Design for All - Digital Promise Global

Design for All

Objective: Students will design or redesign facets of everyday life to be more equitable, inclusive, and accessible for those in their community.

Tools/Materials Required: As needed

Depth of Knowledge: Extended Thinking

Teacher’s notes are in purple. For the student’s version, see Design for All Student Guide.


Prepare: Learn about the key ideas in this project

The Design for All Challenge asks how you might design or redesign facets of everyday life to be more equitable, inclusive, and accessible for those in your community. You should start this Challenge by digging into what these concepts mean. Below is a little help to get started:

As you familiarize yourself with these ideas, reflect and discuss what makes them similar and what makes them distinct. What examples of these ideas do you see in everyday life? What other concepts do you know are related to these ideas? How do you think understanding these ideas will help you make a difference in your community?

The goal of the Design for All Challenge is to understand, empathize with, and gain insights from the everyday experiences of the diverse people in your community. Using those insights, how will you use design to make those experiences more equitable, inclusive, and accessible?

You can design anything–a product, a service, a space, a system of communication, and more. No matter the form of the design, focus on how it could enhance experiences and opportunities, or create possibilities that would have otherwise not existed. For example, you may want to design a playground that is accessible to those of all physical abilities, a product that is adaptable to a diverse set of users (see examples here), or even a media campaign to promote better inclusion of an underrepresented group at your school. You could also focus your design on removing barriers faced by a person. For example, your design could increase a blind student’s independence at school, or your design could create a sustainable solution for a person needing a prosthesis.

Where do you believe you can make a meaningful contribution? Design for those you are close to in your community so that you can test your prototypes on a genuine audience, get their authentic feedback, and work to eventually make a contribution that others will find meaningful. This means creating a design for yourself or a close connection: A loved one, a close family friend, or a close peer.

It is very important to tell students to design for people with whom they have established mutual trust. By designing for themselves or people close to them, students can avoid a situation where they misjudge a person or give a person unwanted attention.

Encourage students to work together in teams for this Challenge, especially if a student wants to design for their own experience. The student’s peers can help them reflect, uncover insights, and get diverse perspectives to create a more meaningful design.

The open-ended nature of this project also presents a great opportunity to use the Challenge Based Learning framework.

Watch Inclusive Design by Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University, for an introduction to some of the themes highlighted in this challenge.


Practice: Try as many activities to as you would like to build your skills

This Challenge asks you to carefully examine the world around you and listen closely to the people in your community for their insights. Be sure to practice a thinking routine, need finding, and user research as you build the necessary skills to complete your Challenge design:

Practicing a thinking routine, need finding, and user research will help students be mindful and thoughtful about what they want to design and for whom they want to design. The thinking routines are a very useful foundation for building a maker mindset and a sensitivity to how objects and systems are designed. By practicing need finding and user research, students will be able to better empathize with their user and create designs that are authentic to the user’s needs. As students develop these skills, they can build additional skills they will need to complete their desired design for this Challenge.

Practice a Thinking Routine

Through deconstruction of objects and systems, we can better understand how and why they were designed. Start by creating a Museum of the Mundane using the thinking routine Parts, Purposes, and Complexities, in which you will deconstruct everyday objects to understand the design and interactions of their various parts. Then, practice Parts, People, Interactions in which you will deconstruct systems to examine their interactions with the people that use them.

Practice Need Finding and User Research

Next, practice exploring the needs of the people around you. Try What Makes You Happy? for guidance on interviewing people for their insights. You can put your interviewing skills to use in the Backpack Project, where you will go through the entire design process to create something useful and meaningful for their needs. You could also practice designing for a specific user in Five Chairs.

Build Skills

Think about what you want to design. What skills will you need to complete it? Go out and build the skills you will need to bring your ideas to life. Below are just a few suggestions:

  • If you want to design a product or device, try using Tinkercad to design and print your creation. If you have not used Tinkercad before, learn how to use it by doing the Cookie Cutter project.
  • If you want to design a battery-powered or wired device, you may want to use TinkerCAD circuits to prototype. You could also explore  Sound Machine to create a device using a Makey Makey.
  • If you want to design a physical space or environment, try building in Minecraft or Paint 3D. Use Redesign a Common Space to apply the Parts, People, Interactions thinking routine to redesigning a common space in Minecraft or Paint 3D.
  • You may also want to create media for your design. Use Moving Pictures to storyboard and experiment with a concept for your media design or production.

These are just a few suggestions among endless possibilities. Brainstorm what your project could be and gather the necessary resources to help you complete it.


Produce: Dig into the project and make it your own!

How might we design or redesign facets of everyday life to be more equitable, inclusive and accessible for those in our community?

Remember that your design should do one (or more) of the following:

  • Enhance an existing experience or opportunity
  • Create possibilities that may have otherwise not existed
  • Remove barriers faced by the person

Design for those you are close to in your community so that you can test your prototypes on a genuine audience, get their authentic feedback, and work to eventually make a contribution that others will find meaningful. This means designing for yourself or a close connection, such as a loved one, a close family friend, or a close peer.

 It is very important to tell students to design for people with whom they have established mutual trust. By designing for themselves or people close to them, students can avoid a situation where they misjudge a person or give a person unwanted attention.


Produced by Digital Promise Global, with thanks to the Open Educational Resources listed throughout this guide. Distributed to Learning Studios schools as part of HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may share this project or modified versions of it under this same license.

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