Universal Design – design for all

Diversity as an advantage

It wasn’t so long ago that the world was more homogeneous than today. Role models were set in stone, such as the image of the family that called for a housewife, a husband working full time and children. A lack of affordable travel opportunities meant that nationalities were much less inter-mixed, and people who were different were often made fun of and excluded from society. It didn’t really matter whether this ‘being different’ stemmed from a physical or intellectual disability or simply from an alternative attitude to life, e.g. a vegetarian’s decision not to eat meat.

Times have changed since then, with patchwork families considered just as normal as same-sex couples or the traditional family. Alternative concepts for employment are increasingly creating new paths for employees and employers, and now we can travel the whole world and immerse ourselves in vastly different cultures for not very much money. Being different has become diversity, and this is finally coming to be understood as an advantage. That’s because everything that is different brings with it new impetus and insights, thus opening up new opportunities and chances for development. However, this only works if everyone is truly given the same opportunities.

Diversity as a challenge for design

Giving vastly different individuals the same opportunities is, however, much easier said than done. At the end of the day it means that the same conditions have to be created for very different requirements.

Take for example the use of technical devices: Young people who have grown up around smartphones and the internet are often easily able to find their way around new technical devices thanks to their vast experience with modern technology. Older people, who did not grow up with this knowledge, often struggle more in this situation. What goes without saying for one person is a real challenge for another. The remit of Universal Design here is to design functions and devices such that they are virtually self-explanatory and can be used independently of any prior knowledge.

Another aspect that has to be considered is of a physical nature. This aspect considers the question of whether a design concept also functions for people with physical disabilities for example. This is because the overarching objective of Universal Design is to create designs that overcome limitations and differences. Universal Design should be accessible to everyone: from the very young to the very old, from physically healthy people to those who are vulnerable or have physical disabilities. It should no longer matter for the usability of the design whether someone is left-handed or right-handed and whether or not they have a lot of previous knowledge. Only then can design be truly universal in use and break new ground.

Applicability of Universal Design

Universal Design itself is versatile in its use: From interior design, urban planning and software design to technical devices or product development generally, contemporary design sets itself the goal of being universally valid and intuitively usable.

Red Dot 21 also features numerous products that meet the criteria of Universal Design and have won the sought-after Red Dot for that among other reasons. Immerse yourself in the world of award-winning design and see for yourself that design quality makes the major difference that renders differences perceived to be troublesome suddenly irrelevant.


Posted on 11.04.2016

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