A Chat with David Berman: Inclusive Design, Quantifying Sustainability, and Doing Good

We’re proud to call David Berman a Friend of the Manifesto. With over 30 years of experience working with inclusive design, he strongly believes that we can include everyone, without tradeoffs.

David’s work as an author (Do Good Design), expert speaker, and strategist has taken him to over 50 countries. He is a high-level advisor to the United Nations on accessible web design thinking, an International Advisor at G3ICT, a governmental advisor on inclusive design policy, and chair of the Carleton Access Network at Carleton University. David also serves on the ISO committee for accessible PDF technology. His clientele includes BMO, IBM, the International Space Station, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In 2015, David was appointed an Invited Expert to the W3C regarding the WCAG standard for making sites that respect inclusive design. His work implementing codes of ethics for national professional designer associations has spread internationally, including AIGA in the USA , adgi in Indonesia, and Grafill in Norwaywhich made him a Lifelong Member for this work.

 

Q:  Hello, what are you working on these days?

I just finished an online greenhouse gas calculator for covered farming, a federal-provincial initiative with the Government of Ontario. It makes some really complex science accessible to farmers, so they can test scenarios of how they can modify their buildings to reduce their greenhouse gas impact. We managed to do this end-to-end in just 6 weeks, and it was launched last month. The site applies best practice standards for universal design. When farmers get their results they can use them for applying for subsidies to make the investment for improvements. Of course, the government’s goal is to contribute to their global United Nations SDG commitment.

I am also working with folks within the Canadian government regarding their new national inclusive design act… coming next year. We’re all very excited: more Made In Canada leadership on the accessibility front!

Q:  What are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about inclusive design and how Ontario and Norway lead the way on regulations that apply, not just to government, but to the private sector as well. We’re just beginning our work this week on the committee to make improvements to the Ontario regulations for inclusive design, so I’m really jazzed to have been asked to serve on that committee representing our professionthe designers, the development teams. When we design for the extremes, everyone benefits!


Q:  What do you find most challenging about your work/industry when it comes to sustainability?

The biggest challenge is reacting to the sad craziness coming out of the US these days. It is frustrating, the amount of social justice energy that is being diverted by that, temporarily taking the focus from what needs to be done. But I am also confident there is a silver lining hidden in all of this…!

Q:  What do you think the solution is?  

The solution is to continue to quantify sustainability in ways that let mainstream designers know they are part of the solution, not the problem. There is a need to release a global sustainability design standard.

Q:  How do you view the role of designers when it comes to bringing more sustainable solutions into the world? How much responsibility should they take?

The opportunity for designers has never been greater, to be able to help design a better society… because the awareness of the power of design has never been greater. And the tools to design have never been more available… more democratized. We just have to use it!

Q:  How can we get more creative professionals to take responsibility and truly realize the difference they can make?

Read my book! Seriously: steal it if you have to. Do Good Design: How designers can change the world. Design matters. Like never before. Let’s do this thing!

 


To learn more about David Berman, visit https://www.davidberman.com

Editor’s note: David’s biography is adapted from an original text by Erik Spiekermann (Pearson/Peachpit 2013).

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