Sunday, June 29, 2008

Human Factors in Design

I have worked (and am working) in product design consultancies. For those of you unfamiliar with the general setup, they tend to be made up of Researchers, Industrial Designers, and Mechanical Engineers. These consultancies are responsible for the design of many many consumer, industrial and medical products (Check out Farm, Altitude, IDEO, and Design Continuum to see examples).

Something I have come to realize is that human factors does not seem to get the use it deserves. This is not to say it is completely ignored; some Researchers and Industrial Designers have some exposure to human factors. They will use height charts, design for 5th percentile female to 95th percentile male, and other general best-practices. My gripe is that there are so many studies (See HFES journal, and/or ergonomics in design) containing mounds of data regarding posture, grip force, materials handling capacity, etc. that just get ignored.

I am fully aware that every designer cannot get another degree in human factors, but can d-schools not focus more on it in their curriculum? I had a colleague who got his ID degree from Va Tech, and didn't even know who Karl Kroemer was! (I am sure that most if not all of you reading this don't know either, but if you are interested in Human Factors he is an excellent place to start)

-Chris Loughnane

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