Saturday, August 02, 2008

The tolerance for poorly designed products is decreasing dramatically

Aesthetics and functionality in design ...

"In the time it takes for most of us to settle into a chair, Bryce Rutter, the Canadian-born founder and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based ergonomic-design firm Metaphase Design Group, has deconstructed it, pinpointed its failings and figured out how to make it better.

Rutter's brand of ergonomics, though, isn't of the big, unsightly office-chair variety. Rather, his creations are as style-minded as they are handy, marrying industrial design with kinesiology, both of which he is schooled in.

For the past 25 years, Rutter has been applying his expertise in a slew of industries, overseeing the ergonomic research behind everything from a sleek mouse design for Microsoft in 1993 to spa-inspired tweezers and pedicure products for Revlon.

More recently, he has focused his sights on outdoor grills, designing his own line of compact, eco-friendly barbecues. (See Page 6 for more information.) He is also set to launch a "green" cooking charcoal made from ground coconut shells that give off water vapour.

Paying a visit to Toronto recently, Rutter spoke to Globe Style about the beauty and necessity of good ergonomic design, whether it's for toothbrushes or luxury cars.

When did your interest in ergonomics start?

I had a passion back in college for the human body. And I've always been fascinated with what psychologists know, what surgeons know. I thought it would be powerful and empowering to bring all of these skills and knowledge bases into design and use them to design from the inside out.

Have you noticed more demand for well-designed products?

I think there is a demand. Consumer experience is broader and deeper. Our expectations from one product category are carried over to another one. If you drive a cool car and everything works well and then you pick up, say, a subpar razor, you think: "Hmm, this is lousy. Why can't they do what they did with my car?"

Why aren't ergonomics a more prominent part of residential design?

I can't figure that out. But what's been really neat is that the architectural community is listening more now. For instance, I have been having discussions with people at HOK [the global architectural firm] about the potency of combining ergonomics and industrial design with architecture.

You were involved with some of Oral B's most popular toothbrushes. How did you reconcile ergonomics and aesthetics?

With Reach as well as others, it's really about making the thing work well. We spend a lot of time on that before we worry too much about the aesthetic aspect of a product because it doesn't matter how cool it looks if it doesn't work well."    (Continued via globeandmail.com, Natalia Williams)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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