The United States population is aging, with people over 65 growing from “35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively” (Newcomb & Iriondo, 2017). Because older adults are becoming a larger part of the population, designers need to focus more on how to design for the elderly. Many changes occur when one ages. These changes, such as decreases in hearing, sight, and mobility, impact how one interacts with a system (Kroemer, 2006). In the home specifically, designers need to create spaces that allow older individuals to live safely and reduce age-related difficulties. Below I have outlined some considerations designers should think of based on changes in hearing in an aging population.
Difficulty hearing and design
Products that have auditory alerts such as ovens and phones should always have the option to change their volume. This way, as a person ages they can simply change the volume of the alert instead of buying an entirely new product. It could be very dangerous if an older person were to forget that their oven is on because they can’t hear it beep.
Also, homes should be designed to reduce background noise “so that speech and important auditory signals have sufficient ‘penetration’” (Kroemer, 2006). There are multiple ways to reduce home background noise. For one, rugs can be placed to dampen noise. Also, home owners can apply Serenity Sound Reduction Coating, which is a type of paint that helps soundproof rooms. One issue with this however is that it can be rather difficult to apply. To the left is an image of the application process, showing that individuals must be able to spray on the paint. This could be very difficult for an older individual who has arthritis and less muscle mass and strength (Nagaratnam, Nagaratnam, & Cheuk, 2016). In order to make this tool more usable, the spray could be turned on with a foot peddle. Another solution to background noise issues is to buy a refrigerator that produces less noise. An article by Jeon, You, and Chang recommends that people always look at the noise rating of a refrigerator before purchasing it, as refrigerators are a main cause of ambient noise in homes (2007). Finally, one could buy the Netatmo (shown below) which is a home tool that measures ambient sounds. With this tool, an individual can understand the amount of noise pollution and see if they need to make any adjustments to their home.
Jeon, You, & Chang. (2007). Sound radiation and sound quality characteristics of refrigerator noise in real living environments. Applied Acoustics, 68(10), 1118-1134.
Kroemer, K. (2006). Designing for Older People. Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications, 14(4), 25-31.
Nagaratnam, N., Nagaratnam, K., & Cheuk, G. (2016). Musculoskeletal Systems. Diseases in the elderly: Age-related changes and pathophysiology, 275-286.
Newcomb, A., & Iriondo, J. (2017). The Nation’s Older Population Is Still Growing. Census Bureau Reports United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2017/cb17-100.html
This past weekend I went home and while there I cooked a lot. I made similar meals to the ones I make at my kitchen at school, yet I was able to complete the cooking much faster and I was less tired after finishing the job. I believe this occurred because of the design of my kitchen at home. The kitchen is one of the most important parts of the home, and in designing it there are many things to take into consideration. Below I have outlined some of the key design elements that should be thought of when creating a kitchen.
Cooking is practically always done while standing, so having a comfortable surface to stand on is crucial. Instead of installing extremely hard floors, such as stone or ceramic tile, floors with some bounce, such as wood, cork, or bamboo should be used. If very hard flooding is already installed in a kitchen a cheaper solution would be to add mats to areas where the cook stands a lot.
Customizing the counter height in a kitchen will have an impact on how the body feels every day. Jatinder, Puja, and Aruna state: “height of kitchen work surfaces and storage spaces should be given careful attention thereby minimizing stress on cardio-vascular, muscular and respiratory system” (2017). If a counter is the incorrect hight for ones body they will be forced to cook while hunched over, thus taxing neck, shoulder, and lower back muscles (Patil & Rajhans, 2018). To the left is an image of the ideal posture for working at a counter.
One issue with customizing counter heights is that multiple people of multiple sizes could be living in a house and using a kitchen. My solution for this problem would be to install counters at varying heights. The kitchen island could be either taller or shorter than the rest of the other counters.
Jatinder, K., Puja, M., & Aruna, R. (2017) Ergonomic Evaluation of Kitchen Work with Reference to Space Designing. Journal of Human Ecology, 21, 43-46.
Patil, A., & Rajhans, N. (2018) Human Factors in Designing Workspace: Customizing Kitchen Counter Design. Advances in Social & Occupational Ergonomics, 286-294.
There has been a recent turn away from cubicles in offices and towards more open concept office designs. Guidelines such as “5 Characteristics of New Office Space Design” are becoming extremely common. These guidelines advocate for open plans and collaboration spaces, with no mention of quiet space. Open design is obviously more aesthetically pleasing; however, a byproduct of a more open layout is more background noise. Background noise can have seriously detrimental effects on worker productivity. A recent study on the effects of background noise on both introverts and extroverts found that “performance was lessened across all cognitive tasks in the presence of background sound (music or noise) compared to silence” (Cassidy & MacDonald, 2007). This is a major concern because often times when people are distracted by background noise they will put on music instead. These people do not realize that listening to music also requires cognitive work (North & Hargreaves, 1999).
I do not suggest that we fully turn back to cubicles. Humans are indeed social beings, so there does need to be social spaces in offices (Fidler, 2012). As a solution companies should have both silent work areas and meeting areas for more collaborative work. This will allow workers to focus but also have a place to take breaks. To the left is a design I created of an ideal office for a fairly small company.
If an office space is unable to be easily renovated, companies could supply workers with earplugs or soundproofing headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM2 is an example of a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones are adjustable so that they can fit different head shapes. They also feature cushions around the ears so they are comfortable to wear. Furthermore, the headphones can be used with and without music so that when someone isn’t trying to work their hardest they can relax and enjoy their music. Finally, they do not require any wires to function, so the person can move freely around their office space.
Unfortunately these headphones also are rather costly, retailing for around $300. It may not appear to be initially beneficial for a company to purchase these for their employees; however, if they increase worker productivity I believe the initial costs could be made up for.
Cassidy, G., & MacDonald, R. (2007). The effect of background music and background noise on the task performance of introverts and extraverts. Psychology of Music, 35(3), 517-537.
Fidler, K. (2012). 5 Characteristics of New Office Space Design. Work Design Magazine. Retrieved from https://workdesign.com/2012/12/5-characteristics-to-new-office-space-design/
North, A., & Hargreaves, D. (1999). Music and driving game performance. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40(4), 285-292.
Buying the appropriate mattress and bed base can be a stressful task for new bed buyers. Bed systems vary greatly in price, quality, aesthetic appearance, and size. Making the right purchase is extremely important to everyday life, as a bed “allows physical recuperation during sleep by providing proper body support” (Verhaert et al., 2012). With sleep disorders becoming an ever more present problem in society, maximizing body recovery during sleep has become increasingly important (Desouzart & Filgueiras, 2015). People recover the most when their spine is in its natural shape, “allowing muscle relaxation and rehydration of the intervertebral discs” (Verhaert et al., 2012). Unfortunately, because of individual differences in body dimensions and the dispersal of body weight, a single bed is unlikely to work for every individual.
Shown below are two images of pressure mappings of a person while lying on their side on two different mattresses. The dark blue color mean that their body does not feel much pressure, while the red and orange colors mean that this is an area of high pressure (Vaughn Mccall, Boggs, & Letton, 2011). It is clear from this image that when a mattress is appropriate for a person, their body does not feel as much strain and they can therefore sleep better.
I propose that mattress companies begin to state the ideal body measurements and weight distribution for their mattress. I also believe that buying locations should take anthropometric measures of potential buyers to help guide them to the perfect mattress. Verhaert and colleagues found that they were able to “individually assess quality of support provided by a particular mattress–bed base combination” in their 2012 study. This could be an expensive system to implement today, but in the future I see it being much more feasible as the price of 3-D scanners decreases. In the mean time, basic hand measurements would be an improvement on the current system of having a buyer simply lay in a bed and test it.
Desouzart, G., & Filgueiras, E. (2015). Human-computer interaction in bed. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including Subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics), 9188, 596-605.
Vaughn Mccall, Boggs, & Letton. (2011). Changes in sleep and wake in response to different sleeping surfaces: A pilot study. Applied Ergonomics, Applied Ergonomics.
Verhaert, V., Druyts, H., Van Deun, D., De Wilde, T., Van Brussel, K., Haex, B., & Vander Sloten, J. (2012). Modeling human-bed interaction: The predictive value of anthropometric models in choosing the correct bed support. Work-A Journal Of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation, 41(Supplement 1), 2268-2273.
One element that can transform a space (without taking up very much space) is music. I remember when I was little I went over a friends house and there was music playing outside. I wanted to change the song; however, I couldn’t fine the radio anywhere. It turns out that the sound was actually coming out of a speaker disguised as a rock. Even at my young age I realized that I was looking at a really creative design. Shown below is an image of this type of speaker.
The design works because typically large speakers can be an eyesore, especially in a natural environment like a backyard. The rock-like speaker does, however, come with a few costs. For one, the user doesn’t know where to go to change the song or turn on the speakers. The switches could be inside or outside the house on a panel, or the speaker could use a remote. Furthermore, people might not know that the rock is actually a speaker and thus not be careful around it.
A better design solution would be to have a small, but powerful speaker that is visually attractive. A good example of this is the Tivoli Model One Radio, which includes natural wood elements while still clearly being a speaker. Farm, a company that worked with Tivoli states “behind the Model One’s simple appearance, is a multitude of technology facilitating higher sound reproduction and better reception over anything else near it in size or cost” (2017). Because of its clearly labeled knobs, the Model One creates a good user experience. People who purchase this radio can benefit from music without the stress of figuring out a rock-shaped speaker system.
Farm Design Inc. (2017). Tivoli Model One Radio. Product Development Projects. Retrieved from http://www.farmpd.com/product-development-projectst/henry-kloss
The other day I went to Tisch Library to try to get some homework done, but I found that there were no tables available with good lighting. I find that without proper lighting it can be extremely difficult to get work done. Lights need to be bright enough to keep workers awake, but not so bright that they produce a glare. As shown in the table below, a few things can be done to reduce glare from different light sources. Desks can be oriented so that the light doesn’t directly hit a computer screen, windows can be tinted, and artificial lights can be covered with shades (Eastman Kodak Company, & Kodak Limited, 2004).
Employers also must pay attention to the type of lighting they include in their offices. Fluorescent lighting is “inferior because it can cause eye strain,” so incandescent lighting is a much better option (Vollmart, 1991). Better still, is natural lighting. Studies show that there is a “positive relationship between natural light and worker productivity and satisfaction” (Sullivan & Horowitz-Bennett, 2014). This same article also mentions that daylight has “positive effects on alertness, regulating the body’s circadian rhythm, and minimizing eyestrain and headaches.” For me personally, being exposed to natural light is very important. I become unhappy when I am unable to see outside, so I predict that when I work for a company light will greatly effect my satisfaction with my job.
Eastman Kodak Company, & Kodak Limited. (2004). Kodak’s ergonomic design for people at work (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Sullivan, C., & Horowitz-Bennett, B. (2014). Workplace design trends: Make way for the Millennials. Building Deign and Construction.
Vollmart, S. (1991). Trends in Lighting and Work Stations. The Office, 114(6), 14.
In last weeks blog I talked about the design of standing desks. This week, we are going to look at office chairs for the times when individuals need to sit. Have you ever noticed that you work more productively in one type of chair over another? It is very likely that you do. An article on office chairs states: “studies indicate that a good ergonomically designed chair can increase a worker’s productivity as much as 25 percent” (Fitzgerald, 1994). This same article outlined the standard for a good office chair:
1. the height of a seat shall allow the user to place feet firmly on a support surface, 2. the seat depth shall permit contact with the seat back in the lumbar region, 3. seat cushions shall be at least 18.2 inches wide, 4. the angle between the upper and lower leg, with the lower part perpendicular to the floor, shall be between 60 and 100 degrees. (Fitzgerald, 1994).
These elements are important because you need energy to sit up in a chair. A good chair slows muscle fatigue and therefor also slows loss of efficiency. Back support is extremely important because “back-related injury is a leading cause of lost work time in the U.S” and these injuries represent “70 percent of all workers’ compensation claims” (Fitzgerald, 1994).
One interesting, though not perfect, design for a chair is the Multi-Functional Fashion Chair by Li and Liu. This chair, shown below was designed to keep in mind “system stability, integrity, and aesthetic research” (Li & Liu, 2016). The designers created only black and white chairs because according to Li and Liu, “bright colors easily stimulate people’s vision and bring a kind of fatigue.”
This design works because of the features the designers included in the chair. As shown below, they added a folding board that when “gently pressed can pop up,” a USB plug, speakers, and a pocket (Li & Liu, 2016). These elements are all hidden away so that they do not take away from the visual appeal of the chair.
One question I have about this design is why the creators chose to make it a rocking chair. Usually chairs meant to be in offices are either rolling or have four simple legs. I believe that a rocking chair is slightly less sturdy, and would be distracting to users.
Fitzgerald, S. (1994). Office chairs and productivity: Exploring the ergonomic link. Telemarketing, 12(8), 55.
Li, X., & Liu, L. (2016). Design of Multi-Function Fashion Chair Based on Human Factors Engineering. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 851, 884-887.
With nine hour work days, it’s very important to have standing desks in offices. Today, “the average individual (ages six and above) in the United States spends 7.7 h/day engaged in sedentary behaviors” (Benzo et. al., 2016). One may worry that standing while in the office could change productivity or quality of work; however, a study on processing speeds showed that participants had “better performance in processing speed when standing” (Henry, 2016). This same study posed an insightful argument, stating:
Because sitting for prolonged periods is harmful to physical health and incorporates large health costs, employers should consider standing desks as an alternative to sitting desks that could improve workplace health, and thereby reduce the associated costs without effecting an important aspect of cognition. (Henry, 2016)
This past summer I worked in an office with desks that could either be used while sitting or standing. I liked having the option to sit or stand while working. However, it was slightly difficult to learn how to move the desks up and down, to the design was flawed. There were two buttons that moved the desk —one was a small, black, 1.5 by 1.5 centimeter lock button. The other was a black, 1.5 centimeter by 3 centimeter rectangular button that was angled. It looked like the image below, however there were no arrows indicating that this button was for the desk to go up and down. Users had no way of knowing that you had to press both the lock button and the up/down button at the same time in order to move the desk.
Suggested Design Changes:
The square lock button should be removed. I’m assuming that the designers were worried about people accidentally hitting the up/down button, but in practice I didn’t see anyone accidentally press this. Also, the up/down button should be labeled so that desk-users know what this button does. Finally, businesses that have already purchased these desks should include an overview of how the desks work in their new employee introductions.
Benzo, Roberto, et al. “Learning to Stand: The Acceptability and Feasibility of Introducing Standing Desks into College Classrooms.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 13, no. 8, 2016, pp. 1–11.
Henry, Aaron N., et al. “Thinking Whilst Standing: an Examination of the Effects of Standing Desks on Cognitive Processing Speed.” Unitec Institute of Technology, 2016.
Human factors and ergonomics are the studies that analyze “human capabilities, limitations, requirements and expectations in the design of products, workplaces and work systems” (Sutton, 2015). People who work in this field perform studies and do research in order to reduce human error and increase safety. Human factors is an interdisciplinary field, “viewed from the unified perspective of the science, engineering, design, technology, and management of human-compatible systems” (Salvendy, 2012). These contributing perspectives are shown in Figure 1 below.
As a junior majoring in cognitive and brain sciences, I have studied many things related to human factors without realizing it. I am very excited to finally be taking a class solely dedicated to engineering psychology. My interest in this field began when I was abroad this fall in Barcelona. I did a project on The Hospital de Sant Pau and learned about how it worked well as a hospital because of its design. The architect included many windows and green spaces because “access to nature reduces stress associated with the typical clinical environment and has a positive healing effect on patients” (“Hospital Plants Green ‘Healing’ Roof,” 2011). After learning this, I began to do more research on design of workplaces and other environments. Here is a link to a virtual tour of the hospital: https://www.santpaubarcelona.org/en/virtual-visit it is a very interesting and innovative place.
With this blog I will talk about human factors in ergonomics in relation to home design. I plan to analyze room layout, colors, furniture, and other design components.
“Hospital Plants Green ‘Healing’ Roof.”Green Places, no. 72, 2011.
Salvendy, Gavriel. Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics. 4th ed., John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012.
Sutton Ian. “Human Factors and Ergonomics.” Plant Design and Operations, Elsevier, 2015.