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Design is traditionally understood as a process (formal or otherwise) that gives rise to products, which are ultimately used and consumed by end users. Despite the apparent flexibility of the digital medium, software is often more brittle and less accommodating of unexpected use—less real and more "finished" than its counterparts in the physical world. Since it is not practical for a designer to include every user and every feature within a single piece of software, nor to understand and obtain expertise in the infinite variety of creative, serendipitous, and unexpected uses that software can be subjected to, we need a different kind of design economy. A goal of Inclusive design is to extend the design process into the designed artifact itself, to give users the ability to continue the design process themselves, after the specialized design effort has been finished and the product has shipped. Here, we are shifting the focal point of inclusion from the process of design into the material form of the thing itself. This is a kind of inversion of Universal Design methods derived from architecture, which aim to create "products and environments... \[that are\] usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design," (Center for Universal Design) we aim to make adaptation and specialized design—in other words, the ability for the environment to be personalized—universal.

"People should design for themselves their own houses, streets and communities. This idea... comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people" (Alexander).


For practitioners, design is the process of becoming specific. For users, design is a process of personally undoing, extending, or changing this initial specificity to suit themselves; to better match their environment, needs, preferences, personal tastes, and creative imperatives. Software designs form a kind of "space" which individuals inhabit—they live, create, adapt, and influence this space as a natural extension of use. Inclusive designers specifically design new forms of influence for users over their software spaces.

"Artists belong to that class which makes the new out of the old, which transforms forms. It includes not just artists but also scientists and engineers" (Wark). Our goal, as inclusive designers, is to share with our users this ability to create new forms from our initial designs—to transform the old form that is our "final product" into new and personalized designs.


NC State University Center for Universal Design. The Principles of Universal Design. 1997. Web.

Alexander, Christopher. A Pattern Language.

Wark, McKenzie. Designs for a New World. e-Flux