Does Design Matter to Us the Same Way?

It is believed that the sexes differ inherently in their perceptions. Garai and Scheinfeld (1968, p.193) claim that males tend to be more interested in objects and visual patterns, whereas females show much greater interest in people and consequently in facial features. What that implies is that males’ perception is based more on looking and females’ one on listening. This would actually explain why women have apparently better social skills, while men are more into “things” rather than people. What I’m really interested in is to see whether these perceptual tendencies transfer onto design sphere.

Unfortunately, limited research has been done on gender differences in visual preferences for designs. According to a study conducted by ‘The Femme Den’, styling, speed, the cutting-edge technology, also referred to as ‘colder values’, are known to be more male-oriented. Women, on the other hand, are more attracted to ‘warmer values’, those that put people and their lifestyles first, thus creating more emotional connections with the environment.

The purpose of my research was, therefore, to explore the potential role of gender in preference for different design features. In order to investigate both female and male perception of the design values, I conducted an internet-administered questionnaire consisting of a set of multiple-choice questions aiming at evaluating the importance of both ‘colder’ and ‘warmer’ values in the design process.

25 women and 9 men participated in the survey, majority of whom were between 26 and 35 years old. 76% of women responded that the quality is the most important feature of a product, whereas for 66% men it is both functionality and efficiency. Only 32% of women think the latter is of the most importance when choosing a product. Majority of those polled, value highly creative imagination and trust this should be utilised when designing, with functional and material honesty being the second most favoured. Interestingly, creative imagination was the most popular choice in both groups, 77% among men and 84% among women; however, functional and material honesty gained more interest from men (77%) than from women (only 56%). According to both groups of participants, creating novel design solutions and price should be considered when designing. It also seems that both men and women agree that a designer (interior designer, architect, product designer etc.) should achieve a successful design regardless of the payment offered and be willing to put in overtime (sometimes unpaid) for the sake of the design outcome.