Do You Design for Accessibility?

UI Developer

When we are designing, be it a Brand Identity or a User Interface, we take a lot into consideration. This can include the technology we use, the User Experience we want to create or how we want our brand to be perceived. However, one area of Design that is often overlooked is Accessibility. Instead of being included at the start of the Design process, it is often something that is considered at the end. At this late stage, Accessibility is often tacked on in an inelegant manner. This has most recently been seen on the new Transport For Ireland brand identity for buses.

Illustration representing the new TFI livery designed for accessibility on a bus in Dublin

Transport For Ireland

The brief from the National Transport Authority (NTA) was simple: all publicly funded bus routes were to come under the Transport For Ireland (TFI) brand. The customer would not know who operated the bus but would receive a consistent level of service regardless. A new TFI livery would be introduced to refelct this and September 2018 was the deadline. This was the date when Go-Ahead Ireland was to start operating 10% of the bus routes in the Dublin region.

Pick A Winner

The Design process began in 2017. The NTA followed correct User-Centred Design practice by asking people to rank four potential Designs. Feedback on the Designs was also encouraged. None of the four options featured yellow, which is the predominant colour in the current Dublin Bus livery. All four options did feature white on the front. After the survey was completed, the results were totted up but no formal announcement came as to which one was the winner.

Create A Design

In late 2017 the public finally got to see the winning Design when two buses were painted up. There was one noticeable feature of the chosen livery. It did not resemble any of the options put forward but instead it was a highly modified version of Option B. The white was gone from being the predominant colour to just being used in one of the side stripes. It seemed visual Accessibility was not considered in the Design. People with visual impairments can distinguish the Dublin Bus yellow from a distance. The same could not be said of the new TFI blue livery and this was made clear to them by concerned parties.

Agile Iteration

In spite of these concerns, throughout 2018 buses started to arrive in the new blue livery. At the same time older buses were repainted into it. The objections did not stop. Despite initial reluctance to make changes, it was finally agreed to do something. With a hard deadline of September 9th 2018 to be met, a solution had to be found quickly. It was decided to paint yellow on the front of the bus that angled backwards on the side. This angle was in the opposite direction to the white and green stripes also on the side of the bus. From the first pictures that came out of it, there was a sense it was an inelegant Design solution. It was a practical one that met the necessary Accessibility needs.

Design With Accessibility In Mind

All of this could have been avoided if proper User Research had taken place throughout the Design process. Different user groups should have been consulted on the Design, and it could have been tested on the road in a controlled manner to get real User feedback. Following a Design system with User validation would have resulted in an elegant and Accessible bus livery. Instead, there is a new brand identity for buses in Dublin (and Ireland) that has evolved in an ad-hoc manner. The final livery bears little resemblance to any of the options presented in the survey. Extra costs have also been incurred to rectify the mistakes made. And at this point we don’t know if this is the final livery. We could end up with another one that has more yellow, and therefore is closer to the current Dublin Bus livery.

For now though this is the new look for buses in Dublin. Previously I spoke about the different designs Dublin Bus implemented over thirty years as part of their visual brand. This included their corporate brand identity, sub-brand identities and the test liveries they tried before settling on a final one. As the plan is to eventually replace the Dublin Bus livery with the new TFI one, this concludes our history on the brand identity of Dublin Bus.

Graphic Mint

At Graphic Mint we follow design processes that include stakeholder feedback at every stage of the process. Whether it is UX or UI Design, or even a Branding project, we always believe in real user feedback. Contact us today to begin our journey together.