May 11th, 2024

Diversity as the Norm

Can design do justice to a diverse society? How does it respond to the fundamentally different requirements of its users? Our designed world often fails to accommodate the varied requirements of all individuals, particularly those whose needs differ from the standard. Debates about inclusion and participation have been an important part of the design discourse since the 1980s at the latest. Contemporary design approaches extend the concepts of universal design or design for all and reinterpret them in a community-based and participatory design practice.

The exhibition “Design for All? Diversity as the Norm” showcases contemporary strategies in inclusive design and architecture, spanning from apps, toys, and apparel to DIY initiatives and the planning of communal areas. Emphasizing five global design studios, it highlights their integration of societal diversity into their creations, thereby enhancing accessibility within our surroundings.

From 31 May to 20 October 2024, the exhibition aims to be a forum for bringing together current positions, opinions and debates on the topic. Along a 22-metre-long ramp - a study of scenographic standards and heights by the TEN Studio exhibition architects - around 80 objects and projects express their views on the subject: reinterpreted walking aids, ergonomic eating utensils, dancing shoes in different skin colours, innovative aids for palliative care or the first female crash test dummy explore the concept of inclusion and make surprising references.

Many of the exhibits were created on the basis of personal experience or co-design with users. Six interviews with international experts, including Kemuel Arroyo, Chief Accessibility Specialist at the New York State Department of Public Transportation, broaden the spectrum. “Design for all?” is a call to trace the origins and consequences of standardised environments and to think about possible solutions. With this speculative exhibition, the museum wants to contribute to the discourse on diversity and standards, and to shed light on the mechanisms, obstacles and even limitations of their implementation.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication in German and English, published by Spector Books. “Design for all? Inclusive Design Today” brings together various recent projects, initiatives and concepts from different design disciplines and brings them together for the first time in a dialogue with international players from teaching and research. The polyphonic negotiation of inclusive design strategies is part of a paradigm shift that fundamentally questions the normative values of society: Can a society also become fairer through design?

“Design für Alle? Vielfalt als Norm”
31.5. – 20.10.2024
Toni-Areal, Museum für Gestaltung,