From phones to face masks: Why some everyday products aren’t designed for women

For now, many companies simply fall back on the “pink it and shrink it” game plan, where products are made smaller, cuter and in a range of pretty hues without understanding what women actually want them to do. What good is a toy-sized drill or hairdryer or laptop with swirly floral patterns if it’s underpowered and can’t get the job done?

It goes to the heart of the problem: A failure to grasp that gender – both the designer’s and the user’s – affects design.

Often, designers forget they are designing for others and that they carry biases and views which can colour the products they create. This takes a lot of awareness and courage to admit and many designers are just not yet equipped with this level of introspection.

“They don’t realise the responsibility they have to the creations they put out and the potential impact on users,” said Ras.

LEVELLING THE DESIGN FIELD

While all this may seem rather depressing, there are promising signs that things are, slowly but surely, looking up.

Associate Professor Yang Hui Ying, who specialises in engineering product development at SUTD, said that although there are certain gaps between males and females in terms of income, education, and employment, the situation on the whole has been improving for women over the past decades, especially in developed countries.

“Women now have the same capabilities and opportunities to perform and excel in jobs and activities that used to be done by men. Therefore, to rethink many of the ordinary items that we use in our daily life and design products with less gender bias is a very important task with huge potential market,” she said.

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