Open Sesame! Packaging made easy

Exploded view of the package and all its partsIn marketing terms, the packaging is part of the product. The package shape, colour and brand are important in enticing consumers to buy. But all too often we have to get a sharp knife, a pair of scissors and wrestle with the packaging in order to get to the product inside. Microsoft has come up with a nice solution to packaging their Xbox Adaptive Controller – a gamepad for people who might not have use of their limbs. Good thinking – no good having a nicely designed accessible product that you can’t get out of the box! The video below shows the simple but effective design. There is another video on the FastCompany website or see the engadget website. Package designers take note. 

The title of the article is How Microsoft fixed the worst thing about product packaging.

 

Graphic Design Everyone Can Enjoy

Front cover of the handbook. Bright yellow with black text.An excellent resource from Ontario, Canada on accessible graphic design. It’s everything you wanted to know but didn’t know how to ask. Graphic design covers creative design, visual communications, applied design and technology sectors. So the guide covers typography, digital media, web accessibility, Office documents, accessible PDFs, print design, environmental graphic design, colour selection and more. It’s written for an easy read and has a logical structure. At the end is a list of publications, links to websites and tools to help. 

There are so many little things that graphic designers can do to make their creations more accessible. The guide unpacks them to show it can be done with little, if any, extra effort. The title of the guide is, AccessAbility 2: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design.  

 

Co-design with older adults

A creative workshop scene. A woman is holding a pair of scissors, another is holding a pen over paper.Finding out what older people might want and need in their daily living experiences takes more than just asking them, especially if they have a cognitive impairment. A recent study found that using creative methods, such as drawing and creating models, older people can express their needs in a tactile format. This also creates rapport with designers who can then devise better mobility, dining and leisure activities. This method is enjoyable for all participants.

The title of the article is, Participatory Design with Older Adults: Exploring the Latent Needs of Young-Old and Middle-Old in Daily Living Using a Universal Design Approach. You will need institutional access for a free read. Published by SpringerLink.

Abstract: In 2017, global population aged 60 years or over reached nearly 963 million, becoming twice the figure recorded in 1980. Not surprisingly ageing population will continue to accelerate due to continuing decline in fertility and improvement in survival in major diseases. When people who are suffered from cognitive or physical impairment, they often feel alone and experience different degrees of social loneliness. This paper discusses co-design experiences with various stakeholders to explore latent needs of older persons in their daily living using a universal design approach. Through iterative use of creative methods, freehand sketching and physical models, older adults can express their needs in a more accurate, tactile format. Findings reveal that commonality of interest among older persons are important in building rapport among other participants. It also helps designers develop assistive design related to health care, mobility, dining and leisure activities involving older persons, benefiting society as a whole.

Designing for Diversity

A mosaic of many different faces and nationalitiesDan Jenkins says that inclusive design is often confused with designing for people with disability. It is true that inclusive design, or universal design, is not just about disability. But it should also include people with disability. After all, it is about designing for as many people as possible. Dan Jenkins makes an important point in his article – the number of excluded people is often underestimated and capability is frequently thought of in terms of “can do” and “can’t do”. However, this black and white approach doesn’t cater for those who “can do a bit” or “could do more” if the design was tweaked.

Editor’s comment: Many have written on this topic, but it is good to keep the conversation going. I hope his ideas do actually include people with disability and older people. “Diversity” is often thought of in terms of ethnic and gender diversity. If not careful, this can exclude a much wider range of people, including children, older people, and people with health conditions. 

It would be a pity if “universal design” were to be interpreted as “disability design” and “inclusive design” as designing for non-disabled groups of people. Disability covers all ethnic and gender groups as well. Dan Jenkins is based in the UK where the term “inclusive design” is used more than “universal design”. 

Sunday Designers: Can they really design?

A decorative design that looks like a fish and flowers.What makes a talented designer? This question was put to Yasushi Kusume, Innovation and Creative Manager at IKEA. The answers are not new – get a good team of designers together from a range of disciplines and keep people at the centre of the design.
The article on the Design Council website looks at this and the question of “Sunday Designers”. This is what they call the DIY movement in Japan. The article also discusses the move towards making design a step by step process. Design is not a step by step process – often called “design thinking”. One step by step process does not fit all.

“In today’s business world, knowledgeable, skilled and talented designers are valued less than the actual process steps defined by ‘design thinking’. The perception is that those steps are more important than the competencies involved. In ‘The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd’ Lee Vinsel, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “In the end, design thinking isn’t about design. It’s not about the liberal arts. It’s not about innovation in any meaningful sense. It’s certainly not about “social innovation” if that means significant social change. It’s about commercialisation.”  

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.

Colour Kindness

A group of people standing holding a pink banner with the words You are Not Alone, but you can't see the word NOT because it is in pale red and blends into the background colourIt’s one thing to talk about colour blindness, but it is quite another to see what it looks like to the 6-10 percent of the population that have colour vision deficiency. Axess Lab has produced an excellent set of successes and failures using real life examples of colours used by web designers. These examples provide really good guidance for anyone involved in web content and design, as well as printed material. The blog page has links to more information. There is a nice pic of what a football field looks like to someone who can’t see red and green – so it’s not all about the web – it’s all around us as the picture shows. If you want to see more on this topic see ColourBlindAwareness Twitter feed. 

The banner in the picture shown should read You Are Not Alone, instead it looks like, You Are Alone.

Sensory furniture for kids

Agirl sits on a bean bag style chair. Next to her is a desk and chair. The chair is designed to rock.Children with heightened sensory perception are at the centre of a new range of furniture and clothing by Target. They are designed to feel as if they are giving a little “hug”. Target has put a lot of research and investment into these products. It’s in keeping with their attempts at inclusive design, or designing for “fringe users”. Of course, these products can be appreciated by all children, but the research is saying that some children appreciate the sensory appeal more than others. The title of the article on FastCo website is, “Target’s newest furniture is for kids with sensory sensitivity“. The article shows a desk chair designed to rock, a foam crash pad, weighted blankets, and more. Not sure if these products are, or will be, available in Australia. But an  interesting read from a design point of view.

Diversity, inclusion and wearables

An Apple watch is sitting across an Apple iPhone on a desktop.Clothing and fashion tastes vary from person to person, so it should be assumed that no two people will have the same taste in wearables. A study of women’s preferences and concerns about wearables found that in terms of aesthetics, they needed to have elements of personalisation to suit different situations and style. This is a case where one size does not fit all. Some were happy with brightly coloured and conspicuous wearables, while others preferred muted tones. Early commercialisation brought about large, ugly, clunky and very masculine-looking wearables that didn’t take off well in the market. So it is good to see some research on this aspect.

According to the research, important factors in wearables are the social and cultural connocations, how they portray women and whether women are ready to accept the attention these devices might bring. Privacy is another concern in terms of what these devices might give away through sharing information via social media. Of course, including a broad range of users in the design development is essential for success.

The title of the article is Diversity and Inclusivity in the Age of Wearables: A Buzzword, a Myth, an Uncertain Reality.  This is an open access publication that discusses how we use technology to empower individuals and improve our way of living in the world, particularly from the perspective of women.

Ikea add-ons for usability

A chart of the 13 different addons that Ikea has devised.Ikea is well know for its sleek designs, low profile furniture and hand-less drawers. So universal design has yet to hit their design studios. However, Ikea is compensating by trying its hand at accessibility with add-ons for their most popular furniture pieces. They’ve called them ThisAbles. However, you will need access to a 3D printer if you want one or more of these. A total of 13 designs are available. They include items like the EasyHandle, a big, Rubbermaid-looking grip that can be added to the seamless door of a Pax shelf, and the Glass Bumper, a plastic pad that protects the bottom of a glass-doored Billy bookcase from the bump of a wheelchair. The FastCo website has more on this plus the instructive video also shown below.

Editor’s Note: I wonder when they will wake up that many of these add-ons should be designed more aesthetically and included within the product for the convenience of everyone. My personal favourite is the handle for the shower curtain. The title of “ThisAbles” indicates that it is specialised design and not universal design. Any name or title with “Able” emphasised with a captial letter indicates “designed for people with disability” rather than for everyone.