Cognition and inclusive design

An older man sits with his back to the camera in a cafePractitioners and researchers are seeking more solutions for people with sensory and cognitive impairments, particularly dementia. But our building standards are silent on this growing issue. The value of designing an age-friendly environment is discussed in an article by Hadjri, Afacan, and Gadakari. As with all universal design features, the authors argue inclusion needs to be embedded in the early stages of design. See the abstract below for more on the content.

Front cover of the bookIt is good to see the topic nestling between chapters on passive design and energy efficiency. The chapter “Inclusive Design” unexpectedly appears in ZEMCH: Toward the Delivery of Zero Energy Mass Custom Homes, and is available from SpringerLink and ResearchGate.

Abstract: This chapter will explain and discuss the principles, role and importance of Inclusive Design particularly in the context of an ageing society. It will review the changing and complex user needs and requirements through case studies and current work of leading organizations. Current standards used in the UK and elsewhere will be reviewed to establish whether they need to take into account sensory and cognitive impairments into consideration. So far, these have not been fully accepted by industry and practice and more needs to be done by policy makers. Findings of recent research on users’ needs and requirements will be reviewed to highlight the needs for more inclusivity in the design of the built environment. Additionally, barrier-free design and Inclusive Design will be further examined to assess the use of technology in embedding accessibility during the design stage. This chapter will allow students, lecturers and designers to understand the value and purpose of Inclusive Design and its potential to provide an accessible and age-friendly built environment.

You will need institutional access for a free read, otherwise purchase the chapter. You can also try ResearchGate to ask for a free read. 

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.

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.

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.”

Speechless – a talking glove

Lorm HandThis YouTube video shows a wonderful new invention. It is a glove that “talks”. While it is specialised design and not universal design, it reminds us how deaf blind people can extend their ability to participate in everyday activities if and when the rest of the world is designed to include everyone. The video has closed captioning in English.

Libraries for all types of reader

Overhead view of library shelvesThe National Library Board of Singapore is embracing new ways of reading, learning and creating knowledge. Their aim in revamping their libraries is to be inclusive of learning styles as well as being physically accessible.  The title of the article is, Every Reader a Library, Every Library its Reader: Designing Responsive Libraries for Our Communities. 

The article includes a case study with illustrations of the re-modelling of an existing library.

UD and 40 Principles of TRIZ

Masterclass How to solve your technical problems using TRIZ ...A short paper by Kalevi Rantanen shows how to combine the principles of universal design and design-for-all with the 40 principles of TRIZ. It gives another perspective on how to apply the principles of universal design in a problem solving context.

The title of the paper is,Homes for Strong Families, Children, Seniors and All Others. How Universal Design, Design for All and Forty Principles of TRIZ Enforce Each Other”. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”.

The 40 Principles of TRIZ are a list of simple, and easy to learn rules for solving technical and non-technical problems quickly and simply. Studying these existing solutions can inspire people to solve new problems and imagine innovative solutions. They show how and where others have successfully eliminated contradictions. They take us to the proven, powerful recorded solutions contained in the patent database. These 40 Inventive Principles help solve both technical and non-technical problems.