Plasters shaped like sanitary pads to get everyone talking about periods.
Product, 2 months
A brief written by McKinsey Design, The Case for Her and D&AD: ‘End period stigma’. The campaign had to be global and local.
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
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.
Two key facts which informed this project:
- Most period campaigns target cis-women, and do not generally recognise that not all people who have periods are cis-women.
- 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.
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?
Two initial thought processes came out of this research:
- People who don’t have periods don’t know how to show their support for people on their period
- 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.
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.
“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]
- Nick Whiting, Senior Expert, McKinsey & Company
- 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 …
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.