Brook & Canesten: Love your vulva
125,000 users 250,000 page views 10,000+ unique vulva combinations Normalising vulva health in the UK
Having a positive attitude towards our own bodies is more than just an influencer trend, it’s essential for societal health. It’s key to mental wellbeing, helps to increase the chance we’ll spot signs of ill health and reduces the chance that we'll engage in risky behaviours, unhealthy eating patterns or even self-harm.
But thanks to the rise of things like free porn, social media and airbrushing, women in the West are being told every day that our bodies are imperfect. That we’re in need of filtering, airbrushing, nipping and tucking – something that’s more accessible than ever. In fact, recent research showed a huge 45% increase in the number of labiaplasty procedures in just one year, with girls as young as nine seeking to 'fix’ the appearance of their vulva. It’s truly shocking and it needs to stop.
That's what led to this project, commissioned by sexual health charity Brook and intimate health brand Canesten, which focussed on helping and educating young women to build positive relationships with their own vulvas and understand just how normal they are, no matter the shape, size and colour of their bits.
Typically, Brook would be on the road and in classrooms teaching women about their bodies. But the pandemic put a stop to that. Thompson’s challenge was to overcome this barrier and get this vital information in front of more women than ever. The brief was deliberately open and so, following consultation, we proposed a digital experience centred around a web app, with headline-worthy interactivity to create a learning experience like no other.
Brook had previously run campaigns around this topic, sowing the seeds of the Different Is Normal brand, but it was our job to develop this identity into something that could stand alone, support Brook’s partnership with Canesten, and deliver the rich digital experience that was needed to make waves in the media and invite our audience to take notice.
Targeting young women aged 18-24, the Different is Normal project set out to normalise the female anatomy and language around it. The idea was to encourage young women to get to know their own vulvas, to understand what makes theirs unique, as well as how to spot the signs of common sexual health issues. We took the existing design foundations and built out the identity to include an extended digital-first colour palette, typography, illustration, and icon/emoji style before embarking on the development of the digital platform.
Our solution centred around an interactive web app that could sit on the Brook website, and could be embedded into third-party sites. We built the vulva visualiser as a React-powered web app, using Gatsby for high performance and compatibility. Its flexibility allows users to engage in fun online learning, and to create one of over 10,000 vulva combinations, until they’re happy they’ve got a likeness of their own (or something else altogether).
Our aim was to create something that fitted with the Brook identity while creating a more flexible system that would resonate with our audience. The entire project was dedicated to normalising conversation around a ‘taboo’ topic, therefore a highly accessible visual style was critical. So the illustrations, while anatomically correct, are not medical or scientific. And throughout, we adopted an easy-going tone, not taking the conversations around vulva health too seriously.