Co.Design

How To Design Signs For The Gender-Neutral Toilet Of The Future

Any toilet is really a gender neutral toilet in abstract.

And so Ally McBeal has won: The bathroom of the future will be gender neutral. How, then, to best adapt toilet signage to address a trans-friendly, non-binary gender system?

One designer's witty solution is to represent the primary function of the bathroom instead of just the gender of the person who is using it. In other words, slap a picture of the toilet on the door, for goodness sake.

It's a perspective best expressed by what happened when It's Pronounced Metrosexual's Sam Killermann talked to the facility manager at a local airport about gender neutral bathrooms. The perplexed response he got: "Well, what would you put on the door?"

How about a toilet, the central fixture of any bathroom? And sure enough, in Killermann's informal testing, not a single person was confused. Killermann writes:

At an alarming, unprecedented 100 percent success rate, literally every participant in my focus group correctly identified the abstract, gender-neutral concept I came up with to identify a restroom. Granted, my research at this point is limited geographically to Philadelphia, specifically the corner of Sansom & 20th Street, but I have reason to believe that we can generalize beyond this population. I will confirm this as I continue my travels.

As Killermann points out, any toilet is really a gender neutral toilet in abstract. The problem of toilet signage is mainly an American one anyway. "Just do it the British way and put W.C. on the door," Killermann quips. "I believe it stands for 'Who cares?'"

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