.

Design for Women: Learn More and Connect with Us

If you’re interested in learning more about IA Collaborative’s Design for Women capability, visit

To listen to the podcast, visit Katie’s Be Customer Led show page:

You can also watch, download, or listen to the episode here:


IA Collaborative Convenes Fortune 100 Leaders to Discuss
Designing for Women, for the Benefit of All

Cross-Industry Leaders Illuminate Actionable Methods to Champion Women through Design

At IA Collaborative, our mission is to design the future of human experience. With a female Co-Founder and Co-CEO, and a proudly 50% female leadership team, we launched a Design for Women capability to illuminate and address the unmet needs of women – and anyone who identifies with the female gender – through design. Our teams apply IA’s expertise in human-centered design methodologies and integrated business strategy to define and prototype new products and services, and organizational missions and programs, to champion women.

The IA Collaborative Design for Women Roundtable Series themed “Illuminate + Act,” convened  25+ innovation and business leaders across industries including technology, healthcare, consumer products, financial services and insurance representing companies such as Airbnb, Johnson & Johnson, Google, USAA, and more, to explore challenges and bright spots to champion designing for women, for the benefit of all.

Women’s issues are systemic, and intersect with and impact the shared experiences of all genders, and all people. By bringing together this impressive group of leaders, we gained insights to make impact in our organizations, and through our design work – whether it be builds to our process, or the mindsets we use when developing new products and solutions.

-Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

Taking Action: Key Themes

Below are key themes from our action-focused conversations with these leaders. They reveal how we can take action within our own organizations and spheres of influence, and collaborate to magnify our impact.

KEY THEME #1: Equity must be a collaboration, not a competition. We should openly share insights, resources, tools and strategies.

We discussed the collective impact we could have if we openly shared and democratized our efforts, and reached out to our competitors as allies. We’ve seen this approach with other pressing challenges facing humanity, including environmental sustainability, where corporate competitors like Coke and Pepsi commit to achieving a shared goal. Imagine if we more openly shared the equitable design tools and resources we’re developing at our own organizations. What if we made internal surveys, or key behavioral insights from research projects open-sourced? 

Another avenue for shared progress is aligning with like-minded partners – who have complementary expertise – to design equitable solutions. For example, to support women returning to work, IA Collaborative facilitated a collaboration between brands Medela, Mamava and Milkstork to improve a returning mother’s experience in the workplace. Together, these partners launched the New Moms’ Healthy Returns program to deliver equipment, advocacy and tools for breastfeeding women and the employers who support them — and they did so by leveraging each other’s strengths and capabilities to make a deeper and greater impact than one company could have done alone. 

Bottom line: Democratizing tools and resources – and collaborating across company lines – will better solve systemic design challenges and create more impactful, scalable solutions.

KEY THEME #2: Open the scope — rethink your “target audience.”

The groups discussed the inherent defaults we currently design for and within when creating products and services. For some, particularly in the financial industry, it is men; and for others, it’s limiting the female target audience to “young women” 18-30. Too often, other gender constructs, races, age groups and ethnicities are left out when companies prioritize what to design and launch next.

The roots of these “default” design decisions run deep, and even the most well-meaning teams can overlook them. Addressing them means proactively building in “bias-checks” in the design process, to address whether your existing designs or services subtly confirm the default. 

Mary Quandt, Director of Experience Strategy at Johnson & Johnson, shared a powerful tool teams use to proactively expand their thinking on “who” a product or service should be designed for. They’ve reframed their creative brief to include a diversity lens and began using “stretch personas” that consider a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds, and needs, which leads to more inclusive design decisions.

Challenging the default can include micro-design decisions—for example the male-wallet icon in an e-shopping experience—a subtle statement about who controls finances. It can also include rethinking UX journeys. Alissa Umansky, Senior Director, Product Design at The Knot, works to prevent bias and assumption in wedding planning.

To avoid making gender-based assumptions in our experience, such as around attire suggestions, we do not ask users to identify as a bride or groom. Instead, we focus on building products that empower every user and every couple, no matter who they are, to plan the wedding that’s right for them.

Alissa Umansky, Senior Director, Product Design at The Knot

Beyond designing for women – new product categories and marketing strategies should address a spectrum of genders and other intersectionalities. And it all starts with rethinking the target audience.

Bottom line: Proactively build in moments in your process – whether it’s initial ideation or design and prototyping – to challenge who your target audience is and what they need.

KEY THEME #3:  Business Prototype “micro-sprints” are a powerful tool to gain Leadership buy-in.

To break through people’s default assumptions and expectations, take baby steps. Experiment. Do a quick research sprint just to gain shared understanding among the leadership team. It’s a great equalizer…customers might kill our assumptions, and that’s great!

Liz Trudeau, SVP of Strategic Design, Wells Fargo

We discussed how many times, big change can take place one small experiment at a time. Gender equity is a systemic issue, and sometimes we let the massive scale of those challenges hinder the effort. However, there are already elements inherent to design thinking and agile development that we can incorporate into our projects to impact women. We can conduct iterative, business prototype sprints to gain early user behavioral insights, metrics, and ROI that can open the door to more funding and successful conversations with Leadership.

In the financial services industry, low-fidelity research on female investor mindsets can disprove assumptions about investment decisions.  In healthcare, a quick “business prototype” of a new service offering, led by IA Collaborative, quickly reversed assumptions business leaders had about user preferences and adoption. And don’t forget internal prototypes, and through them a deeper understanding of employees behaviors and needs. Gaining an understanding of what actions and policies drive real behavior change and thus, real equity, are powerful tools towards progress.

Bottom line:  Start by starting. Gain behavioral insights to demonstrate value and inspire action within your organization.

Design for Women: What You Can Do Next

We all struggle with what is urgent, and what is important. The hardest thing of change at scale is the change, and then the orchestration of the change.

-Hector Ouilhet, Head of Human Centered Innovation & Strategy at Google

The “Illuminate + Act” Design for Women roundtable series brought together incredible leaders across industries to share resources and illuminate areas of opportunity for equitable design. But most importantly, it inspired us to take action on those resources and opportunities. 

At IA, we’re applying these learnings and a design innovation mindset to continue solving equity challenges. We work with business leaders to rethink the role of design in every corner of their organization to design a better future for women, that will benefit all. We can create a world where designing for women is synonymous with “designing” –  whether that be internal processes and tools to support women during their journey within your company, or expand your products and offerings to include women’s needs at the center. 

Do you need support on an upcoming initiative to support women? Are you interested in being a part of a network of design + business leaders uncovering opportunities and sharing resources to design for women? Join our network and send a direct message to


IA Collaborative Presents the Accelerated Futures
That Will Impact Every Industry

Dan Kraemer, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at IA Collaborative, was a recent presenter at DTVX 2020, the Design Thinking Virtual Conference.

In his talk, “How to Protect Your Business and Accelerate Innovation in the New Normal,” he gave a preview of IA Collaborative’s new Accelerated Futures Model™ and 4 hyperaccelerated trends coming out of COVID-19 that will leave a lasting impact on every business.

Further, he explained the specific implications for each hyper-accelerated trend, and provided tools for prototyping new business offerings to capture new value while demand is rapidly shifting.

“Every design leader’s new charter is to anticipate accelerated change in their industry and determine what new business offerings to prototype as a result.”

-Dan Kraemer


IA Collaborative Supports the Fight Against COVID-19

IA Collaborative supports OSF HealthCare Pandemic Health Worker Program (PWHP)

IA Collaborative is proud to be designing critical materials to support the OSF HealthCare Pandemic Health Worker Program (PHWP), which is part of a partnership with the State of Illinois recently announced by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The PHWP will serve individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and protect the well-being of the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic Health Workers (PHWs) will digitally connect with referred clients who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to stay home or quarantine to protect themselves and others. Through this program, OSF HealthCare and the State of Illinois will proactively and digitally support those needing care, while also reducing the potential influx of non-emergent patients into a hospital’s emergency department. 

OSF HealthCare engaged IA Collaborative to rapidly design, develop, and launch a suite of patient-facing materials to make the home care process understandable and safe. By providing timely support and resources to encourage this behavior, IA Collaborative is proud to do our part to help flatten the curve in Illinois.

The PHW program is an extension of the role OSF HealthCare is providing with compassion and competence in a healthcare crisis. IA Collaborative helped design an experience to ensure that individuals enrolled in the program feel cared for and know key actions to take while recovering at home.

 -Dr. John Vozenilek, Vice President/Chief Medical Officer, Innovation and Digital Health, OSF HealthCare

IA Collaborative designed a client-facing handbook and digital site as part of a care kit that will be delivered to a client’s home. The kits support the program’s broader effort to safeguard hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, by digitally supporting those needing care and limiting the spread of the virus.

At IA Collaborative, we champion the strategic value of design. We believe that design determines behavior – and that well-designed products, services, and experiences have the power to create positive behavior change and save lives. We are proud to partner with OSF HealthCare on this critical public health initiative.

-Kathleen Brandenburg, Co-Founder and Chief Design Strategy Officer at IA Collaborative


IA Collaborative Helps Select Fortune’s List of Greatest Designs

Co-founder Kathleen Brandenburg weighs in on the products that are making lives better

Co-founder and Chief Design Research Officer Kathleen Brandenburg joined leading design experts to help select Fortune’s greatest designs of modern times, sharing how Apple and Skype are transforming human connection.

“Not only an instant way to be constantly connected, but a flexible, ever-evolving design that becomes whatever each user wants it to be.”

  • Brandenburg describing the impact of Apple’s iPhone

Fortune partnered with IIT Institute of Design (ID) to poll educators, influencers, freelance designers, and corporate design teams to uncover the products that are making lives simpler, better, and more stylish.

See the full report.

Image by Fortune Magazine


Design for Women: Katie Schlott Honored by She Runs It “Changing the Game” Awards

Katie Schlott, Partner of Client Growth Strategies at IA Collaborative, is a winner in the 2021 She Runs It Changing the Game Awards, which are dedicated to “recognizing women who are true catalysts of innovation – fearlessly making bold moves and reinventing their organizations and those of their clients.”

A winner in the ‘No Apologies’ category, Katie is a transformational leader driving high profile innovation initiatives for IA’s Fortune 100 clients. Last year, Katie launched IA Collaborative’s latest offering, network and knowledge-sharing platform, Design for Women, which aims to infuse gender equity into the design process and put women at the forefront of new product and service innovation.

Katie is a champion for women’s professional development inside and outside of IA. She is committed to showcasing what women in innovation leadership can look like through mentoring budding female entrepreneurs at organizations like 1871, She Runs It, and the Business Incubator program at Oak Park and River Forest high schools, where she resides with her family.

On the Executive Board of Friends of Prentice, which funds research at Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern University in Chicago, Katie is an outspoken champion of women’s health and funding research grants to design better healthcare experiences and outcomes for women. 

Inspired, and want to connect?


IA Collaborative Judges Type Directors Club Communication Design Competition

IA Collaborative’s Graphic Design Group Director Rebecca Gimenez was invited to judge the 66th Type Design Club (TDC) Annual International Communication Design competition, TDC66. She joins an elite jury of 7 industry leaders to judge the design competition, including Partner & Creative Director at Base Design Min Lew, Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University Dori Turnstall, and Founder & Director of Studio Lin Alex Lin.

The judges will convene in January at Fordham University in New York City to review a wide range of design – from typefaces, books, and exhibitions to identities, packaging, and websites.

You can learn more about the competitions and categories here.  The deadline to enter is midnight, December 13.



IA Collaborative Hosts STA 100 Winners Exhibition

Join design leaders for an evening celebrating best-in-class design and typography.

On October 30th, the best design and typography from the past year will be announced during the STA 100 Winners Exhibition at IA Collaborative.

To submit your work for consideration, click here. The deadline to submit to October 25th, 2019.

IA Collaborative Founder and Chief Design Officer Dan Kraemer is this year’s chairperson for the 2019 STA 100 awards for the Society of Typographic Arts. He’ll lead a panel of judges including Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt Ellen Lupton, Chief Design Officer at USAA Meriah Garrett, VP of Design Education at InVision Aarron Walter, and internationally exhibited artist and designer Matthew Hoffman to select the 100 best examples of typographic excellence produced in the previous year.

During the Winners Exhibition, the judges and chairperson will share their favorites and participate in a Q&A with attendees.

About the STA
The STA brings the design community together by inviting and encouraging all creative professionals to help build a community with social, educational, and networking opportunities. Through events, activities, conferences, and publications, as well as the STA100 competition, the STA affirms its dedication to pursuing excellence in all forms of communication.


06:00 pm


IA Collaborative
218 South Wabash Ave,
9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604


IA Collaborative’s Dan Kraemer Chairs 2019 STA 100 Awards

IA hosts panel – including design experts from Invision, Cooper-Hewitt, USAA, and a renowned local artist – to select the year's best typographic design

IA Collaborative Founder and Chief Design Officer Dan Kraemer is this year’s chairperson for the 2019 STA 100 awards for the Society of Typographic Arts. He’ll lead a panel of judges including Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt Ellen Lupton, Chief Design Officer at USAA Meriah Garrett, VP of Design Education at InVision Aarron Walter, and internationally exhibited artist and designer Matthew Hoffman to select and present the 100 best examples of typographic excellence produced in the previous year.

To submit your work for consideration, click here. The deadline to submit has been extended to October 25th, 2019.

The awards will be announced and exhibited at IA Collaborative on October 30th, 2019. Lupton, Garrett, and Hoffman will join Kraemer live to share their favorites and network with event guests and winners.

About the STA

The STA brings the design community together by inviting and encouraging all creative professionals to help build a community with social, educational, and networking opportunities. Through events, activities, conferences, and publications, as well as the STA100 competition, the STA affirms its dedication to pursuing excellence in all forms of communication.

Poster design by Michael Correy.