Exploring inclusive design in digital publishing

This spring term, our Graphic Communication finalists collaborated with Oxford University Press (OUP) on a digital brief for their Oxford Reading Buddies platform. Students taking our new Advanced Typography optional module were asked to redesign OUP’s Invasive Species title for young readers. OUP’s brief emphasised accessibility requirements and our students were able to really engage with a range of inclusive design considerations.

The contents section of Laura's ebook. Illustrated leaves are encroaching on the title 'Invasive Species' to give a sense of the theme of the book. At the bottom of the screen is a menu with thumbnails of the different sections of the book to help readers choose what they would like to read.

An extract from Laura Marshall’s response to the brief Oxford University Press gave our students to redesign their Invasive Species print title as an interactive ebook. 

Students were expected to develop visual solutions that would meet web accessibility guidelines (especially in terms of legibility and colour combinations) and come up with a typographic system that would correspond with OUP’s font progression guidelines. In addition to working towards compliance with accessibility requirements, students also considered ways in which their designs could really engaging with supporting different learning styles and other user needs.

Part 3 student, Laura Marshall says:

“This project allowed me to explore the challenges of the evolving publishing industry, and apply this in the ideation and design of an interactive eBook, in a way that actively supported my approach. As someone who feels more comfortable designing printed documents, entering the world of digital has allowed me to explore new ways to engage with readers and support design for reading. These included supporting a range of different learning styles to make the learning experience more accessible, as well as gamification experiences such as quizzes which test the reader’s retention. Working closely with Oxford University Press has cemented my passion for the world of publishing, in particular, children’s book design, and I feel that this project has provided me with a relevant and unique portfolio piece.”

OUP’s Head of Design, Primary Product and Schools Marketing, Michelle Campbell and Head of UX/UI Design, Seb Burgess joined us for the project briefing and the very impressive student presentations at the end of the project. Students on this module also enjoyed a mid-project field trip to OUP, which gave them an opportunity for one-to-one feedback from the OUP team and insight into what a career in a publishing life might entail.

Michelle said: “It was a pleasure to work with such talented young people… It was great to see that everyone now has something they can be proud of in their portfolios.”

Seb added: “We were completely bowled over by the standard of the presentations. Really sense that the class have embraced the multi-faceted design thinking that goes into digital service design.”

Working on a digital brief for young readers gave our students an opportunity to apply what they learnt in their inclusive design workshops last year. It was incredibly valuable for them to realise that accessibility is a key consideration for publishers like OUP. The brief enabled students to bring together their typographic, visualisation and interactive skills in a way that really embraced the user-centred design for reading thinking that underpins our programmes.

The Department of Typography & Graphic Communication has run an undergraduate project with OUP every year for the past six years and we were delighted to be able to extend this to a second, digital project this year. This collaboration is beneficial for both the Department and OUP and it’s fantastic to see it evolving in new directions.

Typography student and Reading Braillists collaborate on user-centred inclusive design research

On Saturday the 8thof December, Laura Marshall, one of our Part 3 BA Graphic Communication students, presented her dissertation research at the Reading Braillists meeting. Laura is exploring the role of Braille in today’s society and here she shares her experience of engaging with the Braillist community.

Hi, I’m Laura, a part 3 student studying BA Graphic Communication. With final year of University comes the writing of a dissertation, and for mine I have chosen the topic“An analysis of Braille’s role in today’s multimodal society, and how technological alternatives are potentially influencing its use.” A large part of my research includes talking to people who use Braille and assistive technology for reading. In the hunt to find participants to take part in an online survey and in face-to-face interviews, I began to engage with the Braillist’s forum. I was invited to their December meeting to present my research and meet some of the Braillists that I had been talking to informally over email.

The meeting commenced with my presentation. I talked about my background in Graphic Design, explaining that I was interested in reading strategies and designing documents in a way to ensure they are inclusive as possible. As a designer, the majority of the work I produce is focused on eliciting a visual response in the user / reader, so it was interesting to talk to people with a range of visual impairments, with most of the people there having no sight at all.

I then presented an overview of the research I had done so far for my dissertation. I’ve learnt about different grades of Braille, and how the alphabet has been constructed, as well as history of Braille and how it evolved from Charles Barbier’s Sonography. I have also looked at how Braille has been standardised since its initial invention, and how some of these changes, such as the adaptation of Unified English Braille (UEB) a few years ago have been controversial amongst the Braillists community. However, at the meeting, I learnt that UEB has allowed users to write smiley faces, so I guess it’s not all bad news! 🙂

I also talked about how I am gathering information from people who use Braille and other assistive technologies to explore the preferences and reading behaviours of people who use these reading technologies on an everyday basis. A large part of my research is focused on reading strategies and technology use in different contexts of reading. I’ve researched new assistive technologies which have helped aid Braille’s use such as refreshable Braille displays, as well as others that have made learning Braille optional, such as audio books and screen readers. From the meeting, I have been able to find enough participants to interview face-to-face, which is really good news in terms of writing the next chapter in my dissertation and being able to represent the views and experiences of real people in my research.

After my talk, there was the chance to look at two new Braille technologies. One of which was the Orbit 20 reader, demonstrated by Jen Bottom, the organiser of the event, which released in October of this year. It is a refreshable Braille display, and works by connecting to a phone or other device over Bluetooth. The display then presents the text by updating the Braille cells.

Photograph of the Orbit 20 reader in use on a table in the Reading Braillist's meetingThe Orbit 20 reader in use.

Before the release of the Orbit 20 reader, refreshable Braille displays were expensive, retailing from £1,500 up to £10,000. This meant that this technology was not accessible for the majority of people who would want to use one. The Orbit 20 reader, retailing at £450, allows for many more people in the Braille community to have access to this technology, allowing for resources to be accessed and shared more widely.

As well as this, a prototype of the Canute 360 was demonstratedby Stephanie Sergeant from Vision Through Sound. This will be the world’s first multi-line digital e-reader. It was interesting to see the differences between these two pieces of technology with the same purpose, as the Canute was around 6 times the size of the Orbit 20 reader.

A zoomed in photograph of the Braille cells on the Canute 360 reader

The Canute 360 reader

One of the Braillists at the meeting, Matthew Horspool, had been kind enough to bring some Braille material for me to look at. This included railway maps, a user guide on how to use Windows 7, alongside other examples of Braille which had been produced in different ways. He explained that the method used to create the Windows 7 book was vacuum forming. The layout had to be created from a heat resistant raised surface such as wood, before being placed in a vacuum former. A vacuum then forces heated plastic around the form. This is one of the older methods of producing raised surfaces, but worked well when showing the whole desktop, allowing for the user to visualise what was on screen.

A photograph of a page from a guide to using Windows 7, showing the navigation screen of a computer A photograph of a page from a guide to using Windows 7, showing the navigation screen of a computer

A photograph of a Braille map of the UK, being touched by a hand A close up photograph of a Braille UK railway map

He also showed me the iPhone’s use of a Braille keyboard, and how apps could help a person with visual impairments navigate around the device.

Photograph of the Braille keyboard in use on the iPhoneThe iPhone’s Braille keyboard

The meeting was incredibly inspiring, as well as helping me understand why Braille is so important to many people. Despite my initial nerves, the presentation went well and turned into a discussion. This discussion, as well as the live technology demonstrations gave me some really interesting background knowledge which will aid in writing the rest of my dissertation. I look forward to meeting some of these people again in the New Year when I carry out my face-to-face interviews.

Note: Laura’s research is supervised by Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys.

Introducing our new team members: Welcome Emma Street

 

Our BdB core team has been joined by a number of new colleagues in the last few months and this is the first of a series of posts introducing some of our new team members.

This is a portrait photograph of Emma. SHe has brown hair, funky glasses and is wearing an vibrant orange top and scarf.

Emma Street has joined our BdB core team.

Dr Emma Street joined the BdB group in 2017. She is Associate Professor of Planning and Urban Governance in the Department of Real Estate and Planning. An urban geographer by background, Emma’s research cuts across the urban planning, urban design and architecture disciplines.

She is interested in the values, assumptions, decisions and processes that shape the way that urban environments look, function and are governed. Emma has a particular interest in exploring this via what might be seen as the mundane, instrumental or procedural; be that building codes and regulations, urban policies or elements of the planning system. For example, her work as part of the EPSRC-funded cycleBOOM project explored how regulation and policies have shaped the landscape of cycling in the UK, and what measures might engage more older adults in cycling.

Concerns about equality and social justice inform Emma’s research and approach to Teaching and Learning. She sits on Henley Business School’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is working on research linked work-life balance in academia, partly prompted by her experiences as a new parent.

Welcome Emma!

BdB initiatives incorporated into two more programmes at Reading

Yesterday, students from four of our distinct MA programmes (Typeface Design, Book Design, Creative Enterprise and Information Design) participated in our inclusive design workshops.This is the first time that MA Typeface Design and MA Book Design students have participated in some of our Breaking down Barriers initiatives. Inclusive design activities, with a particular focus on inclusive wayfinding, was introduced into the MA Information Design and MA Creative Enterprise programmes in 2016–7.

Guest speaker, Fiona Corby talked to students about inclusive design for people who have visual impairments. Fiona highlighted how design decisions for new platforms (particularly touchscreens), professional software, websites and mobile phones can make user experiences very frustrating. She drew on her personal experience of braille, ClearVision books and using screenreading technologies like Jaws to engage students with concrete considerations for  inclusive design and reading. She also shared key points to consider for making data visualisation, tables and images more accessible to people with visual impairments.

After asking Fiona lots of questions, the students explored other aspects of inclusive design by evaluating different printed and screen design while using a range of glasses simulating different kinds of visual impairments and simulation gloves. Students noted how these activities helped them realise how many “everyday” actions and experiences are affected by conditions affecting our visual acuity or dexterity.

Beyond awareness: inclusive design for Graphic Communication

This week, Part 2 Graphic Communication students completed the inclusive design component of their integrated design modules. Building on the series of workshops we did earlier in the term and relevant readings, on Monday, students presented seminar papers to their peers on particular aspects of inclusive design.

Group photo of student presenters

On Monday, our Graphic Communication students presented inclusive design seminars to their peers (from left to right): Jordan Bellinger, Lewis Burfield, Maciej Bykowski, Fenella Astley, Rajvir Bhogal, Stephanie Boateng, Cherise Booker, June Lin and (front) Jordan Cairns.

Students discussed and debated, aspects such as:

  • The principles of inclusive design and how designers can make these achievable in real life projects
  • How design briefs often tend to create segregation and how designers can develop more inclusive solutions to briefs
  • The clear print debate – what the guidelines are, who they are for and how implementing these can differ for professional designers and everyday communicators
  • The challenges and key considerations of inclusive design for screen – including the use of colour, images, sound and navigation
  • Key debates and typographic research for inclusive design for children’s reading, focusing on readers who may have dyslexia or visual impairments
  • Inclusive wayfinding – including challenges and innovative proposals for solutions in contemporary design practice.

Students commented that the inclusive design workshops, readings and seminars they have done have helped them become “more consciously aware” of how important it is to consider inclusive design in their own work and how designers may have to take responsibility for designing inclusively for a range of users. The highlighted how it is important to realise that the people they are designing for are probably “not the same as you (the designer)” and that inclusive design is “not just being aware” but about embedding inclusive practices in our industry. They also noted that these seminars had made them aware that there is “not enough research” about inclusive design within our discipline.

Exploring visual acuity and assistive technologies

Today’s Breaking down Barriers workshops in Typography provided students with opportunities to explore a range of applications for inclusive design, from printed designs to wearable technologies.

Part 2 student Malaika Johnson exploring the role of assistive technologies in inclusive design.

Part 2 student Malaika Johnson exploring the role of assistive technologies in inclusive design.

Prof. Rachel McCrindle from Biomedical Engineering joined Information Design lecturer, Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys and the Part 2 Graphic Communication students. Rachel and Jeanne-Louise are part of a team of cross-disciplinary researchers exploring how the lives of people with aphasia (who may be undergoing rehabilitation following a brain injury) or dementia can be improved through assistive technologies. In a hands-on workshop, students explored an exciting variety of assistive technologies that we are developing and researching to help make a difference to people’s daily lives and their experiences of rehabilitation activities like cueing therapy.

In particular, cueing therapy resources that Graphic Communication student Carmen Martínez-Freile developed last summer as part of an undergraduate research opportunity (led by Jeanne-Louise, Rachel and other colleagues in Speech and Language Therapy) highlighted the role Graphic Communication can play in assistive technologies and inclusive design.

Cueing therapy boards

These cueing therapy resources were developed for our cross-disciplinary research project. Using illustrations prepared by student Carmen Martínez-Freile, we explored how different illustration styles influence people’s experience of cueing therapy resources.

Carmen’s resources were not the only Graphic Communication student-created resources incorporated into today’s workshops. We also used a worksheet developed by Typography student Jessie Webb to support visual acuity activities. In today’s activity, students evaluated whether particular typographic, colour and physicality attributes can be considered visually inclusive across a variety of genres, including brochures, business cards, receipts, forms and even the new Guardian newspaper redesign (just launched in the UK today).

Jeanne-Louise said she particularly enjoyed how today’s workshops demonstrated clear synergies between research and practice, while providing students with an opportunity to consider how graphic design can contribute to society beyond the ‘usual suspects’ like awareness campaigns. She hopes these workshops will inspire some students to explore inclusive design further in their final year dissertations and self-directed projects.

evaluating print documents

Typography student Siu-Yen Lo evaluating whether printed designs are visually inclusive, using learning resources created by other students in Typography.

BdB wins CIOB award for innovation

Breaking down Barriers (BdB) are thrilled to have received a Highly Commended Award for Innovation in Education and Training in the 2016 Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) International Innovation & Research Awards Scheme.

Our BdB team champions a unique cross-disciplinary initiative to embed inclusive design across the University. Our vision is to ensure Reading graduates across all disciplines advocate inclusion in their professional practices and bring real benefits to the everyday lives of all users, particularly people with conditions related to ageing and/or cognitive and physical disabilities.

Students say that our BdB workshops have helped them “gain insight as to how thoughtful design can influence other industries and how we as designers must work together with these other industries in order to make the lives of the people that need a helping hand that little bit easier”.

CIOB Innovation and Research Awards highlight the importance of innovation and research in raising performance levels, enhancing best practice and improving the quality of the built environment. The CIOB judges said: “This innovation in education is a practical, engaging and demonstrable way to bring to life a real social challenge with widespread value and application. The innovation shows a genuine commitment to invest in the UK’s building stock and educate the next generation of professionals to ensure the needs of all users of a facility are firmly met.”

BdB began at the University of Reading as a collaboration between the School of Built Environment, the Henley Business School and the School of Arts and Communication Design in 2015. Since then we have been joined by staff within the School of Biological Sciences and collaborated with the Centre for Staff Development and, most recently, the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, as well as external partners.

Congratulations to all our team!

Welcoming the Minister for Disabled People to Reading

Ministerial_group_sm

Yesterday BdB were proud to welcome Penny Mordaunt,  Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health to the University. As part of her visit, the Minister experimented with a number of projects contributing to a more inclusive world and simulation tools exploring the everyday challenges people face in relation to a range of disabilities and conditions.

“Inclusivity and accessibility should be at the forefront of good design, and I’m delighted to see the University of Reading leading the way with their Breaking down Barriers scheme,” said Mordaunt.

 

 

 

UoR nominates BdB for new HEA CATE Award

Our BdB team is thrilled today to hear that the University has chosen Breaking down Barriers as its nominated contender for the Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) new Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE). Feedback from the shortlisting process noted that, among the other criteria, BdB has particular strengths in relation to demonstrating direct involvement of students in the project and evidencing creative solutions to a challenge, situation or problem.

Congratulations to all our staff and students who have contributed to this exciting achievement.

Educating for 21st-century lives

This morning, our BdB team led our first staff development workshop for staff across the University. The workshop, ‘Educating for 21st-century lives: a practical and inclusive approach’, explored the importance of embedding inclusive design in our curricula, the value of this for employability, and the role of simulation tools in developing awareness and understanding.

In the first part of the workshop, participants considered ways in which they can embed inclusive design in their curricula and activities. Thereafter, they had fun exploring the impact of different kinds of impairments on everyday activities, using the simulation equipment we have invested in. These include: bariatric and geriatric suits, simulation gloves, and glasses simulating a range of visual impairments. Participants considered different applications of inclusive design from the built environment to design for digital and printed communications and packaging. At the end of the workshop, we discussed ways in which we can collaborate on new initiatives to promote best practice in inclusive design across the University.