Danish Design Ladder and universal design

Discussing universal design and inclusive practice helps individuals to understand the concept of inclusion. But it’s organisational culture where the change is needed. Everyone has to have the same universal design mindset. The Danish Design Ladder is one way to apply universal design to organisations.

The 6 steps of the Danish Design Ladder
Extended Danish Design Ladder

Design isn’t just for products and websites. Design thinking is also good for designing business strategies and operations. It shapes the brand and business concept. In short, it is good for business, as Matt Davies says. 

The Danish Design Ladder is useful for understanding the power of design within organisations. Universal design thinking comes onto the ladder at Rung 3 – Design as a Process. 

Rungs of the Danish Design Ladder

1 Non-Design:  Design is invisible, product development is done by untrained designers. The user or customer has no part in decisions.

2 Design as Styling:  After the product is developed it is given to a designer to make it look nice. 

3 Design as Process:  This is where design is not the result but a way of thinking. Customers are now the focus of the design process. 

4 Design as Strategy:  Design is embedded in the leadership team to shape the overall business.

5 Design as Systemic Change:  Design is a way of changing systems to solve complex social problems.

6 Design as Culture:  Design is a common mindset, as a way to innovate, a way to listen and and a way to lead. 

An article by Bryan Hoedemaeckers, Are you getting the most out of Design explains more on this. The Ladder is a good way of conceptualising how to weave universal design thinking into the fabric of organisations. 

The Brisbane Olympic Games are less than 10 years away. There is talk of wanting them to be the most accessible games ever. The top three rungs of the Ladder, universal design as strategy, change and culture, will be essential for this outcome. The Legacy Strategy moves to the 4th step of the ladder, but the strategy is about places and things, not culture change. 

Australian researchers used the Danish Design Ladder in an action research project. The title of their paper is, Climbing the Design Ladder; Step by step. The researchers discuss other intermediate “steps” for bringing about culture change. The article is open access. 

Advances in Design for Inclusion

Front cover of the publication.

This book covers several topics in design: universal design; design for all; digital inclusion; universal usability; and accessibility of technologies regardless of users’ age, financial situation, education, geographic location, culture and language.

It has a special focus on accessibility for people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, and visual impairments, ageing populations, and mobility for those with special physical needs.

The title of the book is Advances in Design for Inclusion. It is an academic text, published by Springer, from the proceedings of the International Conference on Design for Inclusion held in Washington DC in July 2019. 

The chapters are diverse and specific. For example, yacht design;  automated vending machines; prisons; parking meters; garden objects; housing; city maps, built environment and much more. Chapters can be purchased separately if you don’t have institutional access.  

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