The Rise Of Inclusive Product Design

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The Rise Of Inclusive Product Design

The 2019 Women’s World Cup is more popular than ever, on pace to reach nearly 1 billion viewers this summer. Just a few weeks ago, four current and former players of the US Women’s national team, including firebrand Megan Rapinoe, launched a lifestyle brand named Re-Inc. What’s interesting about this brand is that, unlike brands with strong celebrity-athlete involvement, Re-inc won’t be selling apparel emblazoned with athlete names and signatures.

That decision was absolutely purposeful. According to Eddie Opara from Pentagram, who created the brand identity, “The brand isn’t about their names, but about their philosophy as players and people who embrace inclusivity and gender-neutral design.” Inclusivity and gender-neutral design are a growing movement among some of fashion’s top brands. And for Re-Inc, the non-binary approach also makes sense, given how much these athletes have been struggling to be treated the same as their male counterparts in the US. Last March, the women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.

The brand’s website explains, “We are four World Cup champions whose time on the [U.S. Women’s National Team] has taught us how to fight. For greatness. For our identities. For our own value. We exist to boldly reimagine the status quo—championing equity, creativity, progress, and art.”

Opara adds in a FastCompany article, “They are not just selling wares because of who they are and because they’re a status symbol. It’s because of what they have gone through and what they’ve seen others going through.”

The most interesting part of Re-inc’s visual identity is the backwards “e” used in a custom typeface from Pentagram designer Raoul Gottshling. By putting the most commonly used letter in the alphabet backward, the designers aim to illustrate that Re—inc’s products are focused on challenging convention, just as its founders have.

They’ve launched with two gender-neutral T-shirts they call a “re-tee”, with the words “Liberté, égalité, défendez,” printed across the front. Each “e” is backwards which is a clever and subtle way to identify the brand without needing a logo.

They go on to say, “Over the next few years we will create a transformative system of customizable fashion products and experiences for people looking for bold self-expression and non-binary design. By joining us now, you’re part of our 2019 product launch—two tees made as the first part of a full Lifestyle Suit—a template for you to wear in a way that’s true to your individual identity.”

There are two important take-aways from this:

  1. Inclusive product design continues to become more important. In this case, inclusivity means freedom from outdated beliefs. Much in the way Target did away with explicit naming of “girls” and “boys” toy sections, gender-neutral clothing presents a way for consumers to express themselves without being confined to a category.
  2. There’s power in subtle branding. Design trends sometimes sweep across industries to the point that being visually distinctive is a big challenge. Like Apple’s white ear buds for the iPod launch, a simple change of reversing the “e” allows this brand to be visually unique without over-complicating the design. More brands should take this approach.

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