World-leading, UK innovation agency launches XXEquals; UK’s first female-led product design initiative

Bristol, Tuesday 30 March 2021: Bristol-based, world-renowned product development agency Kinneir Dufort (KD), has launched a new initiative, XXEquals – the UK’s first majority female team designing products for women across the consumer, industrial and medical markets.

Fuelled by the growing need to design more female-centred products, and to improve the gender balance in the design industry, XXEquals is already working on projects including smart femcare solutions, sustainable period products, voice recognition software, and futures research.

KD has previously developed pioneering women-centred products including a revolutionary breast scanning bed.

Merle Hall, CEO of KD and XXEquals. Credit: Sarah Hall.

Comprising a multi-disciplinary collective of KD experts – 75% of whom are women – XXEquals is pushing for better gender balance across product development, in a move that is set to potentially benefit millions of female consumers worldwide and KD’s global blue chip clients.

The initiative breaks new ground in the product design industry and is helping to pave the way for young

women interested in careers in product and industrial design.

KD’s CEO, Merle Hall, says: “We are incredibly proud to be the first UK consultancy in the product design industry with an arm which pro-actively focuses on products and experiences for women. It feels like there is truly a need to bring more women to the forefront of innovation and product design.

“XXEquals offers female-focused insight and an empathic design approach, resulting in innately intuitive products. We need to develop a deeper consideration of the physiological or psychological differences for female users.

“As an agency with a strong purpose – to design a better world – we feel it is our responsibility to instigate change. We are proof that a better gender balance is possible in the product design industry and we would love to support other businesses driving equality where possible.

“We’re not where we want to be yet, representative of the world around us, but we’re focused on our goals. It’s important to us to remember that men always need to be part of the solution too, so we draw on the brilliant expertise of our male strategists, researchers, designers, engineers and makers, who are well versed in allyship and also very engaged in the initiative”.

Around half of the world’s population is female[1] and women buy 85% of household products[2], yet data shows only 5% of the product and industrial design industry is female[3].

With the femtech market predicted to reach $50 billion by 2025[4] and a 93% of women currently buying over-the-counter healthcare products[5], the business case for gender balance in this industry is powerful.

Merle Hall continues: “Without expert female representation throughout the innovation and development process now, more opportunities will be missed to leverage real life experience and create brands and products which close the gap between assumption and reality.

“XXEquals launches as we are seeing women being adversely affected by Covid, and shortly after the issuing of a Government call-out for views to inform the new Women’s Health Strategy for England[6], which aims to change the male-by-default approach to health and care system.”

[1] Sex assigned at birth.

[2] She Conomy

[3] Design economy report 2018, Design Council

[4] Frost & Sullivan

[5] She Conomy

[6] Government Department of Health and Social Care

KD has longstanding partnerships to help solve the design industry’s gender balance issue. One is with Kerning the Gap, a campaign to encourage more women into leadership roles in the industry.

Nat Maher, Founder of Kerning the Gap. Credit: Unkown

Founder, Nat Maher: “I think XXEquals will be highlighting an issue that has been long understood and long accepted, and it should be accepted no more. But also, what I think KD will do as pioneers is work with their peers to work out how they get better at it. KD wants change for the industry, and not just for itself. That is why XXEquals has my full and unbridled support.”

KD’s CDO, Craig Wightman adds: “As a man working in design, I have, for too long, felt uncomfortable about the number of situations I’ve observed or been directly involved with, where products used by women are conceptualised, designed and developed by men. That is not to say that male designers cannot design well for women, but why would you not want to have your audience and users better reflected in your design and decision-making team? It just makes sense.

Craig Wightman, CDO of KD. Credit: Sarah Hall.

“I have always felt that it’s important to have respect for the people we are designing for. It is about empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of the product user. Having a more gender-balanced team is an important part of achieving that goal.”

The below XXEquals podcast episode is now available:

Episode one – Why XXEquals? In conversation with our team:


For more information visit: and

For media requests and enquiries, please contact Elma Glasgow: or 07738004670.

Find hi-res images and the press kit here.

Further podcast episodes:

Episode two – Merle Hall in conversation with Marija Butkovic, founder of Women of Wearables:

Episode three – What needs to change and why? Merle Hall in conversation with Kerning the Gap’s Nat Maher:

About Kinneir Dufort (KD)

Based in Bristol, UK, KD is a world-leading, user-centred innovation and product development consultancy, which focuses on designing a better world, creating value through tomorrow’s products and experiences. KD combines expertise in Design, Technology and User Experience to help progressive and ambitious companies deliver successful new products and brand experiences globally for medical, consumer and industrial clients.

KD’s management team is 50% female, and the broader team is now more than 40% female. The new initiative, XXEquals, has a team of 75% women (and 100% female design allies).

The agency specialises in insight and innovation and product development, incorporating product and packaging design, mechanical engineering, electronics and software, digital, usability, and prototyping. Its recent awards include the Red Dot Product Design Award 2019, iF Design Award 2019 and The Good Design Award 2020 in partnership with the advanced prosthetic specialist Össur, for the RHEO KNEE XC.

KD has partnerships with Kerning the Gap, the Design Business Association (DBA), Babbasa, Frank Water, and The Big Bang Fair.

KD has a podcast – KD Conversations – and a yearly magazine, Focus, which showcases articles written by our experts on the latest hot topics, news and trends affecting brands and businesses. Insights and news are shared frequently on KD’s website.

About Merle Hall

Merle Hall joined KD in 2009 following previous roles in design consultancy and became CEO in 2016, when she led a management buyout of KD. She has over 20 years’ experience in consultancy, and is an expert in Design Thinking, Strategy and Innovation, launching life-changing products and services for Healthcare and FMCG businesses globally. Under her leadership, KD’s senior management team has achieved a 50/ 50 gender parity, with 43% female team members across the broader business. Merle plans to improve this further.

Merle sits on the board of the Design Business Association (DBA) and Kerning the Gap (KtG), championing women in design leadership and is leading a national KtG roll out programme, as well as partnering with STEM organisations focusing on the next generation of innovators, designers and engineers.

Merle Hall lives in central Bristol with husband Simon, and her two children, Harper (10) and Redford (12).

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