Anthropometrics is the study and recording of the physical properties of the human body (measurements). These measurements are used as part of the data designers require to design products that are effective for a range of end-users.
Ever tried to eat soup with a fork?
It's not easy, is it? Well, ergonomics is about changing all that! We don't mean making it easy to eat soup with a fork, we mean giving you the right tools for the job. Ergonomics is about making your life simpler and safer by taking account of human characteristics when we design things.
Ergonomics investigates how we use our environment and the design of environments which enable users to use the environment easily and comfortably. An example of where ergonomics is used is the design of a car interior.
As an item of furniture is rarely used by only one individual, most furniture must accommodate the variations of a wide range of end users. The "average" person is a mythical creature. When measurements are taken from a target population for a particular design, a mid-point (termed the 50th "percentile") divides users into two groups - one above and one below the "average."
It may be logical to use this mid-point/average number to determine the height of a chair seat but not the height for the top shelf in a storage cabinet. In the latter case, it is standard practice to use a dimension that accommodates 90 to 95 percent of users who can reach an object on the top shelf. The design ideal is to provide for adjustability and use anthropometric data to determine the upper and lower limits for the range of adjustments, e.g., for PC workstation chairs.
The design of workstations requires the application of anthropometric and ergonomic data.
Five aspects of ergonomics
There are five aspects of ergonomics: safety, comfort, ease of use, productivity/performance, and aesthetics. Based on these aspects of ergonomics, examples are given of how products or systems could benefit from redesign based on ergonomic principles.
- Safety - Medicine bottles: The print on them could be larger so that a sick person who may have impaired vision (due to sinuses, etc.) can more easily see the dosages and label. Ergonomics could design the print style, color and size for optimal viewing.
- Comfort - Alarm clock display: Some displays are harshly bright, drawing one’s eye to the light when surroundings are dark. Ergonomic principles could redesign this based on contrast principles.
- Ease of use - Street Signs: In a strange area, many times it is difficult to spot street signs. This could be addressed with the principles of visual detection in ergonomics.
- Productivity/performance - HD TV: The sound on HD TV is much lower than regular TV. So when you switch from HD to regular, the volume increases dramatically. Ergonomics recognizes that this difference in decibel level creates a difference in loudness and hurts human ears and this could be solved by evening out the decibel levels.
- Aesthetics - Signs in the workplace: Signage should be made consistent throughout the workplace to not only be aesthetically pleasing, but also so that information is easily accessible.