I just sat through a live webinar hosted by FEI – Front End of Innovation titled “Womenomic Meet Design: A Female Innovation Strategy.” It was a presentation about the findings of a 3 year research project titled “Female Interaction,” a multidisciplinary research project focusing on female interaction design for advanced electronic products. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s quite fascinating. You can check out more information on their site.
While the information was great, my key takeaway wasn’t an insight or idea, but rather a term: Pinking.
“Pinking” refers to the redesign tenets of “for female” products being based in stereotypical color, feel or visual implementations. You know the phenomenon well. There are cameras–and pink cameras for women. There are watches–and watches with flowers for women. There are earphones–and earphones with bling for women. (Not to mention, most often pink bling to be clear.) I know that I have been acutely aware of such narrowmindedness in product design for quite some time now, especially after the #littlemen arrived. I am forced to walk down segregated toy isles and have conversations that include instruction on things like: “no, just because that ball is pink does not not mean that it is a ‘girl toy,’ it means it is a ball that is the color pink.”
But more and more people are taking notice, and being vocal about just how silly (on the lighthearted side,) or detrimental (on the serious side) the effects of this fundamental lack of effort or thinking is. A recent post on Sociological Images entitled “Beauty and the New Lego Line for Girls.” points out how the company is terming the focus of introducing new girl themed legos to be on furthering interest in “science.” The goal: get more girls engaged with legos as a foray into engineering and the sciences. Obviously the only way to entice young girls to be interested in building things is to pretty the pieces up.
There were always legos for girls… they’re called legos.
I am thankful for research projects like the Female Interaction project, and for people who are making an effort to be aware of and point out examples of this lack of understanding on the part of product designers, and the companies that produce, promote and stand behind them. And now, we all have a word too. Which will make spreading awareness even simpler, and the discussions more focused. I challenge you to pay attention. What products have you encountered that have been “pinked” to reach the female audience? How could that product have been designed and developed to truly serve a woman audience?
And the uncomfortable question for the day… have you engaged in “pinking” for any of your own products or services? It’s worth the examination.