Five Ways to Empower Girls Through Design
Our girls are growing up in a different time than we did, and while in some ways this may seem scary-- especially given the current political climate--in other ways, it’s a pretty exciting prospect.
Never before in the history of women have we had such a strong voice, such a visible occasion to challenge so many stereotypes, such a substantial opportunity to change the Status Quo.
Women are clearly on the cusp of something big...and our daughters will be at the forefront of this.
As parents, we have many ways to help our daughters feel empowered, but I’m also a designer, and as I contemplate a scheme for my young daughter’s next room, I can’t help but think that the design choices I make now can hurt or help my efforts to foster in her strength, confidence and creativity.
Here are five things I’ve learned (from fearless girls) about creating designs that shatter expectations and give girls more latitude in understanding what it means to be ‘girly’.
Don’t be afraid to use ‘masculine’ colors
Dark colors can give you a strong, neutral foundation and provide an interesting foil to bolder brights. It’s also a great way to send the message that every color is a ‘girl’ color (or, even better, that there are no ‘girl’ colors). This is an especially important message to send to girls who may not like traditional ‘girl’ things, and need reassurance that what they like is normal too.
Encourage bold personalities with strong graphics and imagery
While not every girl is Joan Jett, even young kids can appreciate designs that are bold and unexpected. I recently designed a bathroom for a young client who loved hearts, but was also a little rock and roll. Her fearless parents green-lighted a black tile heart in her bathroom and the result was nothing short of delightful. This was an extreme, but you can capture this same kind of spirit through vintage rock posters, graphic wallpaper, typographic quotes or black and white photography.
Use art to start important conversations
Speaking of imagery, nothing gives you a platform to start important conversations with your girls, and kids in general, like art. You can use art not only to challenge stereotypes and induce creativity, but also to send messages and start a dialogue about issues like gender and civil rights, inclusion and resilience.
Incorporate design elements that will literally make them stronger
I regularly see design elements that encourage physical activity in boys’ rooms, but not in girls’ rooms. If you doubt this difference, all you have to do is Google “girls room” and “climbing wall”, and then do the same for boys. The contrast is stark, and this isn’t because girls aren’t as physical as boys...the girls I know can climb with the best of them.
It’s important to let girls know that they can roughhouse, get physical, be loud. Research that shows that when people make themselves ‘big’ they feel more powerful. Design can encourage girls to feel bigger and stronger, and by encouraging this, they will start to believe it more, and know it’s ok.
Incorporate kids’ own work into their rooms
When and where possible, we try to use a child’s own art in our designs for their room. Not only does this add an important layer of sentiment and authenticity to the overall design, but it elevates their work and sends them the message that their creativity and contribution is valuable.