(Re)Materialization of Binaries: From Gender Stereotypes to Contemporary Masculine Product Characters


Koyun H. B. , Tönük Kruithof D.

Masculinities in Design: Objcets Identities and Practices, 24 - 25 May 2022, pp.1

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • Page Numbers: pp.1
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes

Abstract

This study elaborates on translating gender codes into product forms through materialization of binaries. Exploring binary conceptualization of gender through a framework that draws on feminist STS combined with a material culture perspective, this study focuses on toy design. Toy design presents a controversial area with its well-documented gender stereotypes and intrinsic segregation practices and critiques there off. In the first part, drawing on a broader study that explores materialization of gender in the toy design process we present fundamental working mechanisms that build binary clusters as a design dictionary, on which designers base their form-giving practice. The study is informed by gender script approach in which designers’ configurations onusers’ expectations, skills and tastes are analyzed (Rommes, 2014; van Oost, 2003). In a similar fashion, within the binary clusters, designers temporarily connect forms, functions, use scenarios, activities, traits to each other, and assign them to a binary gender. In these processes, we show the ways in which a conceptualization of ‘binary clusters’ explains ‘translation’ of binaries into material forms. In the second part focusing more specifically on cultures of masculinity, we examine histories of two board game designs, in particular. We base this narrative on visual communications on packaging of board game classics from late 1960s and interviews with the designer of the current re-designed products. This review presents the stereotypes of masculine not yet diffused into product form back then. Bringing the story to the current products on the market shows that the forms of the products still express a masculine identity without their packaging visuals and inclusion/exclusion of new traits to binary clusters through the design process. We explore reproduction and reconstruction mechanisms through re-materialization of binaries as earlier depictions of a male-dominated user are translated to masculine form expressions. As we work through the ways in which historically rooted binary characters materialize into current forms, we argue that as designers strive to materialize certain characters, they enforce binaries, they reproduce means of segregation and that design itself creates material performance of gender and becomes an agent for sustaining cultures of masculinities.

This study elaborates on translating gender codes into product forms through materialization of binaries. Exploring binary conceptualization of gender through a framework that draws on feminist STS combined with a material culture perspective, this study focuses on toy design. Toy design presents a controversial area with its well-documented gender stereotypes and intrinsic segregation practices and critiques there off. In the first part, drawing on a broader study that explores materialization of gender in the toy design process we present fundamental working mechanisms that build binary clusters as a design dictionary, on which designers base their form-giving practice. The study is informed by gender script approach in which designers’ configurations onusers’ expectations, skills and tastes are analyzed (Rommes, 2014; van Oost, 2003). In a similar fashion, within the binary clusters, designers temporarily connect forms, functions, use scenarios, activities, traits to each other, and assign them to a binary gender. In these processes, we show the ways in which a conceptualization of ‘binary clusters’ explains ‘translation’ of binaries into material forms. In the second part focusing more specifically on cultures of masculinity, we examine histories of two board game designs, in particular. We base this narrative on visual communications on packaging of board game classics from late 1960s and interviews with the designer of the current re-designed products. This review presents the stereotypes of masculine not yet diffused into product form back then. Bringing the story to the current products on the market shows that the forms of the products still express a masculine identity without their packaging visuals and inclusion/exclusion of new traits to binary clusters through the design process. We explore reproduction and reconstruction mechanisms through re-materialization of binaries as earlier depictions of a male-dominated user are translated to masculine form expressions. As we work through the ways in which historically rooted binary characters materialize into current forms, we argue that as designers strive to materialize certain characters, they enforce binaries, they reproduce means of segregation and that design itself creates material performance of gender and becomes an agent for sustaining cultures of masculinities.