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Architectural Signage Designed to Meet Universal Design Principles

universal design priinciples

Universal design principles cover virtually every aspect of built environments and commercial products, and architectural signage — when done correctly — plays a large role in guiding people through universal designed architectural environments. So what are the principles of universal design, and how do they relate to architectural signage?

First, let’s honor the efforts of Ronald L. Mace, who established the Center for Universal Design at the NC State University College of Design, and coined the term “universal design.” Mr. Mace defined the universal design concept as the effort to “design all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.” From this concept, seven universal design principles were established.

1. Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities

2. Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities

3. Simple and Intuitive Use

The design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, language, or knowledge

4. Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions.

5. Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions

6. Low Physical Effort

The design can be used comfortably with minimal fatigue.

7. Size and Space

Appropriate size and space is provided regardless of the user’s size or mobility.

Architectural Signage and Wayfinding Principles

Design professionals familiar with ADAAG guidelines and the science of wayfinding can see parallels — if not a mirror image — of some of the universal design principles listed when they think about how these things apply to architectural signage. One of the best ways to understand how architectural signage fits within universal design is to view examples. Click here to see examples of modular architectural signs and see and judge for yourself how the seven principles of universal design apply.

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