How ‘the user’ frames what designers see

Front cover of book Anthropology in BusinessUniversality in design gets a mention in the Handbook of Anthropology in Business. Megan Neese’s chapter raises a good point about terminology in the business world. She says, “Marketing teams talk about consumers. Research teams talk about respondents. Engineering teams talk about targets. Designers talk about users. These terms tend to be used simultaneously and somewhat interchangeably in corporations…”. So finding common ground is not always easy when developing a product. Neese’s chapter discusses the many layers needed in any design, such as, culture, function, regulations, industry initiatives, and social trends. It is thoughtfully written and easy to read.

How “the User” Frames What Designers See: What Cultural Analysis Does to Change the Frame is in the Handbook of Anthropology in Business, 2016, and is also available from Google Books 

Design knows no bounds

Front cover of The Routledge Companion to Design StudiesPenelope Dean discusses how boundaries among various fields of design emerge, what they do, and how they behave, and then proceeds to argue that there are no real boundaries, only discipline based notions of boundaries. She takes six perspectives including, how they erupt from within, how they are extrapolated, and how they evolve from shared principles. She concludes by saying: “Design is no longer the sole property of disciplines or professions… [d]esign is now public domain appropriable by anyone.” She goes on to say that we all have the freedom to design and “rethink how we choose and designate new worlds.” Isn’t that what universal design is all about?

Penelope Dean’s chapter, Free for All, can be found in The Routledge Companion to Design Studies, edited by Penny Sparke and Fiona Fisher and available from Google Books. Also available from Amazon.

Part IV of the book includes chapters on socially inclusive design, and socially responsive design among others. You can download the Table of Contents from Amazon. 

Penelope Dean is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she teaches, theory, history and design, and serves as coordinator for the Masters of Arts in Design Criticism program. Her research and writings focus on contemporary architectural culture with a particular emphasis on recent exchanges between architecture and allied design fields.

Design details and everyday experiences

Title of the article in white text over an image of the top of an escalatorDeborah Beardslee takes the perspective of age and physical ability to analyse design processes to find out what includes and why, and what excludes and why. The article is thoughtfully presented, although the webpage is not a good example of universal design (it has small feint text), It should be of interest to design educators as well as practitioners. While quality and inclusiveness alongside ageing and disability are not new themes or challenges for designers, this paper focuses on examining everyday interactions with commonplace items.

As Assoc Prof  Beardslee notes, “Although many of the design decisions we encounter work reasonably well for most of us, there are many design solutions we interact with that aren’t high quality and don’t come close to performing as well as they could. We’re all familiar with some degree of compromised experience (i.e., hard-to-read instructions, doors that are difficult to open, places that are challenging to navigate, and generic or unappealing spaces).”

The title of the article is, Inclusive, High Quality Decisions? Macro/Micro Design Impacts within our Everyday Experiences, and was accessed from SEGD.org Universal Design webpage.

Inclusive Design Toolkit updates

inclusive design toolkitThe Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge (UK) has launched a new quarterly bulletin to complement the content of their Inclusive Design Toolkit. The Toolkit was originally devised for product manufacturers to better understand who they include and exclude from their designs. While the focus is on industrial design, there are lessons for designers across all disciplines. For example, the work on grasping hot cups can be applied to handles, hand held devices, touch screens, and taps, and the SEE-IT tool applies to every organisation with a webpage. This first issue has six items with links to appropriate pages:

  1. SEE-IT Tool for assessing visual exclusion for mobile friendly websites
  2. The passenger experience at Heathrow Airport
  3. Making e-commerce images fit for purpose – the Unilever experience
  4. Barclays Bank simulation equipment to help better design
  5. Opening food packaging
  6. 3D prototyping workshop from Include 2105 with a focus on gripping and holding hot drink cups

Colour combinations for everyone

tfnsw_portfoliophoto_03 This article from Japan came about from observations during a disaster situation – in this case the 2011 Tsunami. This short paper outlines research into colours and colour combinations that are easily seen and interpreted quickly by people who have one of the colour blindness conditions. 

A bright pink sign saying Wynyard and directions to the station.The results of this study and other colour studies are now reflected in the Japanese standards for the paint, printing and design industries. The colour scheme-set contains 20 colours and is divided into groups depending on whether things are small scale or large scale. Bright pink turned out to be a colour for large signage, so that might explain all the bright pink signs going up around the City of Sydney (or was it just a coincidence?)  For more on the colours go to the Open Journal of Social Science and download the five page article, “Color Barrier Free Displays in Disaster Situations”.

 

UD for packaging

This excellent slideshow from Thailand has some great ideas for easy to use packaging using the seven principles of universal design. In practical terms, it also shows how to apply the principles to design thinking across the seven principles. Very instructive and educational, particularly for people new to the concept.

Packaging design: no regard for dexterity and strength

tetra packLift that lid, unscrew that cap, pull that straw: the challenges of hospital food and beverage packaging for the older user.

Ergonomic researchers from the University of Wollongong  provide an overview of a presentation about packaged food, particularly in hospitals. Their study revealed some obvious results briefly presented below.

Packaged food and beverages are ubiquitous in food and drink provision in all aspects of life, including hospitals. Many people are frustrated by packaging and have issues opening it.  48% of inpatients in NSW were over the age of 65 years, while for the same time, they represented 14% of the total population.  This paper outlines a series of 3 studies undertaken with well people aged 65 years and over in NSW examining their interaction with routine hospital food and beverage items.  Both quantitative (strength, dexterity, time and number of attempts to open the pack; nutritional status and intake) and qualitative (ratings of ‘openability’) data were collected. The most ‘problematic’ items were – tetra packs, cheese portions, boxed cereals, fruit cups and water bottles. Most packs required greater dexterity than strength and some packs could not be opened at all (for example, 39% of subjects could not open the cheese portion in study 1).

The overarching message from this series of 3 studies is the need for manufacturers to design products incorporating the principles of both universal (Follette et al, 1998; Farage et al, 2012) and transgenerational (Pirkl, 1991) design in order to cater for the global rapidly ageing population and improve pack ‘openability’. Packaging has an important role to play in food provision and if well designed, assist older people remain independent and well nourished.

Product design case study

design society logoIntegration of UD principles into early phases of product design – a case study.

This article is from the Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 15) Vol 9: User-Centred Design, Design of Socio-Technical systems, Milan, Italy, 27-30.07.15  The full paper can be downloaded for a small fee.

Abstract: Universal design (UD) is a strategy for designing societal and individual living environments. We outline how its generic guidelines need more concretization to be applicable to product development processes. Although the value of UD is widely known, its potentials are often still left unused. This paper’s contribution is to bring UD theory into product development practice by extending the processes that are currently used. Therefore, an appropriate application scenario in mobility and daily needs is proposed. It is proven that this area affects a wide range of users with different requirements and thus has great value for UD. By using the example of a shopping aid, several approaches in creativity can be used in the early phases of product design. Two exemplary methodologies are presented to demonstrate UD integration. We outline that research success can be met in multiple ways. Among other things, we show the integration of UD into systematic product design and the controllability of its value in an ex-ante and accompanying way. Within this process, the holistic view of users will be extendable, e.g. taking sociological, psychological or cultural aspects into account.

UD, social sustainability and interior design

Applying Universal Design concept in interior design to reinforce the Social dimension of Sustainability

This paper provides an overview of universal design applications in interior design promising results for a better future for social sustainability. The way in which universal design is presented and discussed has a particular clarity. For example, 

“Accessible, adaptable, transgenerational, and universal design Universal design is always accessible, but because it integrates accessibility from the beginning of the design process, it is less likely to be noticeable. Universal design sometimes employs adaptable strategies for achieving customization, but it is best when all choices are presented equally. Some universal design is transgenerational, but the approach is inclusive of more than just age-related disabilities. Universal design is sometimes adaptable and sometimes transgenerational but always accessible. Universal design, adaptable design, and transgenerational design are all subsets of accessible design. Sometimes a design can be considered to be two of these subsets, and some designs are all three. Not all accessible design is universal. Universal design is the most inclusive and least stigmatizing of the three types of accessible design because it addresses all types of human variation and accessibility is integrated into design solutions.”

The conclusion of the paper is, “The students in all schools of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and urban design should become aware of the values, concepts and philosophy of universal design at every level of their education program, beginning from the early stages of design education to the graduate and also post-graduate level. Use techniques to create the understanding and demand of Universal Design concepts by educating the politicians of the need to create environments that encourage independence.”