January 21, 2013 By adminCDS
While the designers role is to think outside of oneself and understand the intended user of the product, the DNA of the brand, the method and facilities for manufacture and production, it is difficult to separate ones ego entirely from the process. There is always an element of personal taste, functional preference or subjective perspective that comes through in any design, more so for the branded designers such as Philippe Stark or Zaha Hadid, and less so for the design consultancies that remain anonymous to the general public.
The upshot of this is that people at the fringes of society will often not be given much consideration, since designers are by and large ‘average Joes’ ; regular everyday people. In fact, statistically designers tend to be male average Joes too, but this is of course not the same for the consumers. For example, it’s estimated that 50% of car sales are to women, yet the number of women actually designing cars is very low.
The same can be said for disabled or elderly people who are often forgotten by the designer when penning those ‘cool, minimalist buttons of equal shape, size and colour’ for a key pad, or the interface of an automated ticket machine, or the size and shape of the door into a building. This is where Inclusive Design comes into play : designing good products for everybody, without making a special case for those of restricted mobility, limited eyesight, missing limbs or whatever. The goal is to make better products for all, or as defined by the British Standards Institute: “The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible … without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.”
So make doors wider and lighter : it’s easier for everybody to enter. Make buttons bigger and easier to use. Make interfaces simple, intuitive and free from unnecessary animations and graphics. At the end of the day we’re all getting older, so we’ll all appreciate those little thoughts that will make it easier for us to use the products that we buy.
For more information have a look at the information on the Inclusive Design Toolkit, or at the great work happening at the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA in London.