Design against discrimination and gender stereotypes – ndion

The design of the environment, spaces and objects shapes society in a deep, but often subtle, unconscious way. Design can also be exclusively, eg when an object can not be understood or used due to age, size, abilities or disability. But this discrimination can be avoided.

by Barbara Hickl hicklvesting.

Avoid discrimination from the start: The Werkel kitchen is a gender-neutral activity playground for children. © Christine Oehme, Berlin University of the Arts, Germany

Younger generations in particular are sensitive to structural exclusionary mechanisms and would like to break through stereotyped thinking and reduce discrimination. Two designs from the international Design Newcomer Awards ein & zwanzig from the German Design Council illustrate how design can play an active role in this socio-cultural change.

In her work Werkelküche, Christine Oehme formulates that gender-specific is not subject to any “natural” laws, but is instilled and trained – from the earliest childhood. Her sex-open toy combines a work table and a kitchen. The children can decide for themselves how they want to use it. In Haptics of Cooking, Boey Wang addresses the question of what design-related adversity blind or partially sighted people are exposed to when cooking. His kitchen utensils, which can also be used without sight, help to raise awareness of deep-seated discrimination and set in motion a new way of thinking.

The curved table top can be a sink and a ski slope
The curved table top can be a sink and a ski slope. © Christine Oehme, Berlin University of the Arts, Germany

Werkelküche (children’s toys) by Christine Oehme, Germany

Boys are wild and technically gifted, girls help in the household – “These binary differences between the sexes are already reflected in children’s worlds and thus manifest the image of stereotypical gender roles at an early age,” says Christine Oehme (Berlin University of the Berlin). art). Your design for the Werkel kitchen wants to do away with such stereotypes. Werkelküche sees itself as a gender-neutral activity playground for children because toys are an important tool for learning gender-specific traits at an early age. It combines the formal and aesthetic features of children’s kitchens and work tables.

The wooden construction has two large, frontally oriented panels with a perforated lattice. Here you can mount various objects and tools that change the reading of the work kitchen. The curved table top can be interpreted as a sink or used as a ramp. A faucet can be transformed into a screw clamp with a flick of the wrist. The subjects on the page can be used playfully as an oven, but also offer storage space. The Werkel kitchen is open to many uses and does not want to predetermine children, but to offer them free opportunities to develop their creativity. The color of the design – untreated wood for the construction and olive green for the panels – deliberately resists gender-specific attribution.

Haptics of Cooking (kitchen tools) by Boey Wang, China

With Haptics of Cooking, Boey Wang (Design Academy Eindhoven) has designed kitchen utensils based solely on haptic experiences. The young product designer has not only designed the set for the visually impaired, but will also enable everyone to experience cooking without vision and convey a sense of haptic navigation and information processing. This reduces the distance between people who have good, bad or no vision.

From a mere visual perspective, these tools may seem useless.

From just a visual perspective, these tools may seem useless, but perception is not just visual. © Boey Wang, Design Academy Eindhoven, The Netherlands

The cutting board has a particularly wide and deep edge, so that the cut ingredients do not fall off and can easily be picked up by hand. The knife is designed so that it can be held with the whole hand on one long side. This reduces the risk of injury in the long run. The tactile measuring cups have holes on the side – which sounds dysfunctional is a great help for anyone who receives information via touch. Closing the holes with your fingers tells you when the liquid has reached a certain level. The lid of the pot is made of wood, a material that conducts heat worse than metal and thus avoids burns. The deep groove provides easy grip along the entire edge of the lid. All of this not only supports visually impaired people when cooking – it also looks good.


More about the designers

The work kitchen by Christine Ohme

Haptics of Cooking by Boey Wang

More about ndion

Further Posts related to design.


Twenty-one Award: International Young Talent Award

The Ein & zwanzig Award from the German Design Council is aimed at design students and graduates with trend-setting work in furniture, home accessories, lighting, flooring, wallpaper, textiles and lifestyle. An international jury of experts selects 21 outstanding works from the submissions, one of which receives the award “Best of Best”.
The registration deadline is 18 February 2022.


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