Women veterans are veterans too.
As part of SVA Products of Design’s partnership with Veterans Affairs (and held through the Design Research and Integration class taught by IDEO’s Lawrence Abrahamson), I teamed up with classmates: Jiani Lin, Teng Yu, William Crum, Alexia Cohen, and Kevin Cook, used design to examine gender and the military—creating two design proposals aimed at changing the way people percieve women veterans.
We were first challenged with a question: How Might We establish a new cultural norm that a woman veteran is also a veteran? Starting with both primary and secondary research, pouring over VA and VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) materials we prepared interview guides for a variety of subjects.
After conducting 10 expert interviews, 27 intercept interviews in New York City, along with online surveys distributed through social media we extracted 5 core insights which lead to 5 design principles in the form of How Might We questions.
One of the best ways to delve into an insight is to make it tangible. We explored this by designing a detailed (and playable) board game that takes players through the user journey of Active Duty, and then through Veteran Life. Gameplay reveals countless obstacles in both; the players quickly realize that the deck is stacked against women.
The #SheServed initiative is aimed at building public perception of women as an equal and significant part of the veteran community in the United States. By combining a platform for celebrating women servicemember's achievements with an accessible, shareable brand identity, this experiential campaign can empower women veterans and deliver their stories to a larger audience.
Inspired by the Livestrong campaign’s success in creating momentum around cancer research in the mid-2000s, the #SheServed campaign uses stark iconography and an eye-catching palette to increase recognition of the issues female veterans face. To wear the #SheServed insignia is to support the following statement:
The service and sacrifices of women veterans are equally significant to those of their male counterparts. I stand with veterans—women vets included—in their search for recognition and fair treatment.
Targeted to resonate with veterans, their families and the public at large, the campaign's messaging encourages viewers to show support by wearing pins, hats and other #SheServed-branded collateral.
By driving participants to share hash tagged images of their #sheserved gear on social media, the campaign may grow its footprint at an exponential rate. And the more #SheServed gear gets bought, the more proceeds go to non-profits actively combatting serious issues for veterans, such as homelessness and inadequate of mental health care.
The Postcard Stories Project provides a platform where women servicemember's stories and achievements can be shared and celebrated, leveraging the military’s team-first mentality to get vets to celebrate their peers. Vets receive blank postcards that invite them to share a story about an outstanding woman peer. Stories are submitted to the SheServed team, where selections are posted to the campaign's blog and social channels.
Some vets are reached by mail, while others pick up blank cards at their local VA or VSO clubhouse.Vets hand-write their stories on the blank back and mail in pre-paid postcards for curation and aggregation.Select stories appear on the campaign blog and are distributed on social channels—reaching veterans and reinforcing women vet's sense of value.
How It Works
Limited advertising spend upfront could kick-start a self-reinforcing loop of earned media through participants' social channels. The more swag they buy, the more acceptance of women veterans is normalized—and the more money goes to helping those most in need.
Blank cards are sent to veterans through several channels before stories are sent back to SheServed with prepaid postage. Stories are curated and distributed through the blog, owned social, gallery shows and a printed book—getting the positive messaging in front of both veterans and civilians.
The general public is introduced (in their own voice) to the misperceptions and biases women vets encounter every day.