Knowledge from Sexual Minorities: Design Anthropology as a Manner of Triggering Gender Reflexivity on Everyday Objects


Everyday objects are crucial to the representation of an individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Despite the visibility of objects, gender stereotypes are usually implicitly embedded in the design phase and can only be identified by those who are gender reflexive. Therefore, it is extremely important to challenge gender stereotypes by distinguishing the role of design and exploring opportunities to redesign everyday objects. This study provides practical strategies to trigger gender reflexivity on everyday objects by adopting a design anthropology methodology that combines a cultural probe with a design game workshop. The cultural probe was conducted with 24 interviewees, enquiring how everyday objects influence the participants’ gender identity representation. This was followed by a design game workshop with six participants that explored visual design strategies for representing gender diversity. Finally, a reflexive analysis was conducted to examine the interaction between the participants and the researcher. The results suggest that gender reflexivity is primarily generated by sexual minorities and is then communicated and augmented among participants with diverse gender identities. Accordingly, three gendered design strategies are proposed for everyday objects to trigger gender reflexivity: (i) deconstructing conventional gender norms; (ii) encouraging diverse gender representations; (iii) improving the understanding between people with different genders and sexual orientations. The results of this study contribute to more gender-diverse and inclusive design methods on the micro-level, which is part of a broader discussion on gender culture.


Xinyin Bao
Project Officer, Diversability Lab, Leping Entrepreneur Foundation, Beijing, China

Wentao Zhu
Associate Proffesor, The School of Design, Jiangnan University, China


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design in Society


Gender reflexivity, Design anthropology, Cultural probe, Design game, Gendered design

Digital Media