Gender Roles in Toy Design

During final year a 3 month long research project took place before our final major projects began. This was to explore a certain area which we were interested in designing for. I chose to look into gender roles in toy design, the science behind gender, some field research and research into marketing/advertising of toys.

To present my research I created an illustrated book as this fit well with the theme of my research.

Page 19 had a spinning circle revealing the segments in the printed out version. Page 28 had flaps which showed the toys before and after. Page 32 and 33 also had flaps which showed the category for each pie chart. You can see these on the images below. I added in these interactive parts to add some fun into the book, I wanted to keep the theme of toys running through the research.


After the research I then created a book with 6 mini design briefs from the insights I had come up with. These ranged from the least provocative to most provocative.

  • How can design help reduce the current gender stereotypes in advertising and marketing?
  • How can design help change the mindset of parents enforcing gender roles?
  • How can design help humans adopt male and female roles?
  • How can design help encourage females into stereotypical male job roles?
  • How can design help encourage males in stereotypical female job roles?
  • How can design help encourage gender stereotypical roles as these help children understand social norms?

Here are some images of the ideas from the book –

mini brief 1mini brief 2mini brief 3mini brief 4mini brief 5mini brief 6

Final thoughts after exploration

After creating all my mini briefs and brainstorming several ideas I think the route I would want to go down is either encouraging males into feminine roles or encouraging androgyny. These could then be combined with changing the parents mindset and reducing gender stereotypes in marketing as these 2 mini briefs were both too difficult to come up with ideas on their own but would sit well with the two routes I am thinking of taking.

Even though the route of encouraging males into feminine roles will be a difficult task I really believe that there is a gap in the market for these types of toys. Nearly all of my research has pointed to this direction and the more I have done about it the more I really want to challenge this stigma. I feel very passionate about this topic now I have explored gender roles in toy design, I really do think the positive discrimination for girls will be having a negative impact on boys. Gender equality should be equal on both sides so why are we not encouraging males to be feminine like we encourage females to take on masculine roles?

The other route of encouraging androgyny would be good to go down as there is a gap here too, I could help both genders adopt male and female traits to become more well-rounded individuals.  If I cannot come up with anything solid enough to encourage males into feminine roles this will be my ‘back up’ route to go down.

To see my full research journey in detail just follow the link to the relevant blog posts here.