group of young people on the beach gathered around a bonfire at dusk
These Two Designers Published a Visual Guide to Gender Fluidity

Ever wondered what “nonbinary” and “gender nonconforming” really mean? Or if it’s grammatically correct to use “they” as a singular pronoun? You’re far from alone. 

Headshot of Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Words By Ali Cottong

Headshot of Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Visuals By Brooke Thyng

August 12, 2021

Ever wondered what “nonbinary” and “gender nonconforming” really mean? Or if it’s grammatically correct to use “they” as a singular pronoun? You’re far from alone. Many people share these same questions but are afraid to ask. They don’t want to be rude or make a misstep—which can generate more missteps and even cause harm simply due to being uninformed.

“Gender is for everyone and we all get to decide who we want to be in this world.”

Solving this issue is exactly what IDEOer Stuart Getty set out to do with their new book, How to They/Them. Stuart, who uses they/them pronouns, wanted to create a guide that answered a lot of the questions they commonly get asked, and find a way to educate people in a friendly way. Far from being a niche topic, gender is an important part of the human experience and its landscape is ever-expanding as we learn new ways to describe our most innate identities. It’s important to realize that everyone has a gender identity—not just those whose identity diverges from traditional norms. In Stuart’s brilliant words, “Gender is for everyone and we all get to decide who we want to be in this world.”

We sat down (virtually) with Stuart and Brooke Thyng, a former IDEOer who helped bring Stuart’s story to life through illustration, to talk about the book—the role of humor in the story, the pair’s collaboration process, and why the timing of the book was so important.

Read on for a peek behind their creative process.

PHOTO Credit: Brooke Thyng 

Ali Cottong 

MARKETING, IDEO SAN FRANCISCO 

Ali is a content strategist with roots in telling stories for deep tech. She originally earned her nerd cred as a former world-class Quidditch player and has competed in the Quidditch World Cup twice. Ali currently lives in Oakland and has traded in her broomstick for a bike. 

@ALICOTTONG 

Brooke Thyng 

IDEO ALUM 

Brooke is a communication designer with a background in anthropology and human biology. Her favorite pastimes include word play, batting cages, sending odd scans to the email addresses in the copy machine, and laughing her head off. 

@IMEANWHATEVER