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How inclusive design can help brands understand their consumers better.

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INCLUSIVE DESIGN PRACTICES have become a bigger priority for companies in recent years, as they look to make their packaging accessible to all consumers, regardless of age, disability or physical condition.

“Inclusive design assumes maximum accessibility, so when one thing fits everyone’s needs and preferences,” says Roman Mak, designer and brand manager at branding agency Candy Fish. “Now-adays, more and more companies count on it. These brands are chasing not only appealing packaging design but also trying to reach a greater percentage of their audiences.”

Appealing to All

One strong thing to consider when designing with inclusivity in mind is to do so in a way that doesn’t make specific groups feel targeted, as this may cause discomfort.

“Inclusivity is mainly about two things: Understanding the diversity of people, even within a certain age group; and responding to this diversity using well-thought-out and relevant design solutions,” Mak says.

Rob Koenen, CMO of Boxed Water, notes that making things that are easily accessible regardless of age, disability or any consumer attribute just makes good business sense because it will be naturally easier for everyone.

“Inclusive design broadens your accessible market; making a product that is intuitive, flexible and ergonomic pays dividends by reducing the amount of overt communication needed to instruct or inform the consumer,” he says. “We purposely design all our touchpoints with inclusive impact in mind.”

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Beyond the package, brands need to relook at all channels of communication and make sure there is an inclusive approach.  For instance, Box Water refaced its website to make sure it’s ADA compliant this past year.

“It was a long process, but it’s important that we’re not excluding anyone in our messaging,” Koenen says.

Brandon Bach, president of Consumer Convenience Technologies, makers of the Eeasy Lid, notes many consumers who relied on assistance were affected by social distancing practices this past year, causing consumer behaviors to shift towards products that allowed for the greatest convenience and accessibility.

“This shift in behavior forced manufacturers to adapt and overcome the hurdle of supplying secure packaging that is also easily accessible,” he says.

As conveyed by Kevin Marshall, who leads creative direction for design at Microsoft, not only does packaging represent the best of what a brand is, but it can also embody the best of what a brand can be.

“As stewards of the packaging industry, we have the opportunity to spark change in a way that is meaningful, and we can do that through sustainability and inclusivity,” he says. “Making your customers feel empowered and thought about in meaningful ways in an unboxing journey is not only great business, but is also the right thing to do and helps to build the best relationships.”

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As an example, Marshall describes how Microsoft designed the box for the Xbox adaptive controller, which involved inclusive design thinking that resulted in accessible features front and center. “The learning that we gained creating that package has now extended across our portfolio, regardless of whether it’s Xbox or Surface or other Microsoft-branded products,” he says. “There would have been no way we could have designed this box without the limited mobility community’s direct involvement. They were co-architects and helped us understand how to create the right experiences.”

X-box

Inclusive elements from Microsoft’s Xbox adaptive controller’s package design has been extended across the portfolio.

Challenges of Age

Age inclusivity is often overlooked in package design today, which when you consider the complexity of packaging in general and how challenging some packaging can be for people of all ages, is surprising.

The most common problems when considering age are a need for a level of dexterity that some older people lack; higher clarity for copy and graphics, which are affected by font choices, especially size, as well as printing quality; and the complexity of instructions on how to use or open the package. For instance, sometimes the words are so small that seniors are forced to use a magnifying glass to read any instructions on the design.

Boxed Water recently edited its copy to be far more succinct and increased the font size on packaging in response to people complaining there was too much to read and it was too small to see.

Depending on the product, these are minimalist, realist, transparent and vintage design preferences that can be utilized for age-inclusive design.

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“Any trend will do if designers follow the principles of inclusive design,” Mak says. “It has to offer easy-to-read information, less physical effort applied when opening the package, size and space for proper use, and minimizing the danger and negative consequences of unintentional or accidental actions of the user.”

Designed with inclusivity top of mind, the Eeasy Lid allows consumers to simply press a button on the jar lid to break the seal, reducing the amount of torque needed to twist the lid off and makes opening a vacuum-sealed jar up to 40% easier.

“The driving factor behind the age-inclusive trend is that the majority of the generation who mainly purchase jarred food items are elderly,” Bach says. “While it shouldn’t take a pandemic for manufacturers to recognize consumer needs when it comes to inclusive packaging, this is one of the largest trends we’ve been ahead of and continue to advocate for.”

Aging people are a huge part of the global population, and they are one of the biggest segments in the modern market, so it’s important not to forget about them when planning a design.

“This audience has tremendous potential so manufacturers can reap a benefit from implementing age-inclusive design in the packaging to drive more interest to their products,” Mak says. “In most cases, package design just omits this category of consumers taking aim at younger people, their preferences and the latest trends.”

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Boxed Water recently increased the font size and removed clutter on its packaging to make it easier to read.

Racial Inclusivity

There was a great deal of news about race in America in 2020, with the Black Lives Matter movement and racial disparities becoming important topics of conversation.

Mak notes that designing products following racially inclusive principles improves the potential of consumer satisfaction and reduces other risks for a company, for instance, loss of reputation.

“To make sure the product or packaging design is racially inclusive, companies may hire diverse participants for usability tests and have diverse product development and designer teams to take into account underrepresented issues,” he says.

Koenen notes 2020 taught us that more needs to be done in response, and the company diversified its feed to let expert voices be heard.

“While we always supported black-owned businesses, we became more proactive in supporting those businesses and building a more inclusive community,” he says. “We all have a long way to go, but we are on the path together.”

Companies have begun to realize the packaging of their products are an extension of their brands and can be used to communicate certain voices and stances on topics in society. It’s not enough to preach inclusive products; companies must now adopt inclusivity in all aspects of their brands.

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