jo barnard morrama

By Jo Barnard, Founder and CEO, Morrama

I first set up industrial design and innovation consultancy Morrama aged 24.

I was straight out of university with nothing to lose and a lot to learn. Six and a half years later, I have a team of 10 working with startups all over the world to bring tech and consumer product ideas to market and help create million-dollar brands.

In the early stages of my journey as a female founder and designer in a male dominated industry, I always felt a sense of pride proving people wrong. When clients met me for the first time, I could tell they had made the assumption that I was Jo (male) not Jo (female) over email. For example, I once went to China to meet with a factory team I’d been communicating with for six months and I can tell they were expecting a man to turn up. I enjoyed making people feel uncomfortable because of their own bias, I felt that they deserved it.

A few years on, however, I grew tired of it. It felt like my gender was influencing people’s beliefs in my ability to do my job, something that would never come into play if I was male. Lately I’ve gone full circle.

At Morrama, we design products for startups. They need to stand out from the crowd. Being a female-run and 50/50 gender split team sets the agency apart because it’s so rare in the industry. We approach brand strategy and design processes differently to our competitors and I know this is a major factor in both our success as an agency and the success of our startup partners.

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It’s not news that increased diversity leads to an increase in business performance in both design and business.

Being female makes it easier for me to hire other women. Being female gives me an edge in business where having a unique perspective helps you stand out. Being female has helped me create an amazing company.

After spending nearly 10 years in a male-dominated industry, I’ve learnt a lot.

Below are my top tips for young women, who are just starting out in the industry:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and call people out if they are not being considerate or inclusive of others – you might get ignored, but it’s still worth saying.
  • Network as much as possible, and not just with other women – find an area that interests you and find a social group/networking event where you can meet others that share that interest. My network has been a huge support in my career so far.
  • Be brave – that might sound scary, but as women, we need to go after the opportunities we want, no one will give them to us on a silver platter.

Don’t ever let yourself be judged negatively for being different, that difference is your superpower.

About the author

After completing my Product Design degree I moved to London to work freelance, picking up jobs here and there in small design studios and startups.

In 2014 I founded Morrama with fellow industrial designer Rob Bye and took the reigns a year later when he left and founded Availo.

With a focus on helping small businesses and startups understand the value of design and, more importantly, user experience, I’ve since worked with clients worldwide to get their businesses off the ground.

My passion lies in helping companies build their brand through both story-telling and industrial design and how you can weave these two things together in a unique way to offer something fresh and exciting to your customers.

My expertise lies in understanding how to tackle the complex product development process and how you can collaborate with suppliers and stakeholders to strengthen your product offering rather than let it get diluted in logistics and compromise.

Aside from my work as founder of, and design at, Morrama, I offer my services as an advisor to startups at any stage of the product development process. More than anything I love hearing startups stories and working to make them a reality.