PLH How to Design What Women (and Men) Want | Gender Blending

We are a team of Industrial Designers. We are lucky to be working together not just because we enjoy each other’s company– we have a complimentary set of skills, and unlike in corporate settings where people have qualms in voicing out their opinions we are both capable of having an open, honest debate when designing products that involve gender-related perspectives because of our shared vision. We have coined a term called “GENDERBLENDING” product design, which refers to meeting the needs of both male and female consumers when it comes to designing products. Launching many successful products for ourselves and our clients through out the years was made possible by combining our strengths, which includes our unique ability to factor in the needs of both genders in our product designs.

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We are bringing you a defining definition of something we call GENDERBLEND. This is so important in the scope of how we’ve been successful and how you will be successful bringing your product to market. If you don’t get what women want to buy, retail is going to be hard for you. As a man and as a designer and a product developer over many years, it took me a long time to come around to realize how critical this is, but it is true. We are speaking from experience here. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to design for women because they are the buying influencers on the vast majority of purchases at retail.

The estimates are that anywhere from 85% to 95% of purchases are bought or influenced by women depending on the product category. It’s just tremendously important for you to be conscious of any gender bias you might have in the process of the designers that you use, should you be using outside designers. It’s so critically important to understand that there are very few women in the process of the product development cycle. If you’re sourcing and buying from Asia and from the US for that matter, there are very few women designers in the process or in the system at all. There aren’t a lot of checks and balances. This is our way of how we’ve done it.

This episode is just about giving you that GENDERBLEND design and understanding what it is and why it matters. We’re going to have future episodes where we are going to dive into gender bias and all sorts of things, but we just want to give you that refining and defining definition of what that is. We want to share with you the audio track from a video we recorded a few years ago on this subject. It is another one of those important topics, evergreen, still relevant and so we just wanted to put a little context on it for you here. I hope you enjoy it.

PLH How to Design What Women (and Men) Want | Gender Blending

GENDERBLENDING Design: GENDERBLENDING represents this wonderful marriage between male and female consumer needs.

“For us, because we work together and we’re married together and it’s been that way for over twenty years, GENDERBLENDING for us was natural. We realize how to use that to our advantage. We just coined the phrase a few years ago, but it’s a description of how we’ve always worked. At first it started as complementary skills, textiles and color materials and finishes, industrial design and engineering and function. That seemed to be a good marriage of skills. Personally, we just enjoyed working together, so that helped as well. It got to be a competitive advantage both for us as designers and for our clients and it got to be making better products too. We certainly came out with a unique perspective on the various products that we designed over the years. The big thing about it is that what GENDERBLENDING represents is just this wonderful marriage between male and female consumer needs. You can’t always see that when you’re designing in a bubble. Because we design as a team, it works for us.

It has been painfully obvious with companies we’ve worked with over the years who don’t have any women on their design staffs or even the ones that do, the environment at those companies just does not allow for an open and honest debate to take place about what is going to be successful, what the consumer wants. Especially when debate heads to gender argument, it sounds sexist. Sometimes you’re saying these things like, “Women don’t want this,” and I almost hate myself for saying that. At the same time, if somebody is not out there saying that, then that perspective is not being heard. I always think of that funny scene in the movie, What Women Want with Mel Gibson. They’re sitting around and they’re talking about Tylenol, Ibuprofen or something like that and the woman thinks in her head, “Sometimes I take it to fake a headache.” She thinks that but she doesn’t say it. What happens is that even when you do have a group where there are men and women together, there is self-censoring going on because the guy doesn’t want to appear sexist about it and he doesn’t want to say something that might get him in HR trouble and women don’t want to appear as women. A lot of times, especially when you’re advocating for needs of moms, the last thing you want is to make your boss aware of the fact that you are a mom because then in the back of his head, “She might go on maternity leave. She’s going to check out. She’s going to be home to get her kids to soccer. She’s not that serious about this job.” You don’t want that when you’re up for a promotion. It happens, whether you want it to or not, that self-censoring.

We’ve developed a way because we can be completely honest with each other and the sexism is acceptable in our workplace, for lack of a better way to say it. All of our interests are completely aligned and there isn’t a competition or the concern of perception that exists in every corporate environment. Also there’s the issue that while there’s a big, strong interest in attention to what women want because everyone knows the demographics that 85% of all retail purchases are influenced by women, so at an executive level, throughout the company, at a sales level, at a buyer level, everyone accepts that and understands that, how you do it and whether or not you’re willing to take the risk and say that that’s the idea is difficult at a corporate level. It’s a little too easy to default to what you know as a male executive is safe or you’ve done this in past history. Those things all factor in whether or not the needs of women and the desire to have women consumers are represented.

It’s one of those things where, in our case, we have a strong history of having successful products so that it’s easier for us to do it than other people. We also have the two of us that’s a dynamic of making the presentation and saying, “Women like this and men like this.” You have both sides at the same time, same message, and that lends a lot of credibility to the designs that we present at any given time. It’s more believable especially for upper level executives in a corporation who, if their internal teams were to say, “We need to do this differently in order to increase our sales to get more women to buy the products,” they may have trouble buying it. Maybe those executives would rather retreat to what they know, what they’re comfortable with and that’s what sold last year. They don’t realize this may be the key to selling even more and better than they have in the past. We’ve seen that with examples. We have products that have done exactly that.

[Tweet “GENDERBLENDING is about meeting the needs of women while appealing to both genders.”]

The other thing about it is that a lot of times as an in-house designer, they’ll present a design idea and it’ll be great and it represents female consumer desires, maybe they’ve even focus-group tested it, which inherently has its own problems. You come to this point in which you’re presenting something and the question is as well, “I think if we do this, it’s a niche.” They get caught up in the idea that designing for one gender is a niche. When that gender is 85% of their sales, they have to seriously tamp that down and say that it’s not an issue and take the risk but they don’t. GENDERBLENDING is about meeting the needs and appealing to both genders.

We shouldn’t discount the fact that it goes the other way as well. We see a lot of male influence on traditionally female friendly products. I may have mentioned that I’m not a vacuumer, I don’t do the vacuuming, but there are a lot of men who do, so all of a sudden the vacuum has changed. It’s become more manly. It’s a power tool. That dynamic changes because who wants to be vacuuming with the pink vacuum or a purple one? They want something that looks like a tool. It’s changed in and of itself that because there’s a lot more participative homes, that there are participative genders, that there is a lot of that going on as well, so it does go both ways.”

About The Authors

PLH 001 | Product Launch ExpertsTom Hazzard

An inventor with 37 patents and an unprecedented 86% success rate for consumer product designs, Tom Hazzard has been rethinking brand innovation to design in success for over 25 years. Tom’s patented innovations provide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes a system to spread their brand, grow valuable consumers, and diversify into higher converting revenue streams without a lot of time, cost or effort. Tom is co-host of the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing podcast as well as host of two new podcasts, Feed Your Brand & Product Launch Hazzards borne out of his core business, Hazz Design, where he has designed and developed over 250 products that generate $2 Billion in revenue for retail and e-commerce clients.

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