Ergonomics done right.®
November 7th, 2014

Ergonomics in Product Design – Part 2

by Rick Barker, CPE

What’s the Best Way to Incorporate Ergonomics into Product Design?

In too many cases, the input to product designers has been lengthy ergonomic design checklists. These checklists fall short because, in most cases, they are simultaneously too specific and too generic. They are too specific because they refer to a single stage of user (e.g., those who are assembling a product.) At the same time, the checklists are too generic because they include many possible ergonomic concerns, whether or not they relate to the specific product type being designed. As a result, the checklists become unwieldy to use.

A condensed set of ergonomic design principles is considerably more efficient than a long checklist of criteria, and in turn, will make your designers more effective. Design principles can be readily applied across the different stages of product use. But design principles are a starting point, not the complete process of incorporating ergonomics into product design.

As the product requirements are established, the design team needs to actively identify user needs at each product stage. At this point, the relevant ergonomic design principles can be incorporated into design criteria (using source information very similar to what the design checklists were built upon). For instance, the user goal “easy to connect” might be specified as “connection force will not exceed 8.6 lb.”

Incorporating ergonomics into product design should follow these steps:

  1. Provide designers with general ergonomic design principles and references for accessing user data,
  2. Gather user requirements from each stage of product use,
  3. Apply the principles and reference sources to create specific design goals/criteria.