Designing an Accessible Brand
With the big push to improve the user experience of digital products for everyone, how does accessibility apply to your branding?
When accessibility is an afterthought it can be problematic applying brand guidelines to digital projects. That jazzy typeface that you thought packed a punch, might not actually be visible to some of your customers. Dark mode has really highlighted how different your brand can look and how important it is to not make the assumption that everyone sees your design the same as you do or at all. So what can you do to improve your next brand iteration?
Involve people with disabilities 🦾
Such a simple thing but so often overlooked. Conduct user research with people with a variety of disabilities and see how they perceive and experience your current brand and collateral. This will highlight any major problem areas and give you invaluable insights that you can take forward into your brand update.
This is such a huge part of how a brand is recalled for those who are sighted. However a sizeable chunk of your customers may well have some form of colour blindness, low vision or blindness. Red–green colour blindness is the most common type and affects up to 1 in 12 males (8%) and 1 in 200 females (0.5%). In 2022 that is estimated at a whopping 300 million people, yes 300 million! Take Coca-Cola for example, so global and iconic they even managed to turn Santa Claus red, yet up to 300 million people in the world see their brand as green or brown.
Test how people with colour blindness view your brand colours with this simulator tool. While it would be tricky for Coca-Cola to change their famous colour now, for those who are designing fresh new brands you have a unique opportunity to choose colours that are as consistent as possible across the colour blindness spectrum. For example blue and yellow are easier to see than red and green. So if you’re debating between palettes, try letting accessibility steer things.
Now while you can’t control how people view your colours, you can make sure you have enough contrast in your designs so regardless of what the colour looks like, your text or logo still stands out. This is recommended to be a minimum of a 4.5:1 ratio and can be checked using the WebAIM tool.
When creating your brand guidelines specify colour combinations that do and don’t have enough contrast so it’s really clear how people should be using your colour palette. Include contrast checker tool links in the guidelines to make it easy for people to check.
Black and white reversal logos barely change and have the strongest contrast which is why we’ve switched it up at DRUM to be our primary logo for most of our direct marketing collateral.
Here you want to strike a balance between conveying your brand personality but also being legible. Sans serif fonts are typically easier to read and don’t have to be boring. Font pairings can give you flexibility. If you really need to use a script font try introducing text hierarchy into your guidelines where you specify key messages to be in a sans serif instead so they are definitely not missed by anyone.
Keep messaging simple and to the point, is not only great UX but can make a real difference to people with cognitive disabilities. You can still infuse copy with your brand tone of voice. Consider how something will sound when read out with a screen reader, does it still make sense?
Overall the more you involve people with disabilities in your brand, the more you will learn about their needs. You may well discover something completely new that needs to go in your brand guidelines. At the end of the day no brand is a single logo or colour or phrase, it’s the experience of your brand your customer remembers. So make it a positive one.