Let’s Design For Everyone

Branding, Design 101, Design World, Events, Social Media, UX August 10th 2017

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Earlier this week I posted a video from TED. The video featured Sinéad Burke, and was titled ‘Why Design Should Include Everyone’ .

( you can watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sinead_burke_why_design_should_include_everyone )

I try to watch at least one TED video a week to expand my horizons and get new perspectives. Learn about products and phycology and a whole range of other fascinating topics. But as a designer, this one stood out like it was under a spotlight in a dark room. This video talks about how often in design, we do not design with everyone in mind. We might think we have an amazing product or idea but we get so engrossed in that small second of beauty that we forget to think about anyone else. We get so attached on the idea that we forget what it is really for. essentially, as a designer you should know, if you are designing something, that someone else is going to use, and it cannot be used, or can be but not easily, you didn’t do your job correctly.



Now what if we are designing with others in mind? What if we have thought about the user, and decided that this product will fit everyones needs. How true is that? So you designed a desk that goes up and down for everyones hight. But how low does it go? How high does it go? Will it really accommodate the tallest NBA players, and the shortest people with Achondroplasia? Will it comfortably fit a wheel chair? Is the button to move the table easy enough to press for someone with parkinson or muscular dystrophy? The question really is: did you really design for everyone?


In Sinéad’s TED Talk, she goes on to say how difficult it is as a little person, when things are designed to help some people but not others. She talks about her day to day struggles and how it can make someone as fiercely independent as herself feel excluded and embarrassed. She highlights that this is in fact a design flaw. A design challenge that we are currently not thinking about. We are so busy thinking about one or two check boxes that we are not looking at the bigger picture. In a world of diversity, we are not checking enough boxes when creating a product.



Now, there are many forms of design. Sinéad touched on environmental design, furniture design and architecture. But there is no reason not to expand these important thoughts and ideas into all parts of the design world. For example, User Experience design. When you design an app or a website for someone you tend to think of some design basics; design mobile first, keep with brand, make the experience easy and flow naturally. Do you ever stop to think about how it will read to a blind person with a screen reader? When you are making tiny buttons do you think about how hard they might be to click on if your fingers are not the size of a 5 year olds? When you are making cool graphics that are flying all over the screen as an introduction to your website, are you thinking of people with epilepsy? When you are placing buttons on the page in lots of colors are you testing if they are ADA approved for people with visibility trouble?  And on that note, if you are a brand designer, are you thinking about the colors you are choosing beyond color phycology? Will any of these colors be able to be readable on a screen? Will they be ADA approved? Will your UX designers come back to you and say none of the brand colors can be used on the website?


This might feel like a hindrance. It might feel like we are checking too many boxes. It might feel like too many extra steps. It might feel like its too much to bother with. But put yourself in their shoes. You cannot have a good user experience if you cannot  see the buttons. Think of it as a design challenge. We are all smart designers, to design for everyone should be something we can easily accomplish with a little more thought. And when you think about these issues, in reality it might just be a simple fix. A little change and you have a whole group of the population feeling included and comfortable with your design. You will be shaking your head in the end saying, “It wasn’t that hard, why didn’t we do this sooner?”



Sinéad talked about her experience at coffee shops. Not being able to be seen by the baristas and then having dangerous experiences grabbing her coffee off the high stand. Why couldn’t this be a user experience challenge and an environmental design challenge? For instance, Starbucks has an app where you can order ahead of time and pick up your drink when you get there. What if Starbucks had an option in the app where you could select where you would like to pick up your drink when you get there? Let’s say three options; normal counter, handicap counter, and have the barista meet you at the side of the bar.  That would solve both of Sinéad’s problems and make her feel more comfortable. She wold be able to order her coffee without having to be over looked by the barista behind the register and, she would be able to choose to pick up her coffee on the side of the bar so she wouldn’t have to have a dangerous lawsuit inflicting experience trying to grab her coffee from the counter. An easy fix. Something easily implemented. Something that might already be around if we were thinking more about designing for everyone.


It wasn’t that hard, why didn’t we do this sooner.



I urge you all to watch Sinéad’s TED Talk and really stop to think when you are designing. In reality we are not designing for other designers. We are not designing for the awards. We are designing for people. Everyday people. We are trying to make their lives easier. So there should be no reason for us to be lazy designers and ignore flaws in design that are easily fixable with a little more thought. Our job is to make lives easier. If we are not checking every box we didn’t do our job correctly. And that is nothing to be proud of. So I urge all the designers out there to challenge design. Take this challenge to heart. Let’s design for everyone.


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