Anyone with a bookstore knows that half the time, people don’t read the signs anyway. You could have foot tall leters and they could be looking straight at the sign and still ask you where X is…while looking at the sign for X.
People amble around the shop and clearly aren’t reading titles, just looking for SOMETHING that tells them they’re in the right section. And the stacks of books themselves tell them when they’ve found it.
Publishers put a lot of effort into the FRONT of the book, but you don’t really think about the SPINE being just as important, especially when shelved.
Quick, you’re looking for books to read. Which way do you go? Left or right?
If you’re a guy, you probably said left. If you’re a women, you probably said right.
Blurred into just blocks of color, its pretty easy to tell which section is intended for which gender.
Unblurred, the titles are fairly clear. Those blacks, whites, and pure heavily satured primary and secondary colors are for MEN. Pastels, multicolored books, and desaturated secondary colors, women. Note the lack of primary colors in the the women’s section. There’s just one BLUE book. The others are all multicolored blue, and nto a pure primary blue at that. No pure red for the ladies. (Harlequin Blaze and Temptation come close… but if you look at a wall of them you realize they use a red gradient, not a straight primary color)
The ladies books also have a lot of wrap around decoration on the side. Most of the men’s books just have the text, no extra ornmentation.
Confronted with a wall of these, its often easy to see why men poke their nose into the romance section and without ever seeing the sign, LEAVE. This is clearly not where I belong. Ditto ladies finding the wall of men’s serial shoot ’em ups. NOT FOR ME.
This is not to say that all books are automatically gendered and nobody picks up the other gender’s books. Women surely like action shoot ’em ups too and there’s fellows that enjoy a nice romance. MOST genres appeal to both, but even within the genre, the colors tend to follow a pattern. Even if it does play to sterotypes, publishers have trained readers to look for books in certain colors as being “my kind of books.”
This photo of the mystery section clearly includes titles for both based on the overall color. But if someone asked you to quickly pick books off the shelf for someone based on whether it was a male or female reader, you’d probably hand the man mostly red and black books, the woman the particolored and paler colored ones.
That WALL of color can serve as a deterant to browsers and they may turn back upon encountering a wall of the other gender’s color… even if signage says what they want is just beyond that point. They’re not reacting consciously to the sign, just unconsciously to the signals that say they’re in the wrong section. It can be a barrier in your layout. Beyond this point no man or woman will venture! As such, sections that have that very clear color pattern saying “girls only” or “boys only” may do best in dead ends or wrap around areas and off main pathways where they may stop people in their tracks and send them back towards front of the store, never completing circuit. Put them where a stop sign won’t make people turn around and go back the way they came without going all the way to the back.
By same token, you can use that color blend to “trick” customers into section they’d never voluntarily enter based on name. ROMANCE? NOT TOUCHING IT!
Oh wait now…
I have the romantic suspense right next to the men’s action thrillers and quite a lot of men buy romantic suspense titles out of there that would probably never touch ‘romance’ with a 10′ pole. The blacks and reds blend into the actions section’s reds and black… but the extra decoration on spine and the gradients also tell the ladies these are for them. And it can lead the ladies into the action section… it goes both ways.
Would painting the shelves in those heavily gendered sections in the opposite gender’s colors encourage people to buy from them? Probably not by themselves. It might even just confuse them and make it harder for them to find that particular section. If they walked in and you asked they what they’re looking for, they’d never SAY they were looking for books in a particular color pattern… yet they’ll know it when they see it.
But if you DO have to stick one of these highly gender specific sections on a main thoroughfare, painting the shelves the opposite gender’s colors to break up the color block may just get people past the spine stop sign so they’ll keep browsing.