Inclusive Design Canvas for architectural design

Three men in hard hats stand on a building site looking at architectural design plans. It’s true that our built environments are becoming more accessible. Wheelchair users in particular are experiencing those improvements. However, design thinking is locked into “disability access” in building codes which remain focused on mobility impairments.  Consequently, architectural design practice hasn’t embraced the wider concept of inclusion for everyone. So, if we are serious about inclusion we need to embed inclusion into architectural design education. 

Matteo Zallio carried out a study to find out what inclusive design can bring to the building industry. He reports on his findings and presents some strategies for future-proofing buildings. One of these is the Inclusive Design Canvas. 

Zallio set out to identify the challenges in the design process and to test attitudes to inclusive practice. One of his findings was that education about inclusion should start in primary school and be woven into all courses throughout school and university. 

User Journey

Mapping the user journey is key and that means designing from the inside out.  That is, think about who will be using the building before beginning the design process. Consider features that influence how brains and bodies interact, connect the senses and cognitive perception. Once again, designing inclusively begins at the very early stages of the design process. To help with this, Zallio devised the Inclusive Design Canvas.

The Inclusive Design Canvas

Zallio proposes a strategic design template to help professionals with the inclusive design process. There are three elements: User journey; User capabilities; and User needs. Within each of these are physical, sensory and cognitive conditions. The chart below is available for downloaded separately

The three elements of the Inclusive Design Canvas for architectural design.

Concluding remarks

To design inclusively, we need inclusive design education, use of appropriate terminology, and create diverse teams with knowledge of inclusive design. Maintaining inclusive features across the life of the building is also key. The Inclusive Design Canvas maps the user journey to consider the diversity of users. Post-occupancy evaluation will also inform future designs. 

Key points in the article

    • Inclusive Design is still not widely adopted in architectural design practice.
    • Building inclusively should embrace inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.
    • Education is key to help foster inclusion in architectural design practice.
    • User journey mapping can improve the Inclusive Design process.
    • Post-occupancy user feedback can help architects to better design for inclusion.

The title of the article is, Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility in the built environment: A study of architectural design practice. This research paper has more than the usual text about the issues of implementation. It provides in-depth understanding of the practical barriers and a tool to help practitioners and educators. 

Matteo Zallio did the research and John Clarkson supervised the study. They are both part of the Inclusive Design Team at the University of Cambridge. Previous work has focused on product design and the highly regarded Inclusive Design Toolkit