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Accessibility In Design - 22 May 2020

| Written by Laura Sanderson

Our Creative Designer, Laura, shares why designing in a way that is inclusive of users needs is significant to create quality and more improved experiences.

Accessibility in design wasn’t something that even crossed my mind until I joined the Wrapped Team. I remember having one project in a previous job where I was told to not put orange on blue, but I didn’t fully understand why and it was never fully explained to me. And yet it is a huge factor that we, as designers and as an industry, should be leading on.

In a nutshell, accessibility in design means designing for all; for those with or without disability, be that a visual or other impairment. How many times have you been on a website and been met with a video explaining what the company does? Now imagine being a Deaf or hearing impaired person, who has to scroll around trying to enable subtitles (if that functionality is even there), so that they can experience the design and retrieve the information you need. This is one scenario where accessibility in design should and must be considered.

Accessibility covers a whole host of things and whilst still on my own journey in learning about it, here are a few things I’ve learnt. I certainly don’t profess to know it all.

All Capitals – people struggle to read all capitals (all caps), with the exception of acronyms. This is why the NHS will never put anything out in all caps. If you try it out, YOU’LL REALISE THAT YOU TOO, IN FACT, EVEN WITH OR WITHOUT A DISABILITY, READ SLOWER WHEN SOMETHING IS IN ALL CAPS. Although I don’t know the full science behind this, I know that by using all caps, you lose the contrast in shape and definition between letters, making it harder to process the message.

Colours – according to Colour Blind Awareness, one in 12 men are colour blind, while one in 200 women also suffer. Although colour blindness takes many different forms, it often results in difficulty seeing red, blue and green. So, imagine you’ve got a really striking message in green, on a blue background… 1 in 12 men aren’t going to see that message. In fact, many of those 1 in 12 will just see a block of the same colour.

Crucially, depending on what you are designing and who your target demographic is, this could have catastrophic consequences to the results of the design and, in turn, the ROI clients will see.

Other examples include white text on yellow: a no-no. Low contrast colours fall into the same no-no category: the list is long. I’d advise any designer to look into colour blindness and see how people experience different colours, as well as accessibility as a whole.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for all caps and everything else mentioned. Rules are there to be broken: I’m not about to go and tell Heinz that their logo isn’t inclusive! However, it is key that we, as designers, are taught and understand these fundamentals, so that we can design more effectively and produce work that achieves its desired impact.

Another scenario: a request to design a brochure for a new retirement village, with a target audience of those over 60 years. Would you know the ideal point size to use for the copy? This is where design goes past just making something look shit hot and enviable (which, I admit, often goes against our creativity as designers and can be a little soul-destroying). It’s where research becomes important, in finding and truly understanding your target audience and how to design for them.

There are some great posters on the gov.uk website that I recommend everyone reads.

It’s key to remember that as a designer, not every piece of work you turn out can tear up the rule book. You sometimes need to write, develop or answer a brief, to create added value to a piece of work. Can your work be functional and sexy? Isn’t that the proof of a truly creative designer?

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