Collaborating with our graduates

Inclusive design is a now well-established part of the second year BA Graphic Communication curriculum. We’re proud of how we’ve continued to evolve how we embed inclusive design in the degree since our early Breaking down Barriers team initiatives in 2015 and the impact this has had on both students’ design practice and their research. This academic year, Jeanne-Louise Moys and Rachel Warner invited two recent alumni to share their experience of learning about inclusive design and its relevance to their careers with our current Part 2 cohort.  

Laura Marshall (class of 2019) and Eden Sinclair (class of 2020) both chose dissertation topics related to inclusive design during their BA Graphic Communication studies. Coincidentally, they both now work as Visual Designers for IBM.  

Head and shoulders photograph of a woman in a grey jumper. She has straight hair that hangs over her shoulders.

Laura Marshall

Laura’s dissertation explored the role of braille and digital assistive technologies for people with visual impairments. She collaborated with the Reading Braillists and conducted surveys and interviews to understand the varied reading needs and experiences of the blind community. Her research has subsequently been published in Visible Language.  

Laura says: “Choosing to do a dissertation focusing on inclusive design allowed me to start thinking about designing from a different perspective. Of course, as designers, we understand the fundamentals of accessible design: legibility, text size, colour contrast etc. but it wasn’t until I met and talked to individuals with visual impairments could I truly understand the impact and importance accessible design in their everyday lives. As big and scary as a dissertation seemed, it is probably the piece of work I’m most proud of from my time at Reading, as well as the piece that has impacted me most in my career, so would greatly encourage exploring an area of accessibility you know next to nothing about to change the way you think when you design something new.”

A black and white head and shoulders photograph of a young woman with long, curly hair. She is wearing a dark top. Her head is slightly inclined.

Eden Sinclair

Eden’s dissertation evaluated considerations for user interface design for people with neurodivergence. She looked at visual overload and how motion, brightness and visual metaphor might affect a user’s anxiety and overall experience. She conducted a series of participant studies to explore the impact of different conditions on user experience for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and neurotypical users. Her findings helped her identify relevant recommendations for inclusive user interface design. 

Eden says: “I’m so glad that I has the opportunity to explore inclusivity through my research at Reading, as inclusive design is a part of everything that I do and informs every design that I create.” 

Laura and Eden prepared short, engaging video presentations which we shared with our current Part 2s as online resources. They explained their interests in inclusive design, how they carried out their research and how it has informed their own practice.  

These graduate talks were provided as part of Part 2 Guided Independent Study (GIS), to prepare for a workshop about applying inclusive design guidelines and advice into design practice. A reading list was provided that included literature introducing students to guidelines such as those from the RNIB and checklists for formatting text for visually impaired and dyslexic readers. The talks complemented this literature by demonstrating how some aspects of inclusive design, discussed in the literature, can be implemented in practice. Additionally, the talks demonstrate that designers need to consider the effectiveness of guidelines within specific contexts, needing to make informed decisions about when aspects of guidelines might hinder effective document use.  

In the workshop, led by Rachel Warner, students evaluated a document in regards to inclusive design guidelines and checklists, producing recommendations for a document redesign. Students reported that they enjoyed this activity and the experience of putting theory into practice.

Outputs of the workshop demonstrated that students can grasp the application of basic inclusive design guidelines, such as type size, but need further support to critically evaluate when to apply guidelines and when to choose alternative design choices. An adaptation to the workshop would be to use the graduate talks to frame the workshop at the beginning of the session, rather than relying on students engaging with this content as GIS. 

Designing with empathy for print and screen

This week we held two more BdB workshops for second year typography students. The workshops – led by Jeanne-Louise Moys – focused on:

  • highlighting general considerations for best practice in inclusive graphic designers
  • using various kinds of graphic differentiation to improve visual clarity and contrast for colourblind users and
  • creating awareness of the needs and preferences of users with limited dexterity.

In the dexterity sessions, students wore simulation gloves to experience how conditions like arthritis affect how users can interact with digital devices (e.g. laptops and mobile phones) and paper artefacts. Working in pairs, they recorded and shared each other’s observations and interactions on a group discussion board in Blackboard.

Typography students experimenting with the simulation gloves

Sophie and Clara discovering how dexterity affects users’ interactions with a laptop


Laptop interactions: Students noted how the gloves made them aware of how difficult, slow and uncomfortable it was to type on their laptop given that they could not bend their fingers as much as they usually do. They also highlighted that it was extremely difficult to scroll and use the trackpad on their laptops for navigation and doing Mac-based interactions like zooming in and out. Most of them said that clicking was ‘okay’ but noted that it could be difficult to select the right thing on screen and know for sure if they had activated it.


Typography students experimenting with the simulation gloves

Ed, Sam and Connor experimenting with the simulation gloves



Mobile interactions: With their mobile phones, the students experimented with things they do every day from typing to games. They were particularly surprised at how difficult it was to pick up and grip the phone. Instead of using their thumbs for many actions, they had to use their index fingers. They also found it hard to swipe and had to rely on tap gestures to interact with apps. Some buttons became inaccessible. For example, they noted that they had to use a different button in order to be able to take a selfie and that it was difficult to access the phone’s on/off button.


Typography students experimenting with the simulation gloves

Typography students Elliot and Claudia exploring paper stocks and finishes


Paper interactions: Students explored how using different paper sizes, stocks, print finishes and binding methods can make it easier or more difficult for users with limited dexterity to read booklets, leaflets, magazines and newspapers. Based on their experiential learning, students identified that:

  • Smaller artefacts are easier for users to grip
  • Heavier paper stocks make it easier for users to turn pages
  • Resting an object on a table makes it easier for users to turn pages (although this factor needs to be considered in combination with reading distances)
  • Grainy and matt paper stocks are easier to turn and handle than glossy stocks or print finishes.

These two workshops embedded inclusive design into yet another BA Graphic Communication module – Integrated Design Methods 2B (TY2INTB). Building on the workshops we held in Design Thinking (TY2DT) last term, our second year typography students have been introduced to a range of inclusive design considerations. They are now working on applying their knowledge to their design of mobile apps for tablet and mobile phone devices in their practical module Integrated Design Methods 2A (TY2INTA). One student, Alice Watkins, has decided to design her recipe app especially for users with visual impairments.

From a T&L perspective, using simulation gloves to interact with everyday objects provided students with a fun opportunity for task-based learning. Jeanne-Louise reported that it was particularly rewarding to observe how much the students learnt through their own discovery and how this enabled them to reflect on their design practice.