How Heavily Do You Consider Gender Issues When Designing Icons?

How Heavily Do You Consider Gender Issues When Designing Icons?
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

Gender issues are a sensitive topic, but how heavily have you considered them when designing onscreen elements?

Image: Rhonda Oglesby

The Atlantic reports on research that Microsoft undertook many years ago relating to the nearly universally hated Clippy assistant. Amongst the feedback received from focus groups was that Clippy was “too male” and that (from the feedback of most of the women surveyed that he “kept leering at him”.

I must admit that I’ve never really thought about Clippy that way myself, but then I’m male, and as The Atlantic points out, Clippy’s design team was almost universally male, and willing to throw away the focus group work because, according to Roz Ho, who worked at Microsoft at the time, the results didn’t meet their expectations, and were thus dismissed.

There’s some obvious dangers in assuming the gender of user of any given software product, but interface design has to be one of the more unusual cases. What’s your take on UI design that caters towards all gender groups?

Even Early Focus Groups Hated Clippy [The Atlantic]


  • Yes, all the time, I make sure to make my icons non-gender-binary-specific and allow sufficient room for otherkin to identify with the icon. Also, I make sure to present a hearty dose of trigger warnings for our sensitive ‘kin.

    Kind regards,

    StickMan, but I associate myself as drawingkin, thank-you.

    • The use of the word “stick” in your screen name implies genitalia which triggers me, and if you try to deny or diffuse responsibility for my discomfort then you’re committing an act of patriarchal oppression, you bastard now I’m going to have to go home and write in my soul journal and caress my gender neutral sex organs until I can fall asleep on my hay bale.

  • *and that (from the feedback of most of the women surveyed) he kept leering at them.

    What an appropriate gaffe in an article about male gender normativity 😉

    • Maybe Clippy was doing some self leering. That would have been suitably weird to freak anyone out.
      “Hey, is that real aluminium ?”
      “Sure is, and only 0.25% zinc too”
      “Mmmmmm, you look so shiny and sleek”
      “Sleek ? You should see how I slip between sheets of paper”
      “A4 or A3 sheets?
      “I do both baby, I don’t judge”

      Yeah, that would have me hitting Alt F4 pretty rapidly too.

  • “and that (from the feedback of most of the women surveyed) he kept leering at them”
    The fact that this was a digital representation of office stationary, says less about the gender implications and more about the projected insecurities of those women.
    Merlin would probably made them break out into a cold sweat.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!