Industrial Design

Anthropometry for wearables

Anthropometry for wearables

Lack of consolidated Indian & Asian anthropometric data for limbs, head and other body parts presents unique challenges. How does a design team get around to tackle such a challenge?

By ANAND PALSODKAR

Understanding of human anthropometry  is a crucial part of a design process. This is especially true with products like watches, helmets and new age wearable gadgets. These products behave as an extension to a human body and any use of these products resulting in discomfort would lead to a quick failure of the product itself.

‘’ The products we design are going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some way used by people individually or en masse. If the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. If, on the other hand, people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient-or just plain happier-the industrial designer has succeeded.’’ – Legendary American Designer, Henry Dreyfuss

Globally, designers & engineers rely on anthropometric data studied and compiled by Henry Dreyfuss Associates2. Dreyfuss’s contribution to the field of human factors is seminal, however data points related to specific ethnicities and for new age applications like wearables3 are not comprehensive & at times non existent. Pioneering anthropometric work by Dr. G G Ray4 & Dr. Deb Kumar Chakravarty5 on Indian population does not cover wearable physiological zones in the published version and that creates a large vacuum when dealing with wearable products. The design team working on one such project at Elephant6, came across this chasm and had to modify its approach during the design phase while working for Singapore based technology firm, SynPhNe7.

Undertaking the challenge

The design team embarked upon developing a system of wearable devices for stroke rehabilitation that included an arm gear and a head gear to record the muscle & brain response. The challenges were multifold, the devices had to be used by people suffering from partial paralysis with one of the sides of their body non-functional. The device had to fit arm and head sizes, shapes of population from Indian subcontinents, south-east Asia & China. 

The geometry of Arm and the Head had implications since functioning of the device depended on effective sensor contacts to arm skin and head scalp. Available anthropometric data captures only the dimensions of extremities & body parts, however it was important to study the shapes & specific dimensions of arm and the head to determine the profiles of arm and head gear. Such anthropometric data is not available readily. This momentarily stemmed the development work and subsequently led to carrying out anthropometric study of arm and head of a sample population.

Anthropometric study

In-depth user study revealed certain physical realities about the people who would be using such devices. Women wearing bangles, necklaces and those maintaining plaited hair, tight curly hair and people with baldheads & loose skin, all these added to the complexities. Anthropometric research was planned for a sample population of 50 in India & Singapore each. This sample population included men, women and children above the age of 14.

The study included measurements of arm features, circumference at specific points on arm, thumb & palm measurement. Features like circumference, nasion to inion distance, ear-to-ear distance above head were measured for study of the head anthropometry. 

The anthropometry data was classified based on 95th, 50th & 5th percentile male and female. For effective therapy it was imperative to have accurate locations of sensors for both arm & head gear. Sensor point variations were plotted both for arm & the head based on the profiles derived from this study. This helped the team to design the devices with adequate adjustability built in for the sensors that covered a larger part of the population.

Head shape profiles were studied to design the head gear to ensure positive contact of sensors with scalp. Arm gear profiles at elbow, mid and wrist location led to the design of common set of arm straps for 3 sizes of arm gear; small, medium & large.

Pain gain

Lack of data led the development team on an anthropometric hunt. A critical realization was the requirement of wearable data and its access while undertaking such development work. The design team acquired body part profiles & surfaces that helped design contact elements & affordances in the product system. This critical metric research led to numerous insights for innovative development work. After 4 stages of prototype testing, clinical trials of the beta version of this product system is underway in the US, India and Singapore.

Notes:

1.       Anthropometry is the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body.

2.       Henry Dreyfuss Associates, LLC is one of the oldest & most esteemed industrial design consultancy firms in the      United States, known for their work in human Factors and a series of iconic products.

3.       Wearables is common reference to wearable technology.

4.       Dr. G. G. Ray, Professor, IDC, IIT-Powai, Mumbai & Ramakrishna Bajaj Chair, Honorary Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering, IIT Mumbai.

5.       Dr. Deb KumarChakraborty, Professor & Dean, IIT-Guwahati, author of Indian Anthropometric Dimensions For Ergonomic Design Practice.

6.       Elephant, is a design consulting practice operating in India & Singapore.

7.       SynPhNe, is a technology platform, incubated in Singapore, http://www.synphne.org

ANAND PALSODKAR is a mechanical engineer & post graduate Industrial Designer, Design Director, Product Innovation at Elephant. A post grad alumnus of IIT-Powai, Industrial Design Center, Mumbai, he leads the product development vertical. He has worked on several design programs, notably CEAT Tyres, Nirlep Appliances, Thermax Ltd., Symphony Coolers, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others.  

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Ideation!

Ideation

Life & work is full of challenges. How do we creatively tackle everyday challenges? One Monday Morning1, two young designers at Elephant2 share ideation as a tool to solve challenges.

I haven’t failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work
— Thomas Edison
Ideation_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Innovators are supposed to think new. What do accountants do when they are faced with challenges?  Or, for that matter project managers or software coders? Is it possible to institutionalise creative thinking?

Tanmaya Rao & Shruti Jain, Designers at Elephant, conducted a workshop session that introduced ideation not just as a process but rather a tool to creatively look at problems. Given a set of constrains, individuals & teams were able to conjure solutions to unfamiliar challenges & constraints.

There were 3 main take-away from the Monday workshop;

#1

Working as co creative teams is an effective way to look at cracking a problem.

#2

Ideation cannot be a random process of simply starting to think at a given moment. It helps teams to arm themselves with a “Creative thinking technique” like SCAMPER6.

Such tools help look at challenges with a changing perspective. As with Thomas Edison, a technique can also help a team cover all angles and possible eliminate most ideas that don’t work. 

#3

Participating teams went beyond using the tools to note down ideas, choose a few promising ones, go beyond to execute a couple of ideas and most important, share.

“Ideation without execution is delusion”, say’s, Robin Sharma. When an idea is executed, it gets tested and there is feedback. It is feedback and subsequent evolution or rejection of ideas that leads a team on to a path of problem solving.

It may help to institutionalize the act of ideation first as a mile stone is the process of looking at challenges (just like say, Root Cause Analysis8 is one such milestone when looking at challenges). Teams must realize that an idea alone is not good enough and a whole lot more thinking, detailing, execution, testing is required before a problem gets creatively solved. Theodore Levitt, American economist & Professor at HBS9 had famously remarked, “ Ideation is not a synonym for innovation, conformity is not its simple antonym and innovation is not an automatic consequence of creative thinking.”, indicating that creative ideation alone is not sufficient to solve problems.

Having said this, the workshop did provide non-design & design teams with a mind tool & technique to keep handy when facing a challenge.

Notes

  1. Monday Morning Meeting, is a weekly feature at 10:00 am where the entire Elephant team gets on to a share & learn platform.
  2. Elephant, is India’s independently leading Design Consulting organization www.elephantdesign.com .
  3. Thomas Alva Edison, 1847-1931, was an American inventor & businessman.
  4. Tanmaya Rao, is an Environment Designer working at Elephant.
  5. Shruti Jain, is an Environment Designer working at Elephant.
  6. SCAMPER, is an acronym for 7 ideation & thinking techniques, (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse, credited to Bob Eberle.
  7. Robin Sharma, is a Canadian writer and leadership speaker, best known for his The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari series.
  8. Root Cause Analysis, (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.
  9. HBS, is Harvard Business School.

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Entrapped!

Entrapped!

Glimpse of the ugly side of Design assignments professionals need to be wary of, while they quench their quest for the best.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

Entrapped_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Mac: What's the job? 

Gin: Like the wise man said: first we try then we trust.

Catherine Zeta-Jones (Gin) in 1999 American film, Entrapment, lures Sean Connery (Mac) into a high profile robbery, building a mysterious appeal to the “Job”. Now, Designers are not con artists, but as a professional species, they do get lured now and then into assignments that seemingly appear exciting, but the full picture is never to be seen or shown.

One of the definitions about fresh Design is creating the “new” and for design professionals this is always an exciting proposition. As professionals itching to contribute with better design, we are always looking for challenges. While seeking opportunities to design is a fundamental trait of a good design professional, there are few situations that one must be on the look out to avoid.

Carpetbaggers

“We would like a full presentation,” said the corporate manager on the phone call, “Please submit your understanding, strategy & design creative. Our MD will personally select the Design agency. We have called 7 firms to present & pitch”.

Brand & Product managers do have a need to evaluate design firms, choose the best their business aligns with and it is their right to do so. However, it is difficult to understand full scope presentations that are not paid pitches. In their bid to garner projects many design firms fall prey to such requests.

The biggest resource in possession of a design team is “consulting time”. By participating in unpaid work, a design team takes huge risk with its most precious resource, “Time”. Beyond bleeding the firm of its earnable time, such risks end up providing opportunist clients with a bag full of free approach options and most importantly encourages a culture of free work, lowers respect for effort & intellectual property rights.    

Comatose Client

Any designer or Design team’s worth is the projects they have managed to successfully complete. Key to such successful execution of a design project is the quality of decision making from stakeholders.

Family feuds, multiple project ownerships, inter-department rivalry, not involving other teams, changing roles or business focus, financial woes and such other conditions can stall decision making at crucial junctions and simply hang seemingly good projects.

Though design effort may get compensated financially in such conditions, there is low satisfaction with design teams and usually it is a wasted design effort. Stalled projects disturb team schedules, lower morale and usher a general disinterest as time flies along. Since such projects see partial execution, there is little learning and takes a toll on meaningful design experience that one may have gained.  In the long run, such projects start bleeding finances.

 

It pays to evaluate & understand the decision maker while signing up for a project. How strong is the involvement of the decision maker? Which teams will contribute to the success of the project? What is the level of support the design team can expect? Are there any possible party poopers to be expected along the way? What is the level of control on the project to see the project through?  Commitment to time, budgets, approvals, business vision of the project itself needs to be evaluated right before the start. It is Ok for the designer to ask a few questions and spell out any emerging gaps or concerns.

Startup Hiccups

Last few years has seen a proliferation of startups. Most of the startups are design aware, are open to new ways of doing business and looking to differentiate. Designers do find startups as exciting opportunities to work and help them differentiate. Energy of a startup is contagious and working with smaller teams is always engaging & fun.

However, startups do display a few shortcomings especially with funds, resources and limitation of network. Major investments into a project are expected during product execution, launch & promotions. This is one area where most startups stutter to a stall, drying up reserves and most conceptual projects experience prolonged suspension periods. For young designers this is a moment of frustration & disillusionment and for an experienced team it is a loss of productive time & opportunity.

Any professional will tell that time is precious. Time adds to our learning as well as earning. When projects make a designer lose both, time & money, one hopes that the experience gained on the project was worth its while. When projects don’t see light of the day, when success does not surface at business level, in markets and with the user, experience remains on paper.

“It is your job to deliver the project”. This is a favorite punch line of most business managers or CEOs to design teams. It is equally important for designers & design teams to question the stakeholders if they have the wherewithal to support the project from concept to market. Any ambiguous answer to this question must raise a red flag.

As someone said that we must learn to choose our battles that we want to fight, those that are worthy for dying. Similarly, a designer must carefully choose the projects she should be betting design skill & time. And there will be times when on a time trap project, as designers, we must learn to say, thank you, but NO!

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of The Design Alliance Asia & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context: Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress in Gwangju, Korea and is the Product Design Jury, Cannes Lions 2017.

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Incident at a fort!

Incident at a fort!

A moonless midsummer night of 1990 when we had our own tryst with destiny.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

The year was 1989 for certain. Yet, it is unclear when Elephant1 started. No one is sure. Perhaps it was that Design Management module in our fourth year. It could have been one of those countless discussions that excitedly took place on the stair leading to the auditorium or those precious wasted hours at NID2 gate over Chai3. Maybe, a hard date can be inscribed as April 16th. 1989, the day pioneers of the herd landed in Pune with their trunks, hold all & drawing boards. Another date that probably is hard coded is 02 May 1989, date the firm got itself registered as Elephant and a working deed was drawn out by a bemused CA4, who wondered the point of making the deed when Design itself was questionable in his mind.  

As fresh graduates, we saw the bleak landscape that Design in India presented as an opportunity. We were friendly, eager to learn, connect and people around were more than willing to help a fledging professional practice. Elephant survived, and a year later, excited, we plotted to celebrate our one-year of existence in the Indian design landscape. May, 01 1990 was pegged as Elephant Day, maybe it helped that 01st of May was a public holiday5 or in most probability, it was the most convenient average of various dates. 

We finished working late on the 30th. April. Yes, we worked hard those days as we continue the tradition even today. The plan was to pick up five Chicken Tandoori 6 portions, half a dozen bottles of Pilsner beer, hire a Fiat Premier 7(big deal those days, since we has 2 scooters between the five) and head to Sinhagad 8, a 1400AD fort that towers over the city about 30 km from Pune.

The herd started from Pune at about 10:30 in the night. It was a lonely drive up the hill to the base of the fort. There was no one around and we hiked up the fort to find a great spot overlooking the city in the distance. The plan was to see the sunrise from the fort ramparts and celebrate our first year as Elephant.

We celebrated nonetheless, consuming beer, the chicken tandoori, and talked our way through the night. There was no good shelter and we were lying in the open on the wild grass looking at stars.

That night, at that moment, life taught us one of our first lessons. Around 3 am., as breeze grew stronger and a chill set in. It was difficult to remain in the open. We had come unprepared, there was no torch or matchstick and we were in our light summer Tees. By 3:30am, we were shivering.  Rattling our way back to the parking lot, we woke up the cab driver and started our descent back to Pune. The driver, poor soul was obviously sleepy and lost control of the Fiat and the car scrapped against a Bund wall 9 over the valley below. The fiat lost its headlamp, side panel & trims and the driver lost his sleep. We were lucky to be alive.

We never saw the sunrise. I guess, Pune had acquired a new sun, for the next 28 years, all thanks to the lesson at the fort and our bone rattling experience. We got back and laughed. We laugh every year when this incident is remembered and how close we were to having no Elephant in any room at all.

The journey that began so carefree goes on and each year we remember the lessons learnt, adapt and shine on. The Design landscape has flowered and the herd has grown. However, what remain is that spirit, that took us on this carefree journey, and till this day, we get rattled, we learn, most importantly, we laugh and move on. 

Notes

1.     Elephant, is India’s premier design consulting firm

2.     NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

3.     "Chai" is a local term for Indian brewed tea

4.     CA is the short abbr. for Chartered Accountant

5.     01 May is celebrated as Labour day and also Maharashtra Day in India

6.     Chicken Tandoori is grilled Mughlai cuisine recipe made in a traditional open coal oven

7.     Fiat Premier “Padmini” is a version of Fiat 1100 Delight

8.     Sinhagad, a martial fort 30 km south west of Pune

9.     Bund Wall is a small retaining or edge wall


ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a past member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress and is the Product Design Jury, Cannes Lions 2017.

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