Home / Europe / Avanti-Avanti Studio: “Design for All, the Start of the Creative Process is Through Individual Diversity”
Avanti-Avanti Studio: "Design for All, the Start of the Creative Process is Through Individual Diversity"

Avanti-Avanti Studio: “Design for All, the Start of the Creative Process is Through Individual Diversity”

Proyecto Pabellón de Cataluña en la Bienal de Venecia 2017. Image Cortesía de Institut Ramon Llull

Avanti-Avanti Studio is a design studio dedicated to the development of creative communication strategies, particularly specialized in “Design for All.” Founded by Alex Dobaño (graphic designer and member of the Design For All Foundation) and Elvira Muñoz (architect), the duo leads a multidisciplinary team of professional people in communication, design, and technology, and work with companies and institutions specialized in leisure, tourism, culture, museums, and cities. They describe their practice as a meeting point, where professionals from different fields come together for every new venture, to ensure that the built environments are suitable and inclusive for anyone experiencing them.

We talked to Alex, founder and creative director of the studio, to learn more about their work and the importance of introducing the Design for All concept in the integrated space design projects.

What is Design for All and how does it differentiate from accessibility?

Design for all is a design methodology, where accessibility is only conditional, a constraint that environments should have, implying that anyone can dispose and use the infrastructure, services or products on equal terms.

Design for all also introduces the individual diversity of users, a concept that becomes the main principle of the creative design process and from where the project begins to develop. It starts with very specific ne of specific users and seeks the benefit of all, both for users to have memorable and barrier-free experiences, and for organizations or institutions, so that they can improve the quality of what they are offering, also favoring a fast and profitable return on investments.

Cortesía de Avanti-Avanti Studio

How do you start introducing design for all in your projects? Especially because new users appear all the time and are constantly changing.

In our case, we began to expand the process towards universal design in a particular project, in a museum where high levels of accessibility were required. Then we opened up our horizon towards diversity in all its fields, also incorporating design with a perspective on gender and cultural diversity. For example, when working in cities with refugee camps and we found users with low literacy levels, we had to think of other easy-to-read guidance systems and with different codes, other than those we are commonly used to.

First of all, it is important to carry out an in-depth study of the individual diversity of each person, working properly with the users and identifying their ne and desires. From there, the ne that the user will have at each stage are detected and recorded through experience maps, for example in a building, each stage of the visit will be taped: the arrival, the stay, and the departure. It is important to think about all the potential users of each space in which we are going to work. In the case of refugee camps, people from diverse cultures, who are not familiar with the local language; or in cities: tourists and visitors have a different language ​​and diverse cultural codes. When we design from a gender perspective, we work on the definition of those spaces, here different sexes or sexual orientations have to use the services, toilets, lactation areas, etc. The challenge lies in the technique used to build these spaces so that they are respectful to sexual diversity.

This analysis then helps to design the communication and spatial orientation systems suitable for the project. For example, in the case of the Leer Madrid project, we were the team responsible for developing everything related to universal design with a proposal of improving readability, security, autonomy, and orientation in the city of Madrid. With a clear approach to individual diversity, the Diversity Cube was developed, in collaboration with the Design for All Foundation, as a tool, with the understanding of the idea that the same user has different faces. In fact, the reality of a user in a certain space is polyhedral, meaning that their ne and desires are constantly changing and the design must adapt to these changes. This helps to incorporate new residents in cities and improve the area for established users.

Cubo de la diversidad para el proyecto Leer Madrid. Image Cortesía de Avanti-Avanti Studio

Identificación de usuarios del proyecto Leer Madrid. Image Cortesía de Avanti-Avanti Studio

What kind of benefits does the introduction of the concept of individual diversity in the design, bring to the organizations that implement it?

For us, cultural centers or museums, are also spaces of social and design innovation, since we are allowed to try different things, especially because they have a much higher social responsibility degrees than private companies. When our clients our design for all strategy, they understand that by approaching more audiences, the economic and audience development benefits are greater. In the case of cities, it has been proven that they receive more visitors and consequently gain greater economic activation from tourism.

The museum is another communication tool. It is important to know that if design for all concepts appears at the beginning of each project, the majority of curators and designers understand that by changing the text and the design to an inclusive version, easy to read and for everyone, the success of the project is most likely guaranteed.

For the project of the Pavilion of Catalonia at the Venice Biennale 2017, we carried out a very in-depth analysis to extract the ne of blind users who could visit and enjoy the exhibition and the city canals. It was very important to incorporate the accessibility regulation codes for blind users but at the same time guarantee a positive impact on the organization: the pavilion was sought to be attractive and was highly visited. It was possible to take advantage of the resources of accessibility and inclusive design to ensure the success of the project, not only for the benefit of the blind community but for all the visitors.

Proyecto Pabellón de Cataluña en la Bienal de Venecia 2017. Image Cortesía de Institut Ramon Llull

Cortesía de Institut Ramon Llull

Another of your big ongoing projects is the design and management of the wayfinding system in the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona. A global design project to improve the orientation and interpretation of heritage. They carried out the wayfinding [1] and design consultancy for all, the design of pictograms and signaling supports, interpretive panels, plans, and infographics. Both in this case, as in the case of Leer Madrid, I am interested in highlighting the way in which the good design of elements such as informative totems, headlights, infographics, plans, etc., gives clear information about the activities, times, routes that can be found there to make the user have a more pleasant experience, and this is directly related to the specific decision making of the graphic and spatial design.

In this sense, there is a concept that we like very much that is about ensuring the user’s “peace of mind” when going through a city, a building, or an exhibition. Nothing should interrupt this enjoyment and if the user wants to get lost, he/she should have all the resources available to “go back” in a safe way.

Diseño global para mejorar la orientación y la interpretación del patrimonio de la Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. . Image Cortesía de Avanti-Avanti Studio

Global design to improve orientation and interpretation of heritage Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. Image Courtesy of Avanti-Avanti Studio

In the case of cities, these elements can also generate new routes, foster the connection between neighborhoods and neighbors, create meeting points, and can also provide security to more depressed neighborhoods or public spaces, making them available to users as new spaces for the city, and turning them into inclusive and safe. How do you advise architects and designers to get into the design for all process?

Proyecto Leer Madrid. Image Cortesía de Avanti-Avanti Studio

The design for all, unlike any exclusive accessibility consultancy, proposes an integral view of spaces. When we read a project or advise architects we find that user identification briefings are too basic and poor. In many cases, it is built based on the architect’s accessibility knowledge, the allowed capacity, and the civil code regulations. What we do is help designers and architects generate the extensive lists of ne, the user of that building or space will find: from the moment of arrival, the identification of the access, to the moment when you need to use the restroom, go to eat, change a child, and the list goes on. All of this, in addition to the specific use, is expected from that particular space. We advise on the potential improvements and investments needed in the fields of communication, service, and space and we later define the strategies required to move on with the project.

In our workshops with our clients, we also do an exercise which consists of going through and revising a classic design thinking process. Most creatives start the process from a preconceived idea. Our job is also to make them understand that this shouldn’t be the start of the project. Instead, we make them see that first they should empathize with users, identify their ne, focus on the project and its scope of work and from there, generate the idea. Here is where we emphasize on introducing the diversity of users across the entire creative process.

What are the basic guidelines to address a design for all project?

First, the design must always start with empathy and individual diversity. The “normal” user does not exist. Then, for a project like this to work, it must be rewarding for both, the users and the institution and also, above all, it must be sustainable over time, guaranteeing a rapid return on design investment. Third, the universal principles of design for all must always be taken into account. And finally, there must be a great implication and commitment to the project from the whole working team. The key formula of Design for All is: “40% of passion for what you do, 40% empathy and 20% resources.”

Wayfinding systems, pictograms and building signage stands. Image Pep Herrero

[1] García Moreno, Dimas. “Orientation and mobility process, consisting of tasks of perception, cognition and interaction between the person and the physical environment that moves through it.” “What is the wayfinding” by Óscar García Muñoz.

[1] García Moreno, Dimas. “Proceso de orientación y movilidad, constituido por tareas de percepción, cognición e interacción entre la persona y el medio físico que se desplaza por el mismo”. “Qué es el wayfinding” de Óscar García Muñoz.