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Product design for women

“Shrink It and Pink It” – a product strategy making the world more dangerous for women

“Shrink it and pink it!” This is how the product creation world makes women buy products made by men – for men, Karen Korellis Reuther writes in an article for Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative where she is a Senior Fellow after a career as Creative Executive at NIKE and Reebok. “In the best case it can be insulting, in the worst case it can be deadly.” She argues in favour of more female product designers “because women don’t forget that women exist”. 

“Cases of “shrink it and pink it” from sneakers to cars can range from insulting to expensive, dangerous, or deadly when women are considered smaller men.”

“Technology exists today that can provide accurate data for all body shapes and sizes. The use of 3D body scanners to gather data on female frontline workers can help design equipment that fits. Policy that mandates its use in the design of this equipment can guarantee that the safety of our female workers is valued equally to their male counterparts.”

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“We need more women leading how products are envisioned, designed, and implemented otherwise we will continue to design for a man’s world. We need to encourage women to pursue careers in industrial design, architecture and engineering.”

“We need to consider the female body, through the collection and utilization of relevant data and we need policies crafted that use that data.” 

“Universities can better prepare a future generation of designers to create products, places and services that are more equitable across gender lines. Starting with the importance of the design brief. As the starting point for any design, we need to educate and provide students with the ability to understand, analyze, assess, challenge and formulate an inclusive design brief.”

She says leaders in product creation must encourage women to pursue paths in industrial design and accelerate their careers. Policymakers must ensure that they consider and craft policy around the female body. And if we really want change, we all can start by demanding better products through our power as consumers.” 

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“We women deserve better military boots than “shrink and pink” versions of the male ones. We deserve PPE (healthcare personal protective equipment) that protects women as well as men. We deserve cars tested with genuinely female crash-test dummies. And we deserve seat belts that fit.” 

Korellis Reuthe writes that the female body is often invisible. “Not accommodating it in the design of products has led to a world that is less hospitable and more dangerous for women. A world designed by men for men isn’t just a matter of style, or an issue of preference for women — we are excluding half of humanity for so many of the products being created. We need to fix that.”

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