7 Principles of Universal Design

The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group at the North Carolina State University. The group was led by Ron Mace and consisted of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers. The purpose of the Principles is to guide the design of environments, products and communications.

The Center for Universal Design (CUD) was then formed by the North Carolina State University to provide national information, technical assistance, and a research centre formed to evaluate, develop, and promote accessibility and universal design in the built environment and in products.  The Center states that their mission is to improve environments and products through design innovation, research, education and design assistance.”

The 7 Principles are:

Please note that the Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability.

Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

A note from The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University:

The 7 Principles are reproduced below to establish a context with the intent of this paper. It must be noted that the Principles of Universal Design were conceived and developed by The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. 

Use and application of the Principles in any form by an individual or organization is separate and distinct from the Principles and does not constitute or imply acceptance or endorsement by The Center for Universal Design of the use or application. The Principles are Copyright ©1997 NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

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. These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

The Principles of Universal Design are presented here, in the following format: name of the principle, intended to be a concise and easily remembered statement of the key concept embodied in the principle; definition of the principle, a brief description of the principle’s primary directive for design; and guidelines, a list of the key elements that should be present in a design which adheres to the principle.

(Note: all guidelines may not be relevant to all designs).