Judith Glover is a design professor at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia and one of our judges for the Sex Toys of the Future 1-Hour Design Challenge. We first came across her after reading an article on her latest course offering at the university.
The mission: To create a refined and well-designed sex toy.
The steps to achieving this are more involved than you may think. Introducing design in the process of creating and manufacturing sex toys is a relatively new concept: "[Even in the late 1990s] you couldn't actually find something of high quality or something with strong design values that wasn't pornographic or packaged in a way not demeaning to women," Glover told Core77. At the time Glover was working in a completely different industry—metal smithing—but was frustrated with the deficiencies of the products in the marketplace. So she decided to enroll in an industrial design program, "to learn product design with the idea that I could design and make something better than the market was providing for contemporary female consumers."
A simple ceramic dildo from Glover's line, Goldfrau.
Her journey to improving the sex toy industry included creating a line of minimal but carefully designed ceramic dildos and teaching several classes over the years on gender and sexuality in design—which Glover points out, is a conversation that is scarce in the normal design curriculum. "It's pretty rare in Industrial Design education for any program to go beyond 'Girls like Pink, Boys like Blue'."
Glover, left, and fellow teacher of her Future Sex design studio, Victoria Cullen. (source: Sydney Morning Herald)
So what is the key to creating a great sex toy according to Glover?
For one, you have to really understand who's buying this product. "Take an objective view of your consumer—whoever they are—and don't do something just because it's always been done that way," and she says make sure to, "treat sex toys like any other type of product in regards to safety, materials and manufacturing...and then make it innovative or add value through good design or by finding a gap in the market."
She also firmly believes you can't expect new technologies to resolve gaps in sex toy design. Glover says the adult entertainment industry has embraced technology due to their lack of design understanding: "Innovation gets increasingly seen as just technology hardware. You are missing many ways to innovate if you just focus on the 'tech' capabilities...We are supposed to mediate in product design between the technology and the user and bring not just the right ergonomics or function but a 'user-friendliness' and a psychological dimension."
"Innovation gets increasingly seen as just technology hardware. You are missing many ways to innovate if you just focus on the 'tech' capabilities."
So when designing a sex toy, remember: there are many layers to this (ergonomic, emotional, psychological) that should all equally be considered. Any shortcut to your final result doesn't make it a thoughtful work of design—just a sexy hunk of plastic.
We'll be talking in more detail with Judith Glover about designing for women, her sex toy design course, and the future of the industry in the next couple weeks—stay tuned.
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This article is part of the Core77 Sex-tacular, an editorial series exploring the myriad ways that technology and design are shaping the future of intimacy and sex.