All posts by Allison Artnak

Are you leaving someone out?

One would assume that graphic design is accessible to its audience, yet a graphic designer’s decisions can inadvertently exclude individuals. It’s a simple matter of we don’t know what we don’t know.

When creating a communication, a graphic designer should consider more than specific communication objectives, brand guidelines, etc. For example, will the design effectively translate for those with vision issues or hearing loss?

What does this mean for graphic designers?

Designers may view accessibility as a barrier to creativity. Alternatively, accessibility can be viewed like any other guideline such as objectives, logo usage, color palette and typography. When accessibility guidelines are embraced upfront, they become part of the overall design challenge to influence an approach to engage the entire audience. 

What does this mean for employers?

Employee communication influences an employee’s experience and overall perception of its employer. Ensuring that communication is accessible will only strengthen perception of the employer and broaden the inclusion of a diverse employee audience.

General guidelines for design accessibility

  • The main point should be obvious and simple. 
    This seems obvious, but as a designer, sometimes we want to be clever or more abstract given the situation. And that is perfectly fine, providing the main point is easily distinguishable (you only have a few seconds to hook the user).
  • Color is just one of many design tools.
    There are variations and severities of color blindness, so consider what the design will look like in grayscale. If it works great in grayscale, it will be accessible to all (and it will be even better in color for those that are not color blind).
  • Contrast is critical.
    Adequate contrast between a background and text is even more important when considering color blindness because content may not be visible.
  • Make fields (and their labels) visible. 
    For someone that is color blind or has significant vision loss, filing out a form (long-hand or electronic) can be difficult if the field is not visible and its label so small it is illegible.
  • Ensure readability (not just contrast, but font size as well).
    Designers tend to love large and very small type. If the platform is electronic, hopefully the font size is customizable to a degree so the user can adjust accordingly. But in print, it can be much more difficult and limiting.
  • Be mindful of animation and effects. 
    Flashing effects and intense patterns can trigger headaches, vertigo and in rare cases, seizures. For motion graphics with such effects, first display a warning. Other solutions may include altering the video or providing an alternative to the video, like a detailed storyboard or graphic communication that combines still images and text.
  • Make motion graphics work effectively without audio.
    If a video works effectively without sound, then it is icing on the cake for those that hear well. If the video has significant voice over, like a training video, then consider providing subtitles or a transcript.


  1. How many Fortune 100 companies fail to meet at least one of six standards to make career pages/websites accessible?
  2. Many color-blind people think peanut butter is what color?
  3. How many men out of 12 are color blind?
  4. What famous musician had significant hearing loss and compensated by feeling the vibrations of the piano and using an ear trumpet?
  5. How many million Americans under the age of 65 have hearing loss?
  6. What percentage of U.S. websites fail at least one Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) failure?

Answers: 1. 89 2. Green 3. One. 4. Ludwig van Beethoven. 5. 30 million or 62% of those experiencing hearing loss 6. 96% in 2022

Helpful resources

There is a plethora of resources around design accessibility. Here are a few to get you started:

Color blindness simulator:

Hearing loss simulator:

Digital accessibility:

Web contrast checker:

Web accessibility testing:

Digital compliance:

So now you know! Enjoy the challenge of creating accessible design and reap the benefits by engaging your employee audience and influencing a positive experience.


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Negative space is a positive thing.


Personal space, office space, open space, dead space, green space, storage space, outer space. We all need space.

As a graphic designer, there’s one kind of space that often gets a bad rap – that’s negative space, or the space that surrounds a subject or focus of a design. Many clients are uncomfortable with negative space or feel it is wasteful and cannot resist the urge to fill it. But negative space truly is a positive thing. Let’s explore why.

People shouldn’t have to work hard to absorb content. One of the most common complaints from clients is that employees don’t read. One way to engage employees is to make it easy for them to absorb content and compel them to read. That means making the composition of the content balanced, visually appealing, minimizing copy and enhancing content with visuals that support or explain the subject matter. In other words, eliminate the feeling of chaos.

If you have a lot of content that needs to be conveyed, consider the following:

  • Determine what is truly necessary. Stick to the top three things you want people to remember or take action on. As a communicator, you are a subject matter expert, so you have the full picture and its details in your head. But most often, people don’t need all of that detail.
  • Layer information. That means focus on the top three things, then provide direction to where more information can be found. This will keep your abstract thinkers happy as they typically don’t want all the details and keep your concrete thinkers satisfied because they can access more detail.
  • Incorporate visuals that offer meaning and provide a “break.” Leverage visuals, such as photographs, icons and infographics that provide a break from all of the words and enhance the meaning of the content. This is especially important given 65% of the population are visual learners!
  • Use negative space effectively. As covered earlier, negative space is your friend and will help keep people engaged and make content scannable.

Granted, there may be situations where you can’t get around dense content, like legal notices. But even then, hierarchy is everything and can create a positive experience for the reader that truly wants to find specific content or read all of the content.

You see, negative space IS a positive thing!

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