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"It's pretty ugly" - how gender drives our perception of design

Working in marketing and communication for over 10 years now, I can confirm that design is indeed one of the most subjective elements of marketing. And exactly because it's so subjective, its also the most difficult element to discuss with a client, let alone defend rationally if they've decided they don't like it.

How do you defend a design, unless you have facts to back it up?
The lack of research on the effects of gender on design made that one of the biggest stumbling blocks, and we had to rely on arguments such as "from experience" and "as a woman I can tell you that...".

But that's about to change with this book "Gender, Design and Marketing: how gender drives our perception of design and marketing" by Gloria Moss.

In the book, Gloria explores gender preferences in drawing, painting, graphics and web design.
It's a book I'll certainly be buying, and one I'll advise all my clients (from R&D teams to marketing) to buy too!

Here are a few very interesting findings:
- We are drawn to images of people of our own gender
- Women prefer designs with round shapes and detailed surfaces, men prefer linear shapes and plain surfaces.
- Women draw faces in a full frontal position, men draw faces in profile.
- Women prefer the use of more colour, especially bright colours.
- When it comes to website design, men intuitively preferred sites designed by men, and women sites designed by women. (And considering the fact that a whopping 78% of all female orientated beauty sites are designed by men, this may mean that these sites are probably performing below par)

But here's the really interesting bit that should make every brand about to actively engage with its female consumers sit up and take note:

Research points to the fact that women are less accepting of male design aesthetics than men are of female design aesthetics.
And that's not only the case in marketing, but also in product design

"Although both men and women assign higher scores to own-sex designs compared to opposite-sex designs, men interestingly ascribed higher scores to female-designed products than the women do to male-designed products and this is further evidence of the fact that, given a choice, men have a greater tolerance of the female design aesthetic than women do of the equivalent male aesthetic."

I'm off to order it right now.