I’ve noticed that, when talking about accessibility, guidelines and articles often refer to web design, but only in rare occasions I’ve seen graphic design (print in particular) being targeted as well.
What are some good guidelines to consider when designing for people with different impairments?
I came across these ‘reminders’ of some of the things we can do to improve accessibility in graphic design, specially print.
Clear divisions ensure a consistent strcuture vital for readers with visual disabilities, who appreciate having signposts to help identify content and quickly process meaning.
Hierarchy should be present in all design, but it;s particularly important in complex pieces, where an explicit logical order benefits readers of varying abilities.
It’s important to choose paper of printing materials that minimize glare. It’s better to use papers with a matte or uncoated finish, rather than a glossy stock.
Reader’s perception of color can be affected by congenital vision problems or the effects of age, injury or the environment. A good rule of thumb is to ensure at least 70% difference in color value between type and background. Designers achieve ooptimum contrast between hues by pairing complementary colors, however their value and intensity are too similar. This optical illusion creates eyestrain in many readers.
It’s the relationship between stroke and counter that determines letter recognition. If a letter has extremely thick strokes with small counters, it takes longer for the eye to decode. The same is true for thin strokes and small counters.
The height ratio between capital and lowercase letters is also critical in determining overall legibility. Typefaces with tall x-heights are thought to be easier to read because they appear larger. This doesn’t mean we need to choose these typefaces, but it’s something to consider.
Another ratio to consider is width-to-height. Letters that are too wide or too narrow impede legibility.
When designing for accessibility it makes sense to choose typefaces that have easily recognizable letterforms.
Readers’ ability to take in information quickly is also affected by column width and/or line height and spacing. Avoid columns that are too narrow or too wide and be aware of leading or line spacing. When the leading is too tight, ascenders and descenders collide, which can seriously hinder readability. When it’s too loose, readers have trouble locating the start of each line.
Improper kerning can create awkward gaps or areas of visual tension. When tracking is too tight, letters can bump together or blend optically, and when it’s too loose letter will appear to be floating.
When large blocks of text are aligned to the right or enter, the inconsistency of the ragged edge makes it more difficult to start finding points, and justified text can create distracting “rivers” between words. Left aligned text is easier to read, and the straight left axis creates a common starting point from which the eye can quickly scan each line of text.
Finally, be aware of capital letters, they can make a word or line stand out but setting entire paragraphs in caps will have negative effects in readability and tone. Italics and underlining should as well be only used when they enhance communication, otherwise they create visual distraction.
These are some considerations, I found them in a great manual from the Access Ability site, and I wanted to share them.
You can see the whole PDF here: A practical handbook on accessible graphic design.