Design Issues – Gender Perceptions

Thank you for sending for a copy of our briefing sheet on design issues and gender perceptions. This short note:

  • Sets out some new research in this area
  • Poses a little quiz for you based on perceptions generally
  • Highlights some training courses we provide on cultural awareness and perceptions/preferences from a wide range of other perspectives

Research from Buckingham New University

The overarching message from the research is that women and men’s design and marketing preferences are usually very wide apart.

Key Findings

  • Women are often the prime purchasers
  • Samples of paintings and design show men are more likely than women to use dark colours, straight lines, little detail, prominent and regular typography - and a three dimensional look
  • Women are more inclined to favour rounded lines, colour, detail, non-standard typography – and a more two dimensional look
  • Males prefer to depict moving objects, machines and tall buildings as well as violent themes, male figures and caricatures.
  • Females favour the depiction of static objects, low rise buildings, female figures and smiling faces
  • Men are reported to be happier with products developed around female tastes than women are with male tastes
  • Ironically a large proportion of products aimed at women today are produced using a male production aesthetic since the majority of teachers of design and designers are men.

A Little Quiz on Perceptions – Your Perceptions

Of course we are all individuals and the research recognises this. But it does point to some general trends in a given and specific area from a gender perspective. On a much wider front we deliver cultural awareness courses which embrace other perceptions – east and west. Have a look at the two pictures overleaf. What do you see?

This question was put to a wide range of males and females who were aged 14-50.They came from Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Tunisia and Uganda. Perhaps your own interpretation is in the list, perhaps not. As you see, the pictures have an amazing possible number of interpretations. These interpretations differ because people concentrate on different aspects. Some look for unique attributes of the people in the picture. Others look for family relationships, or for hierarchical relationships. Yet others look for gender differences, for co-operation, for antagonism, or for details that highlight professional or religious roles. Try to find out what kind of attributes you have highlighted.

The learning to be drawn from this is that it also holds for social situations in general: just by looking you cannot tell what is happening. Unconsciously you bring your own cultural frame of interpretation to bear upon the situation. This is not to say that culture alone determines how one interprets a picture or a situation. One’s own unique history and personality also play an important role. But some of the interpretations made by people from other parts of the world are probably very strange to your mind. To illustrate these differences in perception, have a look at the two pictures below.

What do you see?

Look at the pictures below and write down for yourself what you see in them.

Picture One

Picture Two

Get in touch with your answers. We will see how they compare with other men and women. In your reply tell us about your:

  • Gender
  • Preferred Classification – e.g. white, black, English, Indian – you decide
  • Age
  • Anything else you think appropriate

All information will be treated in confidence and we will send you a summary of the statistical data from other respondents without revealing personal identities.

These fascinating issues of perception and preferences feature within many of our training courses and especially those dealing with:-

  • Cultural Awareness
  • Working Well with People from Other Countries
  • Body Language – from a Western and non-Western point of view
  • Equality and Diversity
  • Communication Skills