29. May 2021

Uni­ver­sal Design as design dis­ci­pline and eco­nom­ic factor

Chang­ing demo­graph­ics has result­ed in nurs­ing care becom­ing the great­est chal­lenge fac­ing uni­ver­sal design. Part­ner­ships, strate­gic alliances, and for­mats pow­ered by the cre­ativ­i­ty of design­ers and archi­tects have evolved in the care sec­tor and relat­ed fields.

Dr. Silke Claus (1965–2020), man­ag­ing direc­tor of bay­ern design, and Thomas Bade, CEO of the Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD), played cen­tral roles in enhanc­ing the vis­i­bil­i­ty of uni­ver­sal design at the spe­cial Ave­neo show held dur­ing Altenpflege, the lead­ing trade fair regard­ing geri­atric care.

Dr. Claus and Bade also con­tributed to incor­po­rat­ing uni­ver­sal design in the con­cept of Munich Cre­ative Busi­ness Week (MCBW): The annu­al exhi­bi­tions, con­fer­ences, lec­tures, and shops are help­ing to extend the view on design by includ­ing ways to deal with the enor­mous chal­lenges fac­ing care. This is rea­son enough for us to delve into the top­ic con­sid­er­ing the back­ground of the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the health­care sector.

Below you will find a def­i­n­i­tion of uni­ver­sal design and an expla­na­tion of its val­ue to the econ­o­my. You also will be intro­duced to the main par­tic­i­pants in acad­e­mia, uni­ver­sal design net­works, the econ­o­my and archi­tec­ture, with exam­ples of spe­cif­ic cases.


As a con­cept in prod­uct devel­op­ment and archi­tec­ture, the term uni­ver­sal design was first used at the North Car­oli­na State Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege of Design in the Unit­ed States by pro­fes­sor Ron Mace.

In coop­er­a­tion with his team of researchers, archi­tects, and design­ers, Ron Mace also for­mu­lat­ed the sev­en fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of uni­ver­sal design. Even though these prin­ci­ples may be viewed in a more dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed man­ner today, they still are a sol­id foundation:

  • Equi­table Use
  • Flex­i­bil­i­ty in Use
  • Sim­ple and Intu­itive Use
  • Per­cep­ti­ble Information
  • Tol­er­ance for Error
  • Low Phys­i­cal Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use

In addi­tion, Mace and his team estab­lished a uni­ver­sal-design stan­dard that remains valid to date: Uni­ver­sal design is the design of prod­ucts and envi­ron­ments to be usable by all peo­ple, to the great­est extent pos­si­ble, with­out the need for adap­ta­tion or spe­cial­ized design. (Ron Mace, Prin­ci­ples of Uni­ver­sal Design)

Arti­cle 2 of the Unit­ed Nations Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties rat­i­fied in 2008 reads: For the pur­pos­es of the present Con­ven­tion, uni­ver­sal design means the design of prod­ucts, envi­ron­ments, pro­grams and ser­vices to be usable by all peo­ple, to the great­est extent pos­si­ble, with­out the need for adap­ta­tion or spe­cial­ized design. Uni­ver­sal design shall not exclude assis­tive devices for par­tic­u­lar groups of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties where this is need­ed. (Arti­cle 2, Unit­ed Nations Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties)

So where does uni­ver­sal design stand in ref­er­ence to Bavaria?

Uni­ver­sal design’s con­nec­tion to Bavaria was estab­lished in 2008 through a Robert Bosch Stiftung fund­ed sci­en­tif­ic the­sis authored by Dr. San­dra Hirsch. Hirsch focused her sci­en­tif­ic work at Munich Tech­ni­cal University’s Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design (Prof. Fritz Fren­kler) on the mean­ing of uni­ver­sal design in Ger­many, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

Since then, the the­mat­ic areas of uni­ver­sal design have been explored inten­sive­ly at the depart­ment in numer­ous ways. It is thanks to Fren­kler and his ties with Japan (he main­tains design offices in Kyoto to this date) that “Bavar­i­an uni­ver­sal design” is close­ly con­nect­ed to the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Uni­ver­sal Design (IAUD) of Japan and its part­ners around the world.

This mul­ti­lat­er­al part­ner­ship also has engen­dered intense col­lab­o­ra­tion with bay­ern design which has expand­ed over the course of ten years, always with a focus on uni­ver­sal design as a busi­ness factor.

Busi­ness factor

The con­sis­tent and long-stand­ing pro­mo­tion of uni­ver­sal design by bay­ern design and the Bavar­i­an State Min­istry of Eco­nom­ic Affairs, Region­al Devel­op­ment and Ener­gy has con­tributed to a large extent to sev­er­al com­pa­nies in Bavaria today bas­ing their prod­uct, ser­vice, and con­cept devel­op­ment activ­i­ties suc­cess­ful­ly on uni­ver­sal-design prin­ci­ples. Thus, uni­ver­sal design has evolved into a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of Bavaria and the com­pa­nies that call it home. Design agen­cies and free­lance design­ers with close ties to uni­ver­si­ties and the Design Acad­e­my in Munich have assist­ed in lay­ing the ground­work as well. Select­ed par­tic­i­pants who have explored uni­ver­sal design in unique ways are intro­duced below.

As part of the annu­al design show Munich Cre­ative Busi­ness Week (MCBW), for ten years now bay­ern design has researched and advo­cat­ed uni­ver­sal design as a busi­ness fac­tor. By con­sis­tent­ly pro­mot­ing uni­ver­sal design in Ger­many, bay­ern design and the Bavar­i­an State Min­istry of Eco­nom­ic Affairs, Region­al Devel­op­ment and Ener­gy intend to make vis­i­ble its strong poten­tial for growth in the cor­po­rate sec­tor, the crafts and trade sec­tors, and the social econ­o­my in Bavaria and also to estab­lish and anchor uni­ver­sal-design strate­gies in com­pa­nies. To a great extent, demo­graph­ic change facil­i­tates this approach.

The con­sis­tent and long-stand­ing pro­mo­tion of uni­ver­sal design has con­tributed to a large extent to sev­er­al com­pa­nies in Bavaria today bas­ing their prod­uct, ser­vice, and con­cept devel­op­ment activ­i­ties suc­cess­ful­ly on uni­ver­sal-design prin­ci­ples. Thus, it has evolved into a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of Bavaria and the com­pa­nies that call it home.

Design agen­cies and free­lance design­ers with close ties to uni­ver­si­ties and the Design Acad­e­my in Munich have assist­ed in lay­ing the ground­work as well. Select­ed par­tic­i­pants who have explored uni­ver­sal design in unique ways are intro­duced below.

The Oskar von Miller Forum in Munich pro­vides uni­ver­sal design with a plat­form and has devel­oped into a show­case for the top­ic dur­ing MCBW. The Forum is an inde­pen­dent edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion sup­port­ed by the par­ties to the col­lec­tive agree­ment of the Bavar­i­an con­struc­tion indus­try and spon­sored by Stiftung Bay­erisches Baugewerbe. Estab­lish­ing con­tex­tu­al links among the cor­po­rate sec­tor, archi­tec­ture, and design would not have been pos­si­ble had it not been for the hos­pi­tal­i­ty of the Forum staff and, in par­tic­u­lar, of Prof. Dr. Wern­er Lang, its com­mit­ted host.

All suc­cess­ful, eco­nom­ic and social­ly respon­si­ble uni­ver­sal design is trans­dis­ci­pli­nary and net­work- and stake­hold­er-ori­ent­ed. This has been con­firmed by the win­ners of the annu­al UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD Award who, over the past three years, were select­ed by experts and con­sumers in a pub­lic process dur­ing MCBW. Giv­en Bavaria’s tra­di­tion in uni­ver­sal design, it is no sur­prise that three com­pa­nies based in the state have made their mark among their inter­na­tion­al com­peti­tors and tak­en home the award.

UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD 2018: moio wearable

In 2018, UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD was award­ed to moio, a dig­i­tal-ana­log wear­able patch that gives old­er peo­ple the pow­er to live self-deter­mined lives and also reduces the work­load of caregivers.

The tech­no­log­i­cal­ly ground­break­ing patch was devel­oped by Jür­gen Bess­er, man­ag­ing direc­tor of moio GmbH, and his Fürth-based team. N+P design firm of Munich devised the “out­stand­ing user-ori­ent­ed approach” (quote by juror Hele­na Yoon, pro­fes­sor at Yon­sei Uni­ver­si­ty in Seoul). The patch was cre­at­ed in coop­er­a­tion with Wil­helm Löhe Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences at Diakonie Neuen­det­tel­sau (Diako­neo) and eesy inno­va­tion GmbH; the N+ P team head­ed by man­ag­ing direc­tor Chris­tiane Baus­back was respon­si­ble for the over­all design.

The intel­li­gent tele­care sys­tem sup­ports care­givers in their dai­ly tasks. The patient wears a pouch con­tain­ing the patch direct­ly on the skin. A sen­sor col­lects and ana­lyzes infor­ma­tion auto­mat­i­cal­ly and noti­fies care­givers via an app of the need for spe­cif­ic action. In this way, sup­port can be admin­is­tered pre­cise­ly when need­ed. moio sim­pli­fies con­trol and rou­tine tasks – a win-win for care­givers and patients.


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UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD 2019: PEGA show­er cabin

KER­MI of Pankhofen in Low­er Bavaria was pre­sent­ed with the cov­et­ed UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD Award in 2019 for its PEGA show­er cab­in. The com­pa­ny had explored uni­ver­sal design in increas­ing detail over the pre­vi­ous ten years and had dri­ven a num­ber of research projects, for exam­ple, The Room – The Bath­room at the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design at Munich Tech­ni­cal University.

Prof. Wolf­gang Sat­tler, chair of the jury, explained the deci­sion: “Due to its func­tions for users of all ages and its extreme­ly straight­for­ward instal­la­tion and oper­a­tion, PEGA is peerless.”

The prod­uct descrip­tion sub­mit­ted for the award reads: The new PEGA swing and slid­ing door sys­tem appeals to all gen­er­a­tions with its smooth­ly round­ed design, exclu­sive tech­nol­o­gy and look, and excep­tion­al price-per­for­mance ratio. The PEGA han­dle lies gen­tly in the user’s hand. When opened, the leaves of all the doors, even the slid­ing doors, are lift­ed above any uneven­ness in the floor. In addi­tion to being easy to clean and acces­si­ble to per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, the PEGA show­er cab­in offers good pro­tec­tion against water spray and fea­tures a con­ve­nient trans­par­ent glass hook for tow­els, pre­mi­um chrome-plat­ed fit­tings, con­sis­tent height between the glass and the pro­file, and a two-meter ser­i­al height. Its pre-assem­bled parts and sim­ple, proven tech­nol­o­gy facil­i­tate the instal­la­tion process and reduce costs.


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UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD 2020: sip­pa drink­ing aid

Chang­ing demo­graph­ics and their effects on the devel­op­ment of care and med­ical prod­ucts con­tin­ued through­out 2020. The five-expert jury again decid­ed quick­ly and clear­ly and award­ed UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD to the sip­pa drink­ing aid. sip­pa was cre­at­ed by Munich’s mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary start-up iuvas med­ical which received sub­stan­tial sup­port from the cen­ter of inno­va­tion and start-ups Unternehmer­TUM and from Design Enter­prise at the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design at Munich Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty. Fol­low­ing a lengthy inno­va­tion stage, the clever drink­ing aid for per­sons expe­ri­enc­ing chal­leng­ing life sit­u­a­tions, for exam­ple, stroke or Parkinson’s patients, was launched in 2019. The fact that in many cas­es sip­pa can be pre­scribed by physi­cians was anoth­er spe­cial achievement.

A patient expe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties tak­ing in liq­uids can ben­e­fit from sip­pa because the chin does not have to be tilt­ed back to drink. The high­ly elas­tic mem­brane in the cup com­pen­sates for the lev­el of the liq­uid so the user’s chin can be kept down. Because sippa’s shape and col­or are rem­i­nis­cent of reg­u­lar drink­ing con­tain­ers, the stig­ma­tiz­ing look of a sip­py cup is avoid­ed. The sip­pa sys­tem is entire­ly mod­u­lar and thus can be adapt­ed to any user’s phys­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties. A lid, han­dle, valve, and the patent­ed sip­pa mech­a­nism can be com­bined option­al­ly with the sip­pa stan­dard cup.

Uni­ver­si­ty programs

One of the 12 pos­tu­la­tions of the Weimar Dec­la­ra­tion on Uni­ver­sal Design reads uni­ver­sal design must be anchored in edu­ca­tion con­tin­u­ous­ly and at an ear­ly stage. The dec­la­ra­tion was devel­oped in Novem­ber 2009 on the occa­sion of the 90th anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of Bauhaus with Prof. Wolf­gang Sat­tler of Weimar as sci­en­tif­ic direc­tor. The con­fer­ence that led to it paved the way for the aca­d­e­m­ic net­work of uni­ver­sal design. Select­ed uni­ver­si­ties that have explored uni­ver­sal design in unique ways are intro­duced below.

Par­tic­i­pants in the con­fer­ence were select­ed pur­pose­ful­ly to ensure the group was as diverse as pos­si­ble. Even though unplanned, many con­nec­tions with Bavaria and Munich exist­ed: Bavaria-based experts who were invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate includ­ed Dr. San­dra Hirsch and Prof. Fritz Fren­kler (both of Munich Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty), jour­nal­ist Dr. Oliv­er Her­wig, design­er and strat­e­gy con­sul­tant Ste­fan Brod­beck, design­er Michael Lanz, and Prof. Ger­hard Kampe of Coburg Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sciences.

Bauhaus-Uni­ver­sität Weimar

Dri­ven by indus­tri­al design­er Prof. Wolf­gang Sat­tler, Bauhaus-Uni­ver­sität Weimär and Bauhaus-Trans­ferzen­trumDE­SIGN have evolved into a uni­ver­sal-design think tank. Found­ed in 2016, the asso­ci­a­tion Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V. suc­ceed­ed uni­ver­sal design e.V. in estab­lish­ing pri­or­i­ties and strate­gies for the future of uni­ver­sal design in Germany.

The tra­di­tion of hold­ing con­fer­ences for experts in uni­ver­sal design has con­tin­ued in annu­al work­shops. Over the course of these work­shops, uni­ver­sal design for geri­atric care and health­care evolved as focal points. For research pur­pos­es, stu­dents reg­u­lar­ly attend the spe­cial AVE­NEO show orga­nized by Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD) dur­ing the Altenpflege trade fair and sub­mit their work to uni­ver­sal design contests.

Sat­tler has chaired the jury for the Uni­ver­sal Design com­pe­ti­tion and for the IUD-orga­nized START-UP CHAL­LENGEfor many years. Cur­rent­ly, IUD also is rep­re­sent­ed on the advi­so­ry board of Weimar-based research project Reth­i­Care – Re-think­ing Care Robots about the use of intel­li­gent robot­ic aids in the care sector.

Munich Tech­ni­cal University

Uni­ver­sal design is an inte­gral pro­gram of study at the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al design at Munich Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty (TUM). Because of their sub­stan­tial com­mit­ment, depart­ment head Prof. Fritz Fren­kler joint­ly with sci­en­tif­ic assis­tant Dr. San­dra Hirsch and the entire team have cre­at­ed a con­tin­u­ous inven­to­ry of uni­ver­sal-design tasks and projects for the department.

A num­ber of sci­en­tif­ic find­ings, mas­ters’ the­ses, and semes­ter-long projects have con­tributed to the pass­ing on to stu­dents of uni­ver­sal design as a mind­set and to the inte­gra­tion of indus­tri­al and cor­po­rate sec­tors into uni­ver­sal design relat­ed strate­gies. In addi­tion, numer­ous stu­dents have par­tic­i­pat­ed suc­cess­ful­ly in uni­ver­sal design con­tests and today, as alum­ni, they enhance the uni­ver­sal-design net­work in Germany.

The depart­ment will close in 2020 and will leave a gen­uine skills gap in its wake which is rea­son enough to present some of the research projects here:

  • The room — The bathroom

This research ini­tia­tive was spear­head­ed by Fed­der­sen Architek­ten of Berlin, the uni­ver­sal-design work­group at iF e.V., and the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design at TUM, all of which joint­ly found­ed the The Room – The Bathroom research group. Coop­er­at­ing with part­ners includ­ing iF UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN & SER­VICE, Villeroy & Boch, Ker­mi, Jung, Küffn­er, Pres­salit Care, Hansa, The Care Tak­ers, and select­ed user groups, the research group devel­oped solu­tions for exist­ing bathrooms.

The shared goal was to imple­ment demand-based solu­tions that allow even small bath­rooms to be acces­si­ble to hand­i­capped per­sons to the great­est pos­si­ble extent in a cost-effi­cient man­ner. Four 1:1 scale mod­els — InfoDoorHygri, M‑Frame, and an earth­quake-safe door – were assem­bled and val­i­dat­ed at TUM’s tech­ni­cal cen­ter. Intro­duced to trade vis­i­tors at the BAU, ISH, and Altenpflege trade fairs, the solu­tion was pre­sent­ed with a UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN ward.


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Uni­ver­sal Design for the workplace

The Uni­ver­sal Design at the Work­place project was con­ceived in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with Linde Mate­r­i­al Han­dling GmbH, was spon­sored by bay­ern design and the Bavar­i­an State Min­istry of Eco­nom­ic Affairs, Region­al Devel­op­ment and Ener­gy, and was coor­di­nat­ed by uni­ver­sal design GmbH. The goal was to opti­mize a fork­lift in a way that ensures it meets the ergonom­ic require­ments of old­er employ­ees and at the same time makes logis­ti­cal process­es safer. The result, at a scale of 1:1, was pre­sent­ed live at the Oskar von Miller Forum dur­ing MCBW 2013.

Uni­ver­sal Design for doors

The The Door project was sup­port­ed by HEWI Hein­rich Wilke GmbH and Küffn­er Aluzargen GmbH & Co. OHG and was coor­di­nat­ed by the Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD). Assis­tance for the mas­ter pro­gram stu­dents involved was pro­vid­ed by sci­en­tif­ic assis­tant Moritz Segers.

Four mod­els – InfoDoorHygri, M‑Frame, and an earth­quake-safe door – were devel­oped at a scale of 1:1 in close coop­er­a­tion with these indus­try part­ners and were pre­sent­ed live at MCBW 2017.

Uni­ver­sal Design for out­pa­tient care

As far back as 2013, stu­dents were explor­ing issues relat­ed to the extra­or­di­nary phys­i­cal strain suf­fered by nurs­es. Joint­ly with the Bavaria-based region­al chap­ter of Johan­niter-Unfall-Hil­fe e.V., the stu­dents came up with a num­ber of solu­tions to counter some of these prob­lems. Coor­di­nat­ed by the uni­ver­sal design GmbH team, the project was spon­sored by bay­ern design, the Bavar­i­an State Min­istry of Eco­nom­ic Affairs, Region­al Devel­op­ment and Ener­gy, and Hans Sauer Stiftung.

The mas­ter pro­gram stu­dents accom­pa­nied nurs­es as they per­formed their dai­ly out­pa­tient care activ­i­ties. Based on their find­ings, the stu­dents devel­oped a func­tion­al vest, a hold-all box, a doc­u­men­ta­tion sys­tem, and an access-con­trol sys­tem. The four prod­ucts were pre­sent­ed to the pub­lic at an MCBW trade con­fer­ence and at the Altenpflege trade fair.

The KISI access-con­trol sys­tem co-devel­oped by Bern­hard Mehl has been used suc­cess­ful­ly in co-work­ing spaces in New York.


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More exam­ples of out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal design in direct or indi­rect con­text of TUM’s Depart­ment for Indus­tri­al Design can be found here:


The his­to­ry of Uni­ver­sal Design is, as so often, the his­to­ry of act­ing per­sons and the insti­tu­tions they work at. This applies not only to uni­ver­si­ties, but also to design train­ing at col­leges and acad­e­mies, some of which are pre­sent­ed below as examples.

Coburg Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences – Inte­grat­ed Prod­uct Design study program

Just as with so many oth­er things, the sto­ry of uni­ver­sal design is that of per­sons and their actions. In the case of Coburg Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences, ever since the experts con­vened in Weimar in 2009, Prof. Ger­hard Kampe has advo­cat­ed incor­po­rat­ing uni­ver­sal design into the study program.

Kampe approached uni­ver­sal design in seem­ing­ly unusu­al ways and encour­aged stu­dents to embrace com­plex top­ics, for exam­ple, mourn­ing rit­u­als. The stu­dents designed sym­bols, prod­ucts, and sce­nar­ios to sup­port or pro­vide solace to peo­ple in diverse mourn­ing sit­u­a­tions. The project attract­ed a lot of atten­tion and was pre­sent­ed at the Altenpflege trade fair in Hannover.

Spon­sored and sup­port­ed by bay­ern design, the two-year pan-Euro­pean Inno­va­tion by Exper­i­ment project ini­ti­at­ed by Coburg Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences had a slight­ly dif­fer­ent focus: In a com­bined effort, stu­dents at Coburg Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences (direct­ed by Kampe, with Pelin Celik, today a pro­fes­sor at HTW Berlin), Joan­neum Graz, and the School of Archi­tec­ture in Aarhus in Den­mark devised sce­nar­ios and stim­uli to give more vis­i­bil­i­ty to the impact of demo­graph­ic change on the econ­o­my and to mod­i­fy this impact using cre­ative techniques.

The find­ings and results were com­piled, pub­lished in Ger­man and in Eng­lish, and pre­sent­ed to the pub­lic dur­ing MCBW and in a ded­i­cat­ed side exhi­bi­tion. The team of authors includ­ed Dr. Silke Claus of bay­ern design, Nurem­berg, Prof. Sep­po Gründler and Eri­ka Thümm­ler, both of Joan­neum Graz, Prof. Bir­git­ta Jessen and Prof. Jör­gen Ras­mussen, both of School of Archi­tec­ture in Aarhus, and Thomas Bade of the Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD), Munich

Han­nover Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences and Arts – Depart­ment III – Media, Infor­ma­tion and Design

Prof. Gun­nar Spellmey­er, Prof. Patrick Frey, and for­mer guest lec­tur­er Tim Oelk­er are among the advo­cates of inte­grat­ing uni­ver­sal-design think­ing into the study pro­grams at Han­nover Uni­ver­si­ty. They have man­aged to suc­cess­ful­ly incor­po­rate spe­cial devel­op­ment top­ics includ­ing homes, a Liv­ing Care Lab, and prod­ucts for spe­cif­ic user groups into their teach­ing or into projects.

The department’s team devel­oped for­mats for the care sec­tor aimed at inte­grat­ing user-stake­hold­er groups intense­ly and con­nect­ing them over the long term. These activ­i­ties have helped stu­dents form a pos­i­tive mind­set regard­ing uni­ver­sal design and, con­se­quent­ly, have won numer­ous Uni­ver­sal Design Awards.

Mün­ster Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences – Mün­ster School of Design

Over the past few years, with an out­stand­ing lev­el of ded­i­ca­tion Prof. Stef­fen Schulz of Mün­ster Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences has devel­oped the institution’s focus on uni­ver­sal design. This has empow­ered the Mün­ster School of Design to become a point of ori­en­ta­tion, per­haps even a new bea­con of uni­ver­sal design. This is a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment because many uni­ver­sal-design advo­cates at oth­er insti­tu­tions are like­ly to retire in the fore­see­able future includ­ing Prof. Fritz Fren­kler of Munich Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty in 2020, Prof. Ger­hard Kampe in 2021, and Prof. Wolf­gang Sat­tler in 2022.

The qual­i­ty of uni­ver­sal-design teach­ing also is reflect­ed in the works and projects devel­oped by stu­dents over the past few years. Many of these works and projects received high acclaim and some were sub­mit­ted for the Uni­ver­sal Design Award in Japan for the first time in 2020.

Design Acad­e­my of the Cham­ber of Trade for Munich and Upper Bavaria

No oth­er acad­e­my or insti­tu­tion ded­i­cat­ed to edu­ca­tion in crafts is more deeply com­mit­ted to teach­ing uni­ver­sal design than the Design Acad­e­my in Munich. The dri­vers of this ded­i­ca­tion are direc­tor Bar­bara Schmidt and design­er and lec­tur­er Nicole San­ner.

For almost a decade, the Design Acad­e­my has intro­duced crafts­peo­ple – includ­ing optometrists, car­pen­ters, shoe­mak­ers, and oth­ers – to the fun­da­men­tals of uni­ver­sal design. At the end of each course, the best final works are sub­mit­ted to the Uni­ver­sal Design Awards, and many have received awards. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, cer­tifi­cates are pre­sent­ed to the win­ners on the show stage at the Inter­na­tion­al Crafts Fair (con­cur­rent with MCBW) every spring. Exam­ples are shown at Infor­ma­tion­s­seite Bar­ri­ere­frei and oth­er sites.


There are many facets to uni­ver­sal design in Ger­many and many experts are involved in the inter­cul­tur­al focal def­i­n­i­tion points, plat­forms, and projects that have been cre­at­ed and reshaped over the past decade and a half:

Deutsch­er Design­tag, Berlin, Germany

The objec­tive of Deutsch­er Design­tag in bring­ing togeth­er asso­ci­a­tions from diverse design dis­ci­plines is to rep­re­sent mat­ters of design joint­ly. As a mem­ber of the board of man­age­ment, Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V., coor­di­na­tor of the Ger­man Coun­cil for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, rep­re­sents the per­spec­tive of uni­ver­sal design. bay­ern design also is a con­sti­tut­ing member.

Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Uni­ver­sal Design, Yoko­hama, Japan 

For more than ten years the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Uni­ver­sal Design (IAUD) has part­nered with Thomas Bade, CEO of the Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD). Oper­at­ing under the aus­pices of the impe­r­i­al fam­i­ly (Princess Yoko), IAUD like­ly is the most well-estab­lished uni­ver­sal-design orga­ni­za­tion in the world. Bade is a per­ma­nent mem­ber of IAUD’s uni­ver­sal-design jury and of the inter­na­tion­al line-up of its advi­so­ry board.

Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V., Weimar, Germany

Head­quar­tered in Weimar, Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V. (for­mer­ly, uni­ver­sal design e.V.) over­sees key mat­ters of uni­ver­sal design and hosts strat­e­gy sem­i­nars and exhi­bi­tions, for exam­ple, it cur­rent­ly is host­ing the Posters for Peace – Hiroshi­ma Appeals exhi­bi­tion series devel­oped in coop­er­a­tion with des­ig­naus­tria of Vien­na. bay­ern design forum e.V. is a long-stand­ing mem­ber of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V., which will relo­cate to Deutsch­er Design­tag in Berlin in 2021.

Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design, Munich, Germany

The Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD) in Munich was found­ed in 2016 by Thomas Bade, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V. IUD stages exhi­bi­tions at the spe­cial Ave­neo show and hosts the inter­na­tion­al UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN com­pe­ti­tion at MCBW. The com­pe­ti­tion always has been a pil­lar of MCBW.

bay­ern design forum e.V., Nurem­berg, Germany

As a con­tact for com­pa­nies and design­ers, bay­ern design coor­di­nates and sup­ports all state design activ­i­ties in the Free State. Many mem­bers of the asso­ci­a­tion bay­ern design forum e.V. are unit­ed by the sub­ject areas of uni­ver­sal design. This is where joint impuls­es for busi­ness, sci­ence and the social econ­o­my are cre­at­ed. The asso­ci­a­tion Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V. is a long-stand­ing member.

design for all, Vien­na, Austria

Since 2015, a valu­able, close and trust­ing part­ner­ship has devel­oped from the close the­mat­ic coop­er­a­tion between the Uni­ver­sal Design stake­hold­ers in Bavaria and design for all in Aus­tria. design for all is a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the expert jury of the Uni­ver­sal Design competition.

Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Infor­ma­tion Design (IIID), Vien­na, Austria

Infor­ma­tion design, a hereto­fore mis­con­ceived dimen­sion of uni­ver­sal design, was unlocked through the part­ner­ship of IUD and the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Infor­ma­tion Design (IIID). Con­nect­ing with infor­ma­tion design has allowed both IUD and IIID to uncov­er new per­spec­tives and has result­ed in a few ini­tial projects and fur­ther con­nec­tions. A trade con­fer­ence in Riga led to strong col­lab­o­ra­tion with the city’s Acad­e­my of Arts. Over the past three years, the academy’s stu­dents have enriched the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN com­pe­ti­tion with their contributions.

Liv­ing Care Lab Schaum­burg, Stadtha­gen, Germany

Uni­ver­sal design played a large role in shap­ing the devel­op­ment of the Liv­ing Care Lab Schaum­burg in Stadtha­gen. The con­cept was devised by the Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design (IUD), the Entre­pre­neur­ship Cen­ter Nexster of Han­nover, and Wirtschafts­förderung der Stadt Stadtha­gen and is spon­sored by the state of Low­er Sax­ony. The Liv­ing Care Lab intro­duces dig­i­tal and ana­log aids to nurs­es, self-help groups, and patients and their rel­a­tives, and assess­es the effects. The Insti­tute for Uni­ver­sal Design pro­vid­ed con­sult­ing ser­vices dur­ing the entire project.

Care for inno­va­tion e.V., Berlin, Germany

All mem­bers of Care for inno­va­tion e.V. focus on the dig­i­ti­za­tion and trans­for­ma­tion of care. Uni­ver­sal design helps make appli­ca­tions more user-friend­ly and thus increas­es their acceptance.


Archi­tec­ture must go hand in hand with uni­ver­sal design when the goal is to ensure archi­tec­ture is for­ward-think­ing, sus­tain­able, per­haps even hybrid, and to enable it to meet users’ uni­ver­sal-design require­ments going for­ward for decades, if pos­si­ble. Uni­ver­sal-design think­ing has found its place in many archi­tec­tur­al firms. Some of the out­stand­ing par­tic­i­pants are pre­sent­ed here:

Achim Nagel, Primus Devel­op­ments GmbH, Ham­burg, Germany

Archi­tect and prop­er­ty devel­op­er Achim Nagel of Primus Devel­op­ments GmbH is one of the orig­i­na­tors of the uni­ver­sal-design approach in Ger­many. He opened the door to spon­sors (e.g., Robert Bosch Stiftung), stud­ies (Uni­ver­sal Design in an Era of Glob­al Demo­graph­ic Change), and events (the sym­po­sium on the Weimar Dec­la­ra­tion on Uni­ver­sal Design). Nagel was a mem­ber of the uni­ver­sal-design jury and ini­ti­at­ed a num­ber of work­shops on devel­op­ing urban projects dur­ing the con­struc­tion at Hamburg’s Hafen City. The devel­op­ment of Wood­ie, a wood­en struc­ture that hous­es more than 300 apart­ments in the area, can be traced back to these work­shops. Wood­ie was devel­oped by Nagel, planned by the archi­tec­tur­al firm Sauer­bruch & Hut­ton, and is an exam­ple of numer­ous oth­er out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal-design projects includ­ing one imple­ment­ed by Grund­bau & Siedler at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­struc­tion Exhi­bi­tion in Ham­burg. In 2020, Nagel was made an hon­orary mem­ber of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V.


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Eck­hard Fed­der­sen, Fed­der­sens Architects

Eckard Fed­der­sen is Germany’s fore­most author­i­ty on uni­ver­sal design in archi­tec­ture. He is pas­sion­ate­ly com­mit­ted to increas­ing the con­ve­nience of homes for the elder­ly and his archi­tec­tur­al projects through­out Ger­many have set bench­marks for liv­ing with as much self-reliance as pos­si­ble at almost all stages of life. Eck­hard Fed­der­sen was among the first sig­na­to­ries to the Weimar Dec­la­ra­tion; he ini­ti­at­ed research projects includ­ing The Room – The Bath­room, and he has authored numer­ous archi­tec­ture-relat­ed pub­li­ca­tions, some of which, for exam­ple, Entwurf­sat­las Wohnen im Alter, have gained inter­na­tion­al acclaim. In 2016, Fed­der­sen was award­ed the Otto-Mühlschlegel-Preis of Robert Bosch Stiftung by then Fam­i­ly Min­is­ter Manuela Schwe­sig for his life­time achievements.

Hubert Froyen, UDWoonlabo

Archi­tect Hubert Froyen of Has­selt in Bel­gium is anoth­er pio­neer in the field of uni­ver­sal design in archi­tec­ture. For decades he has been shap­ing the Depart­ment of Uni­ver­sal Design at Has­selt Uni­ver­si­ty and he remains active in the Woon­Lab he devel­oped. His numer­ous sci­en­tif­ic pub­li­ca­tions, lec­tures, trav­els, and extra­or­di­nary intu­ition regard­ing hous­ing require­ments have made him a world renowned per­son­al­i­ty in the dis­ci­pline of uni­ver­sal design. Among oth­er acco­lades, Froyen received the Ron Mace Memo­r­i­al Award and a UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN expert Award for Woon­Lab.

First Mover

The com­pa­nies, design firms, and social-econ­o­my insti­tu­tions pre­sent­ed here are exem­plary of all those who have dri­ven and pro­mot­ed uni­ver­sal design in Germany.

f/p design gmbh, Munich/Berlin, Ger­many; Kyoto, Japan

Fritz Frenkler’s f/p design stu­dios have con­tributed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to con­ceiv­ing and anchor­ing uni­ver­sal design in Ger­many. f/p design’s ties with Japan have gen­er­at­ed a close con­nec­tion among design orga­ni­za­tions in Ger­many and Japan. Fren­kler was one of the founders of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V. and an ear­ly sig­na­to­ry to the Weimar Dec­la­ra­tion on Uni­ver­sal Design. Numer­ous prod­ucts cre­at­ed by f/p design have been pre­sent­ed with Uni­ver­sal Design Awards.

N+P Indus­tri­al Design GmbH, Munich, Germany

Despite the rapid­ly chang­ing chal­lenges fac­ing design, N+P Indus­tri­al Design nev­er has lost its focus on the var­i­ous aspects of uni­ver­sal design. Devel­op­ments in the realm of uni­ver­sal design range from pub­lic trans­porta­tion to med­ical prod­ucts and include a dig­i­tal wear­able device. Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Chris­tiane Baus­back also has ded­i­cat­ed her­self to pro­mot­ing anoth­er per­spec­tive of design in the con­text of care, in words and fonts. The com­pa­ny has con­tributed great­ly to shap­ing the uni­ver­sal design com­pe­ti­tion. In 2018, the moio wear­able co-devel­oped by the team won the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD Award, pre­sent­ed for the first time that year. Baus­back co-authored Thomas Bade’s trade pub­li­ca­tion Dig­i­tale Trans­for­ma­tion in der Pflege, pub­lished as an e‑book by Vin­centz Ver­lag, and is a dri­ving force behind the first tues­day series for pro­mot­ing links between care and design.

Tim Oelk­er Indus­tri­alde­sign, Ham­burg, Germany

For more than five years, indus­tri­al design­er Tim Oelk­er has been respon­si­ble for design­ing the exhi­bi­tion of the entries in the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN com­pe­ti­tion and for design­ing the AVE­NEO spe­cial show dur­ing the Altenpflege trade fair. His cham­pi­oning of more trans­paren­cy and clar­i­ty is reflect­ed as well in oth­er uni­ver­sal-design projects. In addi­tion to the first tues­day ses­sions, Oelk­er mod­er­ates for­mats on uni­ver­sal-design think­ing for the social econ­o­my and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry urban plan­ning (e.g., Min­den, eine Stadt für Alle).

HEWI Hein­rich Wilke GmbH, Bad Arolsen, Germany

HEWI Hein­rich Wilke GmbH is a Euro­pean bea­con regard­ing the con­sis­tent imple­men­ta­tion of uni­ver­sal design in bath­room and han­dle sys­tems and many oth­er prod­ucts, as con­firmed by the numer­ous nation­al and inter­na­tion­al design awards the com­pa­ny has received. HEWI has sup­port­ed and pro­mot­ed uni­ver­sal- design projects and semes­ter-long projects, for exam­ple, those of stu­dents of the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design at Munich Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty and those entered into the START-UP CHAL­LENGE pre­sent­ed at the Altenpflege trade fair. To hon­or their extra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tion to uni­ver­sal design, Torsten Stute and his team at HEWI were pre­sent­ed with the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN – SPE­CIAL MEN­TION 2020 Award on Octo­ber 2, 2020.

KER­MI GmbH, Pankofen, Germany

KER­MI GmbH is com­mit­ted to imple­ment­ing uni­ver­sal design in all its endeav­ors. Every detail of its PEGA show­er cab­in sys­tem – includ­ing the product’s dis­tinc­tive tow­el hook, its pack­ag­ing, and its easy instal­la­tion – was devel­oped with uni­ver­sal design in mind. Hence, it comes as no sur­prise that PEGA received the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN GOLD Award at ISH 2019 in Frank­furt. For many years, KER­MI has dri­ven the advance­ment and devel­op­ment of show­er sys­tems, has devot­ed its exper­tise to research projects (e.g., The Room – The Bath­room), and has show­cased the results at lead­ing trade fairs for san­i­tary instal­la­tions and the care sec­tor. KER­MI lives uni­ver­sal design!

Aeris GmbH, Haar, Germany

The Aeris GmbH com­pa­ny pro­file reads: con­sis­tent uni­ver­sal design. Be it for Swoop­ster, Muvman, Numo, or the anti-fatigue Muvmat, design­ers includ­ing Tobias Cara­ti­o­la and Mar­tin Bal­len­dat use uni­ver­sal design con­sis­tent­ly to fos­ter healthy sit­ting and healthy work­styles. Their achieve­ments are reflect­ed in the numer­ous awards they have won, includ­ing the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN Award and the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN expert Award.

Vauth-Sagel Sys­temtech­nik Gmbh&Co.KG, Brakel-Erkeln, Germany

Com­pa­nies imple­ment­ing uni­ver­sal design need per­se­ver­ance to stay ahead of their com­peti­tors. Vauth-Sagel Sys­temtech­nik GmbH & Co. KG has reached this goal through sta­mi­na, tenac­i­ty, and cre­ativ­i­ty. The com­pa­ny makes sys­tem solu­tions that are both tech­no­log­i­cal­ly and aes­thet­i­cal­ly con­vinc­ing and offer their users enhanced con­ve­nience. Vauth-Sagel was among the first to sign the Weimar Dec­la­ra­tion on Uni­ver­sal Design. It has invest­ed in research projects, has held work­shops with trade jour­nal­ists around the globe, and has devel­oped an in-house lab. For its engage­ment the com­pa­ny has received UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN Awards mul­ti­ple times and has proven that uni­ver­sal design goes beyond the surface.

burg­bad GmbH, Schmal­len­berg, Germany

burg­bad GmbH still is a new­com­er com­pared to oth­er uni­ver­sal-design com­pa­nies, but it is a new­com­er that has changed the game. Moti­vat­ed by a mas­ter the­sis that was hon­ored with a UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN Award and by the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing prod­ucts in the con­text of demo­graph­ic change, burg­bad increas­ing­ly explores the para­me­ters of uni­ver­sal design. Thanks to the work­shops it has con­duct­ed for elder users and for stu­dents at the Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design and to its pre­sen­ta­tion of semes­ter-long projects con­duct­ed at Han­nover Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences and Arts (Prof. Patrick Frey), the com­pa­ny has made a name for itself among indus­try peers and has received numer­ous design awards includ­ing the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN expert Award in 2019 and again in 2020.

Küffn­er Aluzargen, Rhe­in­stet­ten, Germany

Küffn­er Aluzargen GmbH & Co. OHG, is a medi­um-sized com­pa­ny com­mit­ted to imple­ment­ing uni­ver­sal design. With vision and a high lev­el of ded­i­ca­tion, the com­pa­ny engages in dia­log with users to cre­ate prod­ucts that meet the high­est stan­dards regard­ing qual­i­ty, val­ue, safe­ty, and func­tion. A mul­ti­ple UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN com­pe­ti­tion win­ner, Küffn­er Aluzargen has con­tributed to research projects con­duct­ed at TUM’s Depart­ment of Indus­tri­al Design (The Room – The Bath­room), has pro­vid­ed con­tex­tu­al and finan­cial sup­port for semes­ter-long projects, and is a mem­ber of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V.

Her­zogsäg­müh­le, Peit­ing, Germany

The unusu­al social insti­tu­tion Her­zogsäg­müh­le of Peit­ing in Upper Bavaria brings ser­vices, care, edu­ca­tion, employ­ment, and homes togeth­er for peo­ple who are in need of assis­tance for diverse rea­sons so they can exer­cise their rights to par­tic­i­pate in soci­ety. For more than ten years, Rain­er Langer and Marc Siel­ing have advo­cat­ed the imple­men­ta­tion of uni­ver­sal-design cri­te­ria in prod­uct devel­op­ment. As a co-devel­op­er of MCBW’s our­su­per­store shop, every year Her­zogsäg­müh­le del­e­gates make up a large por­tion of the con­sumer jury of the UNI­VER­SAL DESIGN com­pe­ti­tion. The insti­tu­tion also is a mem­ber of Uni­ver­sal Design Forum e.V.

Fol­low­ing a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry work­shop on uni­ver­sal-design think­ing attend­ed by appren­tices, teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tive staff and social work­ers, Her­zogsäg­müh­le devel­oped its new mechan­i­cal stu­dio based almost entire­ly on the par­tic­i­pants’ sug­ges­tions. The goal of the stu­dio is to pro­vide a unique work­ing envi­ron­ment to young peo­ple with spe­cial needs regard­ing their pro­fes­sion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions – uni­ver­sal design at its best!