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Top 4 Inclusive Design Mistakes to Avoid in 2024

In the journey towards purpose-driven branding, understanding common pitfalls in inclusive design is a crucial, strategic and authentic investment to retain customers. 

Four smooth rocks stacked on top of one another to symbolize the four common inclusive design mistakes
Source: The Sage Mages & Midjourney

Let’s delve into four key areas where ethical branding efforts often miss the mark, and share examples of how mindful design can prevent these oversights and lead to long term stability and growth.

Design Mistake 1: Relying Only on Short-Term Advocacy Campaigns

Sustained advocacy is a cornerstone of ethical business practices. Now more than ever, a business’ values are being checked, tested and publicized if they are committed or just green-washing or rainbow-washing. There are even sites like Good On You that publicize ethical and sustainable brand reviews.

person reaching to throw away a disposable starbucks cup into a starbucks labeled recycling bin
Soure: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Soloprenuers, agencies and companies who use one-off or short-term value-driven marketing might find a burst of success followed by a risk of major backlash if found to be surface level or if feedback hasn’t been addressed. In 2023, even after past backlash, both Target and Budlight participated in pride events to help address feedback.

Unlike short-lived campaigns, enduring commitment, as exemplified by The Valuable 500's initiative against disability exclusion or Levi's support of underrepresented stories, reflects a brand's dedication to social responsibility. 

Integrating continuous advocacy into your ethical branding strategy ensures your message resonates deeply and as consistently as possible. Not sure where to start? You aren’t alone. Partnering with successful nonprofits and advocacy coalitions can make it easier to obtain your inclusive goals. 

Design Mistake 2: Ignoring Global Inclusion Needs

In today’s global marketplace, ethical branding has incentives to transcend borders. As demonstrated by multi-millionaire influencers like Mr. Beast, addressing a global audience can significantly "supercharge" your business outreach

Ethical businesses must invest in curating culturally inclusive communication design, translation-ready live text, and globally relatable content, aligning with their core values of diversity and inclusion. 

Translation-ready content can be powerful during pivotal marketing flows such as websites, social media and feedback requests. Think it will take too much time to translate? Check out the myriad of Ai tools, like DeepL, and resources available including ASL interpreters.

Design Mistake 3: Experiences with Burdensome Barriers

Navigational difficulties and inaccessible physical or digital experiences can severely impact the user's mental reactions, contradicting the principles of ethical branding and tarnishing reputations pretty quickly.

Conferences are chaotic examples of how wayfinding can go frustratingly wrong or stupendously right. A sign or booth with low contrasting colors, overwhelming information or illegible type can be the crux in a decision never to come back. 

Busy indoor conference with confusing wayfinding
RSA Conference 2023. Source: Help Net Security

Following best practices in inclusion and accessibility, like those championed by Apple and Microsoft, in digital and physical experiences. This approach not only enhances usability but also aligns with the ethical commitment to serve diverse customer needs.

conference booth designed with digital and physical accessibility best practices
Designed by The Sage Mages with high color contrast and clear communication design

Design Mistake 4: Stereotypical Personas

For purposeful branding, relying on broad or stereotypical personas can lead to a disconnect with your audience. It also has the detrimental side effect of training your creative team to be rewarded for assuming.

Ethical brands thrive on understanding the diverse spectrum of human experiences, including various permanent, temporary or situational abilities and challenges. To meet this need, hundreds of diverse photos have been added to stock houses like Unsplash and new sites like are great places to search.

Middle aged father and young daughter happily mixing ingredients in the family kitchen
Source: Pexels

Designing with empathy and inclusivity , with the power of accommodations, at the forefront ensures your brand not only reaches but also empowers a wider, more diverse audience. 


By gaining awareness and finding a process to prepare for these common missteps, ethical business executives can ensure their branding and design strategies are not only effective but also resonate with their core values of inclusivity and social responsibility.

conference table design for runzero
The Sage Mages design for a branded pop-up cyber cafe restaurant

Embrace these insights to enhance your brand's ethical and purposeful impact. Here are 6 free steps to successfully implement inclusive branding strategies. Set up an introduction appointment for The Sage Mage services.


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