How to be (more) inclusive by design

Chris Lueb

Reading time
3 min read

Nov 27, 2021

“A world made better by design.” If you’re familiar with Koos you’ve probably heard this line before – it’s what gets us up in the morning and a big part of it is designing for each and all since how we encounter the designed world depends on our widely varying backgrounds, identities and circumstances. Moreover, to ensure that the products and services we design are as inclusive as possible we cannot let it be an afterthought and have to incorporate it into our entire design process.

A world made better by design implies designing for each and all

How we approached this

Since becoming more inclusive by design seemed pretty daunting, we followed the Awareness Acceptance Action model to help us along this journey. The model consists of three parts: awareness, acceptance and action. To kick-off the first part (awareness) we began discussing what we mean by inclusion.

The more we dove into the topic, the more complex the topic became. Since inclusion intersects with, and interrelates to, many other topics such as diversity, equality and equity. As a result, we didn’t come up with just one, but with several definitions. 

Next, we compiled these definitions into an inclusive design dictionary. “But the definitions are too long,” some Koosjes said so we converted the definitions into inclusive design principles. “And dictionaries are pretty boring,” other Koosjes said so we came up with party analogies and added some illustrations ultimately turning the original dictionary into a Koos comic.

An illustration of an invitation to an Inclusive Party by Koos Service Design

Koos Inclusive Party Comic

A comic by Koos about a party that illustrates humility, diversity, equality, equity, inclusion, accessibility and sustainability.

Humility is about acknowleding that your perception of a perfect party might be different than your guests'.
Diversity is about everyone coming to the party.
Equality is about pouring everyone the same punch.
Equity is about offering everyone the drink they want or need.
Inclusion is about ensuring everyone is enjoying the party.
Accessibility is about ensuring that everyone is able to go to the bathroom.
Sustainability is about ensuring that the party doesn't cause any hangovers.

Having increased our awareness about designing inclusively, we gradually moved on to the second part (acceptance) which includes addressing a pretty large elephant in the room: Koos is definitely not the most diverse organisation in terms of our background. Moreover, we need to accept the fact that it’s very difficult to actually design for all but we can try and as designers we have a lot of skills and tools to do so. 

As designers we have the skills and the tools to be more inclusive

Which leads us to the third part of our journey: action. So far, we’re especially proud of the work we did with the Municipality of Amsterdam, helping them define a compass to serve all of their citizens online. As well as Cordaan, with whom we created animations about swallowing difficulties for people who don’t fully understand complex medical terms or the Dutch language. Soon, we’ll be turning the learnings from our projects into Service Design & User Experience checklists, complementing our inclusive design principles and making them more actionable. 

Of course, there’s still a lot of other work to be done which is going to go hand in hand with continuously discussing what inclusion means and accepting our shortcomings. Want to join us in our continuous and ongoing journey to being (more) inclusive by design? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

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