Posts Tagged ‘Great Design’

In many parts of the world, the corner tavern, bar, tap-room, saloon or pub  is the place to be on a Friday night. The work week has come to a close and it’s time to catch-up with friends, hoist a few, have some fun. (Yes, to those interested, strains of Billy Joel’s Piano Man are playing in my head).

 When bellying up to the bar to order that next round, take a look at the design and layout of the space.  My guess, your local pub does not look that much different from the bar around the corner or around the world. Why?  Bar design is iconic and time-tested. Centuries of learning have gone into the placement of pub elements.  At the center of the design rationale;  ERGONOMICS.

Ergonomics is the science of designing an environment to address and fit human needs; while it is more often applied in a work environment (ergo means work in Latin),  in the case of a tavern environment – it is about creating a space of physical support and comfort.  Ever notice how easy is it to lose track of time in a pub?  It’s not just the Guinness or martini causing this time warp; the environment is designed to wrap you in a cocoon. Warm, cozy, comfortable, leaving the pub is like leaving the womb. 

Let’s start with the height of the bar; 42 inches. Why? That height is the most ergonomic height for a top that services both the seated and standing user.  Seated in a 29″ to 31″ bar stool, a 42″ bar counter is ideal for the seated bar patron. It is also a comfortable height for most people to lean against.  Additionally the bar top is in easy reach of a standing person so they can set their food and drink down without leaning over.

Take a look at the foot rest at the base of the bar. Not just a decorative element, this footrest permits the standing patron to alter their stance and posture from time to time while standing at the bar for long periods of time.  An old Ergonomics adage “the best position, is the NEXT position”; this footrest provides standing customers with a multitude of options over time.   This means you can STAY and imbibe longer, more comfortably.

So, next time you are relaxing at your favorite neighborhood watering hole, remember, the design is no accident.  Ergonomics had something to do with it.

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“In my 28 years of attending the CES and participating in it and being a part of it and running it for most of that time, I can honestly say there will be more innovation at this show than any one in history,” Gary Shapiro said.   (President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association on CNN.com )

The clock is ticking…the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens in only 3 days.   The annual Bacchanalia of gadget freaks, tech-heads and gamers, CES new product REVEALS will dominate newswires for the next few weeks.  You, the global consumer, will be inundated with marketing messages that promise tools and technology that improve your life, your work, make you a better person (LOL).  

Our ERGOLAB team is a skeptical bunch. Ergonomists tend to view words like innovation a little suspiciously. It doesn’t promise improvement within an existing paradigm; only something new.  History shows us that it’s the exceptional brand that takes human ERGONOMIC needs into consideration when developing a new product.

When wading through CES RSS feeds, use caution, many of the products will fail to live up to a simple Ergonomic Assessment.   Our ERGOLAB team will be evaluating some of the new computing and communication tools; we will share our thoughts on this blog.

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It just started snowing outside, more than 15 inches of snow is expected before this storm is over.  Very soon, we’ll all be outside, shoveling driveways and walkways; overexerting ourselves, lifting and pushing too much weight.  If you (like me) don’t have a snowblower, the snow shovel is your tool of choice.  Be sure to invest in a shovel that is ergonomically sound; a few simple design elements will ensure your safety (and your back’s safety), while you shovel.  

We purchased the new Vertex Ergonomic snow shovel at our local DIY store (see pic to left); shovel design encourages an upright, supported posture.  Standing behind the shovel, much like a lawnmower, you push the shovel through the snow. Lifting and reaching are eliminated.  The result; more leverage, greatly reduced disc compression force and no twisting of the spine.  Bottom line; you will spare your back.    

Stay warm…happy shoveling.

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I miss the old acronyms. Remember VHS, VCR?  or even older, LP?  (ok, I am actually from the cassette generation, but my parents had LPs.)  Now a new acronym has emerged on the scene…..LED.  OK OK, this really isn’t a new acronym, LED technology or light-emitting diodes have been around for over 100 years. (or so Wikipedia tells me). HOWEVER…for the average consumer, LED just hit the radar.  The hot new tech gift this holiday season…the LED television. Big, ultrathin and sexy.  Life without an LED television is impossible.  (LOL). Or so the marketing types want us all to believe.

In the world of office products and ergonomics, LED tech means an evolution in lighting fixtures and solutions for YOUR office workstation.  Weird, but this is something I CAN get excited about (and most of our clients too). LED lights use less energy, emit less heat and are LEED credit eligible (for those who are counting).   LED lighting is BUSINESS SEXY. 

What is business sexy?   Business sexy is something that makes the CFO go weak in the knees.  Business sexy is about the bottom line.  Business sexy makes everyone in the enterprise happy.

Several Ergonomic product manufacturers have new LED products to offer – we like Workrite’s Astra and Soleil task lights and their really cool (literally, it’s cool to the touch, no 2nd degree burns by moving the fixture) Verano under-mount magnetic light strip.    All have been awarded our BUSINESS SEXY stamp of approval (and from our clients too).  I think I am going to create a Business Sexy stamp for future use.

We await the arrival of Humanscale’s Element LED lamps.  The product is not available YET, but the chatter is very positive. (see link below for Wired magazine POV on Humanscale)  All we know is that Workrite has set the bar VERY HIGH….wait and see if Humanscale can dislodge the Astra, Soleil and Verano from our hearts.  

Wired Fetish: Ultimate office accessories

For more info on Workrite Astra, Soleil and Verano product details – http://www.workriteergo.com/products/lighting.asp

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The best product design is simple. No extra parts, pieces, complexity.

Great design is everywhere around us, usually in those products, tools, items we take for granted. Why is great design so often overlooked?  Easy…it doesn’t get in the way of the user’s experience and impose itself on the users consciousness. It’s simple, requires few (if any) instruction. Think of the Honeywell thermostat – standard in American homes in the last century – simple, easy to use and understand. Nothing more or less than it needed to be.  It’s simplicity made it a classic.  The Coca-Cola bottle, slipping easily into the hand, textured for grip, an iconic bit of packaging that all other CPG manufacturers envy.  A personal favorite, the Swiss Army Knife, the end all be all, a personal disaster recovery plan.   

As ergonomists, the ERGOLAB team is constantly kicking the tires of office tools and products.  What attributes and accessories make sense…feel right…work properly. Which ones get in the way of our user…detract from their experience (or worse, contribute to injury).  In our experience, simple is better. Unfortunately, simple is a hard when your product is meant to support and empower the human body.  Our bodies are all so different, we move, shift, lean, tap.  We’re tall, short, fat, thin.   Some manufacturers do it better than others…candidly, those are the ones we promote.  Companies like Humanscale, Workrite, Bodybilt and Contour Design are raising the bar.  Go see for yourself.   There are some other ‘sexy’ names out there, particularly in seating…don’t get blinded by the gadgets and flash.  A $2,000 chair can do as much damage as a folding chair.

By the way….the attached image from DESIGNSPOTTER  is what inspired this post.  This design is so smart, elegant, a real thing of beauty. A re-usable handle for a throwaway cup, not as sexy as a new Apple product or sports car design, but still WOW.

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We’re very excited about Safco’s AlphaBetter children’s desk. Designed by an elementary school teacher who was frustrated with existing desks / seating solutions – AlphaBetter makes sense.  Kids can sit or stand, the worksurface adjusts quickly and easily.  The swinging footrest is so smart.     Take a look at the NY Times article on the impact the product has made in one school district!


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