Universal design is a common enough term, but what it actually means isn’t really top of mind. Thankfully, exploring that isn’t as tough as it seems. The term ‘universal’ may be all-encompassing but in this case, universal design has core principles.
Understanding Universal Design
As the name suggests, universal design is a strategy in design that ensures that whatever is being designed works across all possible audiences. When it comes to advertising and marketing, there’s usually a target audience, right? In those cases, everyone’s the target. This means that the design will be able to meet all needs, hence the term ‘universal.’ It aims to deliver a message that makes lives simpler through products that are both practical and convenient to access.
Universal design essentially levels out the playing field in order for digital and physical designs to be accessed by a wide variety of abilities, ages, nationalities and more. Your business will be more ethical since it will be evidently espousing diversity and inclusion. The best part is, while that happens, you will also have a wider audience in terms of marketing. Bottom line? More opportunities for a bigger profit.
Wheelchair-bound Ronald Mace promoted nascent-stage universal design during his days at North Carolina State University. He was the Center for Accessible Housing’s director at the time. At that point, he became known as the father of Universal Design. For him, it was crucial for environmental design to be more universal. There were issues with existing architecture that he found particularly concerning. Universal design being implemented meant it would be simpler for many people to go about their daily lives.
Ramps are an example of universal design. By eliminating the need for stairs to enter buildings, even people who struggled with walking or who couldn’t walk at all could go to and fro.
As previously mentioned, there’s no doubt in the ethics of universal design as a design practice. It creates a standard design with a wide reach since the aim isn’t particular one way or the other. “Normal” is redefined in the best possible ways in order to establish equality.
Examples of Universal Design in the Digital Space
Graphics – Whether it’s to accompany a post or an informational item in itself, these are very helpful
High contrast – Good for people with vision issues and people in bright areas
Minimal requests – Avoidance of time-consuming and/or tedious tasks such as long forms or creating an account before being able to access certain things
Resizing of text – Lets users make the text smaller or bigger as needed without issues on the app or website navigation
How Universal Design Differs from Barrier-Free and Inclusive Design
It should be noted that universal design does not equate to barrier-free or accessible design. Those differ from inclusive design as well. They are three separate things. Primarily, both accessible design and inclusive design still have a particular target audience.
Universal design is a concept that many people are familiar with by name, but not necessarily by meaning. It’s an ethical design practice meant to make things more accessible and convenient for all. For websites, this means high contrast, minimal requests and resizing of text.
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