lexicon of terms

In the interest of developing a common understanding of the terms being used throughout our website and documents, we provide below a Lexicon of terms that are used and our explanation of what they mean. This Lexicon is an evergreen document.

ABELISM: abelism centers productivity and assumes everyone has great vision and hearing, and that bodies move fast and can adjust to any physical environment. Most of the world works according to these assumptions. Counter-ableist thinking challenges these assumptions through concepts such as ‘crip time’ and ‘going slow’.

ACCESS: sometimes, by virtue of attributes inherent to the design of an object, interface or other, the designer can control accessibility to certain users and block accessibility to others (knowingly or not). Some examples how design ‘controls access’ would be typeface that is illegible to older people, website navigation that can make certain information easy to access or not, interior design that excludes people with disabilities signage that is clear for one language group but not another or public furniture that promotes one type of use and excludes another (i.e. benches that allow sitting but not lying).

ACCESSIBILITY: a general term referring to how well a design provides access; enables a user to be able to reach, enter or a tool, object, or environment. The term is born out of an earlier term, “barrier-free design”.

ADDED VALUE: design that benefits disabled people also has benefits for nondisabled people.

APPROPRIATION: the use of pre-existing works (such as existing designs, illustrations, or photography) in the creation or composition of a design or creative work. If the appropriated works are significantly altered in the creation of a new work, such as a collage, the use is often deemed to be a fair use. However, appropriation can raise significant copyright and ethical concerns, particularly if the existing works are used without the original creator’s knowledge or permission, or if the appropriated works are used with little alteration. 

BARRIER-FREE DESIGN: in the 60s and 70s in accordance with civil rights legislation, architectural strategies were developed to design environments that supported the spatial needs of people with disabilities.The term barrier-free design reflected a concern over inaccessible built environments and how these spaces made oppressed peoples less visible by containing or confining them. Barrier-free design attempted to address the social and systemic issues—over who is acceptable to be seen and supported in society, and who must be hidden away.

ACCESSIBILITY BY DESIGN: design that prioritises accessibility; it refers to the methodology used to design a building or product that prioritises access, in addition to style and aesthetics.

BROAD ACCESSIBILITY: accessibility for the greatest number of people possible.

CIRCULAR ECONOMY: an economic system based on reducing or eliminating the waste and pollution produced by production by reducing the need for production (through things like sharing, re-use and repair) and optimising a closed loop in the production process (optimising use of material, re-introducing recycled materials). The aim is to thus decouple economic growth from resource consumption and environmental decline.

COLLECTIVE ACCESS DESIGN: this is a newer term that connects design to larger struggles for collective liberation and ecological survival. Collective access design is part of the disability justice framework and considers the multiple facets of identities, that people also characterise themselves in relation to race, class, gender, ethnicity, age, physical size and sexuality. This approach to design considers such interdependent complexity in its expanded methodology.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.

CONTRIVED DURABILITY: A type of planned obsolescence, where the durability of the product is willingly limited through designed-in defects (for example, parts that break easily).

COPYRIGHT: the exclusive legal right granted to the creator or owner of intellectual property to print, publish, reproduce, distribute, or perform that work, or to authorise others to do so. A work is considered copyrighted upon creation. However, it must be fixed in tangible form (including digital files), and it must meet minimal standards of originality.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: also called ‘Cultural Misappropriation’ is when members of a dominant culture adopt elements of a disadvantaged or minority culture. This is seen as ‘stealing’ from a culture.

FAIR USE: Fair use (also known as ‘Fair Dealing’) is a legal concept that allows the use of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research.

‘GOOD’ DESIGN: The Council defines ‘good’ design as design that takes into consideration the social, cultural, economic and environmental ramifications of the work, producing equitable, accessible, culturally aware, and sustainable design.

GREENWASHING: An adaptation of the term ‘whitewashing’ this expression refers to false, misleading or exaggerated information concerning environmental impact, generally of a business or product. A deceitful practice, generally adopted by advertising or marketing departments, to benefit from consumer desire to support the environment, without actually benefitting the environment.

HOSTILE DESIGN:things designed on-purpose to make it difficult for certain sectors of society to not participate in positive experiences in daily life.

INCLUSIVE DESIGN: many consider inclusive design as synonymous with universal design, coming from the notion of broad accessibility. Author of Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design Kat Holmes makes an important distinction: “accessibility is an attribute, while inclusive design is a method. While practicing inclusive design should make a product more accessible, it’s not a process for meeting all accessibility standards. Holmes says the ideal is reached when accessibility and inclusive design work together. Universal design describes the qualities of a final design, the nature of physical objects. Inclusive design, conversely, focuses on how a designer arrived at the given design. Accessible design refers to the outcome: who has access and who does not, and in what ways.

INNOVATION: this term is often erroneously used as a substitute for ‘new’ or ‘different,’ but innovation is much more impactful than mere novelty. Real innovation creates disruptive change, and this can only be measured over time based on sustained impact.

INTERNATIONAL DESIGN AWARD: an award competition is considered ‘International’ when the Jury is composed of representatives of least two of these six regions (North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania). Call for submissions must be published and available in at least three regions.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: the intangible rights to created works, such as written works, works of art, designs, images and symbols, musical works, filmed works, software, inventions, and other works. In most countries, intellectual property rights cover four broad categories of rights: copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property rights are exclusive rights, granted to ‘rightsholders’ (creators or authors, inventors, and businesses). By enabling creators to monetize and profit from their work, intellectual property rights encourage the development of creative expression, new technologies, and new inventions, resulting in economic growth.

METADATA: information about a file which is embedded into the file and can be read by a variety of software programmes. Copyright ownership information such as the name of the author or creator, copyright status, and copyright notice, can be embedded into electronic files as metadata. Many software programmes such as Adobe Creative Suite permit the user to embed their metadata as the file is created. Once the copyright management metadata is embedded, the file be tracked as it is distributed online.

NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT: a legal contract that creates a confidential relationship between parties. Designers may be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect trade secrets, new products in development, patents, or other confidential business plans which they may become aware of while working on a project. 

OPPORTUNITY COST: the loss of the potential gain that could have been possible from the alternatives not chosen. The opportunity cost of choosing—and investing in—one design is the loss of the profit and success that would have resulted from choosing its alternative.

PERFORMATIVE DESIGN: Design that looks good, photographs well, is apt to social media promotion, but is not good design. Performative design may or may not be functional or even exist (for instance, virtual design).

PIRACY: the exploitation of works protected under intellectual property rights, without the permission of the rightsholder. Piracy can include the theft of intangible works, such as trade secrets, as well as the unauthorised reproduction of created works, such as music recordings, books, digital typefaces, and films. Such pirated works are often sold for substantially reduced prices on the grey market, diverting income away from the legitimate rightsholders. 

PLAGIARISM: the act of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. 

PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE: A business strategy whereby a consumable product is designed to last less than is possible to instigate increased consumption. The product’s obsolescence may be due to breakage or reduced desirability (going ‘out of style’).

PRO BONO: it is widely misunderstood that the Latin ‘pro bono’ means ‘for free’. In fact, the term means ‘for good.’ To work to advance a deserving cause is encouraged. However, the precise working relationship between the designer and the recipient should be carefully determined, defined and described in an agreement. The conditions of unremunerated work, including ownership of rights, should be adhered to strictly. The value of the design services rendered should be communicated clearly to the pro bono recipient.

PROFESSIONALISM: the difference between doing something for immediate personal gain or gratification (regardless of the impact on others), and doing something because it is right, and builds long-term confidence in the profession at large.    

PROGRESSIVE OBSOLESCENCE: A type of planned obsolescence, whereby the item is designed to go out of style so that it needs to be replaced.

RATIONAL CONSUMPTION: the notion that a model of consumption is possible that need not be excessive and can be respectful of the environment, culture and society. 

REPAIRABILITY: the facility with which a manufactured object — often an electronic device — can be repaired rather than replaced. European legislation introduced under the 'European New Deal' is putting in place a framework for a 'repairability score' to make this more visible to the consumer.

RIGHT OF ATTRIBUTION: the right of attribution is considered a moral right of copyright holders. Moral rights for copyright holders include right of attribution, right to integrity (preventing prejudicial distortions of the work), right to have a work published pseudonymously or anonymously, etc. Some countries have very weak support for moral rights of copyright holders, but in other countries (i.e., France) there is strong support for moral rights.

SPECULATIVE PRACTICE: Speculative practices (also called ‘spec work’ or ‘free pitching’) are defined as: design work (including documented consultation), created by professional designers and organisations, provided for free or for a nominal fee, often in competition with peers and often as a means to solicit new business. The Council recommends that all professional designers avoid engaging in such practices.

'SPEC' COMPETITION: Speculative design competitions (also called 'crowd-sourced design' or ‘design challenges’) are defined as design competitions asking designers for new work, i.e. to provide design services for free or for the potential of payment. These competitions are considered speculative because a small portion of designers will be compensated. The rest, despite the hours and expertise they contribute, have 'gambled' and lost. The Council recommends that all professional designers avoid engaging in such practices.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN: the Universal Design (UD) movement in the 80s went beyond barrier-free design hoping to produce built environments that would be accessible to a broad range of human variation. Universal Design is defined as the design of an environment so that it might be accessed and used in the widest possible range of situations without the need for adaptation. Rooted in architecture and environmental design, this movement promoted building from the outset, in a way that was accessible to as many people as possible and that would not require future retrofitting or alteration. The principles of universal design are focused on attributes of the end result, such as ‘simple and intuitive to use’ and ‘perceptible information.’ Three main ideas emerged from universal design practice.

WICKED PROBLEM: a class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing (Rittel, 1973).

If you have questions or comments regarding the contents of this Lexicon, please send them to secretariat@theicod.org.