Design for Humanity: People and Planet

A silhouette of a person with arms outstretched around a globe of a mosaic of faces representing people of the world.Is the quest for inclusive design so difficult that we need so many different terms? Are new-fangled methodologies improving the situation if the aims are the same? Many different ways of promoting the process of designing inclusively is surely confusing everyone. Enter “Humanity-Centred Design”. This one is a bit different because it’s about the planet as well as people.

Many of our current and future designs will be inhabited by upcoming generations whose consumption patterns will have different values. According to an article from the UK designers need to embody the values of inclusion, ethics, empathy and cooperation. Designs will need to be meaningful to appeal to upcoming generations. Hence the proposition of a new paradigm or model – Humanity-Centred Design. 

The title of the article is, Humanity-Centred Design – Defining the Emerging Paradigm in Design Education and Practice

The Sustainable Development Goals also embody similar values and these are gaining traction in many fields of work.

The chart below is from the paper and shows the evolution from functional approach to a people focused approach to design.

A circular chart showing progression from function focused in the 1940s to humanity focused in the 2030s.

ABSTRACT: Product Design has been defined by several different paradigms as it has evolved to meet the needs and desires of people and in as new ways for companies to market products to consumers. As the needs and desires of people are now increasingly met by products at all price points in consumer societies companies need to embrace a new paradigm which will enable them to differentiate their products from the competition. In addition to the need for a new differentiation strategy for marketing purposes, people are also increasingly aware of both the limited and depleting natural resources of the planet and the prevalence of inequality and poverty present in the world.

A paradigm is emerging which enables companies to address all the above simultaneously. This paradigm and approach to designing products is referred to here as ‘Humanity-Centred Design’ in intentional reference to the ‘User-Centred Design’ and ‘Human-Centred Design’ methodologies which have been used by designers for the last 25 years. In this emerging paradigm there is a greater focus on designing products which are not only sustainable, but also actively contribute to the alleviation of poverty in all forms and promote human development and wellbeing worldwide, treating humanity as one global society. This paradigm is being taught to students of Product Design at Buckinghamshire New University to ensure that they are prepared to design products for the newest and future generations and the greatest proportion of consumers.

Sustainability and Diversity: The role of UD

Two men in hard hats are installing solar panels.Author and architect Vlad Thiery, says the common view of sustainability is mostly related to energy and resource saving, and reducing emissions. Followers of UD have already made links with environmental sustainability and diversity. But it is good to see there are architects willing to put the challenge to colleagues who are yet to embrace the ideas.

In his article Thiery charts the history of UD and then lists the beneficiaries of UD, not just accessibility. In his conclusions Thiery says, “By understanding the actual users and by paying attention to the demographic trends, designers can provide an answer to the needs and aspirations of the contemporary world as well as the generations to come.” He notes that students are still being taught to think about design with an anonymous archetypal user in mind, which doesn’t cater for the actual diversity of the population.

The title of the article is, Universal Design as a Key Feature of the Sustainable Development, and it was published in International Workshop in Architecture and Urban Planning (2015).

The Property Council of Australia has a policy on social sustainability.  The UN Sustainable Development Goals also include universal design and inclusion.


As sustainable development is a process that looks towards the future and the next generations, building for the days to come is, obviously, an important part of it. Thus, universal design with its user centered approach is an appropriate way of shaping the built environment to answer both the contemporary need for diversity and the future changes related to demographic trends. The paper starts from the definition of sustainable development focusing on its goal on meeting human needs and aspiration and is looking at universal design as the proper approach for building an inclusive environment usable by all. The review of the definitions of universal design is followed by a brief presentation of the origins and evolution of the idea and an introduction of similar concepts like Design for All and Inclusive Design. The research then focuses on the beneficiaries of universal design to demonstrate its concern towards a wide range of users and ends with an insight into some demographic trends to be included in designing tomorrow’s built environments.