STAFF BLOG: THE ROLE OF DESIGN IN GENDER RESEARCH

BY SCARLETT THORBY-LISTER, VISUAL DESIGNER AT THE EQUALITY INSTITUTE

29/06/2016

Last week, whilst attending the significant Pacific Gender Research Workshop in Fiji at The University of the South Pacific, I witnessed the importance of communication in the field of gender research. It is the stepping stone between research and policy-making. The bridge to change.  A team of ground-breaking researchers can do wonderful research, but if they cannot communicate it effectively to policy-makers or communities to drive change, then what use does it have?

This is where design comes in. Design is problem solving.

The role of design in the field of gender research is to communicate to and between various audiences. Sometimes this means communicating through official reports for use by policy makers, persuading partners to be involved with a project or to fund it, or disseminating the findings of a research project to a community. In all cases, communication is critical. And design is a tool by which to communicate.

I think of myself as a change agent where I use design as a tool for change. For me, design is a problem solving tool that when harnessed correctly can be used to promote change in the world. Design is not a sphere contained to the superficial or aesthetic; design is the opportunity for change – to do things better. It is a way of thinking that uses creativity to solve complex problems.

Design is multi-disciplinary and has many outcomes. Everything in our world is designed – whether it be the cup you drink out of, the house you live in, the signs on your streets, the clothes you wear, the books you read, the websites you use, or the packaging on your cereal. This kind of design goes unnoticed because it is second-nature to us. We don’t think about how these things were made; they're just there. The most well-designed outcomes are so easy, ergonomic and efficient that you don’t notice that it has been designed with intent.

Then there are more obvious outcomes of design that stir curiosity. Campaigns designed to make us think and change our behaviour, educational resources that make very dense and complex information easy to understand through the use of infographics or illustrations, or something you saw that was beautiful and clever and functional.

This is the design that interests me and draws me in. This is the design that I hope to create. I strive to use my skills and experience to contribute to a better society. At The Equality Institute, I design all of these things, and in doing so pitch into the conversation about gender equality and work towards social change.