In the final semester of study in the RMIT Master of Communication Design program, students undertake an independent research project, to investigate an area of communication design practice that is of personal interest, or which is of particular relevance to their future career direction. In her final project, Laura Schweiger interrogated the ideologies inherent in the packaging of menstrual products. Here is her desription of the project:
‘Cycle care’ was born as the result of my independent research project investigating the patronising design of menstrual products.
Despite being essential items, menstrual products receive no tax reduction or exemption in most countries around the world, including Australia. Evasive graphics and floral imagery on packaging are undermining the utilitarian character of these products and perpetuate and emphasise women’s compliance to the problematic notion of secrecy and discretion.
The visual language surrounding us has a huge impact on how we perceive things. Because we use objects to communicate status, intentions and culture, to define and express our own personalities, the visual language of these objects affect our lives profoundly. They are both a reflection of our society’s values and a defining influence on them. This is why menstrual products are significant in affirming and constructing a certain ideology of womanhood.
After analysing Australian brands for menstrual products and identifying common themes in both their visual and verbal language, I decided to focus on creating a gender-neutral brand which was born out of an emphasis on inclusiveness and diversity.
Drawing inspiration from precedents and works from various design disciplines and building upon the ideas of Kenya Hara, Jasper Morrison, Dieter Rams and Naoto Fukasawa, I approached the design of ‘cycle care’ with a focus on the essential and an appreciation of the quotidian.
The packaging design itself was strongly informed by an exploration of materials and the impact of the tactile experience of contrasting surfaces, smooth vs. rough, on the understanding of the design.
Untitled Sans was a perfect typeface fit for ‘cycle care’: It is a ‘plain’ grotesque, designed by Kris Sowersby to have no discerning characteristics and as little personality as possible. It shows a lot of beauty in its restraint, and it embodies the liberation that comes with being nothing special.
By following an approach that strips away the unnecessary and superfluous, the resulting simplicity in the design — free of connotations — is able to be truly inclusive in its character and to resonate with anyone, no matter who they are.
— You can see and read more about ‘cycle care’ here: cyclecare.com.au.
Images © Laura Schweiger, photography by Dennis Grauel.