My plan for the experiment on gender neutral branding

As mentioned within my last blog post, I plan to experiment with the boundaries between stereotypically assigned female and male design, where exactly these boundaries lie and where gender neutrality could be perceived.

Next steps

1. Plan:

  • Set up experiment parameters
  • Set up areas to experiment within

2. Experiment

  • Research & produce pictures
  • Research typography, logos, etc.
  • Design advertising with mix of male/female characteristics

3. Conclusion 

For that, I want to begin with setting some parameters within the research and define which areas I want to experiment within. This will give me a brief overview of how the experiment can be conducted. Then, I will produce material for the experiment through photography, researching online, downloading fonts, etc. Next, I can use the materials I collected and start composing designs with different elements to experiment with the use of “female” vs “male design”. After a number of examples are done, I will ask participants to choose if they consider the design more male or female or even gender neutral. 

1. Plan

Firstly, I want to give the experiment some sort of structure so I can somewhat compare my findings in the end to come to a conclusion, even though it is an experiment and changes could occur throughout. To stay within the topic of branding, I would like to use the components of the corporate identity: logo, typography, colours, graphics and imagery, with images being the focal point of the experiment. For photography, I will not have any limitations to the subject but will rather see which industries and imagery inspire me to use within this testing. 

2. Experiment

After researching and taking pictures, I will combine the stereotypically male vs female images with one, two, three or four components of the opposite gender. For example: I will use a “female” image with stereotypical attributes such as friends, flowers, shopping, etc. and combine those with male characteristics within logo, colours, graphics and typography. Here the question then lies if even replacing one component like colour will already make the design perceived male or only after 2, 3 or even all others. Also it will be interesting to see if some components will have a stronger influence than others and when the in-between stage lies, so a design can be gender neutral.

3. Conclusion

After the experiment I hope to be able to come to some sort of conclusion. I will summarise my findings and what was interesting and start to categorise the results. I am excited to see what this experiment brings.

But what exactly is meant by unisex?

Before we go into what unisex entails and how to define the word, it is important that we pinpoint the constructs that lead up to the term. Unisex and unisex fashion plays with the cultural concepts of gender and society and how gender boundaries are perceived, so therefore when we start from a broader perspective, the question we must ask ourselves first is: what is “gender”? 

Gender vs. sex

The construct “gender” frequently leads to confusion as it is often interchanged and mistaken for the term “sex”.  When referring to the sex of a person, it includes the division of society into male and female reproductive organs as well as sexual identity and desire/activity. Gender on the other hand, is defined by Sally McConnell-Ginet as following:

“The word gender […] refers to the complex of social, cultural, and psychological phenomena attached to sex, a usage common in the behavioral and social sciences.”

McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 2014. “Gender and its relation to sex: The myth of ‘natural’ gender.” In The Expression of Gender, by Grenville Corbett, 3-38. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH.

To further define what is meant by the social, cultural and psychological aspects, McConnel-Ginet clarifies the term sociocultural gender, as “a matter of […] the significance attached to that division [of female and male], the institutions and ideologies, the pre-scribed and claimed identities, and the array of social practices that sustain those institutions, ideologies, and identities.” This means that e.g. gender roles play an important part within gender constructs, which will be further defined below.

Gender roles, boundaries and stereotypes- what’s the difference?

Gender roles have been present for a long time, however the term was first coined by in the 1950’s by John Money. He refers to these as things that reveal a person being a woman or man, including sexuality, habits, attitude and behaviour. He also mentions conversation topics, dreams and speech determining the gender of a person. It has to be said that as this definition was published about 70 years ago, with multiple generations following, this explanation can be seen as somewhat bizarre. Nowadays gender roles and with that, boundaries, still exist within society and are usually present already from a young age. According to a paper by Anne-Kathrin Meyer’s, this happens in order to distinguish between groups and simplify the complexity of the social world and is necessary for adaptive living. Often, these roles fall into stereotypes, which are socially shared opinions on characteristics such as behaviour, capabilities and other individualities. These can be realistic but can also often be untrue and too simplified. In terms of gender, these often also negative stereotypes are occasionally found within categories like school subjects or sports, where girls are said to have a disadvantage. As these boundaries and stereotypes are a social construct, society is starting to reveal inconsistencies in gender both physically and psychologically and rethink split gender models. Through this shift, the term unisex is gaining popularity.

Unisex and fashion:

Unisex as a concept showcases an interplay between gender boundaries and roles and is continuing to gain presence within society. The term itself is also very subjective and fluid and can therefore be interpreted in many ways, with artists in the design world varying their understanding of the term immensely. In the Collins Dictionary the term is described as “[…] designed, or suitable for both sexes; not distinguishing between male and female; undifferentiated as to sex”. The term is not only limited to the fashion world but can also refer to places such as hairdressers or bathrooms. In fashion, unisex usually refers to clothing that does not comply with the socially and culturally assigned gender boundaries within clothing. This can be either by e.g. men wearing dresses or women wearing boxer shorts. Another form of unisex fashion encompasses basic clothing, accepted by society for both sexes like t-shirts and jeans, tailored for the wear of both through inclusive sizing and use of colours, graphics and patterns. 

Now that the basic terms are clear, the research can continue on e.g. differences, if existing, between ungendered and genderneutral clothing.


Collins Dictionary. n.d. Definition von unisex. Accessed November 24, 2021.

Hively, Kimberly, and Amani El-Alayli. 2014. ““You throw like a girl:” The effect of stereotype threat on women’s athletic performance and gender stereotypes.” Psychology of sport and exercise 48-55.

Kuo, Yu-Pei, Jirawat Vongphantuset, and Eakachat Joneurairatana. 2021. “From Eastern Inspiration to Unisex Fashion: a Case Study on traditional Chinese Shenyi Attire.” Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Studies 535-546.

McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 2014. “Gender and its relation to sex: The myth of ‘natural’ gender.” In The Expression of Gender, by Greville Corbett, 3-38. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH.

Meyer, Anne-Kathrin. 2021. Mutter-Bonus in familienrechtspsychologischen Entscheidungskontexten. Eine experimentalpsychologische Untersuchung. PhD Thesis, Hagen: FernUniversität in Hagen.

Money, John. 1973. “Gender role, gender identity, core gender identity: usage and definition of terms.” Psychoanalysis (Johns) 397-403.