The Power of Pink

Yesterday’s Women’s March was one of the most impressive events in recent history. Triggered by bigotry and machismo during the American presidential campaign and its outcome, the event attracted almost three million people all over the United States and the world. The March’s mission statement clearly pointed out its goals: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

A pink knitted hat called “Pussyhat” became the March’s signature item. According to its creators, the intention was to “make a unique collective visual statement which will help activist be better heard.” In another paragraph, they explained why pink: “Pink is considered a very female colour representing caring, compassion, and love – all qualities that have been derided as weak but are actually strong.”

Historically, the colour pink has long been associated with boys, however: Victorian fashion designated red for men and pale red (pink) for boys. It may sound funny, but at the time pink was seen as a masculine colour. (Imagine today’s macho conservatives in pink tank tops or pink suits!) It wasn’t until the 1950s that this changed. Some studies say that boys simple like blue more and girls pink, even though neuroscience claims that humans generally prefer blue to pink.

That said, a common-sense conclusion would be that our perception regarding gender and colour depends more on the dominant cultural model than on genetics.

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Intuitive is the New Cool

How many times have you heard that some app or website is not intuitive enough? Among designers, “intuitive” has become the new holy grail of design. It successfully dethroned “unique,” the long-lasting champion of cool. Perhaps, unique was not intuitive enough?

If you dive deep into design history, you’ll see that the concept of intuitive is not new, however, and that it is closely tied to context. In Just Follow the Arrow, I wrote about how hunting provided the context to arrows and made them one of the most intuitive symbols ever. 

Today’s context-savvy audiences require very little to understand most messages. But some designers tend to miss this fact. They seem to be seduced by aesthetic trends and neglect the context. For example, a few years ago, UI design moved from skeuomorphism to flat design, and the (design) world became flat again. Blindly insisting on a design trend when the context requires a different approach, however, is not only counter-intuitive – it’s deeply ignorant.

Here are some examples of past and present intuitive design.

Pictograms for the Munich 1972 Olympics, designed by Otl Aicher. Source:   

Pictograms for the Munich 1972 Olympics, designed by Otl Aicher.


Material Design by Google (2014)

Material Design by Google (2014)

Brexit in Print 1976-1980

I found these ads in a book called “Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976-1980”. 

There’s a strange colour inversion: leftist ads with predominantly black colour, and the right-wing NF all in red. 

Yet, what is truly remarkable, is the content. The ads were designed in 1978, but the messages seem to be strangely up-to-date: Replace the Common Market with EU, and IRA with ISIS, and you’ll see what I mean.