Design Factoids

Let’s talk about smileys, mushrooms, and sharks!

Valentina Vicent
Jun 11, 2019 · 3 min read

The meaning behind some of the graphic selections for the Period Gold app.

We’re proud to say that we’re simple and we focus on the bright side. Our main goal was to create a fun, straightforward space for becoming more curious about our cycles. So even though we craved for the interface to be clean, minimalistic and editorial, we also wanted for it to have tons of cultural personality. For us, that meant cool iconography. As designers, we rarely talk about the symbolism behind the small but meaningful details we select each day as graphic representations for our projects. Sometimes we select them intentionally, other times we don’t — regardless, all icons are tied to important symbolic meanings. We’re here to talk about the ones behind the key graphic players within our product.

Did you know that the traditional smiley face was designed by American commercial artist Harvey Ball to boost employee morale? He made it for an insurance company, which paid him around $50 for the gig. We’ve loved it since Forrest Gump, and every moment before and after emojis. We’d already selected the brand color to be a shade of egg yolk yellow that seemed to be a perfect match with the iconic figure. A smiley face look-alike was a no brainer for us to represent the type of feeling we wanted to evoke in our users when heading to their profiles.


During our brainstorming sessions, mushrooms kept coming up. They felt like such an appealing creature — we simply couldn’t let them go. Turns out that in nature, mushrooms are known to be extremely quick to develop and cyclically grow. They recycle, transform and soak in the ground. They recreate fertile soil. They’re famous for their heads being a symbol of the potent force of nature. They have been used for food, medicine and spiritual practices for thousands of years. So when we had the insight of making “high energy” one of the highlight features of our app, we inevitably thought of the mushroom as the perfect symbol for overall wellness and the power of owning our individual hormonal changes and energy bursts.


Our first clear discovery was that period talk is still a huge taboo. We thought that part of breaking this taboo would be tactful mockery. One of those ice breakers would be owning “shark week” as a positive. The emoji shark representation seemed to be at the perfect angle and semi-circle position to fit our loader needs. It came to us easily and seamlessly bringing in a quick hint of sarcasm to the experience. We then went down a spiral of reading about sharks and it turns out that during the menstrual phase, our spirit animal might as well be one! Sharks are intuitive, instinctive creatures that roam the depths of their environment. Similar to how we mystify in our own depths during our menstrual week — whether we realize it or not. We’re forced to look inside ourselves. They also symbolize moving forward and the fierce feeling of taking weaknesses and turning them into strength.

Curious to learn more about our process? Send us a message with more ideas about what you’d like to know: hello@periodgold.com

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