Why Do Women’s Organizations Utilize Such Ugly Logos?

photo of mother earth pictures

Art Fag City contributor Shana Moulton has created a visual essay of some of the images organizations use to represent women. The results, grouped by style, are strikingly similar, and, dare I say, just plain bad. Moulton has ordered them to generally follow the stages of life, but here are some of the themes and images they display:

- Women’s bodies, often made up of rough, ribbon-like lines, bearing a striking resemblance to what wind would look like if you could see it
- Women holding hands
- Women dancing
- Women generally being in touch with their bodies
- The standard woman gender symbol
- The revolution fist
- The revolution fist and the gender symbol combined
- Earth mothers
- Earth mother trees
- Women with their arms over their heads, ballerina style
- Triangles

As far as representing women is concerned, all of these ideas are pretty predictable and ultimately, not new or interesting at all. One could argue that they serve their purpose, but unless an organizations purpose is centered around women and dance, I don’t see any reason for their logo to be a woman dancing. The best design is that which surprises you, yet seems completely natural at the same time. Think of industrial design, of kitchenware that you use and don’t even think about. To a certain degree, that design is far more impressive than something more obviously molded to a vision; it has been created to make your life so easy you don’t even notice it. Advertising and marketing design is different; it’s meant to catch your eye, to get you interested, and to convey a message, whatever that may be. The problem with the logos for many women’s organizations is that they tell us nothing about what the organization does, only that it is defined by a specific category of people. These images rely on stereotypes and a history of bad design for women’s groups to tell their story, instead of creating a new narrative.

What do you think of some of these images? Are there some that have been left out of this thorough, if not conclusive study? In the film When Harry Met Sally (a “chick flick” that actually seems to appeal to men) one of the main characters points out that, “Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.” To some, most of these images might be striking and exciting, while there are few that I’m interested in. Ultimately, though some design is universally renowned, how we decide to represent ourselves holds great weight, and I think anyone trying to represent women and their needs should step up their game.

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10 thoughts on “Why Do Women’s Organizations Utilize Such Ugly Logos?

    • You made me laugh as Zelda lily is purple, the share/email/comment bar is blue, the recommendation titles are blue, and the tacs holding the pictures on the top of the page are blue. Giggle.

    • Blue is the go-to color in business advertising because it makes people feel calm and gives off a professional vibe. I’d imagine it’s been co-opted by nonbusiness organizations for similar reasons. I just find it boring and overused :P I have no idea about purple though, other than it’s been huge in design for the past few years, to the point that many shades are now actually considered to be “neutrals” where they would once be scandalous. Maybe that has something to do with it? I’m actually really exited that purple has become so ubiquitous, because you can find all kinds of home decor stuff in some beautiful shades and I’ve chosen that as the “main” color in my apartment. You can buy bright purple couches at your standard furniture store these days. Five years ago that was unheard of.
      I think it’s a huge mistake to translate home or clothing fashion into a logo myself. The point of home furnishings is to have each piece BLEND IN to the overall theme, whereas logos should be attention-grabbing and really *pop* you know? The best logos stand out from all the clutter you see in advertising. They are able to get you to focus on a simple image among the barrage of other images assaulting your eyes on TV, buses, billboards, internet ads, etc. etc. Honestly the best colors for this are super bright and interesting like chartreuse or bright orange. Neither of those brings “feminine” to mind though, while boring blues and purples with a dash of breast cancer pink do. That doesn’t make them a good fit for womens org logos though. Especially as traditional feminism is seen as a battle of previous generations – why would you want something staid and predictable for that? It just reinforces the idea that feminism is for old hippie ladies XD

  1. I once did some student work with an organization designed to increase the number of females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As part of the project the leaders of the organization were designing some of the materials- images to be used on the website, logos, handouts, etc. A picture was considered of an attractive woman in a knee-length skirt standing in front of a white board with physics formulas on it. It was promptly rejected because they refused to portray women “in that way.” I believe the point was raised that she was not believable as a STEM faculty member or student. She wasn’t dressed sexily, or posed provocatively- they just rejected that image of woman for their “go women in STEM fields” campaign. Attractive women who wear skirts can be scientists, engineers, etc. I didn’t see what was so offensive about her. They settled on an image that used the female symbol and an abstract rendering of an atom, as if that wasn’t encumbered with presumptions.

  2. Not exactly related, but this kind of reminds me of the little pictograms on prescription labels. If something is for the nose or the eye there is a little picture of a nose or an eye, but if it’s for the vagina you just get the generic female symbol. Heaven forbid anybody should have to see a generic line drawing of a vagina on the label for the prescription which they will be inserting into their vagina.

  3. Pingback: Zelda Lily Zingers: The Week’s Best Comments – Zelda Lily, Feminism in a Bra

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