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David Berman keynotes at 2015 Plain conference: e-Accessibility: Leaving no one behind online

2015 Plain Conference
Dublin, Ireland | September 2015 (42:53)

Transcript | David Berman keynotes at 2015 Plain conference: e-Accessibility: Leaving no one behind online

This is a transcript of the video David Berman keynotes at 2015 Plain conference: e-Accessibility: Leaving no one behind online.


…so I think it’s best that I address you today… my words will be more accessible today… if I speak in English. I’m wearing a pair of goggles. And they’re the goggles we use… when we’re testing websites for accessibility because we tend to think about accessibility with people extreme deficits. Someone who can’t see at all and has never seen. Someone who is quadriplegic, has very little mobility.

And yet the vast majority of disabilities are more subtle. And so we have these goggles, for instance. They’re designed by a doctor I met from Pennsylvania. And on this set, on my left eye, this limits my vision to about eight degrees. On the

right eye, this is a Coke bottle- “Trailer Park Boys–” if you know Canada, “Trailer Park Boys–” -kind of a lens.

And we have a whole set of these. In fact, my cat, Spice, who travels with me: she’s wearing a simulation of cataracts. Actually, you may want to try one of these on, got a whole bunch of them. You could try one of them on for color blindness or macular degeneration…

Actually, you can pass these around here. Have some fun with these. And in fact, our cat can even travel. Row. You know, the thing is that my focus has been on accessibility for some time. And yet I started out as a graphic designer.

How many of us are writers here? Show of hands. Designers, information designers? Managers? OK, thank you.

This is a picture of me from 1985 when I just first started out being a graphic designer. And when I first started out being a graphic designer, it was all about typography for me. I was crazy for type. I still am.

But to me, it was this wonderful universe. I could take all of these column rules and words and justification and I could create this perfect little universes. I didn’t care that much about what I was saying. It just had to do with what it looked like.

And then in the ’80s, in 1985, a woman who was an activist in plain language wandered into my studio with a project. And she forced me to deal with the reality that no matter how pretty the words were, no matter how well organized they were, if we weren’t saying something useful and we weren’t saying that communicated clearly, there was no point in doing it at all.

And in fact, it helped shape my career. Because I ended up doing some really exciting work. For instance, my biggest client for about a decade was Health Canada, Department of Health. And in Ottawa, Canada, where I’m from, we’re the ones who invented this idea of putting messages on cigarette packages. First just words, then pictures.

Extremely plain language which has saved lives worldwide. And now everywhere I travel– been to now over 60 countries– and everywhere I travel, I see this Canadian idea. And I remember it went from completely ridiculous, there’s no way you’ll ever get that approved to traveling around the world and seeing everywhere we go this type of thing.

Another crazy tilting of windmills thing was we did a special project for the prime minister’s office in Canada where the idea was what would happen if we rewrote the law in plain language. We took the Employment Insurance Act. And not just to redesign the words, but to do plain design as well.

And to think about digital accessibility. And we did this work. And we did studies. And we weren’t surprised to find that the common person was delighted when they compared the old and the new version. The idea that they didn’t need a lawyer to understand a law of their own country. Cornerstone democracy.

What really amazed us was that we did testing as well with lawyers, and the lawyers also preferred the plain language version and the plain language design.

That very activist I mentioned, actually, we ended up working on a project for almost two decades. A project where we were helping family farmers create sustainable farms in Ontario.

And one of the cornerstones was– it was a massive plain language project. I had never been so immersed in it. And this project, now in its fourth edition, it became a CD-ROM. It became a website. And now in its most recent incarnation, we’ll now make it e-accessible as well.

So the first layer was to use language that was meaningful to everyone. The second layer is now it’s in a programming format as part of an online portal where everyone can access it because it fulfills standards for international accessibility for websites. And now, over 80% of the family farmers in family farms in Ontario have attended our course, which is about four times as many as anyone would ever imagine.

Now, just last month, I spoke at accessibility conference in Toronto. And I met this remarkable guy. Kerr Watson is a young man. He’s about 25. Though at first glance, you think he’s more like 14.

He has extreme challenges in terms of communications. And if you just met Kerr and you tried to interact with him, you’d probably think that he’s a person that is simply not responsive at all until you read what appears on the tray on his scooter. And I’ll read this to you because it’s one of the most brilliant pieces of plain language I think I’ve ever read.

And it’s a case where plain language opens up someone’s life. It says, “Hi, I’m Kerr, pronounced ‘care’. Please talk to me directly rather than to my assistant. I can hear. I like it when people talk to me in a quiet voice.

I’m an adult. I understand everything you say. Please ask me yes/no questions. I blink for yes. If I don’t blink, ask if I meant to say no. I’ll blink to confirm.

My visual impairment makes it hard for me to look at you. If you think I’m not listening, I may be having an absence seizure. My assistant can help if we have difficulty along the way.”

These few sentences are the difference between Kerr interacting with the world and being ignored. Indeed, from Ontario and from Canada, I’m proud to say I bring you messages of leadership in accessibility. And it’s because we’ve been leaders in legislation.

I’m proud to say that I design and I write and I edit in a province where it’s actually against the law to not try to write things plainly. That’s amazing. And we want to share that globally.

I was brought in by the Worldwide Web Foundation to be part of a study they do every couple years called the Web Index. And what we did is we study countries around the world to see how they’re doing in terms of making a web presence that’s truly meaningful.

And embedded in that were four questions about accessibility. So we are able to benchmark legislation and government and private sector websites from all these different countries to see how well we did. And it’s no surprise to me that the countries in this room are the countries that do the best. That the countries that are best represented in the plain language community are those countries where we’re finding the best online web presences.

Now, if you do a Google Trends search of the phrase “web accessibility” these are the cities that come up. Ottawa, where I’m from, is ground zero. 100 points. And Toronto, the capital of Ontario, is also on that list. And the reason for that is Ottawa is our national capital and we were the first country in the world to legislate that it was against the law for any public facing government page to not comply with an international standard of accessibility.

Now, these international standards are a mixture of editorial, design, programming issues. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about that for those who aren’t familiar with it. But then Toronto, capital of Ontario. Ontario was the first jurisdiction on the planet to say not just government but private sector and NGOs as well had to publish at a minimum level of accessibility, or else it’s against the law.

Now, we tend to think of design as decoration. And yet to me, design is life and death. Consider this. This is a picture of a traffic signal in Dublin. But I could’ve taken it pretty well anywhere in the world. It’s a classic. The red and green system of is it safe to come and go.

And I’m going to just press my magic button and remove all the color. Now you’re seeing what traffic signals look like to someone with a complete color deficit. You know, 10 and 1/2 percent of the male population of Ireland has some level of color deficit. And you know what the largest source of accidental death is in this country?

That was a question.


Road traffic.

Road traffic accidents. Who said that? Thank you. You know, we got to encourage participation. Here. Here’s a copy of my book, Do Good Design.

Road accidents. And the majority of the deaths are at intersections. So at these intersections, how can we rely on a system that doesn’t use just color? Well, we can.

This is what we’re doing in Quebec: the next province over from Ontario invented a better traffic signal. So here, in these traffic signals, we’re still using the classic green to go, red to stop, so the legacy users understand it. But as well, we’re not relying entirely on color.

The number of lamps. There’s two lamps when you’re stopping and only one for go. And the shape as well. Square for stop, round for go. Diamond for maybe.

And in this way, we’re still using color but we’re not relying entirely on color. And we translate the same type of thinking into document design. We get the same idea that if we make sure we don’t write instructions that rely on color, we’re making sure that everyone’s included.

Now, this is a traffic signal I saw in Boston, Robert. This is downtown Cambridge. And now what is this symbol supposed to– can someone in the audience who can see color tell me, what is this symbol supposed to mean?

“Don’t go left.”

Don’t turn left, right? What does it say to someone with a complete color deficit?


“Kill yourself now” is what it says. Have you driven in Boston? I mean, so you’re basically saying one way to get rid the problem is to kill off the colorblind folk. The colorblind folk…

Yes, I’m a colorblind graphic designer. I was embarrassed to say it for the first 10 years. And I just wear black and I get away with it.

But as a designer interested in accessibility and inclusion, what became really clear to me early on was that happening to live right now, happening to live in this age where it’s never been more possible to share ideas, I think the online is the biggest opportunity to help do good. Because you know, Hannah and I went over to the Treasury at Trinity College.

And there’s this enormous, wonderful collection of ideas, of words, of books. And in the century since the liberation of these ideas, I don’t think anyone even imagined that we could overcome the politics that wouldn’t allow everyone to have access. But did we imagine that we could overcome the idea that someone whose hurdle is that they can’t see would be able to read all these books?

Or someone who lives 10,000 kilometers away could read all these books? Now, in the last 100 years. Well, you know, in the last 30 years more people have been liberated by information technology than all the wars and revolutions in the history of humankind. We get to live in a remarkable time.

And in those last 100 years, the divide between those who had access and those who don’t has basically broken down to four screens. The first screen, a movie screen. Like right now, we’re sharing in a theater arrangement.

The second screen was the television. And no technology took over the planet faster than the TV. And indeed, people love this. And they had some level of control over interaction because they could choose different channels.

The third screen, though, was the computer screen. A chance for true interaction. And yet it’s this fourth screen, the mobile screen, that will actually be the first place that most of us meet this amazing ability to access documents. We tend to think of the Internet as ubiquitous, and yet only 31% of humanity has internet access.

But this is the decade where that changes. By the end of this decade, a majority of humanity will be online. And if you think of all the amazing things we’ve developed just in the last 10 years online, the YouTubes and the Twitters. And yes, it’s smart to have entire documents that are only 128 characters long.

All these innovations. Imagine if 31% of us are innovating, what becomes possible when all of humanity is online. The mobile devices have also made remarkable things possible. I want you to imagine for a moment. In fact, imagine someone you know.

Maybe you have a child. Imagine that child is a year and a half old. Or maybe a nephew or a niece. And she wakes up in the middle of the night. It’s two in the morning and she’s crying. She’s screaming and she can’t tell you what’s wrong because she doesn’t have the words.

But something’s clearly wrong. And here in Ireland or in Canada or Australia, you’d pick up the line and you’d call the 24/7 nursing hot line. You’d say, ah, I don’t know what to do. My daughter is really not well. And I don’t know what to do. What do we do?

And they say, oh, symptoms. Oh, go to the 24/7 Boots. Go to the pharmacy. Get this drug. Come back, give it to her, and she’ll be OK. And you do that and everything’s OK.

Except if you lived in Ghana, it’s not so easy. Because in Ghana, 25% of the pharmaceuticals are fake, which means that you make the call, you rush to the pharmacy, you get the drug. You don’t know if it’s going to help your daughter or whether it’s going to kill her.

And even aside from the medical risk, there’s an indignity there as well as a hit on the economy. So what did they do? This group called mPedigree came up with this remarkable invention. The reason I came across it is we were judging a global design awards program throughout the developing world. And there were all sorts of amazing graphics and color and stuff.

But of all the entries from 111 countries, this is the entry I love the most. This group called mPedigree invented a system where when you get the pharmaceutical, there’s a sticker on the drugs. And you just take your nail and you scratch it off, and there’s a unique number on the pill.

You then take your mobile– which if you’re in Ghana costs one penny per text– and you text that number to this SMS number. And immediately comes back a Yes or a No. A plain language message that tells you whether that’s safe drugs for your child.

That’s 128 characters. No color, no special fonts. That’s 128 characters of pure plain language love, great design, better security, better humanity, better civilization. And it’s pure innovation. And that’s where I see our opportunity.

So when it comes to e-accessibility, of course we think of the idea that we all want to take care of everyone. It’s the right thing to do. But in fact, we need to find reasons to motivate our clients to want to make everything accessible. And I find there’s five reasons.

And the first reason is there’s just so many of us. And we want to include everyone. And what percentage of people do you figure live with a substantial disability? What do you think? What are the numbers?

I’m sorry, 20% perhaps? 15%? You know, I’m skeptical. These are the numbers the government tells us in Canada, too. I’m skeptical because just yesterday Claire reminded us that one in six adults here in Ireland live with a level of literacy where they can’t use the websites.

So if one in six adults in Ireland have a literacy challenge, I think the number is higher. Actually, I’d like you to do a little experiment, if you’re willing. Maybe. I said we’d give awards for participation and you gave me the 20%, so thank you.

Actually, Hannah. Easily recognizable with her interesting hat. If you give Hannah your name and email address, we’ll do an informal accessibility audit of your website, if you’d like. Is that interesting?

Lovely. That would be great, thank you.

If you’d like that, just give Hannah your credentials. So I want try an experiment, if you’re willing. And I don’t want to embarrass anyone. But I bet you just in this room, we have way more than 15% or 20% or 18% of people with disabilities. Are you willing to try this?

I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, and then you can decide. Here’s my plan. I’m going to list off a whole bunch of disabilities. And only after I’ve listed them all, I’ll ask you to stand up. Or if you’re in a wheelchair, don’t stand up.

I’ll ask you to stand up and we’ll see how many. And by the way, I have two and a half of the things I’m going to list. So I’m going to list them all. Don’t stand up until then. And then I’ll say, “OK, everyone stand up if you have at least one of these things.” All right?

You’ll figure out what I’ve got by the end of the 49 minutes. So here’s my list. Can you not see at all? Do you wear glasses? Do you have a color deficit? Do you have trouble reading the lettering on the bottom left corner of the screen here?

Do you have a hearing challenge? Do not hear certain frequencies of sound? Do you have trouble hearing in certain situations? Do you have a mobility challenge? Do have carpal tunnel syndrome?

Have you ever had you arm or leg in a cast for more than two days? Have you had laser eye surgery? Are you pregnant? Are you drunk? Are you stoned? Did you not get too much sleep last night because that Temple Bar region, they make noise all night long?

Do you live most of your day in a wheelchair? Do you have an attention deficit challenge? Are you already bored with my list? Autism?

Was English not the first language you learned? That’s a lot of things, and there’s more things. But hey, look. OK, stand up if you have at least one of these things. Let’s see what we’re dealing with here.

Oh my goodness. That’s a lot of people.

OK, my friends. I want you to look left. I want you to look right. And I want you to realize that when we’re writing, we’re writing for everyone. We’re not writing for some shut ins with a miserable little life somewhere, this mythical thing we think of someone with a disability.

These are the well dressed, awesome, humorous, cool people you are writing for, designing for. Do you get it? Thank you so much for exposing yourselves. You can sit down now.

The second reason why we need to make everything accessible is for search engines. The Google search engine or the Yahoo search engine or the Bing search engine has the cognitive ability of perhaps a four year old. And when we organize our information in a way that assistive technologies can interpret it, it also means that Google can be confident that it recognizes what it’s perceiving and can structure it properly… which means more accurate hits on Google and also more search results. Because Google only wants to share information if Google is confident.

The third is if we want to retain and attract the best people to our organizations, well, we want everyone involved. Who would want to not be able to have Stephen Hawking working in your organization. Because we want people involved in the process of creating documents every step of the way and not just being able to perceive them.

The fourth reason is the love. It’s the right thing to do. We sleep better at night knowing we’re part of the design of a better civilization.

But the fifth reason that really compels me to be with you today is legislative. And I’m showing pamphlets here from the Ontario government that they’ve handed out because now the businesses across Ontario need to understand how to provide online and in-person accessibility. There’s a lot of education that needs to go on.

The good news is this. Whether you know a whole lot about e-accessibility or hardly a little, this is the perfect time to learn. It’s never been easier. We used to run two day courses on this, and now we do them in a day because the tools have gotten better.

The understanding’s become better. The software is better. The hardware is better. The assistive technologies have also become more available. Now, in order to design really well for disability, though, we need to understand what we’re grappling with.

And so I’ve very briefly organized the types of disabilities based on the human senses. The key, though, also is when you think about disability, most of them are not permanent. A permanent disability, someone, let’s say, hasn’t seen since birth and may never see. That’s an extreme case.

But the vast majority of us have more subtle things. Maybe we could have full mobility, but it hurts when I move this arm. I just don’t want to do it that much. Maybe my hand shakes a little.

So we have episodic disabilities as well. Perhaps I just happen to be on the bus holding groceries in one arm and trying to dial my phone in the other. That’s a temporary. Or at the gym. You know, when you’re on the treadmills. And there’s five different screens up, they’ve got different channels.

And so they turn off all the volume because otherwise it would be this cacophony. Well, they put the captions on. So now we’re all using the captions even though we may be able to hear just fine.

We have a temporary ability not to be able to hear. And so we all enjoy those captions. Or when we’re watching Downton Abbey in Canada: we really enjoy the captions.

And we also have acquired disabilities because as we age– in 15th century Ireland, the life expectancy was perhaps 36. And we all want to live past 36. But you know, we’re working with this 50,000-year-old hardware and it does start to break down at a certain point.

So we have aging-related challenges. And then if it’s not bad enough, we also have society judging us. Like being left-handed in some parts of the world is still something they try to force out of kids at an early age. And that messes with their heads, for sure.

So the impairments: I’m listing them in the order here that affect us most online. We have visual challenges. We have dexterity or mobility challenges. And we have hearing challenges. And all these challenges, they can be the most extreme or they can be the most subtle, and we want to take care of all of them.

Language and speech difficulties. Cognitive challenges. We do work at Carleton University, and 80% of the students who come to the accommodation desk at Carleton University are actually dealing with cognitive challenges. Though you’d think it’s all about people in wheelchairs and stuff.

And then we have all these wonderful things we’ve invented to overcome these challenges. We call these assistive technologies. And by understanding them, we know how to best write or design or code for making sure they all work. And I’m just going to show you a few of them.

For instance, we have a lot of tools for taking an image and zooming. And we all enjoy this on a small screen device. You know, they told us 20 years ago our screens were going to get bigger, but they got really smaller. All this pinch and zooming we do.

In fact, you go to those new sites where you do “Oh, I got to zoom in” to see the line. But then I got to go this. And I got to go down and around. And then I got to zoom in.

Those are the websites that aren’t following the standards of how to create an accessible site. But those sites that are delightfully just always the right size and you turn your phone and it just works and everything, those are the sites that are following the rules on how to create accessible experiences.

This is a technology that was developed also in Ottawa. It’s a technology that follows where your nose is and therefore knows where you’re looking. And then when you blink, it knows when to launch the missile– It knows when to launch the whatever. We know where the money came from.

But the amazing thing is that although developed for one reason, everyone prefers this. In fact, Lenovo is planning on building Nouse– it’s called a Nouse because it’s like your nose and a mouse– your Nouse. Building all these Lenovo laptops are going to have Nouse-like technology in the next 24 months.

And then everyone’s going to be wandering around. Bad enough people are wandering around talking to themselves. They’re going to be wandering around blinking at their tablets.

This is another technology made in Ontario. This girl is wearing a pair of goggles. Her name is Yvonne. I actually met her at that same conference. And the goggles take the information, and this computer she wears on her waist. And these two LED displays.

And it actually redesigns what she’s seeing in real time. I tried it out. It was amazing. Now, she’s got a visual challenge where she can’t see anything in the middle. She only sees stuff in the periphery.

So what this does is it’s constantly, as she’s looking around, it rebuilds the middle of the vision. She doesn’t just wear them walking around. Yvonne wears them all the time. So when she’s at her computer looking at your website, she’s also wearing these goggles.

And I asked Yvonne what’s it like to wear the goggles all the time. And she says “Since she got the goggles, I can be the person I’m supposed to be.” She doesn’t see this as a different version of herself. She sees the goggled version of Yvonne as the true Yvonne.

Here’s another technology which is really cool. This girl’s wearing what we call a sip-puff device. And if you’re a quadriplegic, the idea is you can’t use your limbs below your neck. But she can, by moving her head around, that’s like moving the mouse. And by sipping and puffing on the tube, that’s like left-clicking or right-clicking a mouse.

(If she’s using a Mac, she has to stop for breath, I guess.) And the thing is that if you design your website according to these standards, she can use it. If you don’t, she can’t. It’s that simple.

You don’t have to know about how all these technologies work. But if you follow the international standards, if you follow the style guide, they may say, then everything falls into place. You know, we are all familiar with Braille. And I handed out a number of our Braille cards. Many of you have these in your hands.

But you may not realize that the same Braille is used digitally with devices like screen readers or dynamic Braille display. What it does is all the Braille dots pop up. So you press Enter. You hear the next. You’re listening, but you’re also feeling the lines.

And when you see someone who can’t see using a Braille display or something printed from a Braille document. Again, if you follow these accessibility guidelines, then your websites will magically… Press “Print.” They’ll print perfectly on the Braille printer. If you don’t follow the guidelines, who knows what you’re going to get when you click “Print” on the printer.

Another thing that’s really breaking through for us and making this all much more relevant is that the cost of these assistive technologies is dropping phenomenally. And an awful lot of the technologies that used to cost a lot– like let’s say I had a device that told me what color my pants are. It may be a $150 device that I just carry with me.

But now, it’s a $4 app in my phone. And so many other things based on tablets and these other technologies that are mainstream technologies like Siri can be used to help people do things. Like when you’re driving, you have a temporary mobility deficit with your hands. And you have attention deficit because of your eyes. And you have a visual deficit.

But you could use a technology that lets you glance over at a tablet and look at a map, and it can interpret what you want. You’re just taking advantage of all of these assistive technologies. Ultimately, what we’re trying to get to is an idealized world where everything is accessible to everyone on any device at any time, any bandwidth. And we will never, ever achieve this.

And the reason I’m telling you this is because I don’t expect you to be able to do it to perfection. What I want you to do is just exceed a minimum standard. And that’s why style guides are so awesome, by the way, Dave, I also think. It’s because you’re saying to people, here’s the bar. Here’s what’s good enough.

Because I don’t want you to be daunted by this. Oh no! What if I try to make my document accessible and my website accessible and then some expert comes along and says, “That’s not accessible enough”. We have a minimum standard. And of course we’d like you to exceed it.

But if you know you can exceed the minimum standard, then you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And that’s where this awesome thing comes along called WCAG 2.0. WCAG is the Web Content– content, that’s us– Accessibility Guidelines. They’re published by a volunteer group based in Boston, but work all over the world.

Some of us are in Canada and some of us are in Europe and some of us are all around. And this idea of WCAG 2.0 allows us to set a standard where it basically sets a bunch of rules that if you do all the Level A rules, you can say my product is a Level A compliant document or site.

If you follow all the AA rules as well, you’ve got a Level AA product. So for instance, there’s 25 Level A rules and 13 Level double A rules. So that’s 38 rules you’d have to follow.

Now, that may sound a little daunting. But some of them apply to writers. Some of them, your programmers will take care of for you. So look at this.

These are the WCAG rules, just a sample. And they have to do with plain language. So we’ve got a standard that already includes the stuff that we’re all about. And we’ve got legislatures passing laws saying you’ve got to do this stuff.

So for instance, the sensory characteristics rule– and it’s something that’s important for writers to be aware of– says it’s OK to give instructions about color as long as you don’t rely solely on color. So that thing I showed you with the traffic signals and the physical world has an analogy in an e-document that says, yeah, it’s OK to say that you can find Hannah because she’s wearing the orange hat.

But I’m also going to say it looks like little bear ears because if you can’t perceive orange, you can still find Hannah. And all of these rules are most of the stuff we already know and love. So we don’t have to say to the client, oh, you really ought to.

You can say, “I agree. But hey, it’s the law here in Ontario. You’re going to have to spell out that abbreviation on first mention, so I think we’d better do it, don’t you?” So it’s like, argument’s over. So I’m looking for you to work with me to make this more the reality in more parts of the world.

Because some places have guidelines and some have rules. And in fact, we created this tool, which you’re welcome to download. It’s free. It’s called the Berman Accessibility Ribbon for Word. Because we realized most accessibility, if we want to build accessibility in from the get go, we have to make it easier for people.

So this is a ribbon that goes into Microsoft Word. And what we did is we made it so that all of the features in Word which make documents accessible are in one ribbon. As well, we have the word “Accessibility’ up in the left corner of the Accessibility Ribbon. So it’s reminding you about accessibility. But I didn’t say that.

So you download this. Install it in Word through your whole organization. We’ve had dozens of organizations do this. And now it makes it easier to build accessibility into documents right away. And all around the world, look at this. You just have to learn this one WCAG 2.0 thing.

Every country in the world I can find that’s passed legislation is pointing to WCAG 2.0. So you only have to learn this one tool and you’ve got clients all around the world eager to work with you to make it make sense. Now right here in Ireland– I’m sorry, in Ontario I told you about how we’ve got this legislation already going.

The legislation was passed in 2005. But deadlines for having to comply have already kicked in. So any organization in Ontario with over 50 employees already has to have a public-facing website that complies with these standards. Or they can be fined.

It’s like not having a wheelchair ramp running into your building. It’s like not having a wheelchair ramp running into your website. Norway then leapfrogged Ontario in terms of saying Level AA for private sector. And Ireland, actually, back in 2005 passed a Disability Act which implies the idea that at least the government here has to publish in a way… And the guidelines published by NDA…

You know, I was so amazed. I’ve never seen a country before that has a universal design department. That is an amazing achievement. And I’m eager to go to other places and say, you’ve got to be like Ireland. You’ve got to have yourself a national disability authority, a universal design department as part of your government.

And so the principles in this act suggest WCAG 2.0 compliance. Look, just like Dave, Mr. Marsh– Dave or David?


Thank you. I hate it when people call me Dave. And I just did it to you. I’m really sorry. David. David. We’re on the same page.

We need standards so we can exceed the standards. Singing from the same hymn book. And by being able to go there, it means that we can create a better civilization. And you know, I’m passionate about this stuff obviously. And there’s the book.

I wrote a book about this. And for the last six years, it’s been going from language to language around the planet. And obviously, I’m passionate about the whole topic of e-accessibility. But I just want to share one last thing with you before I stop, which is that I , you know, I started off by saying that this activist wandered into my office 30 years ago.

And it’s that type of activism in Ontario that created the legislation that now has made it the law that plain language is the law. But you know that person, that activist, is Ruth Baldwin. And Ruth, you’re here, right? Ruth Baldwin. And so I know we thanked Ruth last night as a group.


But I can’t tell you how much pride it gives me to be able to thank her in person with all of you present for helping shape my career. And helping light a match under me, which has allowed me to spread a lot of good. And I’m hoping that together as advocates– obviously you’re all advocates for doing good.

And as you go back to your countries, I want to show you that it is absolutely possible that we can have laws on this planet that say that plain language isn’t just a good idea. It should be the rule. And being able for everyone to be included isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a human rights issue.

And together, we’re making that happen. And let’s continue to make it happen. And thank you for your time.


AUDIENCE MEMBER 1> Just from personal experience I’ve had a couple of years ago to get certain documents into some standard compliant that credit enormous files which would’ve meant that a lot of people actually could not access them because they didn’t have the equipment to handle those sorts of files.

So I’m just wondering how you cope with the

practicalities of– obviously modern technology can cope with all the new standards. But this practicality of bringing everything up to–

DAVID> The challenge of legacy documents. It happens all the time. You know, we work with like the Canadian government. Imagine we had tens of thousands? We had an awful lot. We had piles of documents that have been published over many decades.

And one of the refreshing approaches, for instance, Ontario took, was that they said anything published before this date is going to be optional. And instead to focus on the going-forward. Because you will only have limited resources. So it makes sense.

We teach people techniques on how to build accessibility from the very get go. And although there are techniques where we can take any old document, any ancient document, and turn it into an accessible document, it can often be a lot of work. And so we recommend, let’s focus on the future and then come back to the legacy documents later on.

MODERATOR> Oh, put your hand up again, sorry, just for my colleague who’s coming down there. Oh, she has you. Thanks.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2> I just wanted to ask about accessibility around the world. And has it been difficult in talking to people and getting governments and organizations involved. And same token, has it been getting easier, too.

DAVID> It’s absolutely getting easier. Part of that is the human rights, the United Nations getting– by the end of this decade, perhaps every country in the UN will have signed the declaration on the rights of people living with disabilities. And that means nations have to do certain things at home to get it done.

It’s like recycling. If 10 years ago I were to say to you every room in this castle is going to have a recycling bin in the corner, you probably would have said “Oh, David, that’s a sweet idea, but you’re a crazy long-haired tree-hugging hippie.

And yet now we consider it de rigueur to have recycling everywhere. I think this is the decade of inclusion. Though right now maybe it sounds fanciful that governments would pass these laws, I believe 10 years from now we’ll be gathering– five gatherings from now.

And we’ll be saying oh, yeah. That’s right. There was a time when this stuff wasn’t the law. But country after country is adopting this. Whether it’s for all the benefits or the legal risk, which is that as expectations rise, there are more and more lawsuits from people saying, hey, I have a right to access that.

And if you want me to put my bins– bins? My garbage out. My bins out on the curb on the right day of the week and info’s only available online, you have to give me a website that is accessible if you expect me to conform with the law and not pay the 150 Euro fine for not putting my garbage out on the right day. And so that’s where it’s coming from.

MODERATOR> Great. One more, quickly. Yes, thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #3> Hi, David. [INAUDIBLE] from Australia. I was just wondering what the technical accomplishments are. We have a problem where people aren’t skilled enough in the back-end work to meet the requirements. We can edit the content, but we’re aware we need further technical support.

When we’re looking for people to help us on our projects, what do we need to look for from designers who are skilled in this area?

DAVID> Well, it’s a good question. Because of course it’s going to take time for everyone in the industry to know their part. So for instance, in Ontario where we’ve certified the profession of design, we now updated the curriculum in the universities and colleges so you can’t pass your graphic designer certification examination unless you understand color contrast, font choices, et cetera.

But that’s relatively new. In the design world, we’re passing standards globally to get this done. In the editorial world, we need to do that as well. In the web development world, we need to that as well. It’s going to take time.

So part of it is pulled by the business benefits of doing this. But we’ve found in Ontario it was the legislative minimums that really pushed it out that now the training’s available. In Australia, you have a fantastic infrastructure of education in e-accessibility, some of the best in the world.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #3> Yeah. It hasn’t quite reached that spread yet. And a lot of government agencies are coming to us saying, how do we achieve this? So there is definitely a lag there. So thanks anyway.

MODERATOR> I think one more. Towards the back there.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #4> Thanks, David. I was just wondering, would you like to give us just one or two examples, maybe of your favorite, or what you would regard as a gold standard accessible website that maybe we could all just go and take a quick look at. Just maybe one or two of your personal favorites. You mentioned the farming environmentally website at the very beginning. Thanks.

I’ll give you one that we constantly refer to. And it may seem, again, we’re flying my own flag. But the Canadian federal government website is probably the best site you’ll find because it’s deep. It’s got hundreds of thousands of pages. It’s got all the complexity of a federal government.

And right from the portal on down, you’ll find sites where we’ve demonstrated that designing accessibly doesn’t mean trade-offs. Designers are terrified that if they follow all these rules that their sites are going to suck. Writers are terrified if they follow all these rules that they’re going to lose all the nuance and the drama.

Well, you guys know that’s not true when it comes to plain language. But designers are concerned about that. And what the Canadian government website– canada.gc.ca– demonstrates is you can have a site that’s rich, intriguing, integrated, consistent, and completely accessible at AA without any trade-offs. So I’ll give you the one example.

And I’m around. If you have more questions, I’ll stick around the break and all that. I’m not going anywhere.

MODERATOR> Perfect. Thank you, David. That’s really great.

3Play Media 01/13/16, 8:21pm


David Berman keynotes at agIdeas Melbourne: Making The Planet Your Client: Designing Sustainability

agIdeas International Design Week
Melbourne, Australia | May 2012 (4:40)

Transcript | David Berman keynotes at agIdeas Melbourne: Making The Planet Your Client: Designing Sustainability

This is a transcript of the video David Berman keynotes at agIdeas Melbourne: Making The Planet Your Client: Designing Sustainability.

(David Berman appears on camera in front of his presentation displaying on screen and faces the audience for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie.)

[MUSIC PLAYING] Listen. I don’t want to freak you guys out. But I came all the way from Canada to tell you that the future of civilization is our common design project.

Now, when I first met Ken, I was in Taipei. And he told me something that I thought was quite profound. He said there are only two types of design– good and bad.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about this. How do we decide what is good and what is bad? Now that we can do anything, what will we do? And the challenge in redefining what is good and bad in design juxtaposes with this time we live in.

We are privileged to be in a most remarkable age. 10,000 generations of human beings have come before us. But we live in a time of abundance and hope. We have never had more power than we do today as designers.

And yet we live in a very fragile world. And so I think there’s a need for us to redefine what we mean by sustainability. Because we can focus on using recycled papers. We can focus on all sorts of techniques that have to do with making a softer impact on the Earth.

What I’m showing here is a typeface designed in the Netherlands. And it’s so simple. It’s called an ecofont. And by removing 25% of the letter by putting little white dots in, any font can be turned into an ecofont.

And so, overnight, simply by deploying a font in a corporation, one can reduce the amount of ink or toner being used by a quarter. And not just a designer can do that. We live in a time where everyone’s a designer.

Erik Spiekermann is one of my favorite designers. And when I was in Berlin, I met him. Now, Erik designed the Deutsche Bahn logo. That DB up there. My favorite initials.
The thing is that when Erik redesigned the Deutsche Bahn logo, he, with one small tweak, paid for his entire fee. Because there’s the old logo.

And when they repainted the new trains with a new logo, just because there was more white in the logo, they saved more than 100,000 euros just in the cost of paint. And that’s pretty toxic paint. So his fee was paid for entirely by that.

I love this double hit. This is a poster designed by an ad agency in South Africa. And it, of course, speaks of supporting the homeless. But the very message is printed on a blanket that a homeless person can pull off the wall and use overnight. And then in the morning they put it back. Someone else uses it.

It was 20 years ago that Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was the Prime Minister of Norway, coined the term sustainability for us. She was a design thinker. And early on when we spoke about sustainability, we thought about it in terms of the idea of not just profit for profit and planet.

We’ve gone further than that. People often speak about a triple bottom line approach– prosperity, planet, and people, where we bring social responsibility into the game.

But I want to make it even tougher. Because what makes us humans different than all the other animals is our ability to record knowledge. I really believe that the dolphins would rule the world if they had opposable thumbs. But, unfortunately, they have no way of writing down their knowledge.
So they have to reinvent it from generation to generation, where we live in this time where anyone can share information over great distances over generations. And so I challenge us to have a quadruple bottom line approach to design thinking, where we have to take care of prosperity, planet, people, and design.

And the reason I say design is because it’s a matter of cultural sustainability. We can choose to take a pledge where we would commit at least 10% of our professional lives to doing projects that help make the world better– that help repair the world. Because there’s two million designers in the world today.

And if every one of them spent just 10% of their time– that’s four hours a week– two million designers– that’s eight million hours a week. And I tell you, there isn’t a problem our world has that cannot be solved with eight million hours a week of loving, creative design thinking.

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Melbourne Victoria Australia

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Weapons of Mass Deception: Good design and doing good

State of Design Festival, BMW Edge, Federation Square
Melbourne, Australia | July 2009 (30:46)
(Video: courtesy SLOW-TV)
Design thought leader David Berman discusses the power and effectiveness of good design, and therefore the need to incorporate notions of social responsibility into design principles.

Transcript | Weapons of Mass Deception: Good design and doing good

This is a transcript of the video Weapons of mass deception: Good design and doing good.

(Image of Slow TV wordmark)

(Text on screen: Weapons of mass deception: Good design and doing good
David Berman
State of Design Festival
Melbourne – July 2009)

(Image of State of Design Festival logo. David Berman appears on stage and faces the audience for the duration of this video. David is wearing a black suit with a dark grey shirt.)

It’s great to be in Australia. It’s my very first time ever in my life being in Australia and, aside from the 15-hour jetlag, I find it so warm … inviting, just like being in Canada. That’s where I am from Ottawa, Canada.

We’ve been on a tight schedule, I’m meeting all kinds of people and I’m surprised that even though the time shift is great, the similarities are greater. Alright: we’re both huge countries: We’re both about 25 … 30 million people. I’m also impressed at how similar we are, but you guys are clearly much more dedicated than designers in Canada because I’m amazed that all of you are willing to get up in the middle of the night to hear me speak! [LAUGHTER] So, let’s get into it.

I said I am going to talk about doing good and we live in a remarkable time. This is a very special time right here, right now…because although we’ve been talking about praying to the Internet and new media in the future, as Nicholas Negroponte from MIT tells us, for the majority of the people on the planet the Internet remains a rumour. Today most humans have never seen, have never touched, felt, looked, tasted the Internet, and yet in the next 10 years that’s going to change. In the next 10 years from today the majority of human beings will have engaged with this remarkable time. Now we talk about…

Hey, how many of you are familiar with the idea of the “digital divide”? Have you heard of this before: digital divide? We’ve got the rich and the poor … and those who have the technology, the rich can get richer and the poor get poorer.

And there are two potential outcomes over the next ten years … and we have a huge power over deciding what’s going to happen, because we can either see the next 10 years being a place where people first get the Internet … that they’re going to be a part of something wonderful, that they’re going to have access to knowledge and communications and medical ideas, conflict resolution, democracy … or it can just be one more way we convince huge populations that they need to consume more stuff to belong as a part of the world culture.

A friend of mine Professor Bruck from Salzburg, Austria, he describes the space we’ve been in as four screens. He talks about the first screen being the movie screen: a group of us together, a community like this, get together and have an experience where information is sent to us. And then the second screen was where that screen moved into our homes, into our private spaces, and we had interaction which is somewhat interactive but really not very much: we can choose channels … and that prominence of television has had a huge effect on us. Now we then move into the space just in last 15 years where the third screen … the interactive computer has allowed us to create own experiences.

However truly the place where most of the world’s population is going to get the Internet for the first time is on this tiny screen: the 4th screen. I’d like you to imagine a moment that you live in Ghana: your daughter is ill, not deathly ill, but pretty ill, coughing up all night. You’re not sure what’s wrong, you rush to a pharmacy in the middle of the night, you have to buy some medicine.

The problem is that in Ghana 20 percent of the drugs are fraudulent. They are not real. You don’t know what’s in it. So do you buy the drugs or not? You could do more good than harm. You are going to give some mystery stuff to your daughter. That’s the reality for people in Ghana today. But it’s shifting, because this year this remarkable group created an application which runs on cell phones and this application, called mPedigree, has arranged with the drug companies where they put a unique numeric string on each bottle of pharmaceuticals and all you do is pull out your cell phone, you send an SMS to a certain address with that number and it instantly tells you if the drugs are legitimate. It’s a Web-based application, it’s got no colour, it’s got no fancy typography, it’s got no great mission statement. It simply works in 160 characters. It saves lives. It saves an economy … and we have the opportunity to decide whether we will simply do good design or whether we are going to do good: because designers have never had as much power as we have today. You know we live in a time where we can leave or we can send messages, free ideas, and we can send them over vast distances at such a low cost, to larger and larger populations. We can choose which messages we are going to do that with.

When I was in Africa, I met this child with a Camel cigarette bag, and it concerns me that that’s the message he’s getting. This girl whose in Petra holding my traveling companion, Spice, she lives in Petra — you know Petra, in Jordan? It’s like the eighth wonder of the world. A whole city is carved out of rocks by designers working on a large scale a few thousand years ago. The thing is that she lives in a town just out of Petra and this is largest sign in that town. “Superior American Taste.” That’s the message that she’s grown up with. Now as a traveler to the Middle East, I found a lot of examples of cases where people are being told you have to look and feel and taste, and smell and look like a good European, Canadian, Australian kind of good-looking people if you’re going to really matter in this world. And yet my own daughter, she’s been just accepted to a design school in Montreal (I’m so proud, not my idea [laughs] but still proud.) She’s never seen a cigarette billboard, because in Canada, as in Australia, you recognize the value that it takes more than parents to raise children: it takes a whole society to recognize the power of messaging. And indeed, as she grows, as she ages, I hope she’ll make great decisions about how to use tobacco or not. I also think she will move into an age where there’s less focus on the Michael Jackson funerals in the headlines of the day and more focus on the things that are happening every day on our planet. This is a time of unlimited hope. We’ve never had so much power. We’ve never had so much possibility, but at the same time things have never seen quite so fragile. And every one of these major stories is one that designers have a role in. So we can decide that our lives are just about creating great design … or we can decide to do good. And that’s what I’m here to encourage you to do. Not just do good design, but to do good. This is the most influential piece of design I think I’ve experienced in my life. Do you recognize it? It’s far from home it’s the ballot that allowed George Bush to beat Al Gore in that very famous election back in 2000, in Florida where some 3,000 votes separated these two presidential candidates. And we don’t tend to think of this as design. We think design is all glamorous.

We saw amazing award-winning projects all over this city this week … yet this is a horribly failed piece of information design you see: The way it worked was … we have at the top there that if you wanted to vote for George Bush, you had to poke a rod into that first hole, and knock out a little piece of cardboard. Have you ever seen the Americans, when they vote? They vote for everyone from the President, to their senators, the governor, all the way down to the janitor for the local school, all at once. So you rush into that voting booth, and move really quickly because you have a lot of work to do. Now if you wanted to vote for Al Gore from the Democratic Party you poked into that third hole. You poke into the third hole, because if you poked into the second hole, you would have inadvertently voted for Pat Buchanan who was a radical right-wing fundamentalist way over there on the next page … and it happened that in Palm Beach County fifty thousand Blacks and Jews voted for Pat Buchanan. And even Pat himself said that doesn’t make any sense to me. And certainly 50,000 was enough to turn the election, was enough to create a war in Iraq. It was enough to stop the United States from signing the Kyoto Accord It was enough to stop condoms and AIDS drugs being sent out across Africa. Then we see the power of design. Just to be fair, by the way, because I’m obviously a bit left-wing …

In 2004, George Bush again was running … against John Kerry and it cuts both ways. In this ballot, you think after four years after such a disaster the Americans were alert enough to design a better ballot? Nah. Over here if you want to vote for John Kerry, for the Democrats, you had to mark a little mark (and the colour there is mine … there was no colour up there.) So if you had to mark a mark in this box, you would take your pen and rub that out. If you want to vote for George Bush way down at the bottom of the list (and his pal Dick Chene)y you had to fill in a box
which is not right here next to the arrow, but way up there at the top of the page. Absolutely bizarre.

Fortunately the AIGA, which is the American version of AGDA, has been working on ballot reform. The point I am trying to make is that the design isn’t just about the aesthetic, it isn’t just about delighting each other, it isn’t about creating marvelous experience. It’s life and death. I did some research and I discovered the largest source of accidental death in Melbourne is traffic accidents. Is that a design problem we can solve? I think so. This is a shot of a standard traffic light seen at night. The shot’s in Brisbane. This is the same shot but how they are seen by a person who is completely colourblind and I guess if you kind of squint you can see that the light is a little higher than lower at night … it’s a little hard to see. Now in Canada we are testing a new kind of traffic light and these were developed for colourblind people. The way this works is that the red is a squarish rather than a circle and there are two of them rather than one … and they are far apart so can see the pattern. So now we have colour as a secondary cue; we also have the shape and the frequency: all these different cues to help someone see that traffic light and know what to do when they get there. And just as with so much design for accessibility, when we design for the extremes we find everyone benefits. Everyone enjoys the new traffic lights. Not just someone who is colourblind. It helps someone who’s distracted.

Now here’s a more extreme case: This girl is wearing a piece of equipment which is designed for quadriplegics to navigate the Internet. She can, by blowing air into that tube, or sipping and puffing air through the tube … as well as moving her neck she can move and click the mouse pointer on the screen even though one doesn’t have any use of your muscles below your neck, so indeed information technology has made it possible for designers to give access to the world to millions of people over the last forty years that didn’t have access before: whether it’s motorized wheelchairs or it’s Internet access, because documents that are converted from text into HTML now can be streamed to all points and technologies, and indeed when we take care of people with accessibility issues and disabilities and difficulties we think we’re doing the right thing not leaving anyone behind. Maybe there is one or two percent of people who are blind or deaf and we get to take care them of them too. But in fact, it affects a lot more people than that because I think we underestimate how many people actually have functional difficulties: which make it difficult for them to always work with the perfect interface. In fact I would like to do an experiment with you right now if you’re willing. Are you willing? Let me show you something. Okay: I don’t want to embarrass anyone. What I’m going to do is list of a number of difficulties and disabilities and if you have one of them, at the end of my list, I am going to ask you to stand up so no one will know what you have. [laughs] I’ve got two of the things that I am going to list off: maybe you can figure out what they are. So if you have a hearing impairment, if you’re blind, if you are in a wheelchair, if you’re colourblind if you have a learning disability, if you have ADHD, if you are having trouble finding it easy to keep listening to what I’m saying, if you’ve ever had an arm in a cast for more than three days if you’re ever on the bus trying to use a cellphone while holding groceries in one arm, if you have trouble problem falling asleep at night, if you have any of these things just stand up, please, right now, if you don’t mind.

Let’s see. Oh my goodness. Holy Moley! I wasn’t really expecting that! Okay … and if you’re planning on living past the age of 50, could you stand up too? Because your eyesight is probably going to dim at a certain point. So, designer friends of mine. I’d like you to look left and look right, and when you’re designing products or interfaces for people with disabilities
and difficulties this is the audience you’re designing for. Is that what you expected? Please have a seat. Thank you very much.

Look: The most known commercial brand in the world is Coke and certainly you know if you ask a non-designer “What do you think of a Coke logo? “they tend to go “Oh, Coke logo…wow…a great logo.” It’s a horrible logo. I don’t know about you here in Australia, but in Canada we only use typefaces like that for really gaudy wedding invitations, with fake thermography so clearly it’s not the typography or the brand promise or the benefit statement. It’s nothing in there. It’s about that wonderful thing that the humans love: comfort of a repeated consistent message. And that’s at the core of brand, and Coke are masters at this.

They invented these two-metre high backlit billboards that are littering my hometown now; I see them all over the world… often in front of stores that sell the same product. I know a guy at Coke who explained to me that most of these things lose money. In fact the ideas … if I travel in my own city now: someone came along and convinced the City Council to put up these free billboards with a park bench attached to them, and these billboards that are supposedly recycling bins they are this wide and this tall … and if you look at the side, it is this thin.
And the city was so proud that they now had a commitment to recycling but meanwhile the visual space was eaten up. I’m impressed when I went all the way to Africa and we were doing mountain trekking there, and we were climbing up, thirty-five hundred metres above the planet’s surface and this last little outpost is where we can buy something to drink
and I’m amazed: it took us three days to get up there but some very deft guy has run up the mountain first to put some Coca Cola there, just so I always have that pause that refreshes there within reach.
It is darn impressive, and was even more impressive as we moved through the villages, on the highways of Africa, I found the hospitals and the orphanages
and the schools all have Coca-Cola branding.

But it’s kinda creepy too. This is the official signage for these facilities. This is the official signage markers between major cities And just to make clear: Arusha is the second largest city in Tanzania, which has many people as all of Australia, and these are the official concrete markers between the cities. I got to Zanzibar: wonderful Casablanca-esque Zanzibar. I was horrified to find that every street corner now had a Coca-Cola sign. Sometime in the nineties, when Tanzania was dealing with malaria and insurrection, the Coca-Cola Company came along and said “Hey you guys have got problems, politically: no problem, we’ll take care of all your signage in the meanwhile.” and the government embraced that … and it’s brilliant branding: its fantastic strategy.

But there is a problem, and the problem is that on the streets of Tanzania the cost of a Coca-Cola is about the same cost as a malaria pill. And a million children died in Africa, just in this past 12 months of malaria. And so when we choose what messages we’re going to share with the world, I think we need to be a little more cautious. Perhaps there is a way that Coca-Cola’s infrastructure can be used to share something more powerful than… … than caffeinated sugar water.

And this is my challenge to you: because as we get involved in an increasingly global community, we know that what insulates us against the downside of globalization are the principles we carry in our professionalism. What will hold our local culture together is how it is manifested. In a world where the very alphabet we learn is being owned by others. [LAUGHTER] Where… can you name that typeface? I know there’s no cigarette advertising done in Australia … right? … since the mid-nineties … this is fantastic. [claps] This is an ad…kind of [chuckles].

There is no product There’s no benefits statement, you know the campaign and indeed Naomi Klein has claimed that logos have become their own alphabet our children can speak this language When I was in Jordan and I showed this to a group of fifteen-year-olds, they were able to get almost every one of those logos, all within a minute… I’m losing your attention: you want to identify them? Do you think you can recognize all the way from start? [Audience guessing the logos] Yeah after the “Apple” Oh it’s just too easy …”CBS”, got them all? that’s the Volkswagen, That’s a tough one: “Xerox” What’s the next one? “FedEx”…wait wait that’s just the letters F E set in Futura. Wait a minute: Does this mean that every time you are reading a book and you come across an F-E your minds go … hmm “how do I positively perfectly get the shipment overnight?” Every time you see the word “ferret-legging” … you do ferret-legging here? Oh you don’t know want to know about ferret-legging. Every time you see a word that starts with F E you are thinking about FedEx, and so are your children. And I think that’s a problem. Yeah, you can get them all. I know you can get them all: the challenge then is with all this power we have as designers what are we going to do with it? What’s the legacy we wanna leave?

Well the American car… you know our American car industry was almost non-existent … I’m not sure by the time I get back it will still be there because Americans got caught up in this idea that they could sell fantasy, a fantasy that the United States has endless roads, where you can drive your toy car… there’s no traffic at all. And in Europe the horrible, horrific advertising to make the point that a tool can become a style object. Meanwhile the Japanese cleverly using the American idea of continuous improvement and figure out how to reinvent the car: they went in a 15-year period from creating cars that we would just point and laugh at like: “Oh driving a Honda lawnmower there?!” …to cars that are now the number one choice. In the United States today the Camry is the number one family car and Americans pay thirty five hundred dollars more for that car than the American counterpart. So that means that we live in an age where Americans have learned the value of better design and they’re willing to invest in it.

So in a world where we are told we have to drive down price companies like Toyota and Apple are showing that people appreciate good design. And indeed the awareness of good design has changed how we see things. Now sometimes there is no competition for a product in terms of direct competition, and for cigarettes the competition is public education.

I’ve been to over 20 countries trying to encourage designers and design students to consider carefully what they do, with the time they have available and we’ve seen a transformation of how things are sold because as the population gets more clever how they deal with advertising the audience gets more sophisticated, and the advertisers gets more sophisticated. Way back in the seventies, this is how bottled water was being sold: with a clever slogan: H20 … water, very sharp. But in a time when water is scarce sex is being used to sell water.

Something we have so much of …we have more fresh water in Canada than any other country in the world and yet we foolishly are bringing water in all the way from Europe and then we are sending our water to Europe. It’s crazy: we’re paying more for water than we do for petrol and in fact, I would like to have three cheers for the village of Bundanoon. You know Bundanoon? Southwest of Sydney… They just banned bottled water altogether… July 9th! All 400 of them, but it’s a start! They voted 398 to two: banned bottles of water … and you see the thing is that we’re talking about designing the future and when I showed you the advertisement of that teenager making love to that bottle, I’d like to think that fifty years from now that will be considered totally unacceptable, because our young girls deserve a better break then having to be told that that’s what their bodies are about.

So when I look back at this: this is an ad from 55 years ago that was run in the largest magazine in the United States LIFE magazine. It’s selling coffee: it says if your husband ever finds out you’re not “store-testing” for fresher coffee … he is going to beat the crap out of you: it’s a very disturbing idea. In 1952 this was considered humour and I wonder to what degree in 1952 this was a reflection of the society, but you can say: “oh, yeah: 1952 … people were beating their wives all the time” that’s just the way it was. I’m not so sure, I wonder to what degree advertising like this was telling men in 1952 in the United States that it was okay to beat your wife. … “It’s a good thing to beat wife. That’s what men do.” We have to be so careful because we have so much power. We have to use it with grace and you know the idea of using women to sell stuff, using sex to sell stuff, it’s not a new idea. It’s something that needs to be checked, and indeed in the early nineties it seemed that a certain amount of feminism had pushed this stuff away, but it’s grown right back.

My daughter grows up in a world where this type of perception is gone off away trying to sell stuff, stuff that should be either extinct, or exist in a different way cannot be fixed by doing the same thing to men. This is a a billboard in Beirut selling a cigarette in ..if you don’t know French…the slogan is “Liberte toujours” …”Always free” and the sad thing is they even branded his body with the shackles of this addiction. Here we’re selling … what we see here … we’re selling feminine hygiene products but its about this guy, this guy with a security … but here’s the good news because we live in this remarkable time.

Business has noticed that it’s good to check and control advertising. Governments have realized that it’s okay to put warnings on cigarette packages. I am very proud of this: This is one of my biggest clients: Health Canada … and we Canadians were the first ones to come up with this great idea of putting it right on the package the warnings about what to do but the Australians have bettered us, because I noticed the cigarette boxes here, is turned where there is a full page ad on the back and they’re working on other parts of this too so this idea has moved around the world that unbridled greed is not necessarily a good business plan. For the world that there’s not a one single bottom line, but rather a triple bottom line that we need to take care of and indeed, in this tenement housing project in Dar-al-Salaam, Tanzania, I was so proud to find this spoof ad from Adbusters … a Vancouver magazine … on a door.

Our business world has popped up and recognized the value of design. I couldn’t imagine that even ten years ago there would be cover article about logos on R.O.B. Report On Business is the largest business magazine in Canada. This is Business Week from Europe. They’re all featuring design, because now the balance sheets of the world’s largest corporations have brand equity as a line item. And indeed we’re finding ways of saying that design isn’t just about clever emphasis, it’s not just about creating equity.

In Canada we created … the Graphic Designers of Canada created … a new type of exhibit where we have a competition where you win the competition by how much social impact you’ve had in your local population rather than how much impact you’ve had in terms of helping someone make money. The thing is we’re professionals and few thousand years ago the doctors got together and came up with the Hippocratic oath. They decided that it is important that they have a standard that was higher than what the society expected of them and we’ve seen in the past few years how bankers and financiers and accountancies are in industries where their behaviour fell below the standard … and society came after them like dogs, as it should be.

We designers have to set a higher bar for ourselves. It’s true that some doctors go for the cosmetic surgery and perhaps there was a time when a doctor would shake you down for every penny I have five more minutes of life but we know that 99 percent of the doctors, if they are driving down the highway, and there’s an overturned vehicle, they are not going to worry about insurance liability. They are just going to pull over and jump out of their car: whatever they can do to save lives, as being a professional is not something to do from nine to five. It’s something we do twenty-four seven and we have to agree on a minimum standard.

Now in Canada we did something exciting. We developed a Code of Ethics for our design profession which set a minimum standard … and most professions have some type of code of ethics to make sure you show up for jury duty. We decided to include a commitment to society, to the environment and there are other countries around the world that have done similar things … and the work we’ve done in Icograda internationally, in Canada, it’s found its way into the standards of practice in the AIGA in the United States and is now being used as a sample for 600,000 Chinese design students. (Can you imagine?)

Just this year the graphic designers of Canada have adopted a new level sustainability practices, a charter for minimum behaviour for designers and I know that here in Australia there is not a formal code of professional conduct, a minimum standard in the design professions and I’d love to see that change. I’m wondering how many here would be willing to back the idea that we have a minimum standard for designers in Australia that says we have to take care of the environment, we have to take care of society. Look…I really appreciate giving me so much time, I know it’s it’s almost lunch in a I won’t take too much of your time, but I do want to compel you to do this.

I do know that I’m sure that I’ve entertained you. Also I know that for some of you this thing is just a matter of entertainment. For some of you I hope you to move towards a space, or perhaps you are already at this space.

I’d like you to make a commitment to me today, if you are willing and this is what I want to ask: I want you to make a pledge. This is the pledge: the pledge is to spend at least ten percent of your professional time doing good. Not just doing good design but doing good. So let’s say you had a forty-hour work week… now that would be four hours a week and I’m asking you to spend at least four hours a week to .. I’m not saying pro bono and so you can get paid. You just find clients or employers that are doing good for the world… …that are creating a more socially just world. We figure there are over one and a half million designers in the world today. Multiply four hours a week times one and a half million gives us six million hours of creative energy in every aspect of the society ready to be rolled out to create a better society. Is this something you are willing to commit to? The key is that I’m so excited about where this is all going and I’m confident that if we can just decide not just do good design, but do good we can create the best planet this planet has ever known.

So let’s do that.

Thank you so much!

(Text on screen: Special Thanks to:
David Berman; State of Design Festival; Ewan McEoin; Emma Telfer; Jane Mathews; Studio Propeller; Taki Oldham.)


David Berman on Sustainable Design Thinking Strategy

Norwegian Design Council
Oslo, Norway | September 2011 (49:15)

Transcript | David Berman on Sustainable Design Thinking Strategy

This is a transcript of the video David Berman on Sustainable Design Thinking Strategy.

(David Berman appears on camera in front of his presentation displaying on screen and faces the audience for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie.)

So here is Norway. This is actual scale– scaled up. So you see, we’re just a little bit larger. So we just have the same kind of trees, there is just more of them. And we have the same type of economy, too. We’re both blessed with wood. And that was our old way. And blessed with oil, and that’s our new way. And as much as we claim to be world environmental leaders, just like Norway, we must admit there we’re running on oil. And we can’t run on oil forever. And just like Norway, we’re really good at taking our oil and shipping it to other countries, where they turn it into useful things, rather than figuring out how to design our own products.

And I know this is changing. And I know there’s a remarkable movement in Norway to design and make here. But, for the most part, the most of our oil based products, in Canada, are made somewhere else, and then they come back to us. And that’s a double problem. So we have the sustainability problem of being addicted to oil. We have the sustainability problem of shipping these things all over the place. And then, of course, there’s the core themes, which you mentioned, of do we need all this stuff anyway. And I promise I won’t preach that today. Because what I will promise, too, I won’t preach to you at all about the need for sustainable design, because I think we all know there’s a need for sustainable design.

And this is the challenge, because how many of us here, today, are designers? Could I have a show of hands? So most of us claim to be designers. Anyone else who claims not to be a designer? All right, you see, I think we live– thank you– I think we live in a world, now, where everyone’s a designer. We live in a world where everyone has the power to shape their own experience. And, indeed, as I’m going to unfold to you, I think design is one of the key things that makes humans different from others.

So we’re living in a world where everyone’s a designer. Here’s some designers– oh, this is– I’ll fix that at the break, I promise. Here’s some designers I met recently. This is part of a project from a designer I know in Chicago. And, see, what we found is that these guys are using communication design to get a strategic outcome. The left one is more specific about how he will invest your money. The right one is– it’s more a matter of you investigate an idea. So but either way, these are people who are saying I know how to design. I know how to use communication design in order to get a strategic outcome.

Now we designer types, who claim to be designers, are much more sophisticated in our design work. And here’s an example of incredibly clever design. This is brilliant. It’s funny. It’s tasteful. But it’s also kind of horrible, because it’s part of a system which is supposed to convince women that there’s something wrong with their noses– that God didn’t design noses well enough, and humans must trump God. And so this is a design from Toronto, this is an ad for a cosmetic surgery company.

Now most doctors have dedicated their lives to doing good. Most doctors will do whatever is needed to help humanity. But if 2000 years ago, instead of doctors choosing a Hippocratic oath, instead they would decide that doctoring is going to be about just making money, then they’d all be cosmetic surgeons. Or perhaps what they would be doing is waiting till we’re close to death, and then say to us, “OK, I have this medicine. It will give you another month of life. I want everything you own for that month.” And, of course, people would give everything they own, perhaps, for one more month of life. But that would be wrong. And so most doctors are ethical. And they’ve created a professional standard that is higher than just making money.

And in the design world, 10 years ago, I started marching around complaining and proclaiming that we had to do the same thing. That we needed a professional standard where designers weren’t just about making money, not just about being clever, but being wise.

So that first core idea, though, of designers just being involved in helping make profit, is where design emerged from, in the 20th century. As a means to a capitalist outcome. And I have no problem with capitalism. I have no problem with the free market. But I do have a problem with design only being used for one bottom line, because today we’re going to talk about four bottom lines, a quadruple bottom line.

The second bottom line is pretty obvious– not just profit but planet. And, of course, we all know that sustainability is something we need. Now, in fact, it’s come to the point where if I speak to designers or non designers about environmental sustainability people are sick of it. They’re sick of hearing about it. And I think this is absolutely fantastic, because 10 years ago, if you told designers that the environment was the most important problem on the planet, they’re like I don’t know about that, really, dada da– Today, you can’t go to a design conference where every speaker, at some point, will trace what they’re talking about back to a need for a more sustainable planet, environmentally. So I think that’s fantastic.

So if we’re getting bored about hearing about environmental sustainability, then yippee. That is a fantastic shift in 10 years. And it shows us what’s possible in our own lifetime. It shows us, just in one decade, that how we define our profession can shift. It’s up to us. Because over 95% of the designers, who’ve ever lived, are alive right now. And so we can decide what design will be about, whether we’re creating the designs, making the designs, consuming the designs, we can decide what role design will have in our society. I’d like to go further then, because here’s the reality, we can all design things with recycled papers, and we can figure out all kinds of things the napkin at my breakfast, this morning, at the hotel, it talked about how this napkin was made of recycled stuff–

In fact, my room key, beautiful hotel I’m at. It’s quite remarkable, there’s no phones in the rooms. It’s kind of odd, I didn’t know how to get a wake up call this morning. This is my room card. It says, “This card is manufactured from wood and contains mostly unaltered plant materials. A wood card is an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic and derives from a renewable resource. Please return upon check out.” That’s really sweet. It’s just a little bit though.

And the fact is we have these huge amounts of materials being consumed because, in reality, as designers, as a community of which there’s over two million designers in the world, we could probably have just as much impact by not eating meat. Now that’s a lot to ask, especially in Norway, not to eat meat. But I think in 10 years, or 20 years, I hope I’ll be back. And we’ll all be vegetarians, and will have realized that hmmm, there’s rights for animals. But it’s not my intention to preach on this. What wouldn’t matter, though, is we realize that if we’re going to eat meat, at least consider this, if the United States stopped eating meat because of the amount of methane that comes out of cows that affects the ozone layer, it would be enough of an offset to be the equivalent of eliminating half of the cars in the United States. That’s how big an impact would be.

So imagine if 2 million designers stopped eating meat. That would have big change. I don’t expect you to stop eating meat. And I certainly don’t expect you to stop eating gravlax. That’s the best breakfast. But, at least, perhaps, consider this– temporarily, I thought maybe you could switch to eating kangaroo. Because kangaroo doesn’t fart. It’s true. Kangaroos don’t give off any methane, and it’s just how their stomachs are made, and they don’t ruin the topsoil. So I’m wondering, would you be willing to have kangaroos come to Norway and just be out there? Wouldn’t that be cool? We could kill them, and them , too. It’s a thought.

My point is that there’s a lot of different ways that we can find our way to sustainability. I have this thing about animals. And I know at a certain point, well, I have this thing about tigers and cats. And here’s my Spice, the little tiger, OK, she’s a cat. But she doesn’t know it. She thinks she’s a tiger, OK? And she doesn’t understand English. And she certainly doesn’t understand Bokma. So don’t tell her, OK.

So I was in Thailand, last year, and I met these remarkable people, these Buddhist monks, were running a temple where they help tigers. And, see, this is the thing– we live in this absolutely remarkable time, because, truly, things have never been more fragile. But, as well, they’ve never been more hopeful, because it’s never been easier for us to create ideas and share them all over the planet. But at the same time, when I was born, there was a certain number of tigers in the world. And today, just in one lifetime, one part of a lifetime, 80% of the tigers that were alive when I was– the tiger population is only one fifth of what it was when I was born. And a hundred years ago– well, in the last hundred years we’ve lost two of seven species of tigers entirely. And I’d like to think, when I die, there’ll be tigers left.

So how do we turn that around? Well these Buddhist monks are trying to create a habitat for the tigers. And so if you go there, we get to learn about the tigers and live with the tigers. And in fact, I’ve met with the leader of this place, and now we’re working together to create a communication strategy so they can raise awareness for the tigers and give them back the habitat they need. Because the idea is not to create a zoo. The idea is to create a habitat. Because the reason 80% percent of the tiger population has disappeared, in my lifetime, in the world, is because there’s no place for them to live. We’ve taken down their forests. And we’ve taken away their food sources. And everyone loves tigers. But how is that we can love tigers so much, and yet we’ve lost 80% of them. What are we doing wrong? There’s something fundamentally wrong.

Look at this font. This is a Dutch font. This is a way that we can save toner. This is called an eco font. And these designers– these type designers– they took an ordinary typeface. And they simply put these little white dots in the letters. The idea is that if you roll out this font across a whole corporation, the entire corporation will use 25% less ink and 25% less toner. Isn’t that clever? And you don’t have to be a designer to redesign things this way. You don’t have to change the design of any of the documents. And the amount of impact that would have in a huge corporation, compared to the impact– and I’m not saying we shouldn’t do a lot of little things. We’ve got to do a lot of little things. We’ve got to do some big things as well.

And, in fact, they’re now coming out with a version of their software which can take any font and convert it, in real time, into an eco font. Because, of course, you could do this to any font that has a certain minimum stroke width. It’s not going to work so well with serif fonts, of course, but sans serif fonts, over a certain thickness, medium, or both, are going to work out this way. Clever, huh?

And here’s another example of a broad stroke. Ingrid, where are you? Hey, Ingrid. OK, so photo credit– Ingrid took this picture of me in Berlin, last year. And it was just so serendipitous that we happened to run into each other. We were at a design conference there. But what I wanted to show you– Erik Spiekermann, he designed this new mark for Deutsche Bahn, the transit system in Germany. And this is the thing, he took the old Deutsche Bahn mark, and he designed a whole new identity.

But one of the things he did was he made the letters thinner. And by making the letters thinner, the amount of paint, that just goes on the trains, was reduced. The amount of train paint reduced was enough to pay for the entire commission from Spiekermann associates– 150,000 euros saved, just in paint, in money, as well as the system as well as the environmental impact, just by thinning a letter. Now that’s not what we usually think about when we’re thinking about identity design and sustainability. But simply using less ink is a clever approach.

But this is my very favorite example of industrial design sustainability. This is a bookcase designed by William Warren, who is a designer in London, England. He’s a guy I know. And he created this bookcase. And the idea is that you can get the plans for the bookcase. It’s a number of pieces of wood, and you put them together, and it creates a bookcase, which is pretty normal.

Except what’s special about his bookcase is this– when you die, someone, I guess, disassembles the bookcase for you and rearranges it into this coffin. Or, I guess, if you know your death is imminent, you have the ceremony where you take apart your bookcase. And part of what I love about this, of course, is this is true cradle to cradle design, right? Cradle to grave. But also I love the idea that you’re living with your own coffin. And every day you recognize that you’ll be a lot longer dead than you’ll be alive. That every day, your final resting place is right there with you.

And so you’re thinking, maybe, at some level, you’re thinking, there in your living room, as you’re listening to music, you’re looking at the book, and you’re thinking, “Hmmm, what legacy will I leave?” Because I’m not sure when I’m leaving, and I have to be ready at any time. To think I have left a legacy where– do I want my tombstone to say, “David Berman, he was really good at tricking people in to using things they didn’t need.” I don’t think so. I think I want a tombstone that says something like, “David Berman, he left things better than he found them. Hmm, he shared a few good ideas.”

And indeed, that is the legacy we have. Now back in 1988, though, I want to tell you a bit of my story. Back in 1980, I had just become a designer. And I wasn’t thinking about legacy. And I wasn’t thinking about sustainability. All I was thinking about was typography. I loved letters. I’d stay up all night arranging letters in my perfect little design world– perfect little grids, and color, and x-acto knives, and wax, because that’s when it was.

And I thought that was enough, until the girlfriend on the back of my scooter– she convinced me– she was an ardent feminist, and she convinced me that there was more to it. She declared to me that designers were the source of all the problems in the world, because we were objectifying women. We were the ones who were designing advertisements, which were taking women’s body parts and rearranging them, and twisting people’s behavior and convincing them to use sex to sell things, and et cetera. And I thought, oh, come on. That’s crazy. I’m just a designer. I’m not responsible for any of that. I just follow orders. I was just following orders, not a good answer.

So she convinced me. And I wrote up this manifesto. And I brought this manifesto, back in 1988, to the graphic designers of Canada meeting, and at the end of the annual general meeting, which was very boring, and they said, “Is there any other business?” And I stood up and I said, “Yes, I’d like to read this. I think it’s important that graphic designers have to own visual communications and feminism and environmentalism and all that before. And they said, “You should join the executive.”

And that’s when I got involved in my local studio. And I started– all my clients were now about environmentalism and good things like this. And, at the time, environmentalism was becoming important in the world. And then something remarkable came, one of my heroes, Gro Harlem Brundtland. OK, I can do this, Gro Harlem Brundtland, she took a great Norwegian idea of baerekraft, and it was translated into this word “sustainability.” You must know this, the whole story, you must know she invented the idea of sustainability. And Norway exported this idea, and this great movement began. And I mean she is baerekraft. I mean, she saw it and she’s forever, and no matter who doesn’t agree with that, her legacy will always be there. She’s a design thinker. And this was inspiring to us in Canada. And inspired me.

And at same time, something else happened– my daughter came into the world. This is 20 years ago, 20 years ago sustainability, 20 years ago my daughter comes into the world. Now these children– these are girls the same age as my daughter. And I bring you right up to the present day. They’re from a place called the Carteret Islands, which is very close to Indonesia, which I just got to visit earlier this year. And they are part of a community which has an infamous distinction. Because the Carteret Islands, just this past year, have the distinction of being the first civilization to be completely destroyed by an unsustainable world. The Carteret Islands have completely gone underwater, and they had to evacuate the population forever. Their whole way, their culture, their society, their people– all had to be moved away. The Carteret Islands are no more.

So if there’s anyone wondering, is global warming for real, is climate change for real, I say, ask these people. Because these people didn’t do the consuming. And they didn’t do the designing. But they are doing the evacuating. And in fact, it’s these many small things that every day, in our world, build up towards many little things. Because there’s extreme things that happen in our world that make the headlines. And some of them are horrible and some of them are wonderful. But the real headlines in our world are the things that happen every day. And each one of these headlines that really should be in our newspaper, which are not in our newspaper, occur every day– today, tomorrow– and every one of them is an example of something that designers are responsible for making happen by using the power of design. Every one of them is also an example of something the designers can help change, can help with strategic design thinking, can help find a better way, a better world.

People tend to think of designer as decoration. Design is life and death. Consider this, this is the standard traffic lights– I’m wondering if we could just turn the lights off for a moment, ’cause this would be a little clearer. Just the lights here in the front. Thank you. So this is a standard traffic light. And what I’ve done is I’ve just isolated it. The same lights we use in Norway, in the United States, in Canada– the classic green and red light. And this is the same lights when we take all the color away. Now almost 10% of the men in Norway are colorblind, to some degree. And the largest cause of accidental death in Norway is traffic accidents. And the majority of those traffic accidents occur at intersections, or roads meet. So I ask you, this is what a fully colorblind person sees as they drive towards an intersection at night. And if it’s at night, you can’t tell the difference between the green and the red, because everything’s the same about it. So it’s a crazy design.

Now this is a traffic light we’re testing in Canada now. It also uses color, but this is what it looks like when we want to say stop. But it has two lamps for red, one lamp for green. The red lamps look square, not round, and as well, there’s the color. So there’s three cues. We have color, we have shape, and we also have how many there are.

And what we find is people prefer these. Not just colorblind people, everyone prefers them. Everyone prefers these lights. These lights don’t cost anymore to make. And in fact, since we’re in a period where we’re going to have to convert every traffic light on the planet to LEDs anyway, because this is going to save electricity, why don’t we convert to these? People instantly know how to use them. No one had to explain it to anyone. And part of the reason everyone loves them is because there’s two lamps. Because of the parallax, as you’re driving towards them, you can tell how far away the intersection is and how quickly you’re approaching it. So it’s another case where we design something for the extremes everyone benefits.

When we design something for people with extreme deficits, everyone tends to benefit. And this is design for all. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]. So, and indeed, we live in a time when this type of design, which is subtle, can have a larger affect.

So when I look at this girl– is using a technology which allows her– this is a technology that allows someone who is paraplegic, that is someone who has no use of their limbs from the neck down, so you can’t use your arms or your legs, but you can move your head. And she can surf the internet using this device. Because it’s called a sip puff device. And what happens is, by moving her head it’s like moving the mouse around. And when she sips and puffs on the tube, it’s like clicking the mouse. So this sip puff device allows her access to the internet. And not just to the internet– means access to almost everything. Information technology’s made it possible for us to make all the knowledge of the world accessible to everyone if we format correctly.

And in fact, half of the work I do today is about web accessibility– how we’re making the web accessible to people with disabilities and difficulties. And what we’re finding is, as we do this, we’re making websites better, in general. When we design for the extremes, we’re actually designing for all. We tend to think thought, again, that it’s the right thing to do– to take care of people with disabilities. Why wouldn’t we, just in Norway or Canada, we’re societies where we don’t want to leave anyone behind. And we tend to think about people with extreme disabilities– paraplegics, blind people, completely deaf people.

But the reality is that many more of us have difficulties than we think. In fact, would you do a little experiment with me right now? Even if I don’t tell you what it is? Wow, thank you. That’s a lot of trust. Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to get an idea of how many people, in this room, have a difficulty or a disability. But I don’t want to embarrass anyone. So this is what I’d like to do, I’m going to list off a number of different disabilities, and then I’ll ask you, all at once, to stand up if you have any of them. And by the way, I have two of the things I’m going to list. I bet by the end of the day you can figure out which of those two things. So here’s my list. And remember, don’t stand up until the end. I’ll tell you when to stand up.

So here’s my list. Are you colorblind? Do you wear glasses? Do you have a hearing impairment? Are you in a wheelchair? OK, you don’t have to stand up if you’re in a wheelchair. Have you ever had your arm in a cast for more than three days? Do you have an attention deficit disorder? Do have dyslexia? Are you already getting bored with my list? Have you had laser eye surgery? Do you have trouble reading the type on my screen from the back of the room? Do you have any type of hearing impairment? Anything else that’s a difficulty? Are you ever on the bus, and you’re holding the groceries on one arm, and you can’t use your smartphone in the other, this is a temporary impairment. OK, I could say do you ever get drunk, but that would be too easy. OK, so if you have any of these things, I’d like you to stand up. And let’s see how many people we’re dealing with here. Oh, my goodness. OK this is a little more than I expected. Wow. Well actually, if you’re planning on living over the age of 45, you might as well stand up as well, because your eyesight will go.

OK, so my designer friends, I want you to look left and look right. And I want you to think about this, when you’re designing products, websites, printed materials, built environment, for people with disabilities, these are the well dressed, stylish, classy, people you’ll be designing for. Not some shut-ins in some apartment. These are the people you’re designing for when we design for disabilities. Thank you so much for making yourselves vulnerable. Wow. I’m sorry if you don’t have a disability and you felt left out. Ha ha, wow.

The truth is that in the last 40 years more people have been liberated through information technology than all the wars and revolutions in human history. And this is an exciting part to be involved in when we deal with design today. And of course the Norwegian Design Counsel is a leader in this area– running conferences and meetings, publishing books, all about design for all. They were talking about it long before others were.

So this brings in my triple bottom line– my third bottom line, which is people. And I’m defining this– I’m setting the bar high, because I’m saying that accessible design, universal design, is a core part of social responsibility and taking care of people. So now we have three. The triple bottom line– profit, planet, and people. And you often may have heard. Have you ever heard of this term, the triple bottom line? Anyone?

OK, have you ever heard of a quadruple bottom line. Today I share with you the quadruple bottom line. Because I want to make it even tougher on you. But let me go back. So as was mentioned in the introduction, thank you so much, back in 2000, I recognized this importance of social design. And so we did develop a code of ethics in Canada. And then in 2005, I had the fortune of coming to Norway for the first time and got involved with Icograda. And some people I met here– I met in this very building– I threw down a challenge then. I said that there was a need for a code of ethics for designers and illustrators right here in Norway.

And it’s, frankly, I must admit every time I come to a country, I make the same pitch. And sometimes people listen, but often they don’t. But then I got a call back. I got a call back from the Americans and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, which is like Grafill in the United States. They asked us to help work with them to create a commitment to society and the environment to their code of ethics. And then, in 2008, Norway– Grafill, not only decided to amend their code of ethics, but they also created certification for designers– the first time in Europe. And this leads the world. And I have to tell you, as I travel this planet, and go from country to country, and tell good news stories, you should know that I talk about Norway every time. Because I’m so excited about the fact that, in North America, we were the first ones to– and Ontario– to certify design– to say this is just as certifiable as being a nurse, or an engineer, or a doctor, or a lawyer. And in Norway, this is also true, the first in Europe. The first in most of the world. And so it’s a good news story. And it looks like the Indonesians are next. And they’re following your lead. They read your thing.

Then the next year, 2009, I wrote this book that you heard about, “Do Good Design.” And you have these cards. By the way, the reason you have all these cards is not just to encourage you to pledge, but today, for everyone who is staying, we’re going to use this is a voting card. So when it’s time to vote, this will be a yes– the red will be yes, and the white will be no. So that’s our voting cards.

And then I had the fortunate that the book got translated into Chinese, which meant now I was dealing with a much larger population than I ever imagined, including, it became a standard, this code of ethics, which is in the book, which talks about Grafill and talks about graphic designers of Canada, became a standard for a quarter of million Chinese design students. Can you imagine, there’s a quarter of a million design students in China. Is that intimidating? Or is it exciting? Or both?

And then this year, we took things from Indonesia, and that was very exciting. And finally, I’m so excited that there’s a Braille edition now of my book. But the reason I’m talking about this– because this internationalism has led us to a point where we have this opportunity to do good with design. And part of the way we have the opportunity is by taking advantage of the most practical place. I spoke about accessibility, and the most practical place that I think we can use design for all, to change the world, is on the internet. Because we have this thing– have you heard of the digital divide? This concept, anyone? The digital divide. What is the digital divide? Yes.

Exactly, and so we have a potential economic problem because of the population– there’s the digital have nots and the digital haves. People who don’t have the technology, and do have the technology, there’s a risk that there’ll be a gap of wealth, and knowledge, and experience, of those who have it and those who don’t. And the digital divide, in Norway, can be one of– perhaps by age or by population. But a friend of mine, Dr. Peter Brooke, from Salzburg, he speaks of the digital divide as four screens, the history of four screens. The first screen is the movie screen, and it’s the screen where communities first came together around a screen. And it’s very much like this, here we have a theater of people, and we’re all sharing an experience, which we can’t control, which we’re all watching together. And that was the first screen. The second screen was when that screen moved to the television. And the television moved it into the home, but also gave us some degree of control so we could use the remote control. And, to some degree, decide what it was we would consume.

And the television spread around the world at a speed that was a record of all technologies, ever, in the history of humanity– the television spread the quickest, because it was such an exciting idea. The third screen, though, was the laptop, the computer screen. And the computer screen allowed a truly interactive experience. So we went from a position where computers cost $10 million in the 1950s, and there were only four of them on the planet. And I remember, at the time, IBM was asked, how many computers do you think we’re going to have? And they were saying, oh, there will be a few hundred, I assure you. And of course, now computers are so ubiquitous, they’ve become so inexpensive to own, that there’s now movements to make sure that every child in the developing world has one.

But it’s the fourth screen– it’s the fourth screen that excites me the most. It’s this screen in my pocket. Because we tend to think of the internet as ubiquitous. That is, we tend to think of the internet is being everywhere, in our society, but in fact, for all of humanity, only 30% of the world has internet access. For the majority of humanity, the majority of humans, alive today, have never seen the internet– they’ve never touched, tasted it, smelled it, anything. It’s just a rumor, as Nicholas Negroponte says.

But this decade is going to change. By the end of this decade, that will change. By the end of this decade, the majority of humanity will be online. And what internet will we share with them? Will it be an internet that will convince them that they’re too short? That their skin’s the wrong color? That they don’t smell right? That they’re too fat? And that they need to consume stuff in order to be part of this global community? Or will it be an internet where we really share ideas the world really needs to hear? That we share our best ideas about sustainability, and medicine, and governance, and mathematics, and science, and computing, and all the wonderful knowledge we have to share. What will we choose to design?

I was a judge at a design competition in Delhi. And it was a United Nations initiative. And we were trying to look at the best digital products that have been developed to help you fulfill the Millennium Development Goals, that is, to help the developing world do better. And we saw the most amazing websites and mobile applications from all around the world. Beautiful, immersive things from over a 120 countries. But of the 1,000 entries we saw, there was one that excited me the most. And the one that excited me the most was so simple and so brilliant.

I’d like you to imagine a child, in your life, maybe it’s a three-year-old, maybe it’s your own child, a nephew, and niece. A child who is too young to explain what’s wrong with them. Imagine your daughter, for instance, and she wakes up in the night and she’s screaming in pain. There’s something terribly wrong and you don’t know what it is. Now in Norway or in Canada, there’s a phone number you can call. And you call, you speak to a doctor or nurse, and they tell you– and then let’s imagine you called and they said, oh no, we know exactly what’s wrong with her. It’s no problem at all. She just needs a certain medicine, and she needs it right away. So go to the 24 hour pharmacy. You drive through the 24 hour pharmacy, get the medicine, you bring it home, you give it to your daughter, and she’s OK. That’s the life we get to live.

But in Ghana, it’s not the same. In Ghana, 25% of the medicines are fake. So imagine you’re in Ghana, and you have your three-year-old, and you rush to the pharmacy in the middle the night. And you get the pills, but you don’t know if they’re going to do her any good. They may even kill her. That’s a horrible situation. That’s bad for the economy. It’s certainly bad for health. But it’s really– it’s an insult to dignity, it’s an insult to the dignity of humanity. But someone designed a solution. And it wasn’t a graphic designer or communications designer. It was just common folk, this group called mpedigree.org.

And they came up with this solution that is so brilliant. The way it works is that they work with the drug companies in Ghana, and so every drug has this number on it. And each number is unique to that bottle. And when you get to the pharmacy, all you do is you pull out your phone, and you send a text message to the certain address with that number, and you instantly get an answer back, yes or no. Is it officially good medicine or is it fake. It’s that simple. And that simple application, after seeing all these immersive, beautiful, color, flash, amazing things, this simple application, 128 characters, no fonts, no color, no intrigue, no flash, nothing, just 128 characters or pure design thinking that help save people, that help save dignity, that help save an economy.

That, to me, is sustainable design thinking. That, to me, is the type of thing we need to train ourselves to think about. Because there’s no question that we can do remarkable things with all the tools we have, but it’s the core idea, it’s the outcomes that really matter. If we haven’t clearly defined what it is we’re trying to get done, that doesn’t matter how well we do it, we’re going in the wrong direction.

So look at this power we have, meanwhile, at the collaborative. I want to show you an example.


Have any of you ever heard of this film? It’s called “Iron Sky.” You’ve heard of it? What’s special about this film? Yeah. Exactly, thank you. What’s your name? Thank you for volunteering. This, I’ll explain it, this film– what do you think the budget is for this film? It looks like a Hollywood production that’ll cost $50 million. The budget for this film is $110 thousand. It’s being crowdsourced on the internet.

We think about crowd sourcing as people, like, putting together Wikipedia together and putting words together. But this film is being produced by hundreds of people all around the world. And everything about it is up for grabs– the script, the set design, the actors, everything. All of the production management is being done online. And people are creating. So someone says, “Yeah, sure I’ll do the spaceship models for you. But if that’s the case, I want rewrite the script to include my favorite kind of spaceship model.” And this is exactly happening.

In fact, if you look at the different cuts, even of this trailer, over the last two years, it keeps changing, the plot line keeps changing based on who wants to do what. The remarkable thing is that, on one hand for designers, it should seem a little frightening, because it means that anyone can do what we’re doing, but at the same time, if we grab onto and say, no, no, no, no, what becomes possible? When we really embrace what happens when we have a truly– a culture. It’s called Wreckamovie, if you want to check it out. They’re making many films together, it’s just “Iron Sky” is the one that’s most elaborate.

And this is the part– and this is what I’m going to finish this introductory talk with, this is the key that gets us to the fourth bottom line, it’s about culture. And what I explain what I have in mind, I want to share with you this remarkable person I met in Java, the island of Java, in Indonesia, earlier this year. This is Singh. And Singh designed something amazing. It is this. It is Singh’s wooden radio. This radio, which is fully functioning– that’s weird, when he gave it to me, it was all in Indonesian. I don’t understand. But anyway, OK, so this radio– I’m going to pass around because it’s just– you’ll see the detailing, it’s just so beautiful.

So Singh created this wooden radio. And it’s a beautiful designed object. It’s made of beautiful woods, out of teak and mahogany. And Singh comes from this village, which is about a two hour drive from Yogyakarta, which is the second largest city in Indonesia. And he was born in this village of, perhaps, a couple of thousand people. And what’s happened is the population of the village has been going down as people move to the larger city. Now Singh came up with this idea of creating a radio, but he also wanted to create a place where the radios could be created. So here it is. And the radio is somewhat famous now around the world. It’s a complete working radio. It’s made of wood. And every part of it, every detail of the packaging, and the design, is exquisite, it’s thought out, it’s pure design thinking.

But what’s really amazing isn’t the radio at all. What I found, what really amazed me, was the way he’s created the place for the radios to be made. Because this is the space– Singh, he employees all people from his village. What he did was he moved back to the village where he grew up, and he built this building, which is the factory, and he built a second building, which is where he lives with his wife next door. And they raise their own trees. So here we can see the place where they grow the trees. He created a forest where they grow the trees, even though it takes 30 years to grow the mahogany, he’s a patient man. And in between the trees, he also has these troughs, so that they raise fish in between the troughs of the trees. And then when the fish grow, then the employees get to bring home fish to their families to eat. So they’re feeding the village.

He wanted to design a product. And he didn’t start off with the radio. In fact, he tried many products that failed, and failed, and failed, and failed. As we know, we all think, oh, the radio, he thought of it, he did it. No, it took him 10 years of trying different products. What he wanted was a product which was very small, because he didn’t want to have to use huge pieces of wood. He wanted to get a lot of value at a very small piece of wood. He wanted to change the attitude about how we use wood. So he thought a radio would be good, because what he could use is very relatively small pieces of wood that could be made into something useful. And he also could create a factory where the level of skill required is something he could teach people to do in a few days.

And so he built this factory where they could make the radios. And indeed, I was able to watch them– you’ll see the radio speaker, every hole is hand drilled, every piece is handmade. And so this person has learned to use this wood drill to create the holes in the radio. And they’re assembling, and packaging, and even the box is brilliant and the grommets are all thought out. And so it’s very nice. But at the same time, when I came to the factory, all of the villagers, when they come to work, they arrive, and they have these little motorcycles. And it’s funny because it’s not that big a village. They don’t really need motorcycles. I said, “Singh, why do they all drive these motorcycles to get to work?” And he says because they can. Because they can’t afford to own a house, and they can’t afford to own a car, but they can afford to aspire to own a motorcycle. And so it’s a matter of social status. And it actually frustrated him to the point where he wouldn’t let them park the motorcycles, for a while, at the factory. But eventually he had to give in.

So everyone arrives at their motorcycles. Because what Singh’s trying to do is he wants to transform how the village works into something that is viable in the future. So he created a program where people exercise, and they raise their own food. And every morning, they have a meeting for 30 minutes to talk about the process of how they make the radios, so people can say, “Hmmm, I have a refinement in the process. We can do continuous improvement.” And so he’s teaching a management philosophy to people in the village.

And in fact, when you work at this factory, you’re not even allowed to cut a piece of wood until you’ve worked in the forest, because, as he explained to me, he says it takes a half a second with a rotary saw, to cut a piece of wood, a piece of that took 30 years to grow. And he wants everyone who cuts wood to have the experience, the intimacy with the trees, and knowing that on one hand it takes 30 years to grow mahogany, on the other hand it takes half a second to shape it. So that they really value each piece of treasure that comes from the earth, from the forest.

And he gives back. In fact, in the village– now we’re talking about a village where people are riding motor scooters, but most of the villagers didn’t even have indoor plumbing. This was the sanitation system in a typical dwelling in this village. And so they created a program where, if you worked at the factory, within a year, they would come to your home and install a toilet. So fundamental. To us, we don’t even think twice about it. But there it’s– you’re wondering about the patent, right? They wondering about this.

And this is it. This is the culture that we’re looking at. Because here’s Singh earlier, he explained to me that in order to create this, he took everything he had in the world. They sold his wife’s wedding ring, so they could buy their first computer, so they could set up this factory. And since then, they’re going somewhere with this. But this is Singh when he was a child. And the world he grew up in, as a child in that village, he told me he wants to create a better world. A world where children learn how to think sustainably. He told me of a dream where he’d have a school where just the idea of having a wooden radio, the idea of having a factory, would just be one instance of the type of thinking the children will be taught in school to think like, so that every kid in that village could come up with their own product, their own factory.

I said Singh, you’re talking about creating a design thinking elementary school. You’re talking about teaching children how to be design thinkers. And he said, “Well, you know what, David, that’s interesting. Because I guess I am.” And that’s the fourth, that’s the quadruple bottom line. Because I’m saying the other bottom line we need to respect is culture. Because I tell you, my friends, what makes us different– no matter what your religion, what makes us different from the other animals is this– when the other animals get cold they evolve to grow more hair. They have an evolutionary reaction to the situation. They adapt through evolution. But we humans, we also adapt in another way. If we’re cold, we don’t just grow more hair, which can take a million years, we design stuff. We design solutions. We design heaters, and clothing, and textiles, and all sorts. We reorganize our society.

And that’s culture. Certainly, culture is more than that. Certainly, culture is arts, and music, and drama. But at the core, that is culture. Culture is that unique human ability to design. And that is the fourth bottom line. So what I’m asking is– and the process I’m going to show you today is one that we use in our organization, that every project has to aspire to a quadruple bottom line, not just profit, not just planet, not just people, but also taking care of culture. And this is the quadruple bottom line. And imagine if we could raise a generation of children who learn that in school. Wouldn’t that kick up human civilization to the next knowledge?

You know, we’re going to have to do some remarkable things. Things are fragile, they’re also hopeful. We’re going to have to do some remarkable things in the next couple generations. Twenty years ago the idea of sustainability– 20 years from now, imagine children in Norwegian schools learning design thinking. I think that’s completely possible. And it starts with us, because we have to share what it is we do. And in order to do that, we need to start with a plan. And that’s the strategy part.

So perfect timing, we’re going to break for 20 minutes. And at 20 past 10:00, we’re going to get into the rest of the day which is going to be a talk about how do we create sustainable strategies for our design projects. Because if we don’t plan ahead, a small change at the beginning can have a huge long term impact. So I’ll see you after the break.


Web Accessibility Matters: Why Should We Care


Web Accessibility Matters: Why Should We Care (with Audio Description)

Transcript | Web Accessibility Matters: Why Should We Care

This is a transcript of the video Web Accessibility Matters: Why Should We Care.

(Image of a computer keyboard with a wheelchair symbol on one of the keys. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie. David is also wearing goggles, which he will explain during the video.)

Hi, I’m David Berman and I’m eager to share with you why accessibility matters.

You’ve picked the perfect time to learn about why online accessibility matters so much. And this is the first of a series of segments where we’re going to learn about the type a difficulties people are up against in the amazing assistive technologies that we’ve invented to overcome those difficulties.

We’re going to talk about how we can create online presences with no trade-offs at all and what’s the best way to organize ourselves to get it done.

But first, I’d like to tell you about these glasses I’m wearing. These glasses are part of a kit that’s designed by a friend of mine, George Zimmerman. He’s a doctor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

To think about disabilities we tend to think about extreme disability someone has been blind since birth. Someone who can’t hear at all. But in fact the vast majority of disabilities actually are more subtle and perhaps more temporary.

Now on my left eye I’m wearing a lens which limits my vision to about 3 degrees. On my right eye more of a… this is a 20/200 lens that kind of gives me a Trailer Park Boys Coke bottle glasses kind of experience of the world. With this kit George’s made it possible for people with more typical sight to simulate all sorts of challenges.

Here’s my tiger; she’s wearing for instance a lens on her left eye that simulates cataracts and on the right eye she’s also limiting her eyesight to more of a 10 degree view. You’ll see more of her later.

Now before we get into this though, I’d like to examine why we should care about accessibility. Surely we all think of course, you know we want to have a loving society where we don’t leave anyone behind. But in fact I see five clear reasons why there’s never been a better time for us to care about online accessibility.

The first reason is that there’s simply so many of us. On our planet today there’s perhaps seven billion people. And people make various estimates of how many people have disabilities: substantial disabilities. Some say 15 percent… 20 percent …25 percent. Even with the lowest of those numbers, with seven billion people, we’re looking at leaving perhaps a billion people out.

Now you and I are both on the Internet right now. But yet for seventy percent of humanity today the Internet remains a rumour as Nicholas Negroponte reminds us. But this is the decade where that all changes. By the end of this decade the majority of humanity will be online. We’ll all be online together. And we have the opportunity then to liberate millions upon millions of people. If we can create an Internet where we leave no one behind.

The second opportunity is…regards search engines. Because although we’re talking about billions of human beings in fact the most frequent visitors to most of our public facing websites aren’t human at all. They’re machines such as search engine robots. And whether its Google or Yahoo or Bing, the Google search engine robot has severe disabilities. It can’t see, it can’t hear. It’s got the cognitive abilities perhaps of a four-and-a-half year old and yet the majority of online searches where people are looking to buy a product begin with the search. So if we want great SEO if we want high search rankings, that also starts with creating accessible web presences.

The third reason is about human resources. It’s about our colleagues. It’s about making sure that even in our workplaces no one gets left behind. If we want to attract and retain the best people available we don’t want to lose out on perhaps 25 percent or more of the potential people that could be working in our organization. We want everyone to be able to collaborate in way that’s effective. And so we want our presence to be accessible as well.

The fourth reason: the social responsibility argument. Certainly…especially as Canadians we’re known for demonstrating how one can create a civilization where we measure our success by how we treat those who either are permanently or temporarily our weakest. And certainly then there’s a lot of the love in making sure that we leave no one behind.

But the fifth reason and perhaps this is the reason that compels us to be dwelling on this today is a regulatory reason. More and more jurisdictions around the world are passing laws and regulations saying you must make sure your website maintains a minimum level of standards about web accessibility document accessibility, PDF accessibility. Whether you’re in a region where laws have been passed, where litigation is becoming more popular, it’s good business sense to keep ahead of web accessibility.

Now here in Ontario, I’m proud to say we live in a country where at a federal level there’s a history of leadership. Our federal government has been a leader in web accessibility since the 1990s And a court decision in 2010 compelled us to up our game. And right here in Ontario, Ontario is the first place in the world where not just government but any organization — private sector, nonprofits, anyone with at least fifty employees is required by law to have a public-facing web presence which exceeds a certain minimum level of accessibility. A very well defined level.

And it’s an exciting time to be alive. And in fact if you’re if you’re here in Ontario, were finding that the tools and the techniques that are being developed here are being used around the world.

I had the privilege of working with the World Wide Web Foundation this past year on this year’s Web index.
I’m not sure if you ever check it out: webindex.org. This is an annual benchmark program, where we compare how different countries are doing in terms of various aspects of making the web a better place. And one aspect of this is web accessibility. And my job was to audit dozens of countries’ results as to how they were doing in terms of their banks, their telecommunications companies, their governments at how they’re doing with web accessibility.

I’m very proud to see that Canada year-over-year always is in the top five of dozens of countries.
But I even found legislation that was pointing back to actually naming Canadian standards as the one to follow.
So we have found the perfect time: we live in a time when we can take the skills and the techniques and this movement in our society to embrace web accessibility.

I find is similar to how ten years ago, if I suggested to you there would be a recycle bin in every room in a government office you’d say it’s crazy. Yet in 10 years time we’ve seen this whole shift towards green.

Well this is the decade we shift towards accessibility. This is the decade we do better business… we do better civilization…by all learning how to create a more accessible web.

>>NARRATOR: Appointed a high-level advisor to the UN, David Berman has traveled to over 50 countries, inspiring professionals on how we can design a better civilization. Rated number one in North America as a speaker on accessibility he’s presented at the largest design conferences on four continents. David has audited websites of 40 countries for the World Wide Web Foundation. His book “Do Good Design” is published in five languages. Expert speaker David Berman
Links to resources mentioned can be found at: www.davidberman.com/accessibility#resources

(Text on screen: Produced by David Berman Communications
Ben Armitage; Jennifer Beharry; Veronica Feihl; Simone Flanaghan, Cynthia Hoffos; Steven Kimball; Maciek Kozlowski; Khadija Safri; Justin Stratton.
Copyright 2014 David Berman Communications.
Sources and intellectual property rights available upon request.)

(music extro)


Transcript | Web Accessibility Matters: Now is the Perfect Time

Transcript of “Web Accessibility Matters: Now is the Perfect Time”

This is a transcript of the video Web Accessibility Matters: Now is the Perfect Time.

(Image of a computer keyboard with a wheelchair symbol on one of the keys. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie.)

So here we are living in the decade where online accessibility will become ubiquitous. And I think it’s amazing that after ten thousand generations of humanity we get to live in this decade. But the history of creating technology that helps people overcome disability and challenges actually goes back over a hundred years.

Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 was not trying to invent the phone that we all know him for; he actually was trying to create technologies that would help teachers in a school for the deaf in Massachusetts simply be able to do a better job. And in doing so he ends up inventing the microphone, the amplifier, the transducer, the loudspeaker all things that we take for granted and we find in so much technology today were all invented to overcome an extreme disability.

Now Alexander goes on to create Bell Labs and of course Bell’s still around today, but in New Jersey, Bell Labs in the 1930’s was continuing to work on helping people deal with challenges having to do with hearing and they had develop hearing aids which were an absolute wonder. But in in the thirties, a hearing aid was a big thing that you wore around your neck, it was heavy; the signal to noise ratio was not so great; used up a lot of power; it was very obvious you were walking around with kind of a small billboard on saying I have a challenge. And, so they were working on how to make a better hearing aid. In fact after the 1940’s, physicist at Bell Labs mashed up quantum physics and they invented something called the transistor. Now the transistor was invented as something to create a better hearing aid. They need a hearing aid that would be small; that would have a great signal to noise ratio; would take very little power. And so, they make their hearing aid in they create the
transistor and they figure they were done.

Except that then in post-war Tokyo this guy Mr. Morita decides to buy the worldwide rights for the transistor. He figures hey if people who can’t hear are enjoying the idea of being able to walk around with a device that can make it easier to hear, wouldn’t everyone like that? He comes up with the idea of a radio that you can carry anywhere. He invents the transistor radio. He invents a company we now know as Sony.

And although his family may have thought he was crazy to spend his life savings for the rights for this transistor of course the transistor goes on to become ubiquitous in all our technologies.

In the current version of Alexander Graham Bell’s phone which none of us… I’ll drive back home if I realize I’ve forgotten my phone and there’s millions of transistors in here. There’s transistors in all these devices we love so much: our tablets, …and our laptops, … and well transistors got us to the moon and back. And yet it all starts off with designing for extremes. And the key here is that when we design for the extremes everybody benefits. Considered these traffic signals I’m showing — typical traffic signals. These are some photos I took in Seoul Korea, but they could be they could be downtown Toronto at night.

(Two almost identical images, side by side of Korean streetscape and traffic lights at night. The image on the left displays green traffic lights, and the image on the right displays red.)

The key is that we have the standard signals for red for stop green for go and yet if I press my magic button I’ve simply removed all the colour for those lamps. And now you’re seeing the experience of someone who has a complete colour deficit. Now that’s what it looks like at night to approach a traffic signal. Slightly over 10 percent of men in Canada have some level of colour deficit; and the largest source of accidental death in our country is due to traffic accidents. And this is true all over the world. So it’s seems a little crazy to me that we have this system that relies solely on colour.

Now we have a made-in-Canada solution for this. In Quebec most of Quebec uses traffic signals that don’t rely solely on colour. There’s three cues: there’s the classic colour system green for go, red for stop, but also the lamps for stop are squarish where as the go are roundish and the caution is diamond-shaped; and as well there’s two lamps for stop and one for the others. So we have three cues. We’re using colour for the legacy users but we’re also using the number of lamps as well as the shape of lamps. And by giving people various ways of knowing information we don’t have to rely on just one sense, which is brilliant. And everyone prefers these lamps. As you come closer to the intersection just the parallax effect of the twin lamps being further apart as you come forward allows you to know how far away the intersection is at night.

We tend to think often of design as simply a matter of better decoration but in fact design can be life and death. The great thing is that we live right now in a time where it’s never been easier to make everything accessible for everyone. The technologies have never been less expensive the innovations are coming more and more quickly. And so I don’t want you to worry at all if you don’t know that much about web accessibility. Because frankly this is the perfect time to get involved. Even in the past ten years the amount of effort it takes to make a website let’s say or PDF file accessible is a fraction of what it was back then. So this is the perfect time to learn how to get this done.
(music comes up)

>>NARRATOR: Appointed a high-level advisor to the UN, David Berman has traveled to over 50 countries, inspiring professionals on how we can design a better civilization. Rated number one in North America as a speaker on accessibility he’s presented at the largest design conferences on four continents. David has audited websites of 40 countries for the World Wide Web Foundation. His book “Do Good Design” is published in five languages. Links to resources mentioned can be found at: www.davidberman.com/accessibility#resources

(Text on screen: Produced by David Berman Communications
Ben Armitage; Jennifer Beharry; Veronica Feihl; Simone Flanaghan, Cynthia Hoffos; Steven Kimball; Maciek Kozlowski; Khadija Safri; Justin Stratton.
Copyright 2014 David Berman Communications.
Sources and intellectual property rights available upon request.)

(music extro)


Transcript | Web Accessibility Matters: Difficulties and Technologies: Avoiding Tradeoffs

This is a transcript of the video Web Accessibility Matters: Difficulties and Technologies: Avoiding Tradeoffs.

(Image of a computer keyboard with a wheelchair symbol on one of the keys. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie.)

The best way to get the best results from from web accessibility is to understand the type difficulties and the kind of technologies we use to mitigate those challenges. And so my plan now is we’re going to walk through the type of difficulties people encounter.

I’ve found that we can create an accessible website without trade-offs. You see often people think if I make my website accessible I’m going to have to make the experience worse for my typical users. And that could be true if you don’t understand why or how we’re doing this. But if you truly understand the difficulties and the type of technologies were using to overcome them, then it’s possible to create an accessible site, accessible product that has no trade-offs at all.

In fact chances are we’re going to make things better for everyone because when we design for the extremes everyone benefits. When we think of the type of challenges people are dealing with I find it useful to consider disabilities in categories.

The first one being permanent disabilities. We tend to think about the permanent disabilities first. Someone who’s blind since birth and may never see at all in their lifetime. Or someone who can’t hear at all and may never hear. But in fact the vast majority of difficulties and challenges are more subtle and temporary.

Temporary disabilities include everything from maybe you’ve just been to the eye doctor and there’s drops in your eyes, or maybe you’ve got the flu, or maybe you’re pregnant, or maybe you’re drunk. These are all things the come and go.

You may have a post-traumatic stress disorder where at times of day you don’t have your typical cognitive faculties. And we need to consider the whole breadth of disability when we’re designing the truly accessible product.

We also have acquired disability as we age our eye sight tends to go. We tend to have more mobility challenges as we get older as well, you know.

The typical life expectancy of a man in the Middle Ages in Europe was perhaps 36 years old. And yet all of us plan to live much longer than that. And so there’s acquired challenges that are important as well.

And then finally we have societal challenges as well. We have things that shouldn’t be a disability at all perhaps like being left-handed. This also can be a challenge in some parts of the world.

Now when we think of the different types of impairments people are challenged with, it’s useful to simply think about the different human senses. And I’m going to march through the human senses and look at the challenges in each area in the order that they tend to be the biggest challenge for us on the web.

The most common type of difficulty we tend to dwell on is the visual challenge: people having problems seeing. And it makes sense because for most of us the largest bandwidth pipe for information coming into the human brain is the eye. And whether someone has an extreme situation where they can’t see at all or perhaps they see fine but they don’t see certain frequencies of light so certain colours are left out for them. Perhaps they have a constraint on their vision.

We have a whole host of assistive technologies — which I’ll get into more deeply later — which helps balance off this challenge of not being able to see.

The second group of challenges most prevalent when we’re designing products online are dexterity or mobility challenges. And again this can be of a range from the extreme of perhaps someone is a quadriplegic who has no use of their limbs from the neck down. Or could be as subtle as someone who has complete use of all of their limbs but it hurts to move in certain ways and so they prefer not to.

And so from those two extremes we have a continuum of mobility challenges and we have a great range of assistive technologies that help us mitigate for mobility challenges.

The third group of assistive technologies range around hearing difficulties and again there’s a range. Some people just got a little too close to the left speaker at a Genesis concert younger in life and don’t hear so well in one ear than the other. Others maybe don’t hear at all. Some people can’t hear certain frequencies and in fact we find in the acquired category as we get older there are certain frequencies which simply drop off completely. Again we have technologies which overcome this.

Now your web product, your website may have a lot of sound or may have not at all. But if you have audio content, we do have a variety of techniques to help overcome the challenge that some people either all the time or some other time can’t hear.

The fourth group are language and speech difficulties. And that’s quite a range of challenges here. It could be simply someone didn’t learn how to speak the language of your site early in life. And you know we humans were designed to acquire language at the age of three or four, so if someone acquired let’s say English or French later in life it’s never going to be as natural as if they learned it as an infant. As well some people are just wired differently.

For some people language comes in a different way. For some they experience language in a typical way but the way comes out, the way they express themselves is very different. And so we have quite a range of technologies which can also help mitigate for language and speech problems.

Kind of a sibling to this are cognitive and learning challenges. And there’s quite a range here as well: everything from an extreme dyslexia from simply subtle challenges of being able to remember certain facts.

One of the really big challenges we have with cognitive difficulties is that they can be quite subtle and not present apparently. For instance, if someone has a severe visual challenge they may arrive with a service dog or a white cane. It’ll be apparent to you fairly quickly that they don’t see or they don’t see that well. However with cognitive challenges usually there aren’t readily apparent, in fact the person who has the cognitive challenge may not even know themselves that they have them.

You know we do work at Carleton University and we find that the students we help with disabilities… over eighty percent of the kids we’re helping out are those with cognitive challenges.

So again we have a variety of technologies that can help overcome learning disabilities. In fact, I’m convinced we all have dyslexia to a certain degree and attention deficit disorder to a certain degree. And we do something to kids in our society, which is rather tricky, you know. Consider this. If you meet a tiger in the wild and …you know this is a tiger …and if I rotate it’s still a tiger …and this is a tiger …and this is a tiger. That’s the reality of living in the forest. And yet we teach our children an alphabet where if you take a letter a lower case ‘b’ and you rotate it, it becomes something completely different: a ‘d’. And then you flip it downward it becomes a lower case ‘p’ you flip it again it’s a lower-case ‘q’. This type of symbol — it’s brilliant — but you know we we’re running on fifty thousand year-old hardware and yet the idea of written language is only perhaps 6 or 7 thousand years old.

We all struggle then with symbols that change their meaning. Just those that struggle enough with it that it falls outside the norm we have a label for that. The last group have difficulties are ones we invent, as if we don’t have enough already in our society.

Some parts of the planet are still very harsh on people who try to write with their left hand as children rather than with their right. And we stigmatize some disabilities. We make it difficult to be honest with each other about the challenges we have. And it really depends. And we’re getting better and better at this.

You know, a lot of people I know wear glasses. And you don’t tend to think glasses as an assistive technology. But I’m sure the first time someone wandered out into the streets in seventeenth-century Europe with lenses strapped to their face, people must have pointed and said that guy’s crazy. And yet today we feel completely comfortable letting others know that we don’t see so well. And yet for other disabilities we’re not quite there. And this is part of the challenge.

As a society we’re quickly evolving to be more caring and more accepting of our differences and when we accept our differences and recognize them only then are we able to do the best job we can of communicating with everyone and leaving no one behind.

(music comes up)

>>NARRATOR: Appointed a high-level advisor to the UN, David Berman has traveled to over 50 countries, inspiring professionals on how we can design a better civilization. Rated number one in North America as a speaker on accessibility he’s presented at the largest design conferences on four continents. David has audited websites of 40 countries for the World Wide Web Foundation. His book “Do Good Design” is published in five languages. Links to resources mentioned can be found at: www.davidberman.com/accessibility#resources

(Text on screen: Produced by David Berman Communications
Ben Armitage; Jennifer Beharry; Veronica Feihl; Simone Flanaghan, Cynthia Hoffos; Steven Kimball; Maciek Kozlowski; Khadija Safri; Justin Stratton.
Copyright 2014 David Berman Communications.
Sources and intellectual property rights available upon request.)

(music extro)


Transcript | Web Accessibility Matters: Assistive Technologies Drive Innovation

This is a transcript of the video Web Accessibility Matters: Assisstive Technologies Drive Innovation.

(Image of a computer keyboard with a wheelchair symbol on one of the keys. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie.)

There’s been more people liberated in all the history of civilization by information technology in the last 35 years then all the wars and revolutions in human history.

And now I’d like to show you what some of those technologies are because we have such a panorama of human ingenuity going on that are bridging the challenges and making it possible for people with a variety of challenges or disabilities or even temporary impairments to be able to perceive and participate in ways that simply weren’t possible before.

Living in a digital age means that everything’s now digitized it means that things that — words ideas innovations — that couldn’t be perceived before can now be perceived by everyone.

Let’s look at what some of those technologies look like. When we talk about an assistive technology we’re talking about something that helps us has overcome a disability or impairment. Some assistive technologies are designed specifically to take care of a disability. For instance when we think let’s say if I had a wheelchair in front of me… a wheelchair is something you really wouldn’t use for anything but a mobility challenge.

On the other hand, there’s other technology, say something like Skype… lots of people use Skype for typing back and forth to overcome various disabilities, even though Skype was not designed as an assistive technology. Now when we talk about electronic assistive technologies we’re talking about assistive technologies that were specifically designed to overcome challenges in a digital world. And we can think of them generally in two categories: as hardware assists and software assists.

Let’s look at some of the ones that are most prevalent, keeping in mind that in general when we identify an assistive technology typically we’re either substituting one human sense for another for a sense that isn’t that isn’t available to us right then or we’re taking a sense and magnifying it. So for instance let’s say someone can’t read. And maybe they can’t read because they don’t know how to read or maybe they can’t read because they can see the letters. Either way we can use the ear instead of the eye. And so we have technologies that read things out loud. A screen reader then is often the most common example of an assistive technology that’s accommodated through good web design. And so a screen reader will simply read the content out loud, if the website, if the product, if the PDF, if the document is designed to be read out loud.
And so one of the key things we do with websites is make sure that they work well with screen readers.

We have a number of other technologies though that can help us as well: for instance we have software that’s actually designed to optionally read out loud. If someone can read, but they can’t read little things, we have technology that magnifies: makes things a larger. And one of the great things about Windows 8 over windows 7 or Mac OS is that they’re screen magnifiers built right into the technology, so that the operating system helps you enlarge things so you can see them better.

Instead of reading we can use the sense of touch and so we’ve all heard of braille, and so here’s a case where someone can’t see, but they can still read by being able to feel the letters. But that technology has manifested itself in the online world through using innovation in Braille. So for instance if you have an iPhone, this clever guy in the United States, designed this thing called Speed Dots and what it is a screen protector that goes right here on your iPhone and lets you feel where the keyboard is, as well as protecting the phone at the same time.

We have much more sophisticated technology as well though for instance refreshable Braille display is a technology that has a series of dots which pop up to be just like Braille and they just keep popping up and showing different information depending on what’s going on right now. And in this case this is integrated into this entire device, which is a smart phone for people who can’t see. So of course it’s got no visual display, but has all the other attributes: a camera and braille line display.

Now if you can’t type and maybe you can type because you don’t know how to touch type. Or maybe you can’t type because your hands shake or or perhaps you don’t have use of your fingers at all, hence we have technologies that allow you to speak.

Now here’s another case where design for the extremes is benefiting everyone. Because of course in the last few years the ability to direct our smart phones — and who knows if sometimes soon perhaps our automobiles — through voice has become something that we’re all enjoying. But the technologies behind Siri and Google Now started two decades ago as technologies being developed specifically for people with extreme difficulties.

Now if you can’t type as well, you could perhaps use different parts of your body to be able to simulate typing. I’m showing a picture for child and she’s wearing a SIP puff device. This is a device that let’s say you’re quadriplegic you have no use of your limbs below your neck, but wearing this headset she can sip and puff on a straw and that’s just like left clicking or right clicking a mouse. And by moving her head around that’s like moving the mouse around. So using this device, she can navigate any website in the world. Well, not any website, she can navigate websites that have been designed according to the standards that are becoming ubiquitous. And these are the very standards that are link to the legislation that we’ll be speaking about later.

The key is if you create your website to be accessible, then your website is going to work with all of these technologies; as well as technologies and haven’t even been invented yet. See the key to future-proofing your website, the way of inoculating it against future innovation is to follow the standards. Anyone designing new technologies today new assistive technologies is designing them in such a way that they’re going to comply with the same standards. So we can’t anticipate what’s coming next but we know that if we follow these standards, our sites will already be compliant with browsers and technologies that haven’t even yet been invented.

Here’s another example: something coming down the pipes hard. Instead of using a mouse you can just look and blink. This is a technology called the Nouse — nose and mouth — because what it does is the camera in the laptop tracks where your nose is and by tracking where your nose is it knows where your eyes are. So the idea is you just look at what you want and then you blink. And it can tell the difference between a clearing-my-eyelids blink and a let’s-launch-the-missile blink so the nouse — this type of technology is becoming is becoming so attractive that Lenovo is planning on building mouse-like technology into all their laptops over the next couple of years. Imagine people walking around with their with their with their tablets blinking and stuff. It’s coming coming to a tablet near you.

Now when you combine that with the ability to have an on-screen keyboard it means that you can potentially choose letters as well. So it means someone can type just by looking and blinking. That opens up all sorts of possibilities for people with extreme situations as well as anyone who would enjoy the efficiency of that.

Another swap is if you don’t have the ability to hear at a certain time or the ability to speak, we have alternatives using gestures of using typing, of being able to watch someone as they do sign language. There’s so many different techniques we’ve come up with to overcome (difficulties) and the new ideas are just propagating — as more and more people are able to develop — for tablets and all sorts of new touch-based technologies. This is all about paddling towards an ideal situation.

Our goal is simply to paddle towards a common ideal. That ideal is that no matter what your disability, no matter what you difficulty, no matter your skill level, no matter what browser you’re using, what operating system you’re using, what type of technology you’re using, what speed your Internet connection is; no matter what, that you should be able to access everything all the time. And you know what, we’re never going to achieve that. And I don’t want you to be intimidated by that. Because we don’t have to do a perfect job. We simply have to do a better job than we’re doing today. And if we simply exceed these minimum standards that have been established for us, we can include everyone. We can not just accommodate everyone, we can have the ability to delight everyone. And that’s worth doing.

(music comes up)

>>NARRATOR: Appointed a high-level advisor to the UN, David Berman has traveled to over 50 countries, inspiring professionals on how we can design a better civilization. Rated number one in North America as a speaker on accessibility he’s presented at the largest design conferences on four continents. David has audited websites of 40 countries for the World Wide Web Foundation. His book “Do Good Design” is published in five languages. Links to resources mentioned can be found at: www.davidberman.com/accessibility#resources

(Text on screen: Produced by David Berman Communications
Ben Armitage; Jennifer Beharry; Veronica Feihl; Simone Flanaghan, Cynthia Hoffos; Steven Kimball; Maciek Kozlowski; Khadija Safri; Justin Stratton.
Copyright 2014 David Berman Communications.
Sources and intellectual property rights available upon request.)

(music extro)


PeachpitTV: David Berman Discusses the PlayPump

Transcript | PeachpitTV: David Berman discusses the PlayPump

This is a transcript of the video PeachpitTV: David Berman discusses the PlayPump

(Text on screen: Voices that matter Conference Web Design
Do Good Design author David Berman discusses the Play Pump)

(Image of Do Good Design book cover. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a white shirt.)

[MUSIC PLAYING] There’s lots of examples of designers coming up with very creative ways to do good in the world. One of my favorites is Trevor Field. He’s an advertising executive.

And he was traveling in Africa and he noticed how children would play on merry-go-rounds. And at the same time, he’s in areas of the continent where there was a shortage of drinkable water. And there’s a problem with getting power in to pump water out from the deep.

They knew where the water was. But the power grid wasn’t available to pump the water out. He came up with this very clever idea. Why not use the child power of playing on the merry-go-round to pump the water out.

And he created something called the PlayPump. And now today, there’s about over 1,000 PlayPumps in various countries in the southern end of Africa, where children play on the merry-go-round and it pumps water to the surface.

Trevor, being an advertising executive, actually thought of this in terms of a sustainable business model because he decided that the entire PlayPump contraption could actually have four billboard faces on it, so he could sell space on the PlayPump to whomever chose to sponsor it. And of course, that corporation could associate themselves with doing good.


(Text on screen: DavidBerman.com/dogood
Presented by New Riders
Gary-Paul Prince – Producer and Editor
Mary Sweeney – Camera and Lighting
RhedPixel.com – Motion Graphics
Find out more at www.peachpit.com)


PeachpitTV: Cradle to Cradle with David Berman

Transcript | PeachpitTV: Cradle to Cradle with David Berman

This is a transcript of the video PeachpitTV: Cradle to Cradle with David Berman

(Text on screen: Voices that matter Conference Web Design
Do Good Design author David Berman discusses William Warren and cradle to cradle design)

(Image of Do Good Design book cover. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a white shirt.)

[MUSIC PLAYING] There’s a designer I know from England. His name is William Warren. And he’s taken the idea of cradle-to-cradle design to a new extreme, I think.

He designed a set of bookshelves. And the idea is that you create this bookshelf for yourself out of wood, but the bookshelf is made up of pieces that, when it comes time to end your life, when you die, and you need a coffin, those same pieces of wood get rearranged and become the coffin you will be buried in.

So he’s truly thought through the idea of designing for a full life cycle of all of the parts. You’re essentially buying your coffin in advance and making full good use of it during your lifetime, and also knowing where you’re going to end up, which is probably the thing too.


(Text on screen: DavidBerman.com/dogood
Presented by New Riders
Gary-Paul Prince – Producer and Editor
Mary Sweeney – Camera and Lighting
RhedPixel.com – Motion Graphics
Find out more at www.peachpit.com)


PeachpitTV: The Do Good Design Pledge with David Berman

Transcript | PeachpitTV: The Do Good Design Pledge with David Berman

This is a transcript of the video PeachpitTV: The Do Good Design Pledge with David Berman

(Text on screen: Voices that matter Conference Web Design
Do Good Design author David Berman discusses the Do Good Pledge)

(Image of Do Good Design book cover. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a white shirt.)

I’ve been to over 40 countries speaking to designers and students of design. And I believe my first job is to help them recognize how much power they have in the world. When we start out as designers — I don’t know if this concurs with your experience — but you start out as just being in that design frame of mind, where you’re interested in creating beautiful things or creating effective things. But it’s its own little universe.

At a certain point I discovered that there was a messy larger world afoot, and indeed design was at the core of some of the largest problems we have. For instance, the environmental crisis, at its core, is essentially overconsumption. And overconsumption has been driven by teaching people they need more stuff than they really do. And designers have a lot to do with creating that belief system.

So once designers recognize how much power they have in the world, I then ask them to use those same skills and opportunities to help do good in the world, rather than help contribute to the problems. And I believe that if every one of us were to take just 10% of their time and use it towards doing design projects which are helping make the world more just, more fair, more equitable, more sustainable, then we’ll have it solved.

There’s over two million designers alive in the world today. Can you imagine– do the math– if each one took even four hours a week– and most of us are working more than a 40-hour week– let’s say just four hours a week? That’s 10% percent of your time. That’s 8 million hours a week of people doing good– a force of good in the world.

So I ask people to take a three-part pledge. The first part is to be true to the profession, to recognize that we are in a profession that has as much importance in society as doctors or lawyers or engineers, each of which require a certification, and that we have as big an impact on the world, that as many people are at risk from messages poorly built as with buildings that are poorly built. And so with that power comes a lot of responsibility. So I ask people to be true to their profession.

The second part is I ask them to be true to themselves, because people will ask me, they say, well, what does doing good entail? Should I help design ads for SUVs? And it’s not for me to tell you what’s ethical. Listen to your own inner principles, that I’m confident you’re going to use your skills and your opportunities to help do good in the world. So the second thing is I ask people to be true to themselves.

And then the third thing is that I ask them to use at least 10% of their professional time helping create a more just world. And we’ve created a website– the dogoodbook.com web presence– we have a place that online people can pledge that time. So we have over 73,000 hours already of people having pledged at the site. The book’s only been out for several months, and it just touches my heart when I see that we have over 73,000 hours, as of this morning, of people who have pledged that every year they’re going to spend that time doing good.

And so it’s building. It’s building. And so I’m heading towards the big numbers that I was looking for before. Now some people are already doing good, and they’re just acknowledging it. And others are making that commitment.

I’m not asking people to do work for free. This isn’t a pitch for pro bono work. I’m happy if you can make money at it. I am thrilled if you can make an entire career out of doing design that does good.

(Text on screen: DavidBerman.com/dogood
Presented by New Riders
Gary-Paul Prince – Producer and Editor
Mary Sweeney – Camera and Lighting
RhedPixel.com – Motion Graphics
Find out more at www.peachpit.com)


PeachpitTV: Do Good Design with David Berman

Transcript | PeachpitTV: Do Good Design with David Berman

This is a transcript of the video PeachpitTV: Do Good Design with David Berman

(Text on screen: Voices that matter Conference Web Design
Do Good Design author David Berman discusses what is “Do Good Design”)

(Image of Do Good Design book cover. David Berman appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a white shirt.)

In the year 2000, I visited Tanzania, and I was amazed to discover that Coca Cola had branded not just the villages but the actual milestone markers between major cities were Coca Cola signs. These are concrete permanent signage that had been put into the ground. And clearly while the Tanzanian government had problems with insurrection and disease and poverty, Coca Cola came in and said we’ll take care of your traffic. So every small village in the back roads of Tanzania is a Coke sign with the name of the village on it, the same way that a corner store– perhaps here in the United States– would have that.

And it’s a brilliant example of great design, of great marketing, great advertising. But it disturbs me greatly because over a million people die of malaria every year in Africa, and the cost of a malaria pill is about the same cost as a Coca Cola on the streets of Dar-es-Salaam. And so, in the book, I lay down this challenge: wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to use Coca Cola’s impeccable system for distribution to distribute things we really need to share with the world rather than sharing our chemical or our addictions. Rather than teaching people to drink sugar water or highly caffeinated sugar water, we could share ideas about democracy and medicine and information technology and all the wonders we have to share.

Well there’s this guy named Simon Berry in the UK. He has a site called colalife.org. And he kind of blew me away because I laid down this challenge and Simon Berry got in touch with me and he actually came up with a way to take advantage of that distribution method. What Simon’s done is he’s designed a pod. If you can imagine a case of 12 Coke bottles– 12 Coke bottles, four by three grid– has eight spots between the bottles. And he designed this little pod that slips in between those bottles. And the idea is you could put something in that pod. It could be resuscitation salts, it could be condoms, it could be health information. Whatever it is, we can distribute stuff through the Coca Cola network.

So while I’m busy ranting about Coca Cola in Tanzania, guys like Simon Berry are thinking of ways to take advantage of the situation and do good. The book is full of stories about ordinary designers who have done an extraordinary. Because I, myself, I’m not an extraordinary designer, I’m just a guy who said, hmm, I see a situation, I think something should be done about it. And so in the book, I make a point of telling stories about ordinary designers who have done extraordinary things. Who haven’t just had a great idea, but actually had the courage and the tenacity to see it through.

(Text on screen: DavidBerman.com/dogood
Presented by New Riders
Gary-Paul Prince – Producer and Editor
Mary Sweeney – Camera and Lighting
RhedPixel.com – Motion Graphics
Find out more at www.peachpit.com)


Greetings from Doha

Mousharaka: Doha Design Week
Doha, Qatar | 2009
(Video: Zelda Harrison)

Transcript | Greetings from Doha

This is a transcript of the video Greetings from Doha

(David Berman and Muhammad Tamyez appears on screen and faces the camera for the duration of this video. David is wearing a black suit with a blue shirt. Muhammad is wearing a burgundy Malay dress and a cap)

Muhamad Tamyez: So it’s a video feature?
Host: It’s a video. You’re on camera.
Muhammad Tamyez: This is David and we are super complicated.
Host: [LAUGHTER] Host: Keep on going, keep on going. All right, so David, you’ve got to do your finger trick.
Muhammad Tamyez:: You can do it, David.
David Berman: OK, so we start so… Can you do this?
Host: Mm-hmm.
David Berman: Can you do this?
Host: Mm-hmm.
David Berman: Can you do this?
Host: [LAUGHTER] David Berman: But you probably can’t do this.


David Berman speaks at Icograda design week 2006 Hong Kong: How Logo Can We Go?

Icograda Design Week
Hong Kong | 2006
(Video: Don Ryun Chang, Editing: Dan Hayes)

Transcript | David Berman speaks at Icograda design week 2006 Hong Kong: How logo can we go?

This is a transcript of the video David Berman speaks at Icograda design week 2006 Hong Kong: Design and Social Responsibility.

(David Berman appears on camera in front of his presentation displaying on screen and faces the audience for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a black shirt.)

95% of every designer who has ever lived is alive today. Can you do the math? Think about that.


This profession is still up for grabs. It’s up to us to decide what it’s going to be about. The first so many decades, this happened, that happened, everybody is engaged, and this set the pace. But it’s up to us to decide what graphic design is going be.
Some of you are saying, wow! There’s really something to this. How do I do this? And this is what I would like– those of you I’d like to speak to just right now. I’d like to ask you to do this.

I’m not suggesting you quit your jobs. I’m not suggesting you don’t work for good money. All I want to do is ask that in your professional life, whether you’re a student and it’s just coming soon, or whether you’re already a practitioner, to give 10% of your time towards projects that help repair the world.

And I’m not saying you have to donate any time. I’m not suggesting giving away any work. I’m just saying, make sure that at least 10% your time is spent working on projects that are helping make things better rather than worse. Now if everyone’s working a 40 hour week– and I know we all work longer than that– but let’s say you only work 40 hours, that’s four hours a week.
Now imagine four hours a week, how many designers did I say there were in the world?

95% of them are alive today of the million designers. So that’s four million hours a week. Can you imagine how much good we can do as a group? Four million hours a week! Mervin, you know, you mentioned that we have a role to play. And we can’t do it alone. But you know, it’s up to the doctors, for instance, to take care of their special role they have in medicine. And they made a decision a couple thousand years ago to define what their profession would be about.
Because doctors could have said, well, we’ll just wait until people are almost dead, and then we’ll ask them for all their money for some drug that will keep them alive. Or they can do just cosmetic surgery. But they didn’t do that. They came up with this thing called the Hippocratic oath.

Doctors subscribe to an ethic which is higher than society expects. And I’m saying, let’s do that ourselves. Let’s define what this industry is going to be about. And let’s not just do good design. Let’s focus on doing good.


David Berman speaks at Nortel 2006: Expect the Unexpected

Nortel Networks Inc
Ottawa, Canada | 2006
(Video: Patrick Cunningham, Editing: Dan Hayes)

Transcript | David Berman speaks at Nortel 2006: Expect the Unexpected

This is a transcript of the video David Berman speaks at Nortel 2006: Expect the Unexpected.

(Text on screen: plan for interruptions)

(David Berman appears on camera in front of his presentation displaying on screen and faces the audience for the duration of this video. David is wearing a beige suit with a black shirt and tie.)

–answer your question there now about what we do about interruptions. Because you’re going– “David, you’re going to plan this perfect day, and we’ve got it all perfectly set up, all your due items and your not-due items and your scheduled meetings with yourself and–” He lives in the land of make-believe, right?

What kind of job does David have where, what… no one phones? No one sends you email? No one calls from the school to say your daughter is throwing up? None of that happens? No, it happens every day. And what we do is we plan for it. We plan for interruptions. And this is how we do it.

We have a formula. This is my interruption formula. N equals T minus I minus D. It requires a little arithmetic, but it’s worth the trouble. Basically it’s like this. In any given day, we know the total amount of hours we have for the not-due items.

So let’s say we take a typical day. Our total hours available on that day, let’s say, are eight hours. That’s the whole workday. I’m just thinking about the workday right now to keep it simple.

So we’ve got our workday of eight hours available. Now I want to find out what my total hours are available for not-due items. I want to know what my N is. So the way I figure that out is I take my total hours available and then I take something called an “interruption reserve”. That’s the I, and that’s what you’re looking for.

How much time do I have to put aside for people successfully interrupting me? I say successful because later today I want to talk about how we reduce the interruptions. But there will always be useful interruptions.

So we come up with a number. Now this is different for every person, and you have to learn– and if you keep a journal you’ll know very accurately how much it is– how much time do you have to put aside? I’m suggesting just try two hours, almost arbitrarily, for starters, if you don’t know what it is.

But you’ll learn how much time you spend every day reacting to new stuff.


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Reviewed July 26, 2011

2 Responses to “See David”

  1. Hello David,

    I came across your work through the folks from the Carleton Accessibility Summit. I think we speak the language when it comes to accessibility, sustainability and social responsibility. (I host a weekly TV show Canada in Perspective on AMI-tv. The show looks at issues of today through the lens of disability. It gives people who are often on the margins, a platform to share their stories.) I am working on a documentary project “Talent Untapped,” to create a tool to foster more inclusive work places and to shine the light on the tremendous value of workers with disabilities. I hope you can take three minutes to view the preview. http://talentuntapped.org

    I am a currently seeking corporate sponsors to help me complete this important film project. My partner include: Export Development Canada, Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care and Sodexo Canada. EDC has never before sponsored a crowd funded project, nor has it ever donated to a cause outside of foreign relief. The head of human resources told me that Talent Untapped will be used to help them with their strategic recruitment and to help them become a more inclusive employer. Now that’s progressive thinking.

    David, if you see value in this project, perhaps we can talk this week. you can reach me at 613-808-8299

    kind regards, Anna-Karina Tabunar

    • David Berman says:

      Anna, it was wonderful speaking to you this past Saturday. Everyone should see the trailer! Have we succeeded yet in making the kickstarter goal this week? Last time I checked it was close to 90%!

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