Dare + Defy: A Woman’s Place in the Great Outdoors [MFA Thesis]


Dare + Defy

A Woman's Place in the Great Outdoors

Alexia’s Mater’s thesis was conceived through SVA's Products of Design program. Through a human-centered design research process and a suite of design offerings Alexia honors and celebrates the gutsy women who have made the outdoors their playing field, and argues for a more inclusive and diverse space.

Master's Thesis / Human-Centered Design / Design Research / Product Design / Service Design / Experience Design


The Challenge

How might we empower women to engage in activities in the great outdoors with confidence?



When Alexia started climbing three years ago, she attended an event organized by Flash Foxy, a group of women dedicated to celebrating and empowering women climbers. Through this event, she met her climbing partner Janice, who as Alexia recalls “quickly became a friend and a mentor. Her guidance and support helped me develop my climbing technique and become more comfortable in this new space.” She also began to understand the importance of community and women mentors in traditionally male-dominated spaces. As she delved deeper into the subject, she discovered that while the experiences of women in the outdoors were analogous to those of women in other male-dominated spheres, the women making headway outside were breaking the norms by pushing away fear and caution—which as author Carolyn Paul points out is an attitude that is all too present in the way in which we traditionally raise girls—to embrace bravery and risk instead, traits that are not typically “female” as they are rarely inculcated in women at a young age. This, combined with the challenges and benefits of spending time outdoors, is what allowed the gutsy women who inspired this thesis to build the confidence and self-awareness to break through these barriers.

* A selection of interviewees. For the full list of all 42 interviewees please reference pages 162-165 in published thesis book below.

* A selection of interviewees. For the full list of all 42 interviewees please reference pages 162-165 in published thesis book below.

Human-centered research + design principles


Further secondary research and rich conversations with all sorts of people, including women engaging in the outdoors, women in business, psychologists and designers (40+ interviews conducted in total), as well as a co-creation workshop, revealed common threads and themes, which Alexia distilled into a set of design principles to drive her design thinking forward.

Studies seem to indicate that risk taking can help build self-confidence, and self-esteem…Outdoors sports privilege strength and perseverance, not looks. They make us focus on what our bodies can do rather than what we look like.
— Florence Williams. Contributing Editor Outside Magazine

Design offerings

Armed with a set of actionable design principles Alexia was able to drive her design offerings forward. Each one of the projects below address these challenges head on.


She Ventures Club

App + Experience Design

The She Ventures Club is an organization that enables a vibrant community of women to come together around outdoor activities, to learn from each other in a supportive environment. Through the website, the app and the physical tools the She Ventures Club provides a space for women to share skills, find mentorship and build confidence.


Bivvi, Blaze + Spark

Speculative Objects

Bivvi, Blaze and Spark is a collection of flashlight/vibrators designed specifically for outdoorsy women. By framing these as part of the essential kit for outdoor adventuring, they make pleasure an essential part of womanhood too.


CARA: NothinG will stop us.

Physical Product Design

Cara—from the word carapace, as the shell of a turtle—is a menstrual product and waste carrier designed for use in multi-day trips outdoors. It features an expandable waste collection container at the center, and two separate dry enclosures  to keep unused menstrual products, toilet paper, and/or wipes clean and ready to use.


OUT_fit: Dare to try

Service Design

Out_fit is a digital platform that recommends outdoor products to women based on their body type and activity, while providing crucial data to outdoor gear companies to better serve a growing and diversifying clientele.


Published thesis book

The greatest rewards come only from the greatest commitment.
— Arlene Blum. "Annapurna, a Woman’s Place"

May 2018 public presentation