Making Of

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Making Of
Making Of
Making Of
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How might we build awareness about transgender issues in educational institutions to improve organizational culture & research across key stakeholders?


I introduce a new service design unit to educational institutions in order to counteract the overt and institutional marginalization of trans* identities and enabling a fruitful discourse.


People with trans* identities live unique experiences mirroring underlying societal power dynamics. With the responsibility to evolve societal norms and to counteract ongoing transphobia, Universities increasingly anchor the experiences of identities outside the normative narrative in their culture, curricula, and day-to-day operations. 

Unfortunately, even progressive universities like The New School lack tools and services that cater directly to the needs of folks with variant genders, which makes it difficult for students, staff, and faculty to explore and learn about identity contingencies. Education bears the potential to seed new norms, because for many youth in the US, attending University signifies a crucial transition into adulthood and self-advocacy.


The Office of Gender Identity (OGI) is a university-wide service center that advocates for a gender-inclusive culture. It caters to the university population’s specific needs to allow for a fruitful discourse on gender contingencies.

Framed under 4 core competencies – advocacy, engagement, learning, mentorship –, the OGI delivers tailored services, tools, and engagement programs that enhance the day-to-day experience of all groups at the university.

All offerings are accessible via a digital application, which also provides in-app activities for self-reflection about one’s own gender identity, because “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell’ya gonna love somebody else?” (RuPaul).


System Insight

Many educational institutions lack tools and experience in facilitating a discourse about gender identity, even though their liberal agendas advocate for diversity and empowerment of minorities.


Prototype Insight

Graduate students, high school students, and staff members who are passionate about progressive gender norms endorsed the ‘Gender Menu‘ and the ‘Pathways to Gender Identity‘ Workshop toolkit and its unique design.


Human Insight

During moments of transition (e.g. when someone moves out from home to attend university), individuals are most vulnerable, but most malleable when it comes to acquiring and experimenting with new societal norms regarding identity.

Office of Gender Identity

A university-wide service-center for gender inclusivity



The New School University Health Center


Org. Change, Diversity & Inclusion, Education


Applied User Research, Service Design, Participatory Design, UX Design


Toolkit, Masterclass, Service Strategy, System & Service Blueprints, Digital Mock-Up

Project Details

Service Blueprint

This service blueprint outlines the chronological order of implementation for the first year of the OGI at a university. Every milestone shows depth of engagement, goals, and staff activities.

© Christian Smirnow

Gender Framework

This framework deconstructs gender and sexuality that comprise one’s gender identity: Sex assigned at birth and gender identity are interrelated, but not connected. Every newborn is assigned male or female by a doctor or nurse. This assigned sex may or may not be congruent with a person’s individual, inner feeling of who they are (adapted from ‘Genderbread Person’).

© Christian Smirnow

OGI Scaling Core Capacities

(1) Advocacy: Projects include name-change processes, all-gender restrooms, as well as student groups and events. (2) Engagement: Research informs customized communication materials, and interactive kiosks guarantee visibility of the OGI throughout the academic year. (3) Learning: Trainings and ‘Lunch’n’Learns’ actively disseminate awareness, and ‘how-to-knowledge’, for a respectful gender identity conversation among all stakeholders. (4) Mentorship: Externals (trans-elders) and peer-to-peer mentorship shape individuals’ identities and their personal agency.

© Christian Smirnow

Pathways App: Main Screen

The all-in-one digital solution “Pathways App” is directly linked to the TNS app, expanding the functions with a focus on community-building, course-display, and event-registration for gender identity topics.

© Christian Smirnow

Pathways App: Exploration Activity

Core to the app is the digital Identity Guidebook. Anonymized data entered serves the R&D of new OGI offerings and publications.

© Christian Smirnow

Pathways to Gender Identity Toolkit

A semi-facilitated workshop offered during orientation week, mandatory for all students, staff and faculty. A code of conduct will guide participants towards mutual respect and to establish a safe space. The series of exercises is inspired by a ‘menu,’ which indicates freedom of choice. The participants’ curiosity and their willingness to dive into the individual and collective reflections drive the classroom dynamics.

© Christian Smirnow

Your Gender Guideboook

This workbook contains basic information about trans* identities and eleven exercises for individual reflection about one’s gender and its interrelatedness to other humans. This step-by-step workbook is handed out to all university members.

© Christian Smirnow

OGI Kiosk

Set up in prominent locations throughout the academic year, as well as key-events and fairs to promote student-services and activities, the OGI Kiosk is an in-person touchpoint to present the work and offerings of the OGI team to the university population.

© Christian Smirnow

Pathways Workshop Set-Up

The set-up of the Pathways Workshop draws inspiration from a lunch-gathering. The metaphorical lunch-situation eases participants into open-minded conversations and relaxed, respectful interactions.

© Christian Smirnow



Christian Smirnow

Torstr. 24

10119 Berlin, Germany

Impressum DE

Imprint EN

© 2020 Christian Smirnow

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