The Joy of Universal Design

Good design. It wins over our hearts and turns good products into great products. But how do you elevate designs from good to great? An important thing to consider is inclusiveness. Great design considers the total environment in which experiences occur, and it offers intuitive, comfortable function with form.

Maybe you’ve seen powerful advertising before that lacked words. You may have seen that you can use headphones in a museum rather than read the placards, or noticed that some teachers, professors, and YouTube stars use visual aids when presenting content, to great effect.

Universal design is inclusive design that benefits everyone who interacts with a virtual or physical space, whether or not they have to contend with a physical and/or cognitive disability. Further examples include automatic doors that open not only for those who lack strength and motor function, but also for people carrying boxes or bags, or public buses with a low floor height that agrees with the elevation of a typical curb.

It used to be true that you had to pay a lot of money to enjoy great design, but increasingly it is quite attainable. To paraphrase the presenters of BBC Top Gear, in the past the most beautiful and well-designed automobiles were limited production and quite expensive, but increasingly some of the best-looking cars are mass-produced, and the beauty of great design extends to safety features, ergonomics, efficiency, computerization, and automation.

As technology and demographics evolve and shift, we need to look for ways to share great design with an increasingly broad group of users. In that way, we can all have experiences that allow for not just success, but even joy.

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