In this class, we'll explore the relationship between gender and interface design. The devices and software we use daily aren't ever truly gender neutral. Rather, they're shaped by historical ideas about labor and gender and the experiences of their creators. We'll mix practical processes for interface design with speculative explorations of design and technology in pop culture. Together we'll think critically about the consequences of these design choices and find ways to imagine more equitable, exciting, and playful futures.
- 6-12 students
- 2 hour sessions for 6 weeks
- Designated space to work on assignments in and out of class
Week 1: Introductions & Humanizing Labor
- 20 min: Introductions! Let's get to know each other and why we're interested in learning together.
- 20 min: A light history of automated labor: What is and isn't a robot?
- 20 min: A light history of computation: Who has been doing the work and why?
- 30 min: Discussion: What products and tools feel intimate to you? What products/tools do you talk to?
- 30 min: We'll look at an example of a design brief and begin to work on our own fantasy briefs. We'll also talk about our interface journals.
Week 2: Designing for Gender Identity
- 30 min: Warm up! We'll share our briefs and journals.
- 30 min: What is a user and how do designers think about them? We'll walk through the process of designing for other people and pitfalls w/r/t gender identity.
- 30 min: Discussion: What gendered devices, products, and services do you use? Do you feel like their designs meet your needs? Do they need to be gendered?
- 30 min: We'll look at an example of a user story and begin to diagram stories based on our briefs.
Week 3: Trust and Gender
- 30 min: Warm up! We'll share our user stories and journals.
- 30 min: How is gendered design used to create trust for users? We'll look at the importance of trust in design, and how gendered tropes are used to create or erode that feeling of comfort.
- 30 min: Discussion: What tools, products or devices feel safe to you? Should they feel safe? What technology worries you?
- 30 min: We'll look at an example of design specifications and begin to write our own specs for our design.
Week 4: Form and Gender
- 30 min: Warm up! We'll share our design specs and journals.
- 30 min: A light history of design and ergonomics. We'll walk through gendered tropes and assumptions as they appear in material design, hardware, and physical spaces.
- 30 min: Discussion: What tools, products or devices feel awkward or uncomfortable? Which shapes or materials in your life feel masculine? Which feel feminine?
- 30 min: We'll look at an example of wireframes for a design and begin to sketch our own wireframes for our designs.
Week 5: Aesthetics and Gender
- 30 min: Warm up! We'll share our wireframes and journals.
- 30 min: A light history of design trends in the digital age, as well as historical relationships between visual design and gender. We'll take a look at how digital design is a moving target influenced by politics and history, rather than a convergence on an imagined ideal.
- 30 min: Discussion: What's your favorite color? Does it feel gendered? What are your favorite magazines, paintings, movies? Do you associate a gender with them?
- 30 min: We'll look at an example of a prototype for a design and begin to create our own prototypes.
Week 6: Pitching and Feedback
- 30 min: Pitching a product: what happens when it's time to bring your design back to stakeholders? We'll look at how gender stereotypes influence business decisions, and how to push back against those stereotypes.
- 60-90 min: Roleplay: pitch your design! Now that we've created a safe space for interrogation, let's put our toolkit to the test by pitching our designs to stakeholders who may not be as open to our ideas and insights.
- 30 min: Reflection: What did you learn in this course? What is our toolkit missing? How can we continue to interrogate these ideas and imagine bigger futures?
By the end of this course, we'll have a new shared toolkit for discussing the relationship between gender and interface design. You'll also have worked through a step-by-step product design process to create an imagined interface for the future you'd like to live in.
Who Should Sign Up
This class is for anyone who is design-curious and interested in interrogating their relationship with the digital tools in their lives through the lens of gender, not just professional designers and developers. We'll work through the process of conceptualizing, designing, and discussing an interface, but you don't have to be an expert! Take some time to familiarize yourself with Figma and Notion and the resources below before we begin class.
Design Resources for Beginners