What is inclusive design?

Author: Michał Knapik

What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design is all about accessibility. Learn its principles if you care about effective brand communications and positioning and if you want to overcome the problem of exclusion in your company’s voice. Start right now.

Before we dive into the topic, we first need to ask another important question – what is the meaning of inclusion? Inclusion means using practices of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as members of different minority groups. As many brands are incorporating the DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) practices into their main business strategies, the topic of inclusive design and communication becomes more and more relevant. From the branding perspective, it means companies should care about the experiences and welcome everyone from not only the client base, but also employees, stakeholders, and business partners.

Why is inclusion important?

The inclusion approach allows us to build the so-called synergy effect. Its goal is to boost creativity and see things outside of the box while providing an opportunity for a better experience. When we feel like a part of something, we are naturally more dedicated to it. As for the brand, it also builds positive associations with products or solutions, many times on the subconscious level. It should not only be a business-related case. Our universal goal is to build the global brand community to become more inclusive. However, the profits for the companies and brands, in this case, are undeniable.

What is inclusive design?

In simple words, we can describe the design as inclusive when the final product or message we deliver is accessible to everyone and doesn’t exclude anyone. To make it happen, we need to focus not only on representation, but most of all take into consideration the full message that can be seen by a third person. On top of that, there are also technical aspects. The design shouldn’t be only nice-looking or in a good taste according to general standards and brand guidelines. To make design inclusive, it should allow any viewer to feel like a part of the community. For example, recently during the webinar, we shared tips on how to design for people with hearing impairment. Inclusion matters, because it brings everyone together, creates a safe space for people. At the end of the day, it is they who create the true brand experience and culture.

What to remember when designing for accessibility

As always in the case of topics related to D&I, there are many layers to inclusive design. It can be based on a simple idea of considering common characteristics. They should appeal to everyone (so not excluding anyone in the message), but not only. It’s also crucial to remember that only several groups can view unique aspects and read the message. For example, using the image of an underrepresented group is a great way of including them in the whole experience. On the other hand, when we build the story on stereotypes, the negative bias can affect the viewers. It can set a completely different tone of the information from the one that we wanted to show.

From the technical point of view, it’s important to have brand assets and materials accessible to everyone. No matter the scope of abilities or limitations. Ignoring that may result in accidentally excluding anyone who is not able to, for example, see, hear, or move in the same way as the majority of the targeted audience. When we sum up the numbers, this shows a large group that is simply not able to access what we want to offer or communicate.

What are the inclusive design examples?

Many designs that we see every day are already inclusive. We can find the best examples of inclusive design easily in advertising and marketing, but also in product design and user experience. The most important to remember is to use the visible color palette in the right contrast. In advertising, it’s good to show people of different characteristics using a product that we want to sell. Also, it can be a landing page or a website that is well-designed, and accessible for everyone (including people with limited sight or blind). To make our design more inclusive and accessible we can add captions. They are allowing deaf people experience the full context of the video. Look around, those examples of good and inclusive design are right under our noses – but still, there should and can be more. The first step is to remember to follow or just consider a few inclusive design principles.

inclusive design

What are the inclusive design principles?

It’s all about taking a wider perspective and allowing oneself to learn a different view from others. The first steps may not be easy, but with time it becomes more and more natural. You’ll see, it’s a great benefit to both the brand and the audience. It comes easily when the organization is integrating the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion values in their culture. When we are truly committed to developing this approach in our organization, the brand and our services will later naturally become more inclusive.

As for the inclusive design principles, it can be a long list. It might be related to many different aspects or experiences of diverse groups and cultures. Let’s focus on the main ones. Firstly on the technical aspects – like the accessibility of the design. And secondly, on how being aware of the final message can be set up at the stage of idea creation.

The most common principles of inclusive design

Accessibility tools

The best example is Adobe Acrobat, which allows you to check the accessibility of the PDF. The designers at Admind are already familiar with such a solution. They use it to generate the report to check and enhance the design based on the results. This way it’s easier to make the documents accessible for everyone. For example, proper styling of the document in InDesign is crucial for the Screen Reader to work. It helps any person with limited or no sight to access the message. But it’s not only the Adobe tools. Microsoft Office programs also allow you to check the accessibility of prepared materials. You can simply click the button available in the bottom bar of the up-to-date PowerPoint to see if the design of your slides matches the standards of accessibility.

Simple inclusive design tricks

If you are not sure how to create the inclusive design, or if the final effect will be accessible to everyone, follow the simple tricks that can be easily applied. This can be using the good contrast of colors to enhance the visibility of text. For example, a light grey box with white text is a bad idea. Another one could be providing captions to the videos with sound or double-checking the wording and formatting of the text. You need to make sure the message can be clearly understood and doesn’t relate to language-specific idioms or inner-circle jokes. At the end check if the pictures used in the assets show people from different backgrounds and of different characteristics and don’t use negative bias or stereotypes.

Representation

No matter what anyone says, this one matters a lot everywhere. Same as our favorite movies or TV shows showing different types of people and groups to relate to the audience. It’s not a matter of political correctness but telling a full, compelling story. You can do it by showing the diversity of our society and the world around us. A simple picture of women with different body types and ethnicity using a popular cosmetic product can send a true, but still inspiring message. In the end, it’s not only available for supermodels but any person who wants to use it. The same goes for any picture used in a PPT presentation or on a poster. Change the perspective to see if this sends a good message and is not based on popular oversimplification.

Inclusive language

Our language is the most powerful tool in communication. Even the simplest mistake can set a different tone to the message and become an exclusive practice. Inclusive language shows that we are aware of (and value) the differences we have. It helps to create a safe and open environment, strictly associated with the brand. How to achieve that? Use gender-neutral language. Like saying “they” instead of “he/she”, or universal phrases (no idioms). It’s good to use Person-First Language – describing, but not labeling. But don’t stop there. Be ready to ask and do the research if you are not sure how to address some topics.

Diversity in the design process

Bringing more diverse talents and skills at the stage of idea-sharing, brainstorming, and creative work can help us achieve more inclusive design results. Also having many points of view and learning about context from other people. Also having many points of view and learning about context from other people help us to see what is important to have (or to avoid) for a given audience.

How to promote DE&I practices within the company

It’s also very important to stay consistent within our brand messages and practices. Several design teams at Admind support our clients with projects related to DE&I campaigns and actions. This includes enhancing assets that build related communication within organizations. E.g. like diversity and inclusion Powerpoint presentations used in the onboarding process or as a toolkit for employees. Those files and graphic materials should be the first inclusive design example that comes to one’s mind. Even if they are used only internally. It’s important to have those documents accessible for everyone. Create them based on the main principles (like proper representation or inclusive language). Then set the right tone by showing why inclusion matters in the brand strategy.

If you want to find out more about how inclusive design works in practice and specific examples, make sure to contact Admind for more info. We will be happy to support you with advice and expertise. D&I approach is built into our values but also used in our projects on daily basis.

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