A star-studded field of designers, creatives, innovators and researchers has been announced as Finalists for the prestigious 2020 Women in Design Award – an industry judged award recognising women for outstanding contributions to design and creative leadership in Australia.

Now in its second year, the Women in Design Award seeks to recognise and celebrate women who have made significant contributions to the industry and hopes to encourage a more diverse and equal representation within leadership roles and in the design and creative industries in general.

The inaugural recipient was Sharon Gauci, Executive Director of Industrial Design at General Motors, one of the world’s largest car manufacturers. She is the first Australian woman to hold this position and is today one of the company’s top design professionals. Ms Gauci plays an important role in the “visual expression” of General Motors and its brands around the world.

Ms Gauci returns this year as one of the judges for the top award.

This year’s recipient will be announced on Thursday 10 September 2020 as part of the 62nd annual Good Design Awards.



Dr Leah Heiss is an award-winning designer, RMIT Researcher and CSIRO Visiting Designer/Scientist who works at the nexus of design, health and emerging technologies.

Through collaborative projects she has brought human centred design to technologies for hearing loss, diabetes and pre-diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gut disease and loneliness. 

Her wearable technologies include jewellery to administer insulin, cardiac monitoring jewellery, swallowable devices to detect disease and emergency jewellery for times of medical crisis.

The Facett hearing aid, that Leah designed for Blamey Saunders hears, won many awards including the 2018 Australian Good Design Award of the Year, the CSIRO Design Innovation Award and the Victorian Premier’s Design Award Best in Class for Product Design in 2018.

Leah is currently working on the use of stretchable sensors for heart health, pre-diabetes and monitoring COVID symptoms in aged care. She is co-director of the RMIT Wearables and Sensing Network that brings together 75+ researchers from 12 RMIT Schools to collaborate and connect.  


Professor Cara Wrigley is the Chair and Director of Design Innovation at the University of Sydney; responsible for researching and implementing design methodologies in the military domain.

This role draws on her extensive experience in research and education, investigating the strategic role that design plays in the creation of disruptive technologies for the Royal Australian Air Force.

She has extensive industry experience spanning Australian ‘start up’ companies, small to medium size enterprises (SME’s), the multinational corporate sector and the Australian Defence Force. Professor Wrigley has published extensively on the application and adoption of design including the book ‘Affected: Emotionally Engaging Customers in the Digital Age’ by Wiley.

She is a world leading expert on design innovation methods leading to emotive user engagement. Recently she has developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Design Innovation, rolled out a university wide Design Major while in the position of Program Director, and launched the Master of Design Innovation and Strategic Design study program.


Mia Feasey founded Siren Design in 2005 as a place for creatives to thrive. With ambition, hard work and an ability to think differently, Siren has flourished from a disruptive start-up into Australasia’s leading interior design consultancy with studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore.

Siren’s purpose is simple: to enable people to thrive. Siren is now on a mission to use their creativity to influence the way business regenerates the planet.

Known for award-winning projects, Siren’s portfolio includes clients like Google, Facebook, Uber and Atlassian to Visa, KPMG, PWC and Pfizer to name a few. 

An entrepreneur and a true creative, Mia’s talent is recognised through accolades such as the 2018 INDE Design Luminary Award, Perspective Global 40 under 40 Design Star of the Future 2012, and 2010 NAWIC Business Woman Award.

Passionate and engaging, Mia is a champion of women and design-led thinking in business through her global network.


Farnaz Afsharfard graduated from the very male dominated degree of Software Engineering (Honours) in 2007 from UTS and immediately realised her passion for improving customer experiences.

While the “UX” industry was at its infancy, Fay took steps to strengthen her skills across the various disciplines of UX Design (Research, Information Architecture, Interaction Design), delivering solutions to some of Australia’s largest organisations.

Her passion for Human Centred Design has inspired many and she continues to champion the importance of putting customers first, in every organisation she joins. 

Her experience spans across many industries and her projects include Australia’s first Mobile NFC Payments Android App – “Cash by Optus” – which went on to win a number of awards and more recently, the release of the world’s first Interactive Ad for Nova Entertainment. In her free time, she enjoys non-digital creative hobbies such as acrylic painting and ceramics.


As Director of degenhartSHEDD, Amy Degenhart has over 30 years of experience designing homes and communities in southeast Queensland. Now, as founder of Bubbl Up and Urban Pure, she is focused on creating tiny-lot and mixed-use housing.

Amy believes these innovations are key to solving the issue of housing affordability in a way that not only improves financial wellbeing for homeowners, but also contributes positively to their health, lifestyles and communities. Indeed, Bubbl Up’s award-winning project ENVI Micro Urban Village is recognised by both industry leaders and popular media as pioneering proof of the potential of urban infill small-lot housing, with two similar projects now under way.

While Amy has received numerous accolades throughout her career, she is most proud of her contributions to the design community, including her role in setting local and national standards for development innovation and leading architectural practice and education on the Gold Coast.


The 2020 Women in Design Awards Jury include: (Pictured above, L+R, top to bottom):

  • Claire Beale – Executive Director at Design Tasmania
  • Janna DeVylder – Co-Founder and Principal of Meld Studios
  • Annie Dow – Founder and Owner of two of NZ’s leading brand and design agencies Dow Goodfolk and Brother Design
  • Eunjoo Maing – Executive Managing Director, Capacity Building
    Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP)
  • Tanyaradzwa Sahanga – Transformation Lead at 37Thanks and internationally respected speaker on sustainability, product creation and the circular economy
  • Sharon Gauci – Executive Director of Industrial Design at General Motors

CEO of Good Design Australia, Dr Brandon Gien, commented: “All of the Finalists are leading lights in design and are recognised both domestically and internationally for their innovation, creativity and research excellence and expertise.

Australia is at the forefront of producing cross-industry role models which help create a tailwind of momentum for young female designers in the future.”

We want to recognise women at the top of their field and celebrate women who have made significant contributions to the industry in hopes to encourage more diversity moving forwards.”

The Women in Design Award is presented as part of the 2020 Good Design Week.

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