V.Ryan © 2017


During the development of a product, designers often face difficult decisions. Sometimes design decisions lead to a product being targeted at a specific group of users, rather than a wider range. For example, until recent decades, buildings were not constructed for ease of access by wheelchair users. The same can be said about public buses and even parks and local amenities. Today this is not the case, as buildings are now designed with wheelchair users in mind, with ramps, disabled WCs and lifts.

Definition: An inclusive design, is one that allows maximum use, by the widest range of people, without the need to adapt or add accessories.

A good example of an inclusive design is a table that can be adjusted to a variety of heights. It allows people of different heights, including wheelchair users, to use it effectively. People can decide whether to stand or sit at the table.

Designing a product so that it can be used by a wide variety of groups, often leads to higher volumes of sales. This may not be the case for a product that is aimed at a specific target group. However, the difficulty lies in designing a product that appeals to a wide range of people, as well as it working effectively across all users.

COST - The client base, is sometimes influenced by the cost of the product. If a quality product is manufactured efficiently, with costs and profits kept to the minimum, the product will probably attract a wider range of potential clients. This is in contrast to an expensive product, that can only be purchased by people with a well paid job/career.
Scenario: A well known manufacturer develops the latest version of their smart phone. Over the years, they have created a ‘brand’, selling millions of earlier versions of their phone, around the world. The up-to-date phone has new features and is advertised as the ultimate smart phone. It is sold at a premium price, to ‘loyal’ customers, who can afford the hundreds of pounds/dollars required to own it. This is sometimes called ‘product exclusivity’. It is not an example of inclusive design.


ANTHROPOMETRICS AND ERGONOMICS: Often, good inclusive product design, is based on detailed research into anthropometric data and then applying that data at the design stage. This can lead to a wider range of potential customers.

A good example of this is seem below. Compared to a standard gardening trowel, this gardening tool can be used by a wide range of people, including the elderly and those suffering from arthritis of the hands and fingers.

The ‘flexible forearm’ has been designed to give additional support, as well as fitting a large range of sizes of forearm. The ergonomic grip makes it easier to hold the tool effectively, even when the user has weakened hands. Also, the tool is interchangeable, so that a trowel or fork or other attachment can be fitted. This is a cost effective feature, allowing the product to be available to people with slightly different needs and economic situations.