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Designing for Gender Equity

On Saturday, the Women’s March on Washington took over not only the streets of DC, but cities all over the world. Participants had innumerable reasons for joining, but women’s rights and equality were clearly at the event’s core. No matter what your thoughts are about the march itself, it did bring attention to a range of women’s issues, one being the wage gap that persists for women in the workforce.

Half, but not equal

Despite great progress for women in recent history, equal opportunity and pay for women in the workplace is still lacking, across all industries. Though women make up nearly half of the American workforce, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men.” Obviously your HR department can tell you how your organization is doing on wage discrepancies, but are there other ways companies could be addressing “softer” systemic gender biases?

(And what does this have to do with design?)

Games for Gender Equity

The AIGA Women Lead Initiative has put design to work in a Gender Equity Toolkit, “a great set of resources including videos and a downloadable DIY activity set you can use to battle one of the leading causes of disparate access to leadership positions in the design field: implicit gender bias.” The kit is distributed to AIGA members with the design field in mind, but could certainly apply to other fields, as well. A series of games/exercises aims to help teams open dialogue, test assumptions, and hopefully begin to change subconscious biases.


Turning the ship

Sure, a small designed kit isn’t going to end gender inequality in the workplace. But if it opens lines of communication, and helps teams thoughtfully consider how they incorporate all viewpoints, I’d say it’s a pretty cool effort. It also makes me wonder about what other design-driven tools will be useful for professional organizations in creating dialogue around perceptions, personal experience, and stereotypes. Obviously, respect for employee privacy is paramount, but teams also have to acknowledge how personal history and experience shape how individuals approach team dynamics and equity.

Selling it with serifs

I’ll say it over and over: font choice is so important. It impacts our feelings about a brand both consciously and unconsciously. So is there an essential font to use if you’re trying to make something come across as expensive or luxury? Apparently so. According to Sarah Hyndman, who recently studied the relationship between font choice and perceived value, there are typefaces that convey greater value, and others that look, well–cheap. And the ultimate “expensive” font is: Didot.

Swanky Serifs

As Madeleine Morley summarizes in AIGA’s Eye On Design “After surveying over 368 people, the results suggest that bold typefaces with rounder terminals appear cheaper, whereas lighter weights, serifs, and contrasts are rated appear more expensive, with the modern Didot selected as the diamond of all fonts.”

Didot typeface

So what about all the sans serif fonts we’re seeing used in high-end brand systems? Roanne Adams of RoAndCo believes digital culture may play into it: “Considering the digital space, the thin serif characteristics were hard to translate on screen, which has called for stronger, more usable and clear typography.”

A little of each

If you’re unsure of which to use, combinations can work beautifully. This handy tool from Hoefler & Co. can help you figure out perfect pairings, through examples that express “wit,” “energy,” “poise,” and “dignity.”

font pairing

And now we know: when in doubt, go with Didot.