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9 ways to add accessibility to your next project so you don't exclude anyone

The design process usually begins with consideration of an intended target market or group that the client is hoping to attract. What will grab their attention? How can the design prompt interaction or reinforce the brand message and personality?

Effective design elicits a reaction, prompts interaction or shares new information. The best projects seek to involve and include others

Yet when issues of accessibility aren’t considered during project development, great designs can also end up excluding others (albeit unintentionally).

You may be excluding more people than you thought

It’s estimated that up to 16% of the world population has a significant disability – a cognitive issue, physical handicap, blindness, hearing loss or other challenge that impacts their ability to communicate or interact with the rest of the world, including the displays and marketing materials found within every museum, retail or commercial space.

So what are some simple ways you can factor accessibility into your next design idea to expand the number of people you’re reaching? Remember that upping your accessibility can also benefit your entire audience. Making your materials easier to read and understand helps everyone. 

1.    Go bold – Softer colors may be beautiful, but bright colors may capture some people’s attention more quickly. They’re also easier for people with poor vision or some types of colorblindness to see.

2.    Up the contrast – Check how well your typeface or other crucial design elements separate from the background, especially in low light.

3.    Think bigger – As large-format printers, we naturally love giant design elements – but increasing the size and scope of your design can also be one of the simplest ways to engage people with attention deficit or vision issues.

4.    Forget fussy – It’s tempting to try some crazy typeface, but remember that simple typefaces are popular for a reason. Most are just easier to see and read, especially for many people with disabilities.

Wood texture created by layering ink using Touchstone technology

5.    Add texture – With today’s printing technology and fabrication techniques, there’s no need to think in 2-D. One of the most remarkable capabilities we offer is textured printing using Touchstone, which layers ink to create unique textures, low relief or metallic accents. Although expensive to use across an entire design, you can easily incorporate a few tactile elements into your project or exhibit. It’s a great way to highlight main points, elicit interaction and, most importantly, create a tangible point of connection with people who have vision issues or struggle with reading.  And as complex as Touchstone may seem, it’s actually quite simple to add dimension to any design with an easy-to-use Adobe Photoshop plug.

6.    Add directions – Consider adding some floor graphics to help everyone, but especially people with disabilities, find their way through your entire design installation. Adding numbers can also help people follow sequential information in the correct order, and color coding can used to organize content into easily digestible sections.

7.    Don’t forget to breathe – You already know that negative space is crucial for good design, but it can also help settle distracted minds and visually help a person through a display.

8.    Highlight the main points – We’ve become a society that communicates by bullet-points, but you need to extend this thinking to your graphics as well. Be sure that the top three elements of your design are quickly discernable to everyone (using color, size, dimension or other techniques).

9.    Use all five senses – This last point is important. You always worry about how your design looks, but don’t forget the other senses. While it might not be appropriate for every project, are there ways you can inject elements that impact sound, touch, smell and taste?  If there is, imagine how cool it could be for everyone.  

Are there other ideas you’ve used to make sure you’re intentionally including and involving as many people as possible? We’d love to hear what you did so others can learn from your experience!


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