Anna Johannes on why good design is design for everybody

Interbrand strategist and Paralympian Anna Johannes discusses how disability has to stop being an afterthought in the design process, and why creatives need to spend more time talking to disabled people

“I think inclusive design is really just practicality,” says Anna Johannes, newly appointed strategist at Interbrand’s inclusive design team – where she’s been tasked with working with major businesses to embed inclusivity into brand experiences. “Good design is design for everyone, when you’re thinking inclusively. Hopefully in 10 years we won’t have to have an inclusive design practice – everyone’s going to be thinking about this, and making sure that when they’re doing research or product development, [they’re being more] intersectional.”

Johannes, who was born without her left hand and forearm, is well-placed to advise brands and organisations on creating more accessible and inclusive comms and products. Not only does she bring a lifetime of experience as a disabled person, the former Paralympian swimmer spent years working in the world of comms – including time in the Boston Children’s Hospital’s marketing department, and at PR firm Porter Novelli.

But while Johannes loves being able to have these conversations with companies, she’s clear-sighted about the challenges ahead. Inclusivity has become a buzzword for many brands, although the focus is often on race and gender, she says, with people with disabilities often “an afterthought, if thought about at all”. “Inclusivity really just means intersectionality, and making sure that everyone is brought to the metaphorical table we all talk about,” she adds.

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