Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An argument against ergonomics

Image from
There is an Eames Lounge that has taken up residence in my living room. It is not an original because the shock absorbing rings are plastic, yet it is not very new because wood is 5 plies thick, not 7. It is from the late 1960s-early '70s. It is upholsered with brown leather and this may be one of the reasons that it is a lot uglier than I had realized before.

I remember this chair from when I was a kid. It belonged to my grandparents, and was occupied by a life (human) size Snoopy doll. There was one in every therapist's office that I have ever been in. (There is something about modernist furniture that therapists love. Dr. S had a Joe Colombo Boby trolly in his office as well as an Aeron chair for himself and an Eames lounge for the patient. I think he had some sort of therapist discount at Design Within Reach. Every week when I sat in his lounge chair I would shift my body down so that my head rested on the top pillow and my feet could touch the floor. I never used the ottoman because I had shoes on and did not want to scratch the leather.)

The chair that is sitting next to me now is not comfortable. I realize that when I sit properly in the chair I have no headrest and only my toes touch the floor. My torso is very long, and causes a lot of trouble with furniture. Usually the trouble is only that I sit a lot taller than others, sometimes my head touches the ceiling of small cars though. I had thought that the Eames lounge chair was the epitome of comfort style and ergonomics. Now I know that this is a chair that for maybe 1/4 of the population has no neck support, and a good portion of people have a head rest, but dangling toes.

This chair is not a demonstration of the understanding of human factors. It is comfortable for the average body, and to me this is unacceptable.

Things that claim to provide comfort and support need sizes, like bras and shoes.

Otherwise they are uncomfortable for a good portion of the population. the next time I make something involving human factors I will think harder about this, knowing that it is not good enough to forget about range and focus only on the average.


  1. That is a problem I have come up against, being six foot three. Ergonomics is important but the fact is, there is no univerally correct ergonomic position and believing that there is can be just as dangerous as ignoring ergonomics completely.

    A chair is something that should always be tailored to the individual. Less so with a monitor arm but if a new one was needed, a new one would be bought. There's no sense in having an uncomfortable workforce.


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