A Viz of Many (Gender) Colors

Pink is for girls and blue is for boys.  How pervasive is this association?

This viz updates live to reflect the crowd voted winning color palette choice.  Tha's right,  this is a live updating Tableau Public viz that uses data from a Google Sheet without needing a web connector!!!!  Thanks to some Allan Walker glitter (which is always black).

Recently, Jonathan Drummey asked for design suggestions for a Tableau tutorial on Marimekko charts which used data on gender and admissions.  My initial response was to color code according to this stereotypical gender association with colors.  “Since you are using a reference to Marimekko the artist in your post, I took some colors from the prints :-)  I also thought that using black for the border was more in-line with the artwork as well.  If you are not happy with the traditional pink / blue for gender, I can change it."

Jonathan responded, “I *heart* the idea of using colors from Marimekko prints, and using black as a border is great to help make the bar segments more visible! I would like to use something other than pink/blue for gender just because I want to break down the gender association of colors that only came about in the last 90 years or so to create more segmented marketing and (I believe) more tightly define gender roles. My daughter’s favorite colors are blue, red, and purple, and it sucks when the thing (toy, clothing, tool, etc.) that’s her size is pink just because it’s “made for girls”. I want girls and boys to have pink, blue, red, mauve, camo, paisley, etc.

Going with colors from another set of Marrimekko prints, we decided on using yellow for female and green for male. 

Marimekko Chart Pink Blue

The exercise did get me to thinking about the power of color and it’s associations, specifically with gender.  The strong association of pink with girls is a fairly recent phenomenon.  The reverse palette apparently used to be true.  For example, the June 1918 issue of the Infant's Department, a trade magazine for baby clothes manufacturers, said: "There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty is prettier for the girl.”  Many articles site the reverse encoding started post WWII and was made mainstream in the 1980’s for mass marketing purposes.

Fast forward to now.  How dominant has this color and gender association gotten?Artist JeongMee Yoon, frustrated with her daughter's desire to only wear pink and play with pink toys, launched The Pink & Blue Project.“The saccharine, confectionary pink objects that fill my images of little girls and their accessories reveal a pervasive and culturally manipulated expression of 'femininity' and a desire to be seen.”


I wanted to create a viz that would showcase the strong association of the Female = Pink, Male = Blue, as well as the dissonance when other palettes are used.  Data was graciously provided by Jeffrey Shaffer, who scraped the TC16 website for speakers and sessions which he then ran through the R Gender package.   Using the data I created a viz to help promote the female speakers at the conference.  The original color palette was chosen to provide dissonance and reverse the current gender / color association.  I also chose to be a bit viz defiant with some other design choices, such as the drop shadow on the font and the bar charts.  All viz nazi's please unclench now.  It's okay.  Really.  The drop shadows are fun!

Woman = Blue, Men = Pink palette

But here is the really fun part.  You can vote and change the viz color palette, hero image, title, etc.  They are all driven by a Google Form that collects responses on what palette should be used for the viz.  The choices are shown below in the form.  Go ahead and vote!  You can decide if the fate of this viz is to perpetuate or break the gender color association.  Whichever palette has the most responses at any given time will pass the winning choice to the viz which is then updated automatically thanks to the Allan Walker magic.  This viz connected to a Google Spreadsheet which captures the votes, which the use tabletop.js and sheetsee.js in conjunction with the Tableau JS API to dynamically update the viz and use the color / image choices with the most votes.


The other choices are shown below:

Color Coding Woman = Yellow, Men = Green

Vote early, vote often and challenge yourself to explore how strong gender and color associations are and if an how you choose to use them in your work.  Please also come support the women TC16 speakers and their sessions! 

Oh and the super hero image is there to challenge you too.  I'm saving the non-white, female superhero in a snug-fitting outfit image discussion for another post, or a late night cocktail conversation at TC16. :-).