Understanding the Audience and Concept Are Ket to Marketing Universal Design
It’s stating the obvious to say that the Baby Boomer generation is aging – we’re reminded often, thanks to the media. However, it is this generation – or more specifically, their situation and needs – that is paving the way for how the rest of us will prepare for the future. Some examples include how the country is approaching healthcare, longevity of careers and retirement planning. One of the more uplifting and interesting trends is how houses are designed, remodeled and laid out to allow for folks to age in their current homes. This is a trend known as Universal Design.
According to Rebecca Stahr, ASID, CAPS, CSP, and president of the Universal Design Alliance in Atlanta, Universal Design is “a user-friendly approach to design in the living environment where people of any culture, age, size, weight, race, gender and ability can experience an environment that promotes their health, safety and welfare today and in the future.”
The Universal Design Alliance, you ask? They’re not alone. There are more groups dedicated to this concept than you’d think. In addition the UDA, there’s the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, the International Association for Universal Design, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, and more.
The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University identified seven key principles of Universal Design:
Principle 1: Equitable use. The design has to be useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
Principle 2: Flexibility in use. The design must accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
Principle 3: Simple and intuitive. The design must be easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge or language skills.
Principle 4: Perceptible information. The design should communicate necessary information regardless of the user’s sensory abilities.
Principle 5. Tolerance for error: The design must minimize hazards and adverse consequences associated with accidental or unintended actions.
Principle 6. Low physical effort. The design should be able to be used efficiently and comfortably with a minimum of fatigue.
Principle 7. Size and space for approach and use. All spaces should be designed to provide for easy approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility.
You’ll notice that the real heart of Universal Design encompasses designing for all abilities, genders, sizes, strengths, races and ages. The design aspects include space usage, colors, appliance choice and location, height, size and placement of furniture, doorway widths, and more.
Some believe that the concept is extremely marketable to the Boomer age group, as mentioned above. One blogger even calls Universal Design the “special sauce in mature marketing.”
However, others believe that what began as a concept for the disabled, is being repacked for the Boomer age group in what could be an off-putting way. Chuck Nyren, author of Advertising to Baby Boomers, believes that without truly understanding the Baby Boomer mentality, marketing Universal Design can come off as condescending or a reminder of old age. However, he remarks that when marketed intelligently, “whether they know or not, the majority of Boomers would appreciate the benefits of UD.” Nyren’s philosophy on marketing Universal Design goes back to a marketing basic. And in this case, it’s not “Know Who Thy Thinks Thy Audience Might Be”, it’s truly, “Know Thy Audience.”