chapter  6.4
4 Pages

Gender and Product Semantics

WithKaren Yevenes

'Messages' instilled in product designs indicate how they should be used and who should use them. Product semantics is the study of such meanings, as communicated through manufactured objects using a visual alphabet of signs and symbols made up of colour, shape, form, and texture. A designer's tacit knowledge affects their design decisions and is shaped by their unique backgrounds and sociological influences, including gender. Designers can create objects that are gender exclusive through the decisions they make - consciously and unconsciously. The semantic decisions of designers go largely unchallenged during the design process, since the designer's colleagues are mostly male, and deviation from established product semantics is considered too risky in a global marketplace. Functionalism, without an awareness of gender difference can lead to dysfunctional design. Affirmative action in industrial design schools and the profession could aid in identifying gender issues and in providing consumers with products that meet the needs of more subcultures in the community.