As a result of lockdown, many have had to take pleasure in life’s smaller delights, myself included. For me, it has been having a smoked salmon bagel at lunchtime, a moment of bliss in between a never-ending stream of calls. And this is where my love for the sliced bagel comes in. More on that to follow.
Thinking about design has become an increasing popular topic in the world of advertising and communication circles, perhaps in recognition of the fact that communication can only go so far. Changing the product or the experience might actually be a better way to solve the problem the client is facing.
This has never been truer than in the world of inclusive design, which thinks about how we can make the world accessible to everybody, including those with disabilities and the elderly. They have a burgeoning spending power, estimated at $8tn (£5.8tn) a year, but so far little has been done in the inclusive design space on a scale worth talking about.
But ask any disabled people and many products and experiences remain largely inaccessible to them. The adjustments that have been made have been too few and far between, and have the look of a glossy case study for an awards show, rather than any real-world application.
Which is where my sliced bagels come in. Lockdown meant self-made lunches and wielding a knife is not my forte (previous kitchen escapades have included a sliced finger and a burnt hand, but I do make a mean stir fry!). Anyway, every time I tried to slice open a normal bagel, I would butcher it (the hole in the middle reducing its structural integrity.) It was therefore a revelation when I discovered sliced bagels in the supermarket aisle (well, what else was there to do?).
Problem solved! At lunch, I could enjoy my smoked salmon bagel in a perfectly sliced bagel. (It’s also a classic case of design having unintended consequences, because as a mate pointed out, sliced bagels were originally designed and marketed as a low-calorie alternative.)
But what do my lunch tastes have to do with inclusive design?
Well, it highlights how small changes can have a big real-world difference. You don’t always have to think big to change the world. But, within the inclusive design space, we are starting to see the impact that this can have. For example, the RNIB helped design the world’s first pregnancy test for visually impaired people. And the online bank Starling created a debit card which carers can safely use in case the people they are caring for are not able to go out because they are self-isolating due to the pandemic.
Simple solutions to solve real everyday problems, beyond what you want to have for lunch.
And we need more of this. Simple thinking about what brands can to help disabled people access more of the world like anybody else. It could be anything from how driverless cars might help disabled people get from A to B, to easy to open shampoo bottles and lastly self-pouring beer cans.
The opportunities are endless. We just need to get to work.
Mike Alhadeff is a senior strategist at AMV BBDO