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Inclusive symbols concept design and testing feedback

Following on from the concept workshops, we’ve been busy developing the design for each symbol including a number of options which were tested with groups of people living with dementia.


Concept design phase

Getting into the design we quickly realised there were many different route to explore. After a series of iterations, we developed four options for each symbol to test various factors that could make the symbols more easily understood by people with dementia i.e. showing perspective, including people/figures ‘doing’ the action, shaded flooring.

We considered the styling of the ‘symbol people’ – if they should be ‘morph like’, if they should have necks, or if they should be more human in feature, showing details like clothing and hair. We varied their level of movement, the number of people interacting with each environment, and their activity in each context.

Environments were explored in perspective as well as elevation/straight on, and shading on floors and on objects like toilet seats were visualised to gauge people’s understanding. And we changed the scale on some symbols to see how much information is needed, on close up items like a hand on a door as well as entire rooms and the whole shape of an escalator.

The testing stimulus was prepared as A3 sheets with four options for each symbol alongside the relevant current symbol, and a ‘wash up sheet’ of alternative existing options to help stimulate the discussion. Facilitated by Steve Milton, Director of Innovations in Dementia, these sheets were used to evaluate the legibility and understanding of each of the concepts with groups of people living with dementia across a number of locations. The sessions were recorded and subsequently transcribed.


Testing and feedback

The symbol concepts were tested with 39 people of varying ages and stages of dementia. 33 of these were across five groups and there were six 1-2-1 interviews. Groups were consulted in Shrewsbury, Liverpool, Glasgow, Canterbury and Salisbury. Five interviews took place face-to-face in Stockwell and one via teleconferencing in Salford.

There was an overall enthusiasm from participants to feedback their views on something ‘practical’ rather than policy based that will impact positively on people’s everyday life.

Key learnings:

People

Feedback overview:

‘Morph’ figure (on the left) was generally preferred as people found it clearer/simpler.

Male / Female / Accessible Toilet

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognised this as a toilet.

Symbol ‘B’ in perspective with shaded flooring was unanimously preferred and the white figure on black background was least preferred.

Escalator

Feedback overview:

Although ‘C’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape
of escalator handrail to differentiate it from stairs. The rounded shape also implies movement which is helpful. The two people interacting with the escalator in ‘A’ and ‘C’ was well liked. Maybe we could develop ‘A’ in 3D with perspective. Many liked the idea of adding an arrow going up, or down for a different version of the symbol, to emphasise the indication of movement.

Exit

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘C’ showing perspective noting that the person should be clearly stepping from one space to another, rather than walking past the door. The tree and cloud were identified as representing the ‘outside’ and this was liked, as if moving from one environment to another. The floor shading could be understood better if lower down, so less like the person is in water.

Lift

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘D’ showing perspective, doors and shading within lift.  There was absolute consensus that the people interacting are important to the understanding of this symbol. There were comments about the button increasing in size!

Stairs

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognized the options as stairs. Although ‘B’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape of the staircase as shown in ‘A’. Everyone agreed that the handrail helped them feel reassured.

Parking

Feedback overview:

Almost everyone recognised this as parking and there was a unanimous preference for  the simplicity of ‘C’. Some of the options i.e. ‘B’ showed too much information and detail which was confusing for people.

Information

Feedback overview:

None of the options shown were popular. Concensus was for the original ‘i’ symbol to be retained.

Tickets

Feedback overview:

Much discussion was had about whether the symbols represent buying or or showing the ticket. In the end ‘A’ was agreed the most popular.

Priority Seating

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was preferred and most people identified this as a seat for people who
need it. It was pointed out that, for example on buses, there is a space reserved for wheelchair users so we don’t need to include the wheelchair access symbol. We need careful development of the wording to support understanding of this symbol.

Waiting Area

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was the clear preference because of its simplicity and perspective. The doorway through to another room wasn’t necessary. Everyone found the seated people helpful to the meaning, though they should look less rigid and more active. The clock (with no time shown) could be included as it was popular with most participants.

Fire Escape

Feedback overview:

The perspective of symbol ‘C’ was preferred, with the fire from symbols ‘A/B’. It would make sense to include the outside elements from the previous Exit symbol, as well as movement of the person from one space to another.

Wheelchair Access

Feedback overview:

Everyone correctly identified this and ‘A’ gained the majority of votes. Some pointed out that the person was controlling their own chair rather than being pushed as in the existing symbol. Some felt an attachment to the existing symbol and questioned whether we need to update the design of the symbol at all.

Hidden Disability

Feedback overview:

Most weren’t able to identify any of the options shown but for those who recognised some sort of need, symbol ‘D’ was preferred. Adding colour (red) to the cross at the next design phase may be helpful to the understanding around ‘health’. Careful consideration of the words that support this symbol is needed to aid understanding.


Next Steps

Our next step is to look at the user testing feedback in detail to develop and refine the design of each symbol.

We’ll consider the impact for the user of language and colour – which words that accompany symbols are most easily understood i.e. toilet / restroom / ladies /  WC / public convenience.

The trickiest words to consider and resolve will be ‘Priority Seating’ and ‘Hidden Disability’ and we will be working with language strategist Ben Afia https://www.benafia.com to develop some options for testing at the next phase.

We will also consider colour i.e. does a green exit symbol or a blue parking symbol effect its communication?

The design development will lead into the next phase of testing with new groups of people in July.

Tackling big issues: needs to learn

[4 minute read]

As designers we’re ambitious to tackle society’s big challenges – that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. So when we were asked to design an accessible website aimed at 12-15 year old children with additional support needs, we jumped at the chance to work on a project that will really make a difference.

Living with additional support needs means that school can be a real struggle for children without the proper support. These children and their parents or carers may be feeling worried, frustrated or confused about getting the right education to suit their needs. They’re looking for help, and there’s a chance that they have felt let down before and have come to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal as a last resort.

Our aim was to develop a communication channel that would instill a sense of empowerment for its audience and feel like a helping hand. Something that is welcoming, informally informative, and is easily understood. And something that helps in getting all children the education they are entitled to.


The design of the site was led by the people that would be using the site. The colours, fonts and layout were all chosen based on research and knowledge of accessibility for web, for people with support needs, and in particular children with Autism. The site was then user tested and assessed for ease of use and general understanding.”

– Kimberly Carpenter, Senior Digital Designer


We started off by considering a new, original name for the service to replace Additional Support Needs as part of the Health and Education Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland – which we didn’t feel was accessible!

So, we developed the name needs to learn to capture both ASN [needs] and education [to learn].

The name works well when we talk about putting children at the heart of the judiciary service: All children in Scotland should benefit from a school education. When this isn’t happening we look at each child’s individual circumstances and their unique needs to learn.

 And also when we talk about the child:

We look at Jamie’s unique and individual needs to learn to make sure that he benefits from school education.

To build on the power of needs to learn, we developed a new visual language to help with signposting the user to navigate through the information provided. We created a carefully considered colour palette, soft shapes, an engaging illustration style that would appeal to the age group, accessible language and a font that was highly legible on screen. The content was edited down to short blocks of text and bullets points so that information could be easily read and digested by the viewer. There’s also a section on the site titled ‘word meanings’ to explain the meanings of tricky words, especially legal terms that are hard for all of us to make sense of.

As we developed the website design we wanted to ensure the navigation was simple and clear, and it provided plenty of reassurance. The landing page asks:

Are you in the right place?

If you’re 12 to 15, have additional support needs and want to make a change to your school education, then yes you are.

We created a prototype, using Invision, and conducted user testing with a group of 12-15 year olds with additional support needs. We observed their interaction with the site, including ease of use, and asked them what they generally thought of the site. Their feedback played an important role in the final development stages of the website.

Since the site launched, feedback from users is very positive. All children are entitled to, and deserve an education, and if needs to learn helps their education needs to be met then we’re proud to have played a small part to achieve that.


Unsurprisingly children with additional support needs need additional support. That includes the way we communicate with them, not just visually but also understanding that their cognitive functions work differently. The design thinking and execution had to take all this into account when creating something of real value to them.” 

– Mark Wheeler, Design Director


 

Let’s talk about bad language

[2 minute read]

Something’s been bothering me for some time. I call it Bad Language and I see it a lot. Especially in public places and services.

I voiced my frustration last November at the OneTeamGov Scotland un-conference https://www.oneteamgov.uk/scotland. I realise the irony of doing this at an ‘un-conference’, but I hoped we might start something together to make things better.

A revolution to make complex communication simple, and human.

My provocation: let’s debunk and reinvent the confusing language used in public services

Bewildering examples are everywhere, you don’t need to look too hard…

On trains we’re told to ‘alight here’ for Falkirk or Croy.

In hospitals we see signs directing us to ‘Ambulatory Care’.

Children in the care of the state are described as ‘service users’, and the services responsible for meeting their needs are called their ‘corporate parents’.

Out there, in the everyday world, we don’t need to use language that de-humanises and trips people up. Let’s not set the train alight… let’s just get off at the right stop!

Please share your examples #letstalkbadlanguage

Lucy appointed to the Education Design Council’s Expert Panel

In January 2018 Lucy was appointed by SBID (The Society of British and International Design) to the Education Design Council expert panel.

The Society of British and International Design is the UK-based standard bearer organisation for the accreditation of professional interior designers, product suppliers and educational institutions. 

The Education Design Council seeks to put effective design at the core of the learning process and show how evidence-based design decisions can transform the learning experience for everyone. The council consists of experts across the sector of the industry.

Sleep in the Park: our thoughts after thawing out

[5 minute read]

Last Saturday, four of our bravest team members joined in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park event to raise money to help end homelessness. Taking to the park, armed with our many many (many) layers of clothes & a sleeping bag, we were as ready as we could be be to face sleeping in Princes Street Gardens on a chilly winter’s night.

Some slept, some didn’t. But despite temperatures dropping to -6 degrees they made it through the night – warmed by a sense of purpose and solidarity.

So far, the team has raised a fantastic £1,280! We’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to our clients, colleagues, friends and family for sponsoring the team. If you didn’t get a chance before the event, there is still time to donate:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/studiolr

Here are the takeaways from our thawed-out team:

Dave (the shiverer) says…

“The whole event was pretty inspiring. So many people in the same place for the same cause. It warmed my heart right through the layer of frost on my sleeping bag.

Nobody’s perfect and what I love about Social Bite is that they know that. They’re full of positivity – absolutely no finger pointing or blaming and no disconnect between strategy and hands-on action. They’re here to make things better for people, whatever it takes. Their positive attitude makes it easy for everyone to take part and help – from the top of the government to the average joe.

Although the event was primarily a fundraiser, there’s been a lot said about the level of empathy you can really feel by sleeping outside for one night only. I actually think that impact has been huge too. Everyone you speak to now asks how cold it was and follows it up with a thought about people who have to do that regularly. Making people think about others is a pretty great side-effect of raising £4m.”

Kim (the toss’n’turner) says…

“It was pretty cold on Saturday night, everything was covered in frost. I didn’t sleep a wink but how often do you get to be part of something that is helping to eradicate homelessness in Scotland while you stare up at Edinburgh castle and the stars on a winters night.

The sleep out raised a lot of money, and I am in awe of people’s charity so close to Christmas. I’d like to thank everyone that donated.”

Nic (the slider) says…

By the time we arrived at the event we were all passionate about the cause. We had watched the numbers rise on the sleepout website: money raised, jobs pledged, accommodation found… it was awe-inspiring to watch. 

When speaking to the sleepout crowd on the night, Josh Littlejohn reiterated the outstanding fundraising efforts but more importantly, something I hadn’t realised, the awareness raised around this event has knocked down a wall between Edinburgh and it’s homeless community. We can’t turn a blind eye to this anymore, we can’t go back to where we were a few months ago, this really is the beginning of the end for homelessness in Scotland.”

Raini (the snorer) says…

“A movement. That’s what Josh Littlejohn and other speakers spoke of. This wasn’t a one time novelty event – this was another significant strategic step in creating a community of people who can no longer ignore homelessness.

The experience of sleeping outside itself, having only the smallest of tastes of what life for rough sleepers is like, chilled me to the bones but all of our friends and family rallied behind us (and the cause) with their support!

This was the true power of the night – making everyone feel like they have the ability and responsibility to make a difference. Where any blame was deliberately pushed out and all that’s left is the opportunity to shine as one of the good guys who took action. Count me in.

Workshop: the first five #InclusiveSymbols

We’ve been putting our heads together for our #InclusiveSymbols project. In our first of three design concept workshops, we set up a sprint for discussing five of the 15 symbols to be redesigned. In a room with five creatives and three business professionals, we got to work on having an open conversation about each symbol and its reinterpretation, giving ourselves a strict 15 minute limit per symbol. To design symbols suitable for people living with dementia, we discussed how the instruction of the symbol could be interpreted at the simplest, clearest level. We challenged our most basic assumptions and pre-defined

Our first five symbols included:

  • Exit (for leaving a building)
  • Fire Exit (for leaving a building in case of emergency)
  • Stairs (for indicating location of stairs)
  • Elevator (for indicating location of elevator)
  • Escalator (for indicating location of escalators)

Laying in front of us was a collection of live examples of each symbol from our scoping exercise. This included symbols from well-known sources; BSI, ISO, AIGA, Bonnington and Noun Project. There was also a selection of additional unusual designs from a wider array of online sources to stimulate diverse discussion.

To give you a flavour of that discussion, here’s some of the questions we mulled over:

  • What are the most distinguishable characteristics of what the symbol is communicating? (visual and non-visual)
  • Do we need to show a person?
  • Does the symbol work better in 3D? If, so what perspective?
  • Do we need to show arrows? If we include arrows, does that confuse with directional signage?
  • How can we represent movement?
  • Do we need to show all of a thing or is it still clear if we show a key part of a thing? (i.e. the first couple steps in a stair or the buttons on a lift)
  • How can we easily visually represent less-tangible concepts such ‘outside’ or ‘leaving’?

Additionally, language/naming and colours cropped up time and time again. These are due to be considered at a later stage in the project but it was interesting to find how intertwined this is with interpretation and understanding at this stage. These factors impact meaningfully on our initial concepts.

The workshop has been recorded in audio segments and everyone was invited to jot down key points and draw initial thoughts/concepts. We’ve got many thoughts, designs and routes to investigate. Workshop two and three will be happening over the next couple of weeks and then it’s onto developing concept designs! And that’s where the real creative work begins.

Social entrepreneurs… here for good

If we only got our news from the media, or even worse social media, we might think that society is doomed.

Well maybe we just need to get out more to find the country is full of good people who selflessly give their skills and time for the benefit of others.

A couple of weeks ago I had a bowl of soup with the Rev Iain May. You may have seen Iain on the One Show recently. He’s had enough of seeing people selling their souls to payday loan sharks. So, instead of moaning about it, he’s started up Castle Community Bank – a place where people who need a loan are dealt with fairly and with humanity. Iain was a banker in a previous life and is now using his finance experience to help some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people.

A wee shout out

Iain’s not alone – there are many more like him…

Guys like Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Social Bite – a business set up to help people who have struggled with homelessness – and also Brewgooder, a company using the power of craft beer to provide clean water around the world. They’ve already funded projects in Malawi, helping to transform rural communities.

Or my pal Craig Graham, a management consultant who helped set up and run The Spartans Community Football Academy. With the slogan Here For Good they’re re-defining what’s possible for a football club – delivering positive social impact through the power of people and sport. From breakfast clubs, alternative schools and community outreach programmes to simply providing a safe place for local kids to play and socialise. They’re making a difference to society.

-Andy Gray, MD


At StudioLR we enjoy doing our bit for The Spartans Academy and Seamab School, and helping feed the homeless on the Bethany Care Van. It doesn’t take too much to make the difference.

Three men standing in a box

From signs in the train station, to information in brochures and websites, symbols appear in a variety of contexts in everyday life. A symbol is simply a mark or thing that stands for something else.

Look a little closer and you’ll find that some commonly-used symbols don’t clearly communicate what they stand for. They rely on learned associations or figurative meanings and can easily be misinterpreted in literal translations.

This seed was sown in a dementia-friendly workshop last year. We were discussing the design of toilet signs when one man pointed out that the male and female toilet symbols were pretty similar and often ambiguous – of little help at a time of need!

So, we wondered if any other everyday symbols might be confusing or misunderstood.

If the stick man and woman represent toilets, then what does three men standing in a box represent?

What, exactly, does ‘P’ stand for?

And should you sit down at 4 o’clock?

Our instincts turned out to be right – the research* concluded that people living with dementia were often confused when faced with many of the standard symbols currently used throughout society.

So, as part of the drive to empower and enable independence for those living with dementia, we’re embarking on a mission to design a new set of symbols. The new inclusive symbols will be more effective for everyone in society – clear, easy to understand and relevant to people’s present day lives.

* The Life Changes Trust solely funded StudioLR to conduct a three month research project across Scotland with a ‘Life Changes Trust Award’. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. StudioLR worked with support from the University of Edinburgh.

Lucy Richards to speak at the International Masterclass on design for Dementia and Ageing

Lucy Richards is due to speak the International Masterclass on Design for Dementia and Ageing on the 1st of June on the topic of Wayfinding and dementia in relation to the environment. The masterclass is being held at the Dementia Services Development Centre on the University of Stirling campus.

If you’re interested in going, please click the following link http://dementiaevents1.blogspot.co.uk 

Seamab and StudioLR’s sea changers nominated for fundraising award

A partnership between a charity supporting children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and Edinburgh design consultancy has put Studio LR in the running for the Institute of Fundraising’s 2016 Scottish Fundraising Awards.

The unique relationship between Seamab and StudioLR was nominated in the “Best Partner Relationship (Corporate or Trust)” category. Results will be announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow on October 4th.

Seamab was introduced to StudioLR by one of the charity’s trustees, with a view to creating a new brand. In the past, Seamab had difficulty connecting emotionally with potential donors – for privacy reasons, the charity can’t show the children’s faces in promotional material or tell their specific stories.

StudioLR took on the task of creating a new brand identity for Seamab, visiting the school and meeting with the staff and children to find out what Seamab means to them, and the things they would like to tell the world about what the charity does.

The outcome was the Sea Changers – a set of characters who give Seamab an endearing voice to tell their story. Entitled Free, Hope, Joy, Safe, Brave, Calm and Hug, the Sea Changers are designed to express all the things that Seamab strives to achieve for the children in supporting their physical and emotional recovery from loss, abuse, neglect and trauma. They also introduced three Unwelcome Visitors – Sad, Scared and Angry – to tell the story of some of the challenges the children face.

Chief Executive of Seamab, Joanna McCreadie, said: “The benefits of this partnership have been invaluable.

“StudioLR gave us a brand that would otherwise be very expensive to be able to produce and deliver – as a charity, we couldn’t have afforded this. We’re so grateful to everyone at StudioLR for creating something that not only shows what we do to care for children that have been through very difficult experiences of trauma, loss, neglect and abuse, but also gives the children themselves a means of expressing how they feel.

“We feel honoured to have our partnership with StudioLR recognised by the Institute of Fundraising in this way.”  

 

seamab_balloon

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