D E S I G N I N G F O R I N C L U S I V I T Y
Creating a non-binary icon fit for 21st century bathrooms
Inspired by a lecture I attended by a Creative Director whose agency struggled to design a satisfactory Gender Neutral/Non-Binary bathroom icon for an architect's firm. I decided to attempt to resolve this topical issue myself.
Most contemporary attempts at resolving this design challenge are either a hybrid of male/female features, or abstractions that require explanation. This means that:
The icon fails to communicate neutrality
The icon's information is confusing and likely to be ignored
The icon's design appears awkward relative to its male/female counterparts
Consider the examples below:
Analyse, Understand, Find a Solution
We can see from above in example (1) that little attempt has been made to reconsider the problem of accurate representation of a third gender and may be confusing to all genders as a result. From example (2) we can see that pleasing design choices have been applied, however it may not be obvious that it represents a human body once the icon is displayed out of context from the others (such as on a bathroom door). Analysis of both examples show that it is the body element of the icon that codifies the gender of the body, whilst it is typically the circle that represents the head. Therefore, the circle element should be maintained for recognition consistency across all icons, whilst it is the body element that needs reconsideration. The challenge therefore becomes the following:
"How might we design a universally recognisable Gender Neutral icon that cannot be confused with male and female icons?"
Having researched existing solutions and ideated for alternative designs, the proposed solution involves taking the internationally recognised symbol for infinity and allowing it to represent the body.
This answers the brief as the infinity symbol is both recognisable universally, carries the shape of a human body, and also captures the idea of multiple identities.