Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Of "man colours" and men's shampoo

In the olden days of industrial design, before everything was drawn digitally, you had to use coloured markers to draw concepts. Expensive coloured markers. And as most design students have no money, you had to very slowly, very carefully add to your box of tools.

Everyone tended to start with a black, and three neutral greys. This would let you do monochrome shading, and saved you from making stupid colour decisions early on. From there you would typically buy a light and dark pair of pens in the same hue, giving you the ability to add shading in that one colour.

So every time you wanted a new colour, you had to buy two pens. Two seventeen dollar pens, which require individual thirty dollar ink refills. It's a bigger racket than the one for printer refills!

Inspired by designs like the outrageously orange Omega Planet Ocean, and various iconic Lamborghinis, i decided to build a palette of what i deemed "man colours".

Man colours was the best! All i had to do was pair a single bright, non-primary colour with greys or metal finishes i could handle with my original three pens. Bright orange, light steel blue, violet/cool lavender, and lime green all worked excellently. You could use a bright colour like purple, and still come across all "chest wig" manly thanks to the existence of the Lamborghini Diablo.

Now some fifteen years on, man colours are a serious, and widespread marketing tool. When a company wants to remove absolutely all ambiguity about the gender assignment of a product, this is always their move. Interestingly, but in hindsight not unexpectedly, that trend is no more obvious than in the shampoo aisle at a supermarket.

I especially like the one that modelled their bottle design on an axe handle. I imagine firemen and lumberjacks washing their hair, picking up the bottle, and thinking "Yes, yes. This feels right."

Damn, that thought was so manly i just grew a beard! Fortunately, there's something grey and orange and not at all for a woman for that:

I do love the mixture of bravado and stoicism evoked by the man colours palette. I should be repelled by its shameless ubiquity these days, but what's the alternative? Pastels?!

Disclosure: The keyboard i typed this post on is manly.

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