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March 28, 2011

The rhetoric of pink

Context: One of the designers I work with was working on some promotional skins for 3rd party LinkedIn widgets. The LI brand identity often strikes me as being aggressively masculine (cultural bias: business = male to be taken seriously). We thought this was a great opportunity to demonstrate that LinkedIn can exist in many different brand climates: not just Serious Business Sites, but also on gender-neutral; female-targeted; aggressively masculine; etc. 

That said, we didn't want to rely on the old canard that to be "woman-friendly" a visual design has to be pink. The design had to convey business = women and avoid the pitfall of Barbie-fying (thus trivializing) the use of business intelligence on a woman-focused site.

Jesse sent his first pass on the female-targeted skin with this email:

From: Jesse Venticinque
To: Ellen Beldner
Subject: Is this what women want?


Seems too stereotypical - though i went with the http://www.glam.com/ color

My response:


So: glam.com's visual brand is sort of Avril Lavigne / Rocker punk. It's kind of this post-feminist embracing of an uber-girly color scheme (50s / Barbie Doll pink -- modes that feminism was rebelling against if you've ever read The Feminine Mystique, and if you haven't I highly recommend it) and combining them with the power-femme 80s generation that wore black and fluorescent yellow and hot pink. The 80s were really the first time when 60s feminism ("the radical notion that women are people" -- and it really was radical at the time) had been around long enough to permeate the culture somewhat. It was a time of power suits. 

These days, there's a sort of combo post-feminist attitude. For good or for ill, there's this embracing of pink as a metaphor: I can embrace this traditional feminine trope and ALSO be powerful, strong, badass, punk rock, etc. Embracing pink doesn't mean that I have to give up the carbon fiber, guns, and steel.  Think about Marissa. Think about Avril Lavigne. My first snowboard was bubblegum pink with silver stars -- and I wore it with all-black tight ski pants, a black turtleneck, and a white helmet that has a sticker of a she-devil-as-50s-pinup on it. Corine is tiny and cute and she scares the living shit out of me. It's that kind of dichotomy that so many modern women are trying to embrace. At the end of the day, the message -- the rhetoric, with our audience as men and other women -- basically comes down to "I can have a big salary and make intellectual contributions to the world around me, AND still attract men.*" It used to not be that way. 

* This is really about gender constructs, so it assumes a heteronormative standard. GLBT relationships operate under somewhat different cultural expectations & constructs.

So: that was mostly me waxing philosophical and dusting off my cultural studies nerd hat.  As I'm looking at a few brands / sites, here's what I observe: Pink AND black, and a healthy dose of white:

Martha Stewart has an interesting cool-toned scheme: http://www.marthastewart.com/ She defines the look of good taste (East Coast) for women everywhere.

Planned Parenthood is primarily corporate orange and blue, but they've got a hot pink bus: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Interesting point: Look at the way that Wonder Woman has evolved over the years:


And for the new & recent redesign:


I think you're on the right track. The color scheme in this widget speaks to extremely broad cultural issues: the whole history of feminism and women's liberation and redefining femininity as both powerful AND attractive. We don't necessarily HAVE to attack this widget from this perspective (I.e. "chick-friendly") but I think it's a cool mini-project. And you'll get to really delve into the rhetoric of visual design & color choices for a set of people that is not you -- always a good challenge.  Consider incorporating orange; orange + pink is a strong color scheme that works for "femme". 

Try a rev that speaks to the issues above. It's probably got black in it. It may have a textured background or a background pattern. Think Sucker Punch. 

-- ELB

March 18, 2011

Going rogue on LinkedIn Today ;)

A couple of other industries have them too, but I'm not saying which ones.

Screen shot 2011-03-18 at 11.53.43 AM.png


March 17, 2011

Kolko the Ubiquitous

Screen shot 2011-03-17 at 8.37.39 AM.png

March 10, 2011

LinkedIn Today: Congrats to LI UED members...

LinkedIn just launched LinkedIn Today, its social news aggregator for professionals. Props to the members of the LI UED team who have been hammering away at this for the past many months.


Sarah Alpern, Principal Designer.

Sarah was the designer of LinkedIn Today from its prototype stage through its alpha launch. She drove the design of the user experience from its birth as a data prototype to the structure that we see today in the finished product. Awesome work, Sarah.

Robert Martone, Web Developer.

Martone (I refer to him by his last name) did most of the front end development. He has almost killed me at several points in the past few weeks, but that's cool because he did such a kickass job.

Jesse Venticinque, Interaction Designer.

Jesse kicks ass. Sarah handed off the design to him (she's on family leave) and he's taken it through the final months of refinements and features, working closely with product manager Liz Walker.

Corine Yang, Interaction & Visual Designer.

Corine recently switched from LinkedIn's marketing design group (they're still within UED) to my cluster of designers -- the CNC team (for content and communication). And damn are we lucky to have her! Corine designed the bold, fresh header and streamlined the visual design & layout for LinkedIn Today.

Stephanie Trimble, Web Developer.

Stephanie was an awesome pinch hitter in the last couple of months of development on Today. She handled all of the introduction pages and the neat in-page product tour, and owned the Today homepage story carousel.

Vy Phan, Senior Web Developer.

Vy deals with the LinkedIn homepage and with Signal, the complementary product that lets users search through updates that other professionals have shared on LinkedIn. He's worked to integrate Signal and Today throughout the site.

Awesome work from the LinkedIn CNC design team. Congrats, all of you.

Now go check out LinkedIn Today. It is hella useful. Also, Martone, Vy, and I have a few tricks up our sleeves that will roll out in the near future, so stay tuned.

PS: Yes, I'm involved too. I took over as the CNC UE team lead from Sarah when she went on family leave a couple of months ago; so I've been also been involved in a design leadership role the past few months. In my book, the props go to the people who did the gritty work of design, iteration, mockups, prototyping, debugging, and code checkins.