(The start of) The Lady Bits, an ongoing series

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This will be an ongoing series until the gender bias is removed from the design industry. We’re all waiting patiently while holding our breath. 

While I was actually going to write a post on why I’d love a good-fit for Xmas, my inbox had a landfill of garbage waiting for me. That garbage? A gift in the form of an opinion on one of the many designer forums I’m a member of on LinkedIn.

These forums range from design nerdery to flat-out diet spam, but they’re all under the umbrella of the amazing industry I’ve fallen in love with; design.

They actually help create a sense of community; seeing as I’m a powerhouse of one these days. I love reading about other people’s opinions about trends, fonts, who’s logo is terrible (usually everyone’s) and once in a while, you get just a complete gem of a topic.

Today’s little nugget?

Do women and men design differently?

Okay bait, I see you wiggling in there catching sun and my attention.

I clicked, and what I read felt like a cold bucket of water thrown straight from my Safari browser.

“For the most part, yes, men and women certainly do design differently, and it’s an intuitive skill telling the difference between the two. However, at the hardcore professional level, distinguishing between male and female design gets more difficult. True professionals, male and female, design with little gender bias, and know how to create design that functions and sells. ”

Males and Females certainly do design differently, and it’s an intuitive skill to be able to tell the difference between the two. Oh it must be! Seeing as it’s a set of skills needed to critique work I’d never heard of. I didn’t realize my sex organ gave way to my design abilities (or any lack there of), but I’m surely aware now.

It’s these mindsets and mentalities that make the 3% Conference such a necessity– and such a horrible shame that the conference exists as it does.

We within the design industry really need to work this gender bias out, and not from the guise of “We make people, we are BRILLIANT!” With one being a scientific fact of repopulation, and the rest a non sequitur.

The day after the 2nd annual 3% conference was held, an article came out toting that more men are handling the grocery shopping, as well as the meal prep. An interesting twist indeed, considering the main argument spouted from the 3% Conference was that women were handling the pocketbook, they in fact run the board meetings.

Yawn. I’m so happy they’ll have to think of a stronger (aka better) argument for why women deserve equality in power.

Oh I don’t know, because they’re half of the population? Because we live in 2013 and can chastise a rich celebrity cook for relying on her old-world Southern upbringing, but can’t figure out how to treat the other demographic (you know, besides the male one) as equal humans? Well, at least now we can cross “women do more around the house, so there!” off of the list of valid arguments to make for our case, right ladies? 

(A side note: Copywriters, did “manfluencers” have to happen?”)

But here I am, having to read that women are more passive, while men deliver more viscerally.

Sigh.

Was this why I was given the advice to be “softer” by one of my human resource managers, while simultaneously being told that I fired for (and I’m not joking) “not being passionate about design enough”?

I’ve started to wonder if my passion and ambition for and within design is more suited with those who would be called visceral and not passive? I actually think passive is a straight up antonym of mine, but here we are.

Is it easier for women to get along if they feel like they just need to “get along”? Yes! It’s why we’re wondering how the hell we’re still here. Still making $.70 for every dollar the man makes, still hearing that our sensibilities make us less critical, less discerning– perhaps even less competent than our male counterparts– why? Why should my sex organ, or any aspect of my physiology outside of my eyeballs, brain, and hands dictate how well I do my job? I’m not less competent because I have ovaries, and my colleagues aren’t stronger designers/communicators/problem solvers because they have testicles. It’s an outrageous — and unbelievably outdated– way to approach work.

When I was in college, I relied heavily on floral imagery and flourishes; but not because I am a woman. I used this imagery because I was experiencing one of the hardest emotional droughts of my life. Flowers represent growth, light, happiness. Flourishes are a linear fluidity that expresses internal and mental flow. I designed a world I wanted to be a part of, I created for myself what I lacked. Such is a natural outgrowth of one who’s artistically inclined.

Now I have a beautiful life. It’s filled with people who love and cherish me, support and challenge me, and we all grow together. There is no need for me to fill my space with vector flowers and Photoshop gradients; I live that rosy life every day. Lately, I’m living in a world of charts and analysis– and now I am wondering what THAT will bring in 5 years time– but regardless– the elements I use to create with are more linked to my emotional/mental relationship than it is a preference based on gender. Perhaps that I am even aware that my artfulness stems from emotional/mental hurls me straight into the ‘female’ group; but I can’t help that.

What I can help is opening up the perception that men and women ‘design differently’. ALL DESIGNERS regardless of gender, design differently.  It is a world of specificity and ambiguity, individuals and crowd-based trends, all quirky and subjective; and all based on personal preference. Are you a process based designer? Do you prefer to sketch or to list? What comes natural vs what is laborious? None of these things derive from or focus on sex organs, but abilities.  When we lose sight of that we really demean ourselves as a profession, and as people who consider ourselves “progressive” and “thoughtful”.  People who consider every option imaginable! From die cuts, roll-overs, transitions, b-rolls, logo packages, paper choices– secondary paper choices, TREATMENTS to said paper choices, and we can’t reconsider this outdated bias? We can’t (or don’t) take notice the bias pervasiveness within our own culture?  Don’t we at least owe it to ourselves to be the elitist “betters” we know ourselves to be? Come on design, you know we’re better than that.

I have a friend who compliments me on how beautiful and feminine my designs are. Every time I hear her give me a COMPLIMENT, I cringe. I cringe because being pigeonholed as a “feminine designer” is like death for someone who relishes in the variety and versatility that strong design can offer.

The potential and possibilities are actually limitless when you begin to use design to communicate, rather than impress with trends, but that is why I am deeply outrageously passionate about design.

On the flip side, I’ve received a compliment I cherish so highly I’ve been pursuing the giver of said compliment for a recommendation.. I want the world to know that I am a multifaceted designer. I want to be known as a versatile designer who “gets it”. Why is the elusive ‘it’? The ability to use whatever aesthetic necessary to convey the clients’ ideas successfully and eloquently (or viscerally, boldly, messily, however it’s needed). Since rightfully claiming “floral and flourish designer” at Ringling, I’ve actively (see the antonym of passively) sought to be A DESIGNER. Not one singularly designated to women, womanly things, hell even solely the color blue– but a well-rounded, equally strong designer in every field. I admit it is idealistic, and I’ve already conceded a few weakness here and there (like web production- omg no), but different styles? I got that. I love that. That’s an ongoing challenge of mine. Why limit yourself to one or two styles and certainly why would you ever pigeonhole yourself by your gender? Maybe that works for some, but it ain’t ever going to work for me.

*Image taken from the fabulous Danielle LaPorte’s Truthbomb series. She’s so fabulous, you should check her out.

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