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Designing for Women in 2021: Creating positive change through visual language

22 Oct 2021

Having recently published our work with the Women of Warner, Library’s Co-founder & Creative Partner, Lizzie Mercer, shares some insight to being and representing Women in design and business, and how we progress from lazy stereotypes and accepted semiotics in design when it comes to targeting Women…

Working with Women of Warner

I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, that I’ve been able to work with, and learn from a lot of brilliant Women, and I’ve often been asked my opinion as a designer, even as a millennial – but it was Warner Music who first sought my input as a Woman designer.

In conversation with the Women of Warner, it was clear that their identity needed to communicate action, positivity and collective input over overtly feminine symbols, and highlighted in my brief, in bold black lettering: NOT PINK. I love meeting the people I’m working with, and through Covid, it’s been even more interesting seeing people in their home environment. On the call with the team, I spotted one of the women wearing a bright yellow sweater, another with a shelf behind her, stuffed full of all sorts of memorabilia and ornaments (including a baby Yoda), I noticed dogs wandering around in the background and house plants creeping into view, but also the unwavering confidence, yet relaxed tone of the team, and I wanted to distill some of this mood into their identity. These Women, to me, represented who this generation of Women are, and as a part of the Music industry, they recognise the influence they have worldwide, and therefore, the importance of getting it right and building that understanding from the roots up.

Women of Warner Branding
Branding for women of warner & collaboration with other ERG's.

Breaking the stereotype

The value in designing for a category you identify with, is that we draw from a unique experience that helps us shift perceptions, akin to experiencing a place as a tourist vs. The richer, inherent understanding and knowledge you have living as a local. The classically female stereotypes in a commercial design are pinks, pastels, soft shapes and curves – and we’ve come to accept that as a visual language to help us navigate to the product we expect. However, overtime, these visual cues have come to emphasise tired female stereotypes, but companies are using these signposts to make our decisions easier, especially in the world of FMCG. To move forward, we can provoke change by nudging consumers, and phasing out old commercial representations of ‘feminine’ to replace them with a style that reflects Women in 2021, and beyond.

2021 Brands for Women
Brands for women in 2021: Skandinavisk, Who Gives a crap? & Sweaty Betty

Leading the way...

Here are just a couple of examples of influential brands I admire for doing exactly this:

  1. Skandinavisk– I really love their nature-inspired colour scheme, It just goes to show that our assumption this kind of palette could only be masculine is completely skewed.
  2. Who Gives a Crap? – we may all use toilet paper, but while statistics reveal it’s mostly women who buy it, it tends to be targeted at Women. I think it’s great that WGAC? have used the opportunity to take a mundane product and make it a proud ornament to adorn your shelf or cistern, they’ve found a new focus to shake up the market and stand out against the over-riding white, feathery clean & soft cues.
  3. Sweaty Betty – As a female-owned UK business, they really know their way around stylish activewear for Women, and in terms of branding, they strike the perfect balance between celebrating femininity through a contemporary take of power, vibrance & strength.

What’s notable, is that these companies are not only trying to face one social issue, but also solving, or at the least, attempting to create positive change all-around, regardless of their key focus. Women of Warner also understood the importance of acknowledging and collaborating with all Warner’s employee resource groups, recognising that no one has equality until everyone has equality. My takeaway from this project is that we should use any small influence we may have to make this possible, while encouraging all to join the conversation, even if it’s as simple as challenging the use of pink from time to time. 

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