Are our designs leaving people behind?


Cecilia Sylvan Martin

Senior Director, London

This question keeps popping up lately. And it’s one we should all be asking ourselves more regularly as insights experts, specialising in design and innovation. Inclusive design is an important topic, but not always the easiest to tackle.

Source: Unsplash

One thing we’re focussing on here at TBP is how to make inclusivity more integrated into design development through our day-to-day research processes

In recent years, we’ve been investigating how we can include more diverse voices in our research. We have taken action to ensure our recruitment processes includes greater ethnic and gender diversity. With all of this is in its infancy, and we’re still learning. The biggest challenge by far is how to practically implement life-centred inclusive principles throughout the design research journey for all types of mainstream design. This means for research beyond a project specifically aimed at tackling an overt ‘inclusivity challenge’ (such as CRSF packaging). 

Source: LiveKindly

Designing for all: why is it so important?

To understand the importance of inclusivity in our research, let’s first look at product and packaging design holistically. Think about packaging like potato chip bags or plastic vacuum packs for meat. These can be fiddly (and not to mention annoying) to open, especially for people with limited dexterity or strength, such as the elderly or those who are differently abled. By not considering  these needs in the design process, we unintentionally exclude a significant portion of our society.

However, inclusive design is not just just about leaving people behind, it can have a benefit for everyone by making life easy and stress-free.

Originally designed for people with arthritis, OXO Good Grips kitchen tools feature comfortable, easy-to-grip handles, making them accessible for a wide range of users, including those with limited hand strength or dexterity. Who doesn’t want to find delight in peeling potatoes? 

Source: Chefs Corner Store

To uncover such pain points, how can we further evaluate our recruitment processes to include everyone?

To achieve exceptional design, we need to have deep empathy and understanding of the users we’re designing for. This involves building diverse design teams, simulating user experiences during prototyping phases, or bringing real-life behaviours into the heart of the design process to cater to a range of needs…with consumer research!

However, there’s often an inherent roadblock in our research process. Most projects tend to focus on a specific target audience, for efficiency and budget restrictions. For qualitative research, especially, we aim to recruit chatty, articulate, and creative participants as they’re helpful for creating design strategies. But this isn’t inclusive of introverted or neurodivergent individuals. Additionally, colorblind or visually impaired people are often left out, as they may find it challenging see the design stimulus. But with a significant number of people falling into these groups, designs coming out of research may not be truly inclusive. It’s time to change our processes, challenge sample specifications and build more representative briefs.

Source: Pexels

So, the big questions are: 

  • How can we, as an insight and design innovation industry, be more inclusive? 
  • How can we bring inclusivity into the mainstream and ensure that we’re designing for everyone, not just when prompted? 

Let’s continue the conversation on how we can strive for a more inclusive design approach!

If you’d like to get immersed in the dialogue, stay tuned for info on our Inclusive Design Forum. An event in May to discuss the issues facing our industry. Or reach out any time to continue the conversation.