The GREAT small: Gender Design Conference 2014

Gender difference, gender sensitivity, and possible futures in design

The second annual conference of the international Gender Design Network organized in collaboration with Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Open for everyone interested, including
- thought leaders and policy makers
- scholars, educators, researchers, and students
- design professionals
- artists and creative industries practitioners
- women's associations, LGBT, youth, and other community groups
- members of the public

The international Gender Design Network (iGDN), an organization consisting of design practitioners and design scholars around the world, is set to hold its second annual conference in Hong Kong on 10 & 11 October 2014. With the aim of facilitating exchange and critical discussion on the topic of gender and design, the conference will explore questions of gender awareness in design disciplines and practice. The conference targets designers, researchers, and members of the public worldwide.

The iGDN Board is thrilled to announce its partnership with the Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation in organizing the upcoming conference in conjunction with the Institute's signature event, the Social Innovation Festival.

The GREAT small: Gender Design Conference will examine how gender is implicitly embedded in both our designed environments and design practices by using interdisciplinary approaches. Participants will share insights on how designers can tackle social responsibility and can empower consumers, audiences, and users in their interaction with one another. In hopes of transcending the binary thinking and essentialism prevalent in the design tradition, the conference will feature keynote speeches, roundtables, and workshops, thus shedding light on the multiple and fluid options located at the interface between gendering and designing, and on what the future holds for innovation, research, and practice.

Keynote Speakers

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

Caroline M. Street Professor of Graphic Design, Yale University School of Art

Professor de Bretteville is the first tenured woman at the Yale School of Art. She created the first women’s design program at the California Institute of the Arts in 1971, and later founded the Women’s Graphic Center in Los Angeles.  Her award winning publications on art and culture include American Cinematographer, The Motown Album, the redesign of the Los Angeles Times, special issues of the International Design Conference’s Aspen Times, Everywoman, Arts in Society and The Photography of Dorothy Norman. Her works have been exhibited worldwide and are in the special collections of New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Centre Pompidou, and numerous libraries. Sheila’s permanent installation, Step(pe), in Yekaterinburg, Russia, was chosen the best public art of the year 2005.  She is a Barnard Distinguished Alumna awardee and was awarded honorary doctorates in addition to her Yale MFA.

Elizabeth 'Dori' Tunstall

Associate Professor, Design Anthropology, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Professor Tunstall leads a global community of practice in cultures-based innovation, which formed out of a 2011 Rockefeller Foundation meeting. She also writes Un-Design, a biweekly column about design anthropology for The Conversation. She is passionate about civically-engaged design that creates politically informed and enfranchised people. She served as a director of American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Design for Democracy and is currently organizer of the U.S. National Design Policy Summit and Initiative. Tunstall has worked at Sapient Corporation and at Arc Worldwide, and her clients have included Northern Trust, General Motors, U.S. Army, Zales, Allstate, Unilever, and Motorola. She taught in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago prior to joining the Swinburne faculty. She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford.

iGDN Keynote by Uta Brandes

Professor of Gender & Design and Design Research, Köln International School of Design (KISD), Germany

Professor Brandes is the Chairperson of the international Gender Design Network. Before being appointed as the first Professor of Gender & Design at KISD, she was the Deputy Director of a Hanover-based institute for women’s studies, head of a ministerial department for Gender & Equality in Wiesbaden, first Director of the Swiss Design Center in Langenthal and Director of the “Forum” of the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn. Brandes is a frequent lecturer at universities in Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, and the USA. She has (co)authored and edited numerous publications, the most recent one (together with Michael Erlhoff) being My Desk Is My Castle - Exploring Personalization Cultures.

To be officiated by Dr. York Yat-Ngok Chow, GBS, JP

Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission

Dr. Chow, an orthopaedic surgeon by profession, was appointed as the Chairperson of Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in April 2013.  Prior to joining the EOC, he was appointed Hospital Chief Executive of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1992 and Hospital Chief Executive of Queen Mary Hospital in 2001.  He was subsequently appointed Cluster Chief Executive of the Hong Kong West Cluster of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority in 2002.  He was appointed the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food from 2004 to 2007, and again the Secretary for Food and Health from 2007 to 2012 of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. Dr. Chow has a special connection with PolyU.  He was a member of the PolyU Council from 1996-2004, and he is also an Honorary Professor of the Health Science Faculty, an Honorary Doctor of Social Science and Honorary Fellow of the University.

Register here for the opening plenary.

Schedule in Brief

Friday 10 October 2014

9:00 - 9:30 Registration/Coffee and tea reception
9:30 - 9:45  Welcome remarks by iGDN and J.C.DISI
9:45 - 10:00 Opening remarks by guests of honour
10:00 - 10:35 Sheila Levrant de Bretteville: F/M,F>M,LGBT,Q,I . . .?
10:35 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 11:35 Elizabeth 'Dori' Tunstall: RESPECT: Speculative Futures of Womyn and Design
11:35 - 12:10 Uta Brandes: Gender Ramble in Design
12:15 - 12:45 Panel discussion
12:45 - 2:00  Lunch
2:00 - 3:45  Breakout sessions
3:45 - 4:30 Coffee and tea reception
4:00 - 6:00  Breakout sessions (continuation) 
6:30 - 10:00 Gender Design Exhibition Opening Reception

Saturday 11 October 2014

9:00 - 10:00 Coffee and tea reception 
10:00 - 12:00  Breakout sessions
12:00 - 2:00  Closing and wrap up: Plenary Session (V1201)
2:30 - 4:00  Introducing iGDN (V1201)

Breakout Sessions / Workshops

Personal to Political to Design Practice, Maja Gunn (Sweden)

This workshop takes its starting point from the idea 'personal is political.' Using ideas and methods related to intersectionality and transversal dialogues, the workshop will focus on personal experiences and the sharing of them. Working individually and in groups we will reflect, discuss and share our experiences. Furthermore the workshop will involve the use of personal experiences developed into a design practice. The session will be a combination of a discussion and a hands-on workshop. Register.

Gendered Power, Prof. Uta Brandes and Tanja Godlewsky (Germany)

This seminar (hopefully in an equally serious and amusing way) will deal with the gendered power in and through the design of products. It will focus on the phenomenon that the expression of power through products predominantly is connoted with socially constructed maleness. Are there products at all that may demonstrate the power of femaleness? Register.

Gender Roles and Stereotypes in Design, Doreen Toutikian (Lebanon), Pia Drechsel (Germany) and Sandy Ng (Hong Kong)

This workshop is about looking into gender roles and stereotypes regarding women from different cultures around the world and understanding how international perceptions are formed. Moreover, we will be speculating how the international media influences these common perceptions and how this presents designers with challenges when designing products and services for women from other cultures. These challenges are not limited to the commercial aspects of design but also within the public realm of spaces and services. In groups, participants will be asked to highlight and categorize challenges which will then be developed into opportunities. Then they will be asked to form concepts based on certain personas and scenarios. Register.

Urban Armor Hong Kong, Kathleen McDermott (Hong Kong)

Urban Armor is a series of playful electronic wearable devices for women, which investigate the ways women experience public space. In the Urban Armor Hong Kong Workshop, participants will be invited to share their experiences of public space in a group discussion, and will then learn to create their own wearable technology piece with the help of artist Kathleen McDermott. For more information about Urban Armor, please visit Register.

Colour Theory in Toy Design, Kristina Adams (USA)

Upon entering a toy store, you will immediately notice how children's toys are color coded. The use of pink and glitter designates girls' toys, while boys are presented with blues, reds, and silvers. From a very early age, toy packaging draws stark gender lines, instills social gender norms, and steers children toward specific interests. This alienates girls from 'boy toys' and vice versa. The pervasive idea that pink represents all girls and blue represents all boys even translates into the adult world. It leaves us with superfluous products like Bic pens for women, which are pastel hued and slightly smaller than standard pens. Join us for a frank discussion of the use of color and gender normalisation in packaging and toys, and work in groups to explore and prototype non-gender specific options. Register.

Communication Design for Gender Cultures, Prof. Elena Caratti​, Prof. Giovanni Baule and Prof. Valeria Bucchetti (Italy)

This workshop looks into female representation in mass media. It will offer tools and a platform for critical analysis of gender stereotyping and its negative effects in society. The workshop aims to test and to evaluate some communicative prototypes that were designed by the research group dcxcg (communication design for gender cultures of Politecnico di Milano, Design Department), with the intention to create an educational model that could be shared in different contexts (in high schools in particular). The workshop is suitable for educators, policy makers, researchers and anyone interested in communication design and gender.​ Register.

When Sex Toys Talk, Prof. Katrien Jacobs (Hong Kong)

In this open debate, several people will be invite to present short statements or position papers for or against a certain type of sex toy design, keeping in mind feminist, historical, environmental, medical and carnal approaches versus the reign of the commodity. Register.

A Perfect Day Across Generations, Philine Bracht (Hong Kong)

This workshop brings together young people and senior citizens from different cultural backgrounds with an aim to co-design a perfect day. ​The workshop looks into daily life across generations and from the point of view of gender. What highlights do older women have in their everyday? How to design experiences that can be shared between young and old? How does gender appear in relation to age and daily routines? Register.

Gender Design Exhibition 2014

About 40 internationally renowned designers from all over the world were invited to select a gender-sensitive design and, if possible, also the opposite, an insensitive design. Designers could choose either one of their own pieces or products by other designers or manufacturers. Gender-sensitive and gender-insensitive design products confronting with one another were selected by designers including Matali Crasset, Alessandro Mendini, Joséphine Choquet, Anthony Dunne, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Douglas Young (G.O.D.), Mieke Gerritzen (MOTI), Mateo Kries (Vitra Design Museum), and Alexa Lixfeld.

The exhibition is curated by Professor Uta Brandes, chairperson of the iGDN, together with Dr. Hanna Wirman.The exhibition, on the one hand, points out how sensibly and intelligently designed products look like and, on the other hand, in a humorous way prove gender misunderstandings and witless, gender-stereotypical creations.

Exhibition opening: 10 October 2014, 6:30 pm

Duration: 11 October to 7 December 2014

Venue: Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Podium

Opening times: 10 am - 8 pm

About the organisers

international Gender Design Network

The international Gender Design Network unites designers and design experts from all over the world and from all areas of design. It sees itself as an open network for everyone working in, with, or for design. We believe that the world is designed and that design is a substantial part of our everyday life. The impact of gender on the processes of design, production, distribution and use, however, is still hugely underestimated. Studies have shown that also design professionals, deliberately or unintentionally, transport their gender in their design. The international Gender Design Network not only aims to bring awareness around the social gendering in design, but also comment on it in a critical, open, and public way. We strive for changes towards accepting and supporting diversity, towards a gender-sensitive and gender-appropriate design in both theory and practice.

Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation

Initiated by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation (J.C.DISI) convenes university expertise, curates cross-disciplinary projects, and constructs partnerships for social well-being and positive systemic change. The Institute's new home is located at the Jockey Club Innovation Tower, where designers, civic leaders, intellectuals, professionals, and fellow citizens will engage in dialogues pertaining to Hong Kong's future. Being the first design institute dedicating to social innovation in Asia, J.C.DISI will focus on articulating creative and alternative solutions to today's complex challenges: urban sustainability, ageing population, family and youth, social entrepreneurship, as well as empowering technologies for the disadvantaged.

Organising team

General Chair: Dr. Hanna Wirman, Research Assistant Professor, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Conference Co-Chair: Dr. Uta Brandes, Professor of Gender & Design and Design Research, Köln International School of Design

Area Chair: Mr Alvin Yip, Director of the Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University 

Gender Design Conference 2013, New York City

iGDN founding conference Gender Play was organized between 28 & 29 March 2013 at Parsons, the New School for Design in New York City. Altogether 23 speakers from 15 countries around the world and a great number of audience attended the two-day conference during which the International Gender Design Network was officially established. Speakers addressed topics ranging from fashion design, product design, and game design to community-based design practices, feminist theory, and professional aspects of gender design.


Funded by

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust

Special thanks

The Consulate-General of Finland, Hong Kong 

Supporting Organisations

  • Action Q
  • China LaLa Alliance
  • Women Coalition of HKSAR
  • Transgender Resource Centre
  • Association for the Advancement of Feminism

Academic Partners

  • Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University
  • Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Gender Research Centre of Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Gender Studies Programme, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • The School of Creative Media, the City University of Hong Kong
  • Women's Studies Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong
  • The Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University


iGDN Second Annual Conference Secretariat
Tel.: +852 3400 3436

c/o Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation, School of Design
12/F Jockey Club Innovation Tower
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hung Hom, Hong Kong


Opening Plenary

When Sex Toys Talk (Workshop) 

Gendered Power (Workshop) 

Personal to Political to Design Practice (Workshop) 

Urban Armor (Workshop)

Communiaction Design for Gender Cultures (Workshop)

Gender Roles and Stereotypes in Design (Workshop)

Perfect Day (Workshop)

Colour Theory in Toy Design (Workshop)

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