Period Emojis

Period Emojis

A set of emojis to subtly communicate when you are menstruating at work.

Client: Flo Health

The Challenge

The problem

Not enough people are talking about how periods affect them at work .

The outcome

A set of 4 downloadable emojis and guidebook which can be used at workplaces and on Slack statuses for people to talk about their periods at work. 

How it works 

I worked with Flo on a campaign to use emoji as a more approachable and opt-in alternative for menstruating people to talk about periods at work. The emoji come with a guidebook which detail the context in which the emoji are intended to be used. There is also advice for people who don’t menstruate about supporting those on their period.

Research and development

  • Context and restrictions


    Context

    A few months ago, I told 11,000 people at work that I was on my period. 

    It’s normal for me to throw up from pain on my period and I found myself uncontrollably cramping during meetings. I had just come back from being ill, and worried it would look like I was ‘slacking’.

    I didn’t feel comfortable starting this conversation in the team room, so I used a red drop emoji and set it as my ‘Slack’ status. It was my way of saying “I’m in pain, please be mindful and recognise that I might not have the energy to deal with some tasks.” For me, this was essential information for me to do my job, but it’s a very personal choice.

    It ended up sparking many conversations across the company, with some colleagues expressing they too had the same experience, some who were unsure about the approach, and others who didn’t have periods wanting to know how best to support. The conversation also expanded into thinking about other hormonal changes, such as IVF and menopause.

    I raised this during International Women’s day because menstrual anxiety can affect all people who have periods/PMS and can still impact our lives profoundly. And remember periods can affect more people than women as well – including nonbinary, intersex people, and trans men. 

    The response went viral on LinkedIn and started many conversations about periods in the workplace.

    Who should have been included in this work, but was not. 

    People who work in settings where they don’t have online communication platforms, such as those in the hospitality and acting industries. 

  • The Impact

  • The Impact


    Quotes

    “The instinct to see it as oversharing is actually a reflection of the stigma and taboo associated with it. That in itself opens a can of worms, but these worms need to be released if we ever want to achieve true gender parity. Good on you Sophia Luu for having the courage to raise this.”

    “Thanks for posting. It’s important to understand how hormones affect many, including those going through IVF and menopause. I’m sure there are many other treatments where the side effects just wreck havoc on your bodies’ ability to regulate their hormones for women and men.”

    “Hey Sophia! First, sorry you’re in pain – that sucks especially while trying to work… well done on the post, always good to normalize these things. While as a trans woman I don’t menstruate, I do get PMS symptoms and definitely have felt invisible pressure to not bring that up to teams so they don’t doubt my general productivity, etc.”

    There are many subjects which are traditionally thought of as taboo which severely impact whether someone feels they can perform well at work. A solution that supports people on their period also works for those who, for whatever reason, might want their colleagues to know that they need to take a break or turn their camera off for a day. This is particularly also in the case of chronic illness and other mental health situations.

  • Results


    Downloaded and used commonly in many companies, including Flo Health, McKinsey and even Slack themselves!

  • If I could do this again...


    I don’t believe in a perfect solution. What I can do though, is reflect on how to make things better in hindsight. Given the digital focus for this project, I didn’t consider other online platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The emojis were only able to be applied on Slack, and so were not compatible for workplaces using other software. If I could do this again, I would consider that more.

  • Download the Emojis 😀

    People and press

    Everybody Bleeds

    Everybody Bleeds

    Plasters shaped like sanitary pads to get everyone talking about periods.

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    Product, 2 months

    The Challenge

    The Problem

    A brief written by McKinsey Design, The Case for Her and D&AD: ‘End period stigma’. The campaign had to be global and local.


    The Outcome

    A gender neutral campaign using plasters to end period poverty.


    How it works 

    Both sanitary pads and plasters do the same thing: soak up blood. But one is taxed and the other isn’t. It’s one of the many examples of how period stigmas are affecting global wellbeing and body confidence. 

    This campaign uses the plaster as a visual metaphor to get those who don’t have periods to better understand the sight and experience of menstruation. 

    All profits go towards access to sanitary pads and campaigns to end period tax worldwide. By talking about our plasters online you raise more money for our cause. Whatever you have to say, you’re helping us to face up to period stigma.

    Research and development

  • The Insights


    The Insights

    Speaking about periods has become a gendered construct, despite blood itself being gender-neutral

    Conversations about periods with people who don’t have periods usually exclude the actual physical and emotional experience of menstruation. 

    Context

    Two key facts which informed this project:

    1. Most period campaigns target cis-women, and do not generally recognise that not all people who have periods are cis-women. 
    2. Both sanitary pads and plasters do the same thing: soak up blood. But one is taxed and the other isn’t. It’s one of the many examples of how period stigmas are affecting global wellbeing and body confidence.

  • Methodology


    Methodology 

    Interviewed: 6 cis-men (17-29), 2 non-binary people (20s) and 11 cis-women (15-30).
    A mixture of Black-British, White-British, British-Asian and Vietnamese, all able bodied. 70% students. 

    Interviewed people form a range of ages, ethnicities, genders and locations in the UK. I then compared this to a few interviews in Vietnam. My main focus was on cis-men. I found them this an interesting target group because they were the furthest away from the experience of menstruation, yet would all know someone in their lives who would be affected by periods. I also targetted cis-men in their late teens/ early 20s, who were likely to be in more mature relationships with people in their lives who are mensturating. 

    Key research questions for cis-men:

    • Have you ever heard of a period? 
    • When was the first time you heard about periods?
    • What happens during a period? Probe on physical effect, probe on mental effects, probe on type of blood
    • What do you think are some of the challenges for people who have periods? Probe on daily routine, probe on access to products, probe on use of products
    • What ways do you think people can manage their period? 
    • What can you tell me about the types of people who have periods? 
    • How do you think you could support people on their periods?

    Initial prototyping

    Two initial thought processes came out of this research: 

    1. People who don’t have periods don’t know how to show their support for people on their period
    2. Periods seem to come at an inconvenient time for people 

    I first went down the route of time and started developing some watches which were based on streaks of blood made out of resin. The concept was that people who bought the watches supported a period charity, in a similar way to live strong bands, and others would see it as a status symbol. I quickly realised this wasn’t going anywhere, and people didn’t understand the visual metaphor.

    Plasters

    I then started thinking about developing a visual metaphor, and that’s when I got the idea of the plaster. These were initially made of bandage paper and cotton which I tested with my focus groups. I knew I had my eureka moment when my brother came down the stairs, saw what I was doing, laughed, and said ‘I’d actually wear those!’. This sparked a really interesting conversation about how the plasters compared to sanitary pads. 

    Who should have been included in this work, but was not. 

    I did not, and could not, capture everyone’s voices while researching this project. However, there were some groups who I did not actively reach out to, and thus could have been negatively impacted from my work due to blind spots in my work. These were: 

    • Transgendered people 
    • People with disabilities 
    • Very young children 
    • Those who don’t have access to sanitary towels 

    I found that transgender people were especially crucial for this project, and admittedly, at the time of researching this project I didn’t know where to start and how to bring up this conversation with trans people. I had spoken with some non-binary people for the project, who had given me lots of feedback, but felt like in all I was missing a massive angle of the project. I now know that I could have taken the project to grassroots organisations, friends of friends or even online campaigns and paid people for their time. I was very junior as a design researcher and had not properly thought through all these methods. 

  • The outcome

  • Quotes


    “I DIDN’T REALISE THAT PERIOD BLOOD DRIPS OUT GRADUALLY… I ALWAYS IMAGINED IT TO BE A CONSTANT RUSH OF BLOOD”

    — CIS-MALE, 23, LONDON

     

    “MOST PERIOD ADVERTS ARE TARGETTED AT WOMEN. MENSTRUAL STIGMA IS JUST ANOTHER PART OF GENDER IDENTITY WHICH I FIND SO DIFFICULT TO FACE”

    — NON-BINARY PERSON, 16, LONDON

     

    “WHEN I GOT MY FIRST PERIOD I GENUINELY THOUGHT I’D SHAT MYSELF BECAUSE THE BLOOD INSIDE MY KNICKERS WAS BROWN! NO ONE HAD TOLD ME WHAT TO EXPECT VISUALLY”

    — CIS-FEMALE, 30, SAIGON [TRANSLATED]

     

    ‘Amazing’

    • Nick Whiting, Senior Expert, McKinsey & Company

  • Results


    Results 

    • Awarded a Graphite Pencil at D&AD 2019, as well as a place on the D&AD Academy for top junior creatives 
    • Invited to speak at the Design Kids event about how to craft a winning campaign 
    • Invited to speak at D&AD podcast on success 
    • Featured in the Irise International Period Positivity podcast 

  • If I could do this again...


    If I could do this again …

    I don’t believe in a perfect solution. What I can do though, is reflect on where there were gaps in my projects, and how this might have disadvantaged some groups over others . This is a space to reflect on what could have been better. 

    Respectfully reaching out to people in the trans community, and paying them for their time. (see the ‘Who should have been included in this work’ section. 

    Tried to push harder to make this a product in the market. These plasters exist – I made them and they are functioning plasters. But I would love to prototype further, test with people and get this product out in the market. Otherwise, it would risk becoming a concept piece. 

    Be very aware and mindful of the awards judging process I’m not sure how I felt about ‘blind’ judging, because the success of a project will always be affected by the biases of the judging panel. Ultimately, an award isn’t everything.