Have you ever tried to have an objective discussion about design? Do you find the conversation involves terms like "good design" "bad design" professional design" "unprofessional design" "I like version 2" "I prefer version C."
Is it possible to take a subjective discussion of design and make it objective?
Do our personal preferences sway our choice of what constitutes a "good design?"
And do men and women have different design preferences?
The answer to all of the above, apparently, is "yes."
You can learn all about it in a new book by Gloria Moss – Gender, Design and Marketing: How Gender Drives our Perception of Design and Marketing.
Tom Jordan was recently lamenting the lack of research into marketing to women. Tom, meet Gloria. Gloria, meet Tom.
Gender, Design and Marketing is based on research, research, and even more research. it's actually the only complaint some may have about the book – there's so much research it can be a little academic sounding, but the information is so worth the read. (Gloria Moss is a Senior Lecturer at Bucks New University and Visiting Professor at the Ecole Superieure de Gestion (ESG), Paris.)
And I understand and applaud Gloria Moss' thoroughness. She's putting forth some game changing information that's going to ruffle some feathers.
But it's information we desperately need. In my research and study of marketing to women online, design has been the area that's been most difficult. I've seen definite elements that seem to be more persuasive for women, but had trouble finding research studies to back up my findings. The best was a study done by the University of Glamorgan. Not coincidentally, Gloria Moss was a part of that study. What fascinated me about that research was that men preferred websites designed by men and women preferred websites designed by women.
Wow - that got my attention. Especially since, at the time, the vast majority of websites were being designed by men.
Since then, Gloria Moss has scoured the landscape to find credible research on how gender affects design preferences. She looks at gender preferences in drawing, painting, graphics and my personal favorite, web design. She explores evolutionary, biological and social factors that play into these gender design preferences.
She often had to do her own research to find the answers to her questions.
This book will change the way you look at design
The results are a wake-up call for everyone involved in advertising and design. I'm not talking just a little alarm clock going off. I'm talking a gigantic gong reverberating around the globe.
As Gloria Moss says in her introduction, her research "delineates the male and female design aesthetic and shows how partial each gender is to the aesthetic associated with its own gender."
What are the differences between men's and women's design preferences?
In my own work and research, I've seen specific design elements that seem to increase conversion for women. Yet I never had the research to confirm and/or explain those findings. Now, I do. I also learned a few new things.
I can't give away everything. You really need to buy and read the book, but here are a few juicy tidbits:
We are drawn to images of people of our own gender.
Men are more likely than women to create design with a technical look.
Women prefer rounded shapes to linear ones, and detailed surfaces to plain ones.
Citing a study by Franck and Rosen – "whereas male subjects drew faces in profile, female subjects drew them in full frontal position."
Women prefer the use of more colour, especially brighter colors.
Men prefer subject matter that depicts "comparative advertising appeals." Women prefer subject matter that depicts "harmonious relationships.
That's just a small sample of the fascinating findings.
Why understanding female design is so important
Research points to the fact that women are less accepting of male design aesthetics than men are of female design aesthetics.
"Although both men and women assign higher scores to own-sex designs compared to opposite-sex designs, men interestingly ascribed higher scores to female-designed products than the women do to male-designed products and this is further evidence of the fact that, given a choice, men have a greater tolerance of the female design aesthetic than women do of the equivalent male aesthetic."
In other words, all that male design out there in advertising is especially ineffective for women.
I can't say enough about Gender, Design and Marketing. If you are in advertising and you are targeting female customers, this is a must read. Warning – this book is currently selling on Amazon for $114.95. That is the actual price. The UK publisher says that they publish "business and professional books" for which this is a normal price. Even though Amazon says it is not released, the UK publisher assures me it has been released.
That said, the book is worth twice that price.