Our partner agency Greenberry truly believes that organisations can help make the world around us a better place. Therefore, they offer their resources, expertise and creativity to work on projects that have genuine societal impact. Including making digital design accessible to everyone. By involving users throughout the design process, making it as inclusive as possible. But is it really possible to consider each and everyone when designing? Greenberry’s Startpunt Inclusief Design (Inclusive Design framework) offers tools and exercises that enable people to design for all.
Here we talk to Daniëlle Arets, one of the experts involved in developing and setting up the initiative. About what inclusive design means to her. Why it is important. And what the future will bring for inclusive design. Daniëlle is professor at the Fontys School of Journalism in Tilburg and researcher at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
What does your role as lecturer of Strategic Creativity at the Design Academy involve?
‘Our motto is “Thinking through making”. We discover by creating and testing. It’s a golden combination to make and reflect simultaneously. Therefore, we feel it’s important to involve designers right from the start.
We’ve been working together with the three universities of technology in Delft, Eindhoven and Twente since 2012. Combining the more abstract and theoretical thinking of these universities with the more practical approach of our designers at the Design Academy. Acquiring insights by being more user-centric. This way the role of a designer becomes more strategic, rather than being a product-designer only. Through this collaboration we bring responsible innovation: product design that is based on a need-to-have rather than a nice-to-have only. By becoming more human-centric.’
What is your definition of Inclusive Design?
‘For most government departments here in the Netherlands, Inclusive Design is now a legal obligation. However, how do you define and, therefore, practise Inclusive Design? I believe it’s more a way of thinking. Changing the culture within your organisation. A mindset shift. To look at different perspectives, and not to be locked up in your own culture. To be conscious of others, and starting conversations with them, in order to understand their challenges and needs. This way you can be as inclusive and, therefore, as accessible to everyone as possible.
In order to make this happen, you really need to want this to happen. A case of intrinsic motivation: of doing something without any obvious external rewards. Although, there is much to gain from being more inclusive. Just think of the large groups of people who currently can’t use your service or product because of a lack of accessibility.
Inclusivity is a beautiful goal, but difficult to execute. How do you include everyone? How do you create for as broad an audience as possible? By inviting, and considering everyone right from the start, including multi-ethnicity, gender, ability and literacy. That is a difficult task.
Therefore, Startpunt Inclusief Design can be a great help with this. It offers a way to reflect and think step by step about how to create inclusive products.’
What do you feel were the most important learnings from the first design sessions for Startpunt Inclusief Design?
‘As mentioned earlier on, it sounds easy, and it all makes sense, but where do you start? It’s actually very complex.
We started by making a checklist, including generic things like typography, colour and font size. However, we soon figured out that it isn’t that simple. That it all starts with your intentions, your way of thinking, your attitude. To not force the issue, but to make it an intrinsic part of your design process.
That we also need to continuously monitor the process, and subsequently make improvements. Have we considered everyone within this group? Who is actually interacting with our design. Be truly responsive to new insights and findings.’
What do you consider great examples of Inclusive Design? Of companies who are already making great steps towards everything we’ve discussed here?
‘Obviously I’m impressed by Greenberry. By putting this important topic on their agenda. But, more importantly, by their eagerness to practise what they preach. They have involved many of their clients in the development of their inclusive design toolkit. A smart way of spreading the word, and educating your clients at the same time.
I’d also like to mention the Amsterdam-London based service design agency STBY. The agency has a very multi-cultural staff, and they too have been promoting a more inclusive design agenda. Together with Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, they helped promote the Inclusive Technology Prize. An important award that should also be implemented in the Netherlands.
STBY is also part of the international network of design research agencies REACH. A network that aims to design for global audiences. To help recognise meaningful local differences and relevant global similarities.’
What does the future hold for Inclusive Design?
‘We owe it to ourselves, and to the world, to work towards a culture that is as inclusive as possible. To think further than specific target audiences. We are responsible for making it happen. To change our way of thinking.
Inclusive Design should become totally intrinsic to our way of thinking. So, it should no longer feel forced, instead it should feel logical. To co-create, to be user-centric, and part of our total strategy. We should always be conscious of our fellow citizens when making decisions, rather than making decisions based on assumptions.
So, the future is exciting. A future where not only individuals but also large corporations need to change their attitude, their way of thinking, their working culture. By making Inclusive Design part of their business strategy.
As the world is becoming smaller and smaller (through technology and travel), your reach is becoming bigger. If you want to be inclusive, and successful, you need to consider each individual. This will be beneficial to you, but, more importantly, to the world.’
Help Greenberry test their ‘Startpunt Inclusief Design’
If this rocks your boat, please send an email to email@example.com, subject: ‘I’m in!’. If you would like to receive a printed version of their Startpunt Inclusief Design, please include your address. However, if you work online, together with a team, you might prefer a digital version. Greenberry can share this with you through Miro. This way you can work together, interactively. You will also receive a quick explanation of how it all works, as well as a feedback-link. Also, if you are interested in receiving an English version of Startpunt Inclusief Design, please let Mariska know.