Practicing Inclusive Design – Designing For The Invisible

Session Title

Practicing Inclusive Design – Designing For The Invisible


Madlene Lahtivuori, Magnus Gyllenswärd

Session Type: Presentation

From the 1960′s the Inclusive Design area in Sweden has been mostly about physical ergonomics and products. This is an area where Ergonomidesign has played a significant role in developing innovative design for everyday life. Today, with the world evolving and expanding, the area of inclusive design is adapting to also include the cognitive, emotional and socio-cultural aspects. This means that in addition to physical products, services and digital interfaces are also taken into consideration. Inclusive design is moving towards becoming more visible from having been a relatively invisible area.

An inclusive design approach means studying and understanding the different soci-cultural, emotional, cognitive as well as physical factors that affect how people use products and services. Designing products and services with an inclusive approach is key for increasing the individual’s participation in society and everyday life and requires including specific vulnerable groups into the design process. Just as people have different physical capabilities they also have different emotional, social and cognitive capabilities that are invisible to others. It is a part of who we are and need to be considered when designing. Certain groups are at higher risk of unequal access to opportunities: unemployed, old people, ethnic minorities, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, are examples of vulnerable groups. We call them extreme users since they truly challenge the designers in their work.

Working with extreme users and difficult to solve problems challenges creativity and provides a strong foundation for innovation. Including extreme users does provide better products and inclusive design is about creating innovation for all people and designing for equal opportunities. It also provides great insight for us to use in other projects, even if the inclusive approach is not expressed. At Ergonomidesign we are working hands on with applied inclusive design. The user centred approach runs through the whole company and we also have a strong interdisciplinary inclusive design team to stay informed.

Ergonomidesign has developed a range of Inclusive home electronics for Doro, a leading small, but global, Swedish consumer electronics company. This range, Doro Care Electronics, is designed specifically for seniors with mild to severe impaired hearing, vision, mobility, dexterity or cognition. The philosophy of Doro Care is to empower people to continue doing the things they have always enjoyed doing. Doro mobile phones are created with the philosophy that a mobile phone should be easy enough for anyone to use and still be good-looking. In the presentation, we will talk about our experiences from designing Doro’s 2nd generation GSM phones, a project executed during winter/spring 2009. We had the opportunity to work with both physical and digital interaction design, graphic design as well as the physical industrial design of the product. Successfully developing products specifically for people with mild or severe impairments means applying best practice from many different areas. It requires knowing how and where to use advanced technology without making things too complicated. But it’s also about creating physical and digital designs that put the user’s needs before all else, without giving up on aesthetic considerations.

This presentation will address the What, How and Why of an inclusive design approach.
* What do we mean when we talk about an inclusive design approach?
* Why do we practice inclusive design and how does it benefit our clients?
* How do we practice inclusive design?

We will address the Doro case as an example. Some topics discussed:
* Focus group discussions with seniors and user testing
* Challenges with working in an interdisciplinary team with both digital and physical user interface
* Designing for inclusion, especially seniors
* Negotiating with Chinese electronics suppliers when you’re a small series buyer


Madlene Lahtivuori
Interaction Design MA, Industrial Design BA

Madlene’s interest lies in combining her interaction and industrial design background in the development of new product interfaces and interaction styles. She is passionate about understanding the user and has a strong interest in applied design research. She is a member of the Inclusive Design Team at Ergonomidesign, constantly aiming to explore new methods and areas. Over the last 4 years she has worked as project leader and team member in a number of projects within different industries such as medical equipment, learning technologies, financial services and sports. Her competence includes user research, scenario ideation, conceptual design, graphic design, software-hardware integration and tangible user interface design.

Magnus Gyllenswärd
Interaction Design MA

Magnus has a genuine interest in innovative design and experience from critical design and conceptual projects at the Interactive Institute as well as GUI and UI design. He often works in close collaboration with software and hardware developers to take interfaces and products from first idea to deliverables for the implementation. He has a lot of experience in the field of software prototyping and sketching and his areas of work range from home appliances and visualization tools for energy consumption to interfaces for sports equipment and the medical industry.


  1. Amy
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Interesting idea for a presentation. I like the concept of inclusive design.

  2. Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I would love to learn about your inclusive design process and methodologies for “extreme users”.

    At our meetups in the Toronto UX community we have had some discussions about the idea of designing for “edge cases” — users and scenarios that fall outside of the mainstream (or “extreme users” in your vocabulary) — making designs for everyone better.

    If you do travel to Savannah, I would appreciate it if you could bring samples of the Doro phones you plan to discuss.

    Capturing knowledge and transmitting it is always a challenge because we often aren’t given time in a project plan to do so in a formal way. How do you apply insights from one project to others? Do you plan to include this in your presentation?