Dreams to liveable wonderlands...

Dreams to liveable wonderlands...

Deepika Nidige, May 20, 2016

Dreams to liveable wonderlands...

What use is a beautiful chair if sitting on it gives you a backache? Similarly, what purpose would a table serve if it has a wobbly leg? The objective of ergonomics for long now has been to optimise comfort. So, how significant a role does this play in everyday life? Nirav Shah, architect and industrial designer at the Interio division of Godrej & Boyce Co Ltd answers some of these important questions in an email interaction with Deccan Herald.

Excerpts:

For how long has ergonomics been an integral part of the commercial furniture manufacturing process?

Ergonomics has always been an integral part of furniture since the sole purpose of product design is to provide user comfort and enhance overall experience. For example, we had these cantilevered tubular chairs that used to slightly flex. In a simple way, it would comfort the user through its breathable cane weaving seat and back, while regulating body temperature and providing a cushioned feel.

To what aspects of furniture design can this be applied?

The concept of ergonomics can be applied at the product design and development stage through considerations such as comfort, ease of use, functional adherence, visual and tactile feel, load and force limitations and safety and hygiene, assuming complete product life cycle across all target user groups. This means that aspects of dimensional and performance requirements become critical parts at the design stage. Certain manufacturing process certifications also support to consistently maintain the design intent for every manufactured piece. The benefit of using ergonomic products has a direct
impact on the wellbeing of the user. It also improves safety and contributes hugely to enhancing productivity.

Tell us about the role of colours...

The visual and tactile experience is one aspect of ergonomic design. The product’s colour or interfacing surfaces, and effect of lighting plays an important role in the emotional and overall experience of users. The role of colour in product design is quite diverse from usage — such as, creation of variety for personalisation, to accentuate features, to elevate moods, to divide work zones, to mark caution signs and to highlight product semantics and speak out loud about the user’s personality.

What is the importance of leaving a lower environment footprint?

We are living in a world of limited resources. It is high time every individual or organisation takes action in their own ways. Lowering the environmental footprint of each product is not only important, but also a mandatory requirement during product design. There is enough awareness being created, but more can be done to implement green design ideas.

The process of marrying technology with interior designing...

Technology is a wonderful tool that can make a user’s life more productive and comfortable. A vast variety of materials and processes are available in India and abroad to explore new applications, supporting creation of latest product solutions. Specially engineered raw materials, precision manufactured components and achieving freedom in creating forms through 3D printing has become commonplace now and is widely accessible to the Indian furniture industry in general.

The validation of design with respect to performance even before tooling through finite element analysis (FEA) softwares help stretch our design thinking and optimise the usage of materials towards greener product output. The 3D visualisation softwares help customers take a virtual tour of their space designed by us giving better insights into making their dreams into real liveable wonderlands.

Design development through user observation...

Observing people and their activities are a part of our initial research stage during the design process. Gaining insights into user activities helps us increase our differentiating edge over others. Being connected to users and deriving user insights help designers build ideas, which are more meaningful and aligned with their expectations and latent needs.

How does one draw a balance between functionality and aesthetics? Does there have to be a compromise?

This reminds me of a good, old term, ‘Form follows function’. Today, aesthetics has matured much beyond only following the function and now they both go hand in hand. Both functionality and aesthetics should serve the same purpose of delivering superlative user satisfaction. I don’t believe a compromise is necessary today with the advent of technology tools available to us. But if you need to make a choice, I would again begin from the drawing board.

How does the role of ergonomics differ with respect to residences and offices?
The principles remain the same since the core purpose of ergonomics is to enrich the quality of the user’s life through a well-made design. Differences can emerge between mass manufacturing of a product to specifically developing a product for a given user. In design for the masses, we need to consider gender, body-types, age and other anthropometric diversities. While in a single piece made for a client or family, it caters to the specific needs of that user.

Furniture design for a residence can also be a challenging task since it has to cover broad age groups — right from children to adults and senior citizens residing in the same house and using the same product. Considerations and study of product life and use/misuse conditions for activities performed in a residence or in an office may also vary. Therefore, there needs to be proper research before designing.

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