Design 4 Disadvantaged

Design for the Disadvantaged D4D

Design for the Disadvantaged D4D was recently launched in Shanghai, a project to help those most in need by taking the collective knowledge and skills of designers.

Design for the Disadvantaged

Who are the Disadvantaged? No, these are not (only) disabled people but all those which don’t belong to the world’s fortunate 10% … Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, electricity or shelter. Other problems are illiteracy, homelessness, lack of education.

Universal design aims for supporting those people in need.

Universal design is a relatively new paradigm that emerged from “barrier-free” or “accessible design” and “assistive technology.” Universal design strives to be a broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products and environments that are usable and effective for everyone, not just people with disabilities. Moreover, it recognizes the importance of how things look. For example, while built up handles are a way to make utensils more usable for people with gripping limitations, some companies introduced larger, easy to grip and attractive handles as feature of mass produced utensils. They appeal to a wide range of consumers.


Principles of Universal Design

  1. Principle One: Equitable UseThe design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities
  2. Principle Two: Flexibility in UseThe design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Principle Three: simple and intuitiveUse of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Principle Four: Perceptible InformationThe design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Principle Five: Tolerance for ErrorThe design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Principle Six: Low Physical EffortThe design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Principle Seven: Size and Space for Approach and UseAppropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

Source: The Center for Universal Design

Design for the Disadvantaged D4D in Shanghai was conceived by Douglas Wang from AutoDesk, to bring together the design community to create tools, services, and objects of everyday life to help those around us most in need, financially and physically disabled local Chinese.  D4D has gone from idea to organization in just under two months, and has brought on lead designers and executives from Frog, Microsoft, AutoDesk, and others.

The design profession has much more to offer our society than just basic aesthetics, functions and usability. Design can solve problems creatively and effectively, raise social awareness, improve the quality of life, and promote social interaction.

Project’s goal: support street vendors

Project’s goal will be to develop tools, services, products for street vendors in Shanghai. Though for example thousands of people enjoy their noudle soups and BBQ skewers from street vendors each night or others get cheap watches or DVDs from peddlers, street vendors are a disadvantaged group. In recent years conflicts between street vendors and the police forces chengguans have frequently went out of control, with officers and vendors both resorting to violence.

The development process

The project’s development process follows the approach of User Centered Design.

Student works opportunities

To my students at Hochschule Esslingen: contact me for oppurtunities (thesis work, internships) to take part in this project.



Product localization

Localize contents and design

Introducing products and software to different regions and to different customers and users require to adapt to local needs and environments.

Example: Wal-Mart supermarket in China

Wal-Mart’s strategy has been to adapt their marketing methods to meet the needs of locals.

… Wal-Mart has catered to the Chinese market in two noticeable ways. First, Wal-Mart has listened to the consumer. They offer more perishable products, such as live seafood, to compete with the wet markets. Items are tailored for people with lower disposable income. Labels are printed with the local language and products are adjusted for smaller quantities per visit. In the US, customers typically drive to Wal-Mart and purchase in bulk for the week. In China, customers typically walk or bike to Wal-Mart and purchase just enough for the day. After all, Chinese apartments tend to be much smaller than American homes. …

Source: METAN Development Group, August 2009 newsletter

Example: Nokia mobile phones

The population of 600 million Chinese mobile users has grown very demanding, the Chinese have high expectations about how their services should look and function.

In China, Nokia sees two opposing aspects of culture for mobile design and services:

  • In the popular culture, bigger, louder, and brighter often does better. On a symbolic and emotional level, abundant, dense, and lavish designs evoke images of popularity and success. On a practical level, low-level users of services simply appreciate the fact that they can find everything they need in one place.
  • In high society, the situation is reversed, and the design aesthetic is geared towards minimalism and the individual.

More often than not, products and services are designed to attract the largest possible base of users and market share, so visual design in China tends towards the popular: abundant and dense.

Compared to most Western users who still appear to use their devices mainly for voice and messaging purposes, those in China more often play with and use the newest device features.

Source: Nokia Design update: China


Introducing products and software to different regions and to different customers and users result in following requirements and product localization strategies:

  • Concentrate on user’s expectations and demands.
  • Use language of end users, adapt software to regional differences and users’ preferences.
  • Colours, symbols and grafic should reflect visual language and emotions of the users.
  • Test your product and services with local users on-site.

Even though many Chinese are interested in Western ideas, products aimed at the Chinese market should be designed in the local style.


10 Tips for International User Interfaces

Female students in CS

Increasing Female Participation: A CS Project Team Experience With a Difference

ACM-W Council Women in Computing News Blog, June 17

According to an ACM-W Ambassador in Turkey, one way to increase female participation in the computer science field is through the creation of international student teams that work together on computing projects. Based on the success of a similar type of international project course in Sweden, computer science professors at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology have been working with a team in Turkey to increase female participation in computer science. In this example, the female-led project resulted in three products: a web page to teach children about their rights, a Google tool for following up the events related to child rights and games for children age 10-12 to teach them about their rights.

As part of the project, students worked in teams to analyze, design and develop software solutions for a “Child Rights” project for the International Children’s Center (ICC). Students visited with their supervisor two times during the semester for face-to-face meetings. At other times they communicated online using Internet tools like Skype, Facebook and email. The second visit was at the end of the semester to present the final products. In addition to the successful results, the project was noteworthy for its representation of female CS students on the team: six of the eleven participants were female. Going forward, computer science will become more attractive for female students when the impact of computing in a global community is emphasized.


ACM-W Council Women in Computing News Blog


Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana, USA

Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

Questions I have

  • What is the situation in your country’s University?
  • How many women are in your computing classes?
  • How do they perform? How are they welcomed by class mates and faculty?
  • What do you think of projects like the one mentioned above?
  • Do you think female students need different projects?
  • Which topics are specifically interesting for women in CS?
  • What do you think is a good approach to raise the number of female students in technical programs, especially in Computer Science?

I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Stop Press

Ni hao China,

GUI design says hello to China. Astrid Beck, GUI Design Stuttgart and
Professor at Hochschule Esslingen is supporting Wilddesign Shanghai on
all issues on usability since March 2009.

Markus Wild, founder of Wilddesign Gelsenkirchen says: “We are very
happy to have Astrid in our Shanghai team! Astrid emphasizes the topic
of usability in our company and brings it to our Chinese customers”.
Wilddesign’s customers in China come mainly from China but also from
Europe and other countries with base in China. Main areas are industrial
design, especially design of products, packaging, shops and events. This
also includes development of brands and CI (Corporate Identity)
including image brochures and web sites. Example products are power
tools, kitchenware and medical devices. Wilddesign Shanghai was founded in 2006. “Medical devices, touchpads and web sites with thoughtful functionality, modern design and with a Western touch are of high demand to our customers.
Astrid helps us to make our solutions even more usable.” states Matthias Burhenne, General Manager of the Shanghai branch.

Astrid Beck’s stay in Shanghai is supported by Hochschule Esslingen where she is on leave for half a year.


Wild Work

Wild Work

Due to some requests of my interested readers, here I am going to tell you a bit about my work. More detailed insights are presented in the near future.

Wilddesign’s customers in China come mainly from China and also some from Europe and other countries with base in China. Main areas are industrial design, especially design of:

  • products
  • packaging
  • shops
  • events

This also includes development of brands and CI (Corporate Identity) including image brochures and web sites. Example products are power tools, kitchenware and medical devices.

At my desk

At my desk

Due to a non-disclosure-agreement I can not tell you too much about customers and projects. In my first weeks I helped with research and proposals, attended project meetings and interviewed applicants.

Furtheron, I am interested in the cultural differences, thus, my main research interests are design, usability aswell as approaches and attitudes towards project work and business life of Europeans and Chinese.

As you might have guessed already from my posts, business and private life is not strictly divided as it often is in Germany. You sing karaoke with your customer or indulge in nice and long dinners with prospective business contacts.

The next weeks I will be busy with a new project which is about a re-design of two medical devices, which are used in labs for analysing samples. These devices are equipped with screens in order to operate these units and to analyse resulting data. Project includes design of the devices and the screens, development of CI and user interface style guide as well as usability testing. Results are 2D designs und finally, 3D renderings of the future product which will be ready for production by then. Meaning that engineering and production requirements are aleady taken care of.

Since my emphasis is user interface design of software, it is very interesting for me to experience this new area. At a closer look though, work activities are pretty similiar. Therefore, we can learn a lot from each other in comparing and integrating methods and processes.

We are 7 Chinese and 5 Germans at the moment, and there is so much work, that there are more to come…

Have a look at me at the office entrance.