A gender neutral brand for a gendered product
Cycle care was born as the result of my independent research project investigating the patronising design of menstrual products. ‘How can the branding and packaging of menstrual products promote a taboo-free relationship with periods?’ was the question that initiated this project.
Despite being essential items, menstrual products receive no tax reduction or exemption in most countries around the world, including Australia. The packaging of menstrual products is traditionally concerned with concealing the products intent, and dominated by feminine clichés, often expressed in juvenile and unsophisticated designs. Evasive graphics and floral imagery on packaging are undermining the utilitarian character of these products and perpetuate and emphasise women’s compliance to the problematic notion of secrecy and discretion.
The visual language surrounding us has a huge impact on how we perceive things. Because we use objects to communicate status, intentions and culture, and to define and express our own personalities, the visual language of these objects affect our lives profoundly. They are both a reflection of our society’s values and a defining influence on them. This is why menstrual products are significant in affirming and constructing a certain ideology of womanhood. Our consumer society is also a platform for the constructions of gender identity.
Changes in traditional gender roles at home or in the workplace, new family structures, as well as an increasing presence of the LGBTQ+ community in our society are informing our perception of gender norms, traditional stereotypes are being questioned, and gender identity is slowly recognised as something that occurs on a spectrum. Similar to societal values, gender ideologies are being made tangible in the material world, but simultaneously the material world plays an active part in the construction of gender. Gender politics have become a key area of change in the last years and my project acknowledges these changes by moving away from gender stereotypes in packaging and brand design towards a more inclusive approach. A gender neutral focus poses some distinct challenges but also offers a unique take on the problem.
As a strategy driven brand identity, this project examines broader themes, such as the responsibility and influence of a designer’s work on society, and the development of an non-traditional visual identity. These various influences on the main inquiry conclude in an identity that is solving a complex social issue through design thinking and situates itself conceptually within the field of design.
Building upon ideas of Kenya Hara, Jasper Morrison, Dieter Rams and Naoto Fukasawa, the approach strips away everything unnecessary and superfluous, by focussing on the essential: the product. The resulting simplicity, free of connotations, allows the design to resonate with more people and to be truly inclusive in its character.
The cycle care product family
The product range includes tampons, pads, panty liners and menstrual cups.
The packaging design is strongly informed by the tactility of the materials: the smoothness of the tracing paper and roughness of the white uncoated stock. The choice of tracing paper as packaging material befits the brand's values of transparency and inclusiveness, whilst combining materials with different tactile surfaces led to a compelling contrast. I was fascinated by the idea of creating an intriguing experience through materials rather than graphic elements.
Kris Sowersby’s Untitled Sans reflects in its design and concept the core idea of cycle care’s utilitarianism and its appreciation of the quotidian and became a perfect fit for the brand. Considering cycle care’s brand values centre around inclusiveness and diversity, the brand identity and packaging was facing the challenge to be adapt enough to accomodate for a wide range of consumers. Reflecting on his work for Muji, Kenya Hara writes about a Japanese aesthetic that sees the most value in something that is extremely plain, and he calls it ‘emptiness’. On this emptiness he says “It is an infinite flexibility that accepts each and every concept and adjusts to any purpose.” It is this emptiness that cycle care embraces and that allows the design to resonate with more people and to be truly inclusive.
This is a project by laura schweiger.
About the project—
Cycle care was born as the result of my independent research project in my last semester in the Master of Communication Design at RMIT University, Melbourne. It was guided by my interest in strategy-led branding, solving of complex problems through design thinking, and packaging design.
Product photography by dennis grauel.
Branding, packaging, art direction and web design by laura schweiger.