Gendered Design

GENDERED DESIGN is an investigation into he gendered approaches to design in common scenarios that we take for granted in our day to day lives.

Should the identity of one’s gender be limited to visual appearances?

When we go out in public, odds are we are presented with the shared bathroom dilemma. Men can only go in one room, and women in another. The doors present an observation only representative of the socially accepted interpretation of gender by way of a human figure that seems to wear a dress and another that wears nothing, though pants are implied. But, in this day and age when Prince, Harry Styles, and Jaden Smith (male-identifying individuals) wear dresses and skirts, this approach to iconographic design is inaccurate. People are not, and never have been limited to the clothing that they wear, and this seemingly age-old design (not really because it was designed in 1974 by design firm Cook and Shanosky Associates) presents a limited view that we all take for granted.

Sketching For Inspiration

When designing for someting more enduring, and somewhat abstract, its always good to sketch out your ideas. Actually, you should sketch out all of your ideas all of the time.

Here are examples of my sketching process for the development of my new bathroom icons meant to focus on feeling and self-evident identity without limitation to one’s visual appearance. 


Upon selecting two sets of three potential identifiers, I scanned and transferred my hand sketches to digital and through the Adobe Photoshop threshold tool, I adapted them into digital .png files. Afterward, I reworked these sketches into more fluid and clean vector graphics using Adobe Illustrator and my best friend, the pen tool.

Example one

Yes, I really enjoy Tetris, and the shapes of figures used in the game are simple but elegant approaches to identity. Here I wanted to provoke viewers to find visual cues in how the shapes are designed and how they relate to the acts that people may or may not take to relieve themselves.

As a man, standing is a common position for urination. However, women must sit, and those with children are attached to them and will inevitably take them inside the bathroom with them for safety concerns. Men may generally select the first door since it seem to be a standing figure. Women may select the final door as it is a cube, and could be associated with a seat or someone sitting. And those with children may choose the middle door, since it looks like a taller and smaller figure (parent and child) are together in this figure.

Example Two

The second set of icons presents a less direct and more abstract approach to the idea of gender.

I thought of the curvy lines in the first icon as representative of the softer exterior generally associated with female forms. Not all women are curvy, some are more tall and slender, hence the strokes that fly out of the shape. The dot in the upper “P” shape represents the act of pregnancy and how a woman carries and gives birth to a child.

The middle icon is a geometric, and more solid aura of gender. Generally, male forms fit this aesthetic, but the circle and curvy stroke in the middle of the icon represent those men who do not identify as sharp, edgy, and structured, but as more fluid and open in their identity.

The most intricate icon is a deep dive into our emotions. Everyone has relationships where they have dominant and submissive roles that switch from time to time at least once in their lifetime. This approach represents the myriad of emotions one feels upon enacting, and experiencing these roles in their social experiences. So, it is totally open for interpretation.

While fun, these approaches still in some way feel somewhat gendered to me by leaning slightly into visual aspects of one’s body. However, the beauty of it lies in that anyone can associate with these figures either emotionally or metaphysically by how they present themselves in their own minds and presented their appearance to others.

Design Appreciation

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