WHY WE NEED INCLUSIVE PACKAGING DESIGN

Posted on 07/05/2022 | 5 minutes read

"The most important step when developing an inclusive package design is to talk to people with disabilities that might affect how they interact with your product. Rather than trying to guess what people with disabilities need (and likely being wrong), ask them directly."

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Able-bodied consumers frequently complain about stubborn clamshell packages or overly-taped boxes. Nobody wants to pull out their sharpest scissors every time they receive a package. But while these design flaws are merely frustrating to most buyers, they can render your product completely inaccessible to other segments of the population. For instance, people with dexterity-related disabilities may find it impossible to open conventional packaging without assistance (and in 2012, that population included nearly 10% of Canadians over 65.) Similarly, people with visual impairments—such as the 1.5 million Canadians with sight loss—can struggle to interpret packaging instructions, or even have trouble identifying products altogether.


Inclusive packaging design attempts to address this historical blind spot in how we conceptualize product experience. Traditionally, only products specifically designed for those who are older or disabled prioritize accessible packaging—and sometimes, not even those are easy to open. Inclusive design says that this is backward: every product should be designed to be used by as many people as possible. Rather than making assumptions about who will want our products, we should embrace inclusive design from the start. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also helps companies reach untapped markets, improve product experience, and increase revenue.



HOW TO MAKE PACKAGING MORE INCLUSIVE


The most important step when developing an inclusive package design is to talk to people with disabilities that might affect how they interact with your product. Rather than trying to guess what people with disabilities need (and likely being wrong), ask them directly.


This collaboration with potential users should not end when you've released a packaging design. Feedback is a core element of human-centric design, and inclusive design is no different. If you want your package to resonate with a particular audience, you must know what the audience needs and where your designs fall short. Only then can you implement solutions that genuinely make your customers' lives easier. For example, Olay recently faced criticism for its face cream packaging, which many found difficult or impossible to open. Rather than defending the original design, the company worked to develop a new lid that was easier to grasp. Designers consulted people with visual and motor disabilities to develop the new design, which they did not patent, citing hopes that more companies would follow their lead.


This example perfectly illustrates the importance of including people with disabilities in your design process, but also the commercial benefits of inclusive packaging. With just a few simple tweaks to their packaging, Olay attracted both new and returning customers to their product line, while also generating positive media coverage for their efforts.


ACCESSIBLE PACKAGING FEATURES


The ideal accessibility features depend on your product. However, the following design elements can go a long way toward inviting more consumers to use your product:



  • TACTILE MARKERS: If you have multiple products that appear similar to one another, tactile symbols can help people with visual impairments quickly distinguish between them. Also, while braille may be an excellent choice in some contexts, remember that not all people with visual disabilities can read braille, so additional non-braille symbols may be useful.


  • HIGH-CONTRAST GRAPHICS: You don't have to sacrifice colour for the sake of accessibility. However, choosing high-contrast colour schemes makes your labels more accessible to people with visual impairments. It's especially important to avoid colour combinations that become illegible for people who are colour-blind.


  • LEGIBLE TEXT: Fonts are a part of your brand identity, so it's reasonable to choose those that reflect your overall image. Still, the most important information should be written in simple, large, and legible font faces to ensure accessibility.


  • EASY-OPEN MECHANISMS: Your package should be as easy to open as possible. For a jar, this might mean increasing the surface area of the lid and adding textured grips. For a plastic package, you might add pull tabs to the exterior and eliminate twist ties from the interior. Whatever you choose, pay attention to feedback so that you can refine the design if necessary.


PRINCIPLES OF INCLUSIVE PACKAGE DESIGN


It may be easier to develop an inclusive package if you think in terms of general principles rather than obsessing over specific features. Throughout the design process, ask yourself the following questions:



  • EQUITABLE: Is the package usable by anyone who picks it up?


  • INTUITIVE: Can the package's mechanisms be understood by those with varying backgrounds?


  • FLEXIBLE: Are there multiple ways to interact with the package to accommodate those with varied preferences and abilities?


  • PERCEPTIBLE: Is necessary information legible and available in multiple media? Have I included sufficient tactile and graphic information for those who may struggle to read text?


  • ERGONOMIC: Can the product be used comfortably and with minimal strain, even by those with different motor abilities? Have I limited the need for fine motor or repetitive movements? Are any grip points sufficiently large, and do they have tactile feedback?


  • DESIRABLE: Does the aesthetic design appeal to all demographics in my target audience?



Although there's no substitute for direct community feedback, these guidelines can help you avoid the most common packaging pitfalls.



KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR INCLUSIVE PACKAGING DESIGN


If your company truly values diversity, your packaging should be an extension of that brand value: it should be accessible to everyone who wants to use your product. While inclusive packaging may take more creativity, it pays off by creating a more inclusive retail environment and widening the audience for our products.



  • Make inclusive packaging a goal from the beginning of the design process. Work with the express goal that as many consumers as possible will be able to use your product.


  • Inclusive packaging benefits all of your customers, not just those with disabilities.


  • Bring disabled voices into the conversation. People with disabilities know what they need better than anyone, and your assumptions may be wrong.


  • Accessibility features can be as simple as changing the font or choosing a different fastener. Don't assume it will be too expensive to make your product accessible (or that the minor expense won't be worth it.)


  • An inclusive package is equitable, intuitive, flexible, perceptible, ergonomic, and desirable.



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ABOUT ARC & CO. DESIGN COLLECTIVE


Arc & Co. Design Collective transforms your brand messages into engaging physical brand experiences that increase your brand's perceived value and loyalty with your customers. By utilizing our proprietary FOUR Dimensions Framework™, we strategize, conceptualize, innovate and design experiential packaging and brand activation spaces that will complement your business and keep you ahead of the competition.


Get in touch with us to discover how we can assist in integrating a physical brand experience into your marketing strategy.

TL ; DR NOTES

Make inclusive packaging a goal from the beginning of the design process. Work with the express goal that as many consumers as possible will be able to use your product.



Inclusive packaging benefits all of your customers, not just those with disabilities.



Bring disabled voices into the conversation. People with disabilities know what they need better than anyone, and your assumptions may be wrong.



Accessibility features can be as simple as changing the font or choosing a different fastener. Don't assume it will be too expensive to make your product accessible (or that the minor expense won't be worth it.)



An inclusive package is equitable, intuitive, flexible, perceptible, ergonomic, and desirable.

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