Gender-neutral colors are not associated with masculinity or femininity. Instead, they are unisex colors that can be used in a variety of situations to make everyone feel valued and respected.
The gender neutrality trend highlights why unisex colors are significant in contemporary society, and more families and businesses than ever are using these inclusive colors.
Let’s explore gender-neutral colors and how they differ from gendered ones. This post considers their psychological impact and how you can use them in fashion, graphics, and interior design.
What Are Gender Neutral Colors?
For starters, colors have no genders. That’s right. The gender associations we know were deeply ingrained by our society and dictated for decades our choices and ideas in design, fashion, and stereotypes.
As for gender-neutral or unisex colors, they are not associated with gender stereotypes about men and women. Standard gender-neutral colors like yellow, orange, green, gray, black, and white are excellent for children.
Gendered colors are associated with binary masculinity or femininity. For example, pink is a gendered color, as it is usually associated with girls. Green is a gender-neutral color, not explicitly associated with men or women.
Gender-neutral colors are not new, though. They are trending due to a philosophy of disrupting binary gender roles that have spread to all spheres of design and that amplify the gender difference in color preferences.
Pink And Blue As Gendered Colors
The two colors most associated with gender, especially for babies and young children, are pink and blue. However, the fact that the opposite was true 100 years ago shows that color and gender do not have fixed meanings.
In the past, white was considered appropriate for children, evoking innocence, purity, and holiness. It was also chosen for practical reasons – plain colors were cheaper, and it was easier to bleach white clothes to clean them.
As clothing dye became cheaper, children’s clothes became more colorful, with pink and blue seen as appropriate for all babies.
It was in the twentieth century that the colors came to signify gender. An edition of Time magazine published in 1927 recommended pink for baby boys as a stronger, more masculine color, with pale blue as a delicate color for girls. This was simply retail marketing based on gender and had no philosophical basis whatsoever.
By the 1940s and 1950s, however, the trend had reversed. Some people believe pink became a girl’s color after WWII. Namely because of the complex color-coded identification system used by the Germans in concentration camps, where gay prisoners were forced to wear an inverted pink triangle on their chests.
After that period, all shades of pink became an appropriate color for women’s dresses. Gender-stereotyping designers suggested that little girls imitate their mom’s fashion and boys dressed in blue, like their dads.
Once prenatal testing began in the 1980s, it became possible to determine the baby’s sex before birth, which inspired marketing by gender. This period saw a surge in gender-segmented marketing, with non-gendered items (like blankets, cribs, and buggies) becoming gendered.
Gendered marketing spread to interiors (a feminine pastel bedroom), clothes (a masculine navy blue suit), and graphic design (where corporate equaled masculine).
Today, more clothing and other products are marketed inclusively, using colors without gender association. Still, most people will respond in a gendered way to pink and blue.
The Gender Neutrality Trend
The trend towards gender-neutral colors in fashion, branding, and design is rooted in feminism, the Me Too movement, and disruption to fixed identity labels.
Part of this philosophy suggests that binary gender decision is outdated and younger generations are contesting gender as a fixed concept.
This philosophy has led to a trend toward gender-neutral or inclusive design in many creative fields. As color is an integral part of visual design, the trend toward gender-neutral colors has developed.
For example, inclusive product design means creating a product that is engaging, effective, and useful for as many users as possible, regardless of gender. Everyone uses soap, and there is no need to make pink, floral-scented soap marketed for women.
Gender-neutral marketing means that instead of marketing by gender segment, which has been typical in the past, contemporary companies choose immersive brand experiences beyond gender and other demographics.
Marketing to only one demographic limits the audience: a print advertisement can include non-traditional families, non-binary people, and gender-free colors.
The field of gender-neutral graphic design includes rejecting gender stereotypes in visual design, one aspect of which is color. Balancing the gendered connotations of typography, color, images, and website design means a more inclusive product.
Gender-neutral interior design means a home can appeal to a whole family, moving away from colors with gendered associations. Décor can appeal to couples, retired people, young adults, and varying family configurations.
The Pink Tax
Gender stereotyping in products, designs, and marketing may seem harmless. Does it really matter if you surround a little girl with pink unicorns and butterflies?
It does. The sale of gendered items, especially those unnecessarily gendered, has a massive social and economic impact. The “pink tax” is an example.
Unisex products, such as shampoo, are gender-segmented by marketers and designers. The same shampoo can be placed in a blue bottle called Surfer’s Paradise and in a pink bottle called Princess’s Delight. The products are the same apart from their packaging – but the product marketed to women is more expensive.
The pink tax is a surcharge or upcharge added to women’s products but not to the comparable product for men. It’s not an actual tax but a way for companies to make more money by playing on gender stereotypes.
Far from being harmless and cosmetic, gender-based pricing means that women pay more than men for the same product. Gender stereotyping, therefore, has real economic consequences for women.
Moving towards gender inclusivity in design is more than a philosophy of equality; it is a real-world necessity.
9 Gender Neutral Colors to Use in Your Designs
Gender-neutral colors have no gender association or connotation. Let’s look at some commonly used unisex colors and how to use them in design.
The most popular gender-neutral color is green, which is associated with the natural world, rather than people.
Green has positive connotations of growth, health, harmony, and revitalization. Paired with red, it suggests Christmas.
Branding experts, therefore, turn to green as a communicator of healing for the health industry, growth for the financial sector, and natural freshness for the organics industry.
In interior design, green has a relaxing, refreshing, and calming effect. Popular green combinations include sage and ivory as gender-neutral nursery colors or deep, rich forest green for accent walls in white and gold dining rooms.
Another gender-neutral favorite, yellow, is associated with optimism and happiness.
Yellow is often used in children’s products, including gender-neutral baby clothes and accessories, along with white. School buses are often painted yellow to indicate there are children on board.
However, yellow is eye-catching and potentially distracting. Hence, brands use it to catch your attention, as in the yellow arches of McDonald’s, or to warn you, as in hazard signs.
Popular in the 1970s, orange is seeing a resurgence as a gender-neutral shade.
Orange is a warm color associated with fire, coziness, and home. It’s therefore popular in interiors, whether as earthy terracotta tiles in a colorful boho kitchen or medium orange in a contemporary blue room.
In branding, orange is linked to energy, mental stimulation, and inspiration. However, it can also be overwhelming and dominating, so it needs to be used along with neutral shades.
Brown is a neutral color, not just a gender-neutral color.
Brown is associated with the natural world of wood and earth, symbolizing strength, reliability, sincerity, and wholesomeness.
In fashion, shades of brown are seen as natural and organic, suggesting a love of the environment.
Brown foods like chocolate and coffee also influence branding using brown, suggesting warmth and comfort.
Generally, it’s a staid color, not ideal for cutting-edge web design unless combined with green or orange.
Beige is not only one of the best gender-neutral colors but also one of the most used neutral colors in general.
It makes an excellent background for colorful objects, designs, and rooms. Also, beige goes well with many colors and can soothe the stark contrast of white with other colors.
On top of that, beige and earth tones are relaxing and eye-pleasing colors that seamlessly blend into the environment, creating a gender-neutral design.
Further out, this color exudes friendliness and such warmth that invites people to approach and feel at home without noticing it.
For these reasons, beige is a good neutral baby color for room and clothing.
White is the ultimate neutral color and is entirely gender-neutral.
Generally, white shades have positive connotations of peace and light. Consider, however, that white is the color of death in China.
In the Western world, white is linked to cleanliness, so it is used in branding for hospitals and clinics, often with healing green or peaceful blue. However, it can also be seen as sterile and cold.
White and off-white are chic and classic colors in unisex fashion and can be both simple and dramatic when paired with black.
In design, white is often a background or negative space on a website, page, or interior. Again, it can be stark and empty if not used effectively with other meaningful colors.
The classic neutral color, gray, is gender neutral.
Gray, and most of its shades, is a color that fades into the background – a little gray man is not a complimentary label. However, it can also be relaxing, calm, and refined, if somewhat conservative.
Designers often use gray to communicate authority, security, and intelligence, as in the logos for Lexus or Forbes.
It is best to combine gray with another color to avoid dullness.
Black is a gender-neutral color and one of the basics of design.
Black is powerful and intense. Used well in design, be it graphic, interior, or fashion, black is the ultimate elegance and sophistication, conveying luxury and timelessness. Brands like Chanel, Apple, and Playboy all use black for their logos.
Muted colors are shades combined with a neutral color (like brown, black, white, or gray) to produce a hue with low saturation. They contrast with vivid or bright colors.
These colors function as neutrals in design, avoiding masculine or feminine associations. They work well as a backdrop, background, or base color.
Muted colors create a peaceful mood of relaxation, rest, tranquility, and repose.
Possible Gender-Neutral Colors
When designing with unisex colors, think of the whole instead of isolated colors. By using the right accent colors, you can balance the feminine and masculine connotations of the hues below.
For example, you can create a gender-neutral color palette by pairing white, gray, black, and beige with accents in sky blue, usually the first color choice for boys.
Using this concept, you can also incorporate the following colors in your unisex designs:
Pros Of Using Gender Neutral Colors
Using neutral colors to create gender-inclusive fashion, interiors, and design is socially and economically significant. Here are the reasons why:
- Neutral colors counteract gender stereotyping, especially for babies’ clothes, accessories, and bedrooms.
- In design, neutral colors add to gender-inclusive branding, making everyone welcome and respected, rather than unnecessarily gendered exclusions.
- Gender-neutral colors are versatile and can be used for interiors, clothes, print, digital design, and other products. Creators can be flexible as there are no limitations on color.
Wrapping Up on Unisex Colors
And just like that, we’ve come to the end of this post: 9 gender-neutral colors. We hope this list has inspired you to try gender-neutral designs in any capacity.
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