LESSON 7: BEAUTIFUL, USABLE DESIGN FOR ALL
Lesson 6 offers a bunch of Beautiful Universal Designs that we're sure you artists and fashionistas (of either gender) will appreciate as more than “just pretty faces.” Museums and exhibits are first, since they're likely places to find beautiful objects. Next, beautiful universal design competition winners and attractive, user-friendly consumer products. We’ll wrap up the lesson up with aesthetically pleasing universal packaging, pus some COOL learning activities.
Your mission: After a gorgeous cruise through Lesson 6, you'll be able to:
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS BEAUTY (besides being in the eyes of its beholders)? n. An aesthetic or philosophical principle; a pleasing quality associated with harmony of form or color, excellence of craftsmanship, truthfulness, originality… Its most comprehensive synonym and adjective, “Beautiful,” applies to what stirs a heightened response of the senses and of the mind on its highest level (American Heritage Dictionary).
OFF TO THE UNIVERSAL MUSEUM!
American cultural organizations such as public museums, concert halls, theaters, libraries, and conference centers, today address inclusivity goals. Their collections, performances, programs, and services need to touch the lives of NOT just the majority of people who have NO long-term functional limitations.
Without access, the 15% of the U. S. population that has physical or mental disabilities is SHUT OUT OF MOST public cultural events. When you add their friends and family who attend concerts or the theater with them, the percentage--AND the potential number of tickets sold—at least doubles (30% of Americans).
Universal Design goes BEYOND meeting minimum access requirements to the design of programs and physical facilities that are USABLE by the broadest public audience. An “accommodation” that assists one person with a disability to experience beauty (in a different way) may ALSO be a value- added convenience for the vast majority of NON-disabled people (National Endowments for the Arts, Humanities, 2003). Let’s look at MUSEUM access efforts first.
Unlimited by Design Exhibit
During the 90s, the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City presented the first U. S. Universal Design exhibit: Unlimited by Design (UBD). Nearly 10 years later, the IDEA Center at the University of Buffalo (NY) re-created that display as a traveling exhibit, shown first at the Buffalo Art Gallery, then in Milwaukee at the Institute of Art and Design.
A list of products from the UBD exhibit may tempt you to see/k more. Visually-appealing kitchen tools by Oxo Good Grips have large, soft handles that are easy to use, even with arthritic hands. Fiskars' ergonomic garden tools fit both young AND old hands. Displays of adjustable faucets, lever handles, tiltable mirrors, and user-friendly small appliances allow people to try before they buy.
The UBD also includes universal products for the home office and workplace: computer work stations and fully-adjustable ergonomic chairs. Two full-size prototypes offer viewers new ideas: The Whirlpool Family Studio (home laundry/activity center) and the IDEA Center's award-winning universal bathroom prototype.
The UBD exhibit also uses several communication methods so everyone has a chance to discover which products work best for them. The UBD display is online for virtual tours, so CLICK HERE to see what we're talking about....and more!
'AccessAbility' at Boston Children's Museum
The Boston Children's Museum (BCM) pioneered the interactive display concept (Look, touch & learn!) now used at museums worldwide. Its 2004 'accessAbility' exhibit promoted an understanding of the uniqueness of each person and acceptance of differences in ability. At the same time, its interactivity encouraged positive communication and behavior during early childhood development.
Working with the IDEA Center staff, the BCM staff chose age-appropriate universally-designed examples for pre-schoolers. The result was a variety of UD products and adaptive technologies displayed in FUN, educational environments. The children could try out wheelchair and adaptive video bike obstacle courses and enjoy a solution-and-invention station.
International Exhibit Designs
Images from three museums in the United Kingdom, France, and Colombia, South America are included in the Universal Design Exemplars CDROM (2000). Since ALL three exhibits met ALL seven UD Principles, you'll really want to check them out!
From Great Britain, the Dorcas Project, an orientation and information station, makes places of cultural interest accessible to people who have sensory OR mobility limits. Located in the entryway of a famous cathedral, the chair-accessible console includes a touchable model and map of the building, switches to highlight key points, and an audiotape guide. Together, they make up a 'greeting machine' for EVERYONE who visits there, regardless of ability to walk, see, or hear.
The Beaux Arts Museum (France) and the National Museum of Colombia also provide self-help tools so that people with low vision can explore their collections. Raised line drawings, maps, and a raised-rail wayfinding system with tactile (raised letters or Braille) and audial signals help people with visual limits to 'see' the art and artifacts with their hands and ears.
BEAUTIFUL, UNIVERSAL ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGNS
The Universal Design Exemplars CDROM offers 32 design projects selected by nine expert jurors from 90+ entries submitted by designers around the world. Its images and text allow users to explore projects from several disciplines: Exhibit, Industrial, and Interior Design, Architecture, and Landscape Architecture. In addition to text descriptions, the CD also includes a large matrix that describes and compares the UD Principles that each example meets.
Universal Parks and Playgrounds
Rinku Park, a huge-scale demonstration of the beauty in nature, serves as a symbolic image for a new town in southwestern Japan (and meets all 7 UD Principles). Its focal point, the Fountain of Four Seasons, is in its own wading pond that allows people of all ages to splash while safely viewing the ocean. Decorative iron fence that separates the walkway from the crashing waves is easy to see through, but climbing over OR between its bars is IMPOSSIBLE.
On a mostly-level inner-city site, the Graniteville playground offers many different ways to get on the equipment and use the ramps and “suspension bridges.” The hip roofs scattered throughout provide both shade AND level resting places. The side-by-side slides allow children to pair up and cooperate to make their own FUN!
In Osaka, Japan, the result of moving a small garden for the blind to a larger, more central area, the Sensory Gardens are definitely NOT just for people with disabilities. Now, EVERYONE can enjoy accessible, informational pathways, benches with armrests, and out-of-traffic space for strollers and mobility aids. Raised gardens with retaining wall “perches” are filled with bright flowers in contrasting colors. Up-close, “touchy-feely” sculptures and orientation boards provide necessary sensory cues.
WOW!! At the edge of a pond, the Sensory Gardens have box seats with three sides SURROUNDED BY WATER! The pathway gradually slopes down so people with wheelchairs and scooters can enter the boxes and EXPERIENCE running their hands through the water. Frail older adults can touch and smell the aquatic plants without stooping or kneeling! Fun for EVERYONE!
Universal, Life-long Housing
The most universal architectural examples are two Senior housing developments from Japan and a new Main Building at the Millay Colony for the Arts in New York state. Following them are two UD-Principled kitchens by Interior Designers.
Sekisui House, Ltd. was the first Japanese housing manufacturer to market single-family housing with UD features. Their Shougai Juutaku (Life-long House) adjusts for typical age-related changes in movement and mobility. An invisible lift recessed into the entryway floor replaces the traditional step. Optional add-on units are available for a (great) grandparent or an adult (‘Boomerang’)child returning to the nest.
In northern Japan, where the proportion of older people is highest, the Chuo Silver Zone Complex combines housing, support services, and medical facilities with a community-wide recreation center. Fully-enclosed from cold weather, the town layout separates pedestrian and auto traffic and has short walking distances dotted frequently with benches for resting.
The rec center's huge swimming pool has several “invisible” ways for low mobility people and wheelchairs to enter the water. The children's facilities promote inter-generational sharing within the center.
Until their universally-designed Main Building was built, the Millay Colony for the Arts (on the estate of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in upstate New York) was INaccessible to artists with mobility limits. The zero-step Center has administrative offices, shared dining/social areas, a library, and two one-level living areas with studios. Also, the surrounding grounds are now accessible by BOTH artists and visitors.
The General Electric Home Living Center, a flexible, full-size exhibit built for an early 2000 national homebuilders' show, meets all seven UD Principles. Its kitchen area markets a height-adjustable sink along with standard, mid-price appliances and cabinetry successfully as a smart choice for today's diverse families and lifestyles.
The secondary cook/bake center that shares space with a home computer received the most positive responses from the homebuilders. The designer noted that the majority of viewers’ compliments centered on the kitchen’s FLEXIBILITY for different FUNCTIONS.
The Macdonald House/Cridge Centre in western Canada, has a renovated teaching and demonstration kitchen that includes UD assist features for ten residents who have brain injuries and physical, sensory, or cognitive limits. In the simple but highly functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen, two residents using chairs, plus an ambulatory cook/supervisor, prepare each meal together.
ATTRACTIVE, UNIVERSAL CONSUMER PRODUCTS
Among the thousands of products that people use, the fraction that is universally-designed is small, BUT GROWING! During the Nineties, the Center for Universal Design began researching how American companies applied the UD Principles to their business practices. Further study of 38 UD business applications resulted in a book of 14 case studies, including the Ford Focus, KB Toys, and Oxo Good Grips (CUD, 1999). Starting with a Focus, our bumper-to-bumper Industrial and Product Design exemplars are as beautiful as they are universal.
FOCUS ON A FORD!
The Ford Focus has won awards every year since its 2000 debut. For example, one of Car and Driver's 10 Best for five years; and the 2003 Polk Automotive Loyalty Award for highest percentage of REPEAT buyers of any small car. Kiplinger's rated the 2004 Focus ZX3 as First in Safety for cars under $17,000. For 2005, Ford's designers refined the Focus both inside and out. Their “sport wagons,” in particular, present smaller, more fuel-efficient choices than gas-guzzling SUVs.
To better understand older drivers and passengers, Focus designers wore Ford's Third Age Suit that simulates age-related limits such as arthritis. Check out these human-factored results: Focus' tiltable, telescoping steering column adapts to drivers' heights. All driver's seats recline, move back and forth, and are height-adjustable to grow—just like teenagers!
The 2005 Focus Personal Safety System has lowered anchors and tethers for children, 3-point lap shoulder safety belts, childproof rear side door locks, and an interior trunk/deck lid release. Its new occupant classification system (OCS) uses sensors to determine whether OR NOT to activate the front passenger air bag by measuring safety belt tension and passenger weight to detect the size, then choose the best level of protection. Passenger bags also have DEactivation switches for use with child seats. Optional SIDE IMPACT air bags further protect front seat folks' heads and chests.
Standard security features include a passive anti-theft system that prevents starting the engine WITHOUT a key coded for that car, PLUS a remote keyless, illuminated entry. An optional perimeter alarm system monitors the doors, hood, and deck lid against tampering. Suppose it would stop vandals from “keying” YOUR Focus?
The upgraded Focus has one of the LARGEST small car interiors, seating five comfortably. Split-fold rear seat backs with flip-up seats allow the spacious trunk to grow to fit more cargo, and the wide deck lid opening makes for easy loading and closing. Sweet new interior storage features are armrest and overhead stowage, front door map and bottle holders, and CD storage to curb the dreaded CAR CLUTTER.
Buyers of the Convenience Package get speed and audio controls mounted on the steering column (no driving off the road while re-e-e-aching to RAISE THE VOLUME!). The Focus Weather Package features heated front seats and mirrors!
Finally, the Focus is quieter inside so drivers can HEAR their carpool mates--unless the new audiophile system is ON HIGH! About the CD player's audio and speed-sensitive volume control, their commercial says, “Plant your hands at 10 and 2, turn up the tunes and watch the tach soar.”
CLICK HERE so YOU can decide whether this year’s Focus is STILL excellent Eye Candy, but don’t get lost in Ford’s HUGE site. And be sure to return to your UD lessons!
Ford's Model U Concept Car: Building on the heritage of their Model T, Ford unveiled its Model U in 2003. By going from completely closed (like an SUV) to completely open (like a pickup truck), it offers different driving experiences in one vehicle. Manufactured using safe and sustainable processes and materials, it runs on clean, renewable hydrogen fuel. Model U is a long way from mass production, but a fascinating concept!
UD EXAMPLES FROM INDUSTRIAL DESIGN
Back to the UD Exemplars, the two consumer products that met the most UD Principles are the Appollon lamp and a prototype residential Video Entry System.
The Appollon lamp is designed to simulate the natural changes of sunlight. You may adjust the position, color, and intensity of the light source to select the character of light desired for a given situation.
The Aiphone Video Entry System is a working prototype for an entry intercom that has audio, video, and tactile features to provide safety, security, and convenience, especially for people who live alone. A station in a building's entry connects to a master station in the resident's apartment so s/he can identify the visitor shown on the screen.When a caller pushes the entry button, the master station alerts the resident via a chime, voice, flashing light, or image. Options for residents who are asleep or hearing-impaired include vibrating pendants or wristbands and a doll that lights up and moves. If residents can't get to the screen quickly or easily, the system can send a “wait a moment” message to the caller.
THAT'S A WRAP! ...UNIVERSALLY-DESIGNED PACKAGING
The Universal Package Conference held at Michigan State University's School of Packaging in 2004, was a first for the industry. Consumers now insist that pharmaceutical, personal care, food, beverage, and other packages must be VERY usable.
Not just a pretty package...the designer's job is to create a wrapping or container that protects products during shipping, prevents them from being opened and stolen in the store, and is inexpensive to manufacture. The BIG challenge is to balance the needs for pilfer- and child-resistance against the rising need among older adults for easy-to-open containers.
Packaging that saves time, thinking, and work, thus making life easier is IN DEMAND! Although universal improvements may just add CONVENIENCE for the healthy consumer, they are ESSENTIAL for some Seniors and people with disabilities to complete their daily activities safely and independently.
Universal packages also respond to “wrap rage”--the way people react after spending ten minutes using hands and teeth to wrestle a new purchase out of its package. The more that hard plastic clear packaging is used, the more likely consumers are to use scissors, knives, or other pointed objects. With such “weapons,” the potential for cuts, sprains, and emergency room visits rises SHARPLY!
One new, human-factored package is a paint can with a carrying handle and an easy twist-open and pour spout. The spout allows the user to control the amount poured; and a drain-back feature allows paint to drip back into the container instead of on you OR the floor. The new container is easy to reseal—NO hammer required.
Another innovation is a universally-designed, recyclable plastic coffee canister in three convenient sizes. Traditional coffee cans require a can opener, and removing their raw-edged metal lids can be dangerous. The new container has a built-in handle so it needn't be cradled like a baby or a football. Just pop open the top, peel back the seal, scoop out the coffee, burp, and reseal.
The first coffee canisters came in red and green—a boon for holiday crafters--but not for the 2005 Yule, UNLESS folks saved them before Hurricane Katrina hit. The good news is that Folger’s Coffee employees were among the first to be able to return to work in New Orleans. The bad news: until the plastic canister-making facilities are repaired or replaced, devotees of their Mountain Grown coffee must return to the ole tin can!
Speakers at the Universal Packaging conference demonstrated the interdisciplinary nature of the packaging specialization within Industrial and Product Design. They were experts in biomechanics; cognition and perception in aging; consumer trends; AND Universal Design. To see a video clip on 'wrap rage' with an interview of the president of a package design company, CLICK HERE
LESSON 7 LEARNING ACTIVITY CHOICES