Exploring Visual Design Strategies for Gender Diversity Representation through a Design Game Workshop
Authors: Xinyin Bao, Wen Tao Zhu
Abstract: Everyday objects are usually visually designed to imply that they belong to men or women. They are, thereby, tools for people to represent their gender identities. However, even though gendered design is a common topic in academic research, the representation of gender diversity remains relatively marginal. This study aims to organize people's life experiences with different gender identities to explore visual design strategies that change the original gender implication of everyday objects, thus representing gender diversity and promoting social inclusion of sexual minorities. To do so, a participatory design game workshop has been created and conducted. Three game characters with diverse gender identities were developed, and design materials that implied gender binary or diversity were provided, such as everyday objects and visual elements. During the workshop, six participants imagined themselves as admirers of the game characters and used the prepared materials to design gifts for them that fit their gender identities. The results of the workshop show that the gender implication of objects can be changed through reorganizing visual elements of color, shape, decoration, and cultural symbols. In addition, cisgender heterosexual participants preferred to represent diverse gender identities through innovative arrangements of gender-stereotypical visual elements, while participants that belong to sexual minorities preferred to adopt personalized design strategies to "de-genderize" everyday objects. This variation may be caused by the tendency of cisgender heterosexual people to confirm their gender identity through gender stereotypes, while sexual minority people escape the binary gender system through individualized representation. Therefore, the study concludes that design process representing gender diversity not only needs critique and innovation, but that de-genderdizing strategies cultivated by sexual minorities from their practices are also essential design resources.
Keywords: design games, participatory design, gendered design, gender diversity, visual design
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