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.”


Ideas for re-modelling from USA

Be the Solution: A universal design primer.

kitchen with skylight above“The most attractive designs seamlessly integrate spatial relationships with built-in features and extend the same mindful attention used with interior layouts to the design of the site, building envelope, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. For example, a ramp added to an older house facilitates entry but may also broadcast the residents’ vulnerability. A better solution consists of gently grading the site to an entry landing flush with floor level.

This article by Debra Pierce in Remodeling includes an interesting idea for an alternative to grab bars around the toilet that might suit some people who really do not want grab bars.  See also Invisia bathroom products for more ideas.


UD and graphic identity: a research method

Alex Bitterman and Beth Tauke undertook a world-wide survey in 2007 in an effort to establish a universal design icon that could be used and interpreted regardless of language or culture. Australia was included in their original research. The process they used is documented in a more recent publication by Alex Bitterman arguing that this method could be applied to the development and design of places, spaces, services and products. Download Alex’s paper here.

Abstract: Data, both qualitative and quantitative, which represents the physical, cognitive and situational abilities of the global population are inconsistent and are not centrally collected by any one international source. Moreover, the definition of ‘disability’ is relative and is linked uniquely to culture. This fluidity makes difficult the standardization of a definitive definition of disability, problematic to quantify and the goal of universal design elusive. Some statistical estimates place the number of disabled persons between 20 and 60 per cent of the world population, the normalization and aggregation of disability statistics remains a low priority for most international governing bodies and this gap in knowledge impacts the ability of designers to adequately consider the needs and abilities of all users when designing places, spaces, products, services and systems. This research note puts forth one potential testing model for systems of visual communication and information-based graphics and graphic systems for a universal design identity system as well as a discussion of the results from the first use of this testing model.


Fast Food Restaurants and Universal Design

The IDeA Center at Buffalo, New York has produced a series of videos explaining their research using real participants in real situations.  This one describes the experiences of a range of people undertaking nine regular tasks in four different restaurants.  The video is open captioned.