Bright Green Enterprise

Being Human: Gender by Design?

Last year, an investigation by The Times newspaper revealed that on average, women and girls were charged 37% more for clothes, beauty products and toys than men and boys. This is a significant amount to charge for what is often the same product use but packaged and marketed in a slightly different way. More recently, this has been picked up in Tesco where women’s (pink) disposable razor blades were charged at more than twice the price of the comparative men’s product.

So what should we take from this research? Well, apart from the obvious unfair cost advantage of buying male-targeted products, it warrants a closer inspection of how and why certain seemingly ‘unisex’ products are assigned and designed by gender and what this might mean for their users.

The subject of gender has been discussed I would imagine for millennia, or more specifically the differences between gender have. Boys we are told particularly like slugs and snails, whilst girls prefer sugar and spice (and all things nice). Boys like blue things, girls like pink things…

But even if these sweeping generalisations were true of a population, how much of this is inherent in us when we’re born and how much of our choices and behaviours are motivated by the design of things we use or associate with every day? And in the design of ‘things’ are we limiting the potential pathways and capabilities of boys and girls alike? Do we even make choices about our future careers based on the design and marketing of products in certain industries? Would more women for instance, follow STEM industry pathways (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) if the ‘packaging’ of these environments were different? At Bright Green Enterprise we aim to explore these questions and more with students.

Being Human is a Bright Green programme where we discuss with students the role that gender plays in shaping design and vice versa. Being introduced to the concept of gender in everyday design as well as learning through global case studies how this can affect the lives of people across the planet, students are able to explore and apply their creative skills to human-centred design (rather than gender-centred design), even getting to design their own vision of how certain products and workplaces should look!

If you’re interested in having a chat about this programme, please get in touch. Being Human is a flexible programme for a small group of students or a larger year group and can be run as a short one-hour talk or as an interactive half-day workshop.

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