Design is everywhere! It’s in the ads on our phones, on the package of salami you pick up in the grocery store, on the board game instructions you read off to your friends on a Friday night, and it’s even considered in the layout of your favorite local coffee shop.
Clearly, design is an important part of our everyday lives. But what about it makes it so essential? If you ask our Creative Team here at JP, they’d say…
However, I believe the key to a successful design is effectively communicating a message to as many people as possible. What I am referring to is accessibility. Accessibility in design seems simple until one considers that not everyone speaks the same languages or communicates in the same forms. Just like each designer has their own style, individuals in a target audience have their own unique interpretation on the receiving end of the work. At the end of the day, the world is full of people, and no two are the same. Therefore, we must consider accessibility as an integral part of our design.
Setting the Standard
While we see different approaches to accessibility all around us, from the sidewalks to the bathroom stalls, it was often overlooked in terms of digital content. That was until 2010. Enter: The Standards for Accessible Design. Stemming from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Standards were first implemented in 1991 and later updated in 2010. The update required businesses and organizations to make digital content as accessible as their buildings and offices.
Making A Mark on Marketing
As a designer and video editor at JP, these standards play a major role in my everyday work for our clients. Some of the most common examples include:
- Creating digital content that works with screen readers for the visually impaired.
- Editing videos to have subtitles, so those with hearing loss can understand what is being said.
- Comparing color combinations and hues to work for those with color blindness.
- Editing in audio descriptions to narrate things happening on-screen for those who are visually impaired.
Before our team designs any digital content, like websites or downloadable PDF files, we always discuss with our clients how they’d like us to approach ADA compliance. Then, whether it’s a public service announcement or highlighting a new product or service, we design materials that everyone has the chance to enjoy.
However, we’re always searching for ways to improve our practices. In doing so, I observed a shift in the gaming industry. I noticed a trend pushing the boundaries of accessibility in video game design. In an effort by developers to become more inclusive to all gamers, they’re going beyond the captions and color settings. Instead, they’ve recently added new setting options to turn off features, like blood or violence, to appeal to a younger audience. It’s a change that goes beyond disability but pushes diversity in its target audience.
While these examples describe solutions for niche audiences, the moral of the story is that good design can help achieve accessibility for everyone. Just the right font and color can mean the difference in something as simple as buying a product or as important as someone choosing to reach out for help.
For many of us who have never dealt with communication barriers, it’s easy to overlook something as small as an audio description or caption. But, for others, those small things add up to make a huge difference. When we merge the guidelines of accessibility with the principles of design, we produce effective communication. That, to me, is a win-win!
Josh Durham, Technical Director