Photo CC: by the National Eye Institute
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about this (perhaps it was a few posts back?), but I talked about my Grandma and the disability she currently has – low vision. (I hate to use the word blind, as she’s not completely blind, she just has low vision). This is due, however, to macular degeneration, a degenerative disease of the retina. What essentially happens (from my understanding) is that as the retina deteriorates, cells die and cluster together in the central field of vision, thus giving the individual (in this case, my Grandma), a clouded field of vision. This doesn’t stop her, however (I greatly admire her for that), and she gets along just fine. The thing is, however, is that she can’t read. This therefore makes it difficult for her to distinguish between products when she shops, and usually requires the help of someone else in picking out products. Anyway, as I stated earlier in my previous post about this, I thought it would be interesting to research if companies take into consideration those who have low vision or are completely blind when designing their packaging. My verdict? No. I searched and searched about elements of package design, companies logos and packages, what was taken into consideration when designing said logos and packages, etc., but couldn’t find anything. According to what I learned in my design class a few years ago, good design is essentially (obviously) visual, as a company would want its product to stand out from the rest. The result is a finished product that is attractive and pleasing to the eye. According to Packmage, the composition elements essential to good package design are logo design, graphic design, color design, and character design; all visual elements. There are, however, two other elements essential to good design: shape factors and use of material. While I found nothing on catering to the visually impaired on the same Packmage site, I discovered another site in which a college student documents her final project, which subsequently is on package design for the visually impaired. This individual focuses primarily on differentiation between spices, but documents a lot of useful information that could potentially be carried into other product areas as well. For example, shape differences: “Shape and form are very important. They [the visually impaired] are very sensitive to varieties of shapes and can detect even slight differences.” The second is texture, which “is as important as shape.” The third is spacial orientation: “spice jars musn’t [sic] be limited to only one part of the area like the drawer or a shelf. It must be able to be moved or kept anywhere . . . .” (This college student’s site can be found here. This is a super cool site, and I encourage anyone to go check it out!) So in the end, while companies may not directly cater to those with low vision, individuals like my Grandma rely on certain elements of that package design to distinguish between certain products, such as medicine bottles, spice containers, containers for drinks, and so on and so forth. Package design, however, relies so heavily upon visual elements in that design, that those with low vision still require help in differentiating between the majority of products.
On a side note, (aside from looking at the picture above), if you wish to see what it’s like to have macular degeneration, put a small piece of clear tape on each lens of your glasses (if you have them), and try doing simple tasks such as running the washer and dryer or writing a thank you card. Make sure to leave enough room between the tape and perimeter of your glasses for your peripheral vision, as peripheral vision is not affected by macular degeneration.