What Universal Design Can Teach Us About Marketing

You may or may not be aware of the concepts behind “Universal Design” or UD. I know I was not aware of them, until a volunteer opportunity — completely unrelated to my work or my business — came across my lap. However, in researching the concepts behind UD further, I found that so much of the theory behind UD aligned with my personal attitudes regarding my business, and my clients.

Allow me to explain:

Universal Design (UD) is defined by the Universal Disabilities Act of 2005 as, “The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest possible extent, in the most independent and natural manner possible, in the widest possible range of situations, without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialized solutions, by any persons…” In sum, it enables architects, product developers and designers to push the boundaries of conventional thinking to develop systems, processes and tools that are fully customizable and adaptable to its various users.

In support of the UDA, the National Counsel on Disability wrote in 2007 that, “The provisions of the ADA addressing architectural, transportation, and communication accessibility have changed the face of American society in numerous concrete ways, enhancing the independence, full participation, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for Americans with disabilities. Americans with disabilities report having greater access to goods and services from businesses, state and local governments, and their local communities.”

Indeed, we as a nation or a society have not yet come close to completing the mission set forth in the UDA of 2005, and more work is yet to be done in granting people with disabilities equal access to opportunities (specifically, the NCD is striving to increase accessibility of the internet to the hearing and visually impaired as I write this article). However, there are valuable lessons embedded within the 7 principles of Universal Design that perfectly reflect the reason I started my consulting business.

My goal for my business was to democratize digital marketing and enable small and medium businesses to take advantage of the same opportunities that multinational corporations enjoy, especially since the systems and platforms employed by digital advertising — i.e., the Facebook ad platform, or Google — are the same no matter who is creating and deploying the ads. The Internet offers a huge potential to lift our economy away from its reliance on “the corporate machine” and enable individuals to achieve financial independence AND achieve their dreams, all at the same time. I think this sentiment rings true in the 7 Principles of Universal Design, and I intend to approach my consulting career through the application of these principles as a values system. The 7 principles are:

  1. Equitable Use: being useful to diverse groups of people;

2. Flexibility: accommodate a wide range of individuals and industries;

3. Simple and Intuitive Design: ensure that my marketing plans are clear and easy to understand, regardless of the varied backgrounds of my clients;

4. Perceptible Information: communicate clearly, openly and with transparency;

5. Tolerance of Error: ensure that all of my marketing plans and campaigns minimize any potentially adverse impacts by being flexible and honest by design;

6. Low Physical Effort: make sure my plans are easy to not only understand, but also to implement; and

7. Size & Space: make sure that all of my clients get the right amount of attention, no matter their size, histories, or available resources.

I always believe that it’s important to find parallels with the things we study, to the ways in which we live. While seemingly unrelated, I do think we as transparent, honest and open consultants could learn a lot from the Principles of Universal Design! For more information about UD principles and tactics, you can visit this website:


Kristy LaPlante