Inclusive Design: A Microsoft Perspective

A black and white graphic of stick people in various states of being.Microsoft has updated their Inclusive Design Toolkit. It’s a comprehensive guide that focuses on design principles that can be applied in any design situation. Their key advice is to recognise exclusion, solve for one and extend to many, and learn from diversity.

You can download the toolkit in sections. It also includes several case studies in the form of video clips. These are not all about websites or phone apps either. They have been chosen to help inspire all kinds of designers to think about diversity. I liked the one about Antoine, the dancer. 

Microsoft’s definition of inclusive design is a methodology, born out of digital environments, that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.

Microsoft’s design principles: Exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. As Microsoft designers, we seek out those exclusions, and use them as opportunities to create new ideas and inclusive designs.  

A very useful design guide for students and practitioners alike.

What does inclusion actually mean?

Graphic of stick people in various poses with the caption, "Inclusiveness,, looking at everyoneKat Holmes found the origin of include was to “shut in”. Similarly, the origin of exclude was to “shut out”. Maybe “inclusion” is not the right word for describing the inclusion of everyone in products, places and things. Holmes explains in the video below, that the topic of diversity is discussed in her workplace as gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnicity, and race. Disability is usually mentioned last in the list, if at all. “But it is the one category that transcends all other categories”, she says. “Abilities are constantly changing”. 

Holmes’ offers an alternative way for designers to consider diversity, and is based on her book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. An engaging talk for all upcoming designers in any field. And not just professional designers either. We all design things every day, so we all have a role to play. 

Editor’s Note: I discussed this issue in a 2009 paper. Inclusion is problematic inasmuch as it requires those who are already included to invite into the group those who are excluded. Semantics can be important. What we need is inclusiveness – that’s where inclusion has already happened and there are no exclusions. Inclusion is a futuristic concept insofar as it is something for which we are striving, for if it were achieved, no discussion would be needed.

Design Principles to Live and Die by

A text box with a grey background and white text with the heading: 8 Design Principles to Live and Die By, According to Facebook, IBM, Pentagram and MoreThe FastCodesign website has another interesting article about design. Every designer has the principles they work by.  So they asked eight prominent designers, “What is the one principle you never compromise on?” The answers are consistent with universal design principles: Good design is both invisible and obvious; Ignore trends; Ban mediocrity, Design to elicit emotion; Articulate your purpose, honestly and explicitly; Users are people not statistics; Design thinking isn’t for designers and; Design for the big idea. See the article for the designers’ explanations.

An abstract pattern of muted blue and orange squares of different sizes.

 

Critical Design for Universal Design

Four pictures of workshop outcomes explained in the article.What happens if architecture, interior design, engineering and product design students spend a week together to investigate the design of the built environment? The answer is in a paper by Anne Britt Torkildsby. A week of critical design workshops provoked reflection, awareness, empathy and action among the next generation of designers involved in the built environment. By turning design upside down and deliberately creating designs that were impossible or difficult to use, the students learned to take multiple perspectives. The paper provides details of the workshops and the processes, and the outcomes for the students and their designs. The picture shows four of the designs discussed in the article.

Editor’s note: I liked the narrow doorway with a sticky floor that made entry difficult. The designs went on exhibition and others could experience first hand the difficulties and frustration people with different disabilities might have with a design.

The title of the paper isEmpathy Enabled by Critical Design – A New Tool in the Universal Design Toolbox. The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication. 

Does your access map have the right colours?

A woman holds a tablet with a map on the screen, She is standing in the street.Location is everything – finding it is another.  Being able to find places easily is key to getting out and about at any age or level of capability. Online maps are becoming more sophisticated with interactive content and different layers of information. Graphics and colour are used to emphasise places and attributes. But not everyone can see certain colours. The number of people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) is growing as some people acquire it as they get older. Map Design for the Color Vision Deficient provides a background to this issue and tools for selecting the colours when designing maps. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: The golden rule of map design states that one should carefully consider both a map’s purpose and its audience. Maps designed for the general public frequently fail to consider the portion of our population with color vision impairment or color vision deficiency (CVD), known more commonly as color blindness. Recent studies indicate that over 5% of our Caucasian male population are susceptible to congenital or inherited color vision deficiency. CVD also can be acquired from chemical exposure, injury, illness, medication, and aging. With the exception of aging, little or no data exists on the number of people impaired by any of these non-congenital causes. The predominant color impairment from congenital CVD is a red-green differentiation problem, whereas blue is considered universally recognizable by the congenital group. However, recent research has revealed that as many as 20% of those studied over the age of 72 suffer from a blue-yellow defect that increases with age to nearly 50% at age 90. This acquired blue-yellow defect also is the predominant CVD for those suffering from chemical exposure. This chapter examines the effects of CVD and attempts to illustrate the impact of color choices on visually impaired audiences. It shows that the acquired CVD population is growing and suggests colors and alternatives in map design to minimize that impact. Finally, it introduces several tools that may be used in selecting appropriate colors or used to evaluate color choices when designing maps.

Inclusive illustrations: What’s in a face?

Four male and female couples with different skin tones and face shapesIf there is no photo or graphic to go with a story, it’s often left to someone else to choose a picture. Often this is a stock photo that might not convey the intended message. Stock photos of older people are often patronising: young and old hands, or a young person looking lovingly at an older person. Similarly, stock photos of wheelchair users often use non-disabled models and not people with disability. So this is a timely article and guideline from an illustrator about how to add diversity to your brand whether an organisation, service or a product. The title of the article is, Your Face Here: Creating illustration guidelines for a more inclusive visual identity.

“Words can set the tone for a company, but it’s the pictures that give it a face. Illustration has yet to find its place in the tech world, because it’s often unconsidered and thrown in on the fly. Whether being used to distill complex messages or add a touch of whimsy, illustration is one piece that makes up a company’s visual brand identity.”  There are other interesting design articles on this blog site.

Also have a look at these stock photos of older people and see what you think.

UD in customer communication: A toolkit

Front cover of the toolkit.The “Universal Design for Customer Engagement Toolkit” is a good resource for getting the best results when communicating with customers. The toolkit is in four sections. It provides practical information on how to take a universal design approach to engaging more productively with all customers. The toolkit is on the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (Ireland) website. It includes video examples:

Note these PDF documents are large due to the number of informative graphics they contain.

What is design?

Diagram showing the four orders of design: symbols, products, interactions, systems.For most people the word “design” conjures up thoughts of creativity, products, architecture, graphics, or the way something looks or functions. When it comes to innovation it is more than this.  What do we mean by design? on the Design for Europe website discusses the concept of innovation. Design has moved from traditional artifacts to designing processes, and orchestrating experiences, and even transforming systems. Design is also about generating fit across different elements so that it solves a The "fit" triangle with problem, citizens, government making policy. problem, fits the user and fits the provider of the solution. Interesting article that lists four principles to help make things fit in the best way possible. Anyone who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations is a designer. Seems we are or have been a designer!  

Designing good mental health into banking

Looking upwards to the gable of a federation building with the name Bank on itAccording to an article by the Design Council, mental health conditions can have an impact on spending, something which banks and financial institutions often neglect. Zander Brade, Lead Product Designer at Monzo, talked to Design Council about the importance of design and innovation in implementing a broad range of features to help people with mental health conditions. Research has resulted in Monzo designing product features to help people with mental health conditions, including real-time balance updates and an option to block transactions relating to gambling. Zander believes that accessibility applies as much to mental health as physical health, and that embedding accessibility within their services will ultimately benefit all their customers.

Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsAs our world becomes increasingly digitised, it’s important to ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it seems that influencing designers’ actual practice remains challenging. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their design. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Washington used workshops and brainstorming with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. Their article, Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design, is lengthy because it includes quotes from workshop participants and is very thorough in its reporting. They conclude, “Accessible design is not an impossible challenge; instead, is within reach for professional designers, if given appropriate tools and resources. We offer Design for Social Accessibility as one such tool that designers can use to include disabled and non-disabled users and complex social and functional consideration toward accessible solutions. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude non-disabled people. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. Social accessibility relates to the social factors of using a device or product not just functional aspects.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social
factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.