Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite Ships

Here are my favorite ships and boats - a light-hearted appreciation for spectacular craft for a variety of reasons.

Gokstad, built just right for the times. Hopefully more for cargo than raiding.

The Stag Hound was an extreme clipper, maybe not as famous as Flying Cloud but what a beautiful revolution!

The Normandie was an Art Deco inspired transport with an amazing attention to design details that made this a grand floating experience. I love the poster too!

The Jahre Viking went under different names but what a beast she was, made during a time of  the gigantism of the Boeing 747 and Sears Tower.  564,000 dwt, 1500 feet long (458 m), draft of 80 feet (24.6 m). Wow!

I always loved the "snekke". A double-ender as she should be in this North Sea environment - and appropriate for their slow speed.

This is my Malaysian fishing boat design. Beautiful in my eyes....

Friday, December 22, 2017

Colorful Words

The meeting of blue and red on the color wheel has always bothered me because it is illogical in terms of light frequencies. The relationships described by the color wheel are helpful but I don’t think people think about color enough.

The sky is blue because of Rayleigh scattering. But that is the type of physics “instruction” I hate – just give a name to a phenomenon and move on. What does that do for me? Now I have a name, I still don’t understand what is going on. Descriptive not explanatory - very unsatisfying.

Sunrises and sunsets provide beautiful colors because of the distinctive colored photons produces by the Sun. The Sun produces tons of photons at distinctive frequencies like in a rainbow.  We call them colors if they fall in the frequencies to which our eyes happen to be sensitive. White light is produced by the mixture of these colors, the Sun is not generating white light. Although from space it looks white, just like any other star, because we mentally recombine the distinctive colors.

Why does the Sun appear yellow to us? It appears this way because the shorter frequency (blue) light gets scattered more in the atmosphere than lower frequency colors. The blue is subtracted from the light produced by the Sun as it makes its way to your eyes. Because it is missing some blue – stolen to make the blue sky—the Sun appears yellow.

The physiology of our eye is such that we see a range of frequencies with a peak in the middle as the typically three types of photoreceptors have peak sensitivity above at and below the green frequency. A tiny percentage of people are tetrachromats and have four photoreceptors. There view of the world is so rich that they don’t have language to describe it. A tiny percentage of the people have various types of colorblindness and they too see the world differently than most.

The blueness of the sky changes with how much atmosphere you are looking through, that is why it is darkest straight overhead. The atmosphere is a blue filter. When painting a sky, you lay down white paint at the horizon and blue at the top of the canvas and blend them together.

Our eyes are picking out frequencies and our brain combines them so we don’t see reddish green but we do see yellow. What we see is illuminated by incoming light, from the Sun, the sky, a lamp and reflections from all sorts of surface. This makes the study of color and its portrayal in art very interesting. And humbling. Our physiology is different so we might be seeing different things. When Monet when through his “blue period”, he may have been less able to see blue and therefore intensified that hue. How do we use words to explain the colors we see? Why is the sky darker outside a rainbow than inside? What I see in my painting might not be what you see.

The color pictures from Mars Rover are a spectacular reminder that the sky is not blue on Mars. Instead, it has colors that have been described as everything from "orange-pink" to "gray-tan", as was discovered in the 1970s by the Viking landers. This is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin and dusty, and atmospheric light scattering is dominated not by the molecules of gas (in the case of Mars, mostly carbon dioxide) but by suspended dust particles. These are larger than the wavelengths of visible light, and they are reddened by iron oxide, like Martian soil. It's not just Rayleigh scattering, so the power spectrum is different.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Medical Care on the Edge: Redesigning Care Across Cultures

This is a portion of my talk on technology and palliative care. I presented along with two great physicians, Drs. John Boll and Alex Nesbitt.
Let’s first consider the development of both human expertise and technology. If we posit the notion that the ability of medical personnel has improved over time to get closer to some notion of perfection we can also then consider that technology, in a general sense, has improved also. In many cases the technology has helped the doctors, in some cases advances in understanding have helped doctors. However, in the end doctors do not achieve a level of perfection, and technology will never be able to completely replace doctors, which is something we will consider later.
When we consider medical care for resource poor areas we have three approaches: more healthcare providers, technology assisted care, and autonomous care. I want to explore the notions of technology assisted and autonomous care. We can get defensive about autonomous medical care but this inquiry relates to places that don’t enjoy the medical infrastructure that we do.
For example, with a Mars mission, we may have to rely on a lot of technology and minimally trained personal. In Boston, you trip over doctors. We naturally resist technology’s incursion into medical care because people recognize the empathy and sacrificial attributes brought by real people. However, technology can, at the least, assist doctors in diagnoses and the development of a patient care plan.
One element of technology I would like to talk about is artificial intelligence, which mimics human knowledge and cognition. It can use rules of thumb and learning capabilities to make recommendations. It can also include sensing technologies that mimic human abilities from seeing to speaking.
It uses rules of thumb, called heuristics, and confidence factors to come up with a conclusion. That is what these IF/THEN and CF statements represent. But machines can’t handle problems that haven’t been thought of, they can’t think of “what if”.
Some appealing prospects for resource poor areas are to use an artificial intelligence system to suggest a diagnosis and treatment using a dialogue with the health care provider or family member, which I will call the “small black box”. A grander approach is to use a system of AI that learns about the patient over time, often called deep learning, as well as other inputs. I will call this the “big black box”.
The small black box uses patient signs and symptoms and rule-based/heuristic analysis to generate a suggested patient treatment plan.

However, let’s consider what could occur beyond using rules of thumb for diagnosis. Neural networks allow software to learn by identifying patterns from a mass of data. They have been used in the financial world for a long time but how far can they extend into medicine? A recent article in Nature illustrates the potential for these deep learning machines to go beyond heuristics.
The researchers considered melanoma diagnoses. This diagnosis is typically guided by rules described by the mnemonic: ABCD. Where they consider asymmetry, borders, color and diameter of the lesions.

Researchers went beyond rule-based diagnoses by using 14,000 images previously diagnosed by dermatologists. Could an AI system categorize the images as benign lesions, cancerous lesions and non-cancerous growths? The AI system was accurate 72% of the time.
This work was followed up by a test set of 2,000 biopsy proven images. These were fed into the neural network. They compared the computer findings with dermatologists’ conclusions.
This graph shows the performance of the neural network system versus dermatologists. You can see the wide range of assessments by the dermatologists but generally the AI algorithm was superior.

However, I recognize this might be considered a simple, visual evaluation far different then the variegated nature of pain and palliative care.
I would like to introduce an autonomous diagnosis and treatment system that is a futuristic concept but offers potential in resource poor areas. This system would use the small black box AI system with its heuristics and patient inquiries along with non-invasive measurements. In this big black box, the system receives patient signs and symptoms every year and learns about the individual patient. By this process, the black box learns about the peculiarities of the patient and can recommend additional required procedures or treatment plans.
Noninvasive evaluations would obtain data from head to toe, perhaps including brain imaging along the way. What might this look like? Perhaps it is like a space suit or a gelatinous bath. Maybe you would walk around like Darth Vader for an hour, I don’t know.  
However, there is something missing. Namely the patient’s distinctive community and beliefs. Hard data can only go so far. Cultural norms and spiritual needs must be part of the mix. Designers use ethnography to gain this kind of nuanced insight. Ethnography usually relies on observations and interviews to develop a textured understanding of people. This information can also be part of the black box. In this way, the black box can understand the presentation of pain, the importance of dignity, and the elements of faith traditions that might not be otherwise considered in the ‘hard science’ aspect of artificial intelligence.
Ethnographic data is usually obtained by observation and surveys. We are all ethnographers of sorts, we quickly learn to read people and develop insights. For example, this can be summarized by Dr. Nesbitt’s ongoing question for his patients, “what do I need to know about you to so that I might treat you better?”
We all carry our cultural values and past experiences with us. This can make it difficult to see things through someone else’s eyes. For example, consider the arrow hidden in the FedEx logo.
Using AI for patient care does present problems. It can effectively program in prejudice so that the ethnographic data that makes sweeping conclusions such as “a certain population collectively care for the elderly” doesn’t always work. You could well have a case where an elderly person is ostracized for a variety of reasons that ethnographic approaches might not capture.
In addition, data from individuals becomes part of some sort of database that can present a myriad of privacy issues.
Finally, there is the impact of a machine replacing a human in any way. It is an affront to our pride, identity perhaps even dignity.
Therefore we believe that the output of AI, even a comprehensive “big black box” system needs to be moderated by a loving caregiver. Someone who has a relationship with the patient and can deliver automated treatment plans through the affectionate mind of a caregiver.

This is a democratization of medical care where a minimally trained but loving caregivers have the tools to execute a palliative care plan.
Fundamentally we believe that in resource poor areas, the best person for supervising medical care is a person who has a caring relationship with the patient. Technology can act as an adjunct to allow them to do a better job.
People have the distinctive ability to empathize with a patient. We also recognize and appreciate the personal sacrifice given by a caregiver. Additionally, people have the wonderful ability to develop creative approaches that machines will never obtain.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Wisdom from Winnie the Pooh

Milne’s 'Winnie the Pooh' is very wise. My last post was a bit heavy so I thought I would share these pleasant quotations. I found most of these from a forgotten source. The first one I added and is my favorite, although I changed it slightly so it could be one sentence. I’m not a purist about such things.
  1. “My favorite part of the day is when you and me become we.” (Winnie the Pooh to Christopher Robin)
  2. ’’No one can be sad when they have a balloon!’’
  3. ’’The things that make me different are the things that make me.’’
  4. ’’If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear.’’
  5. Piglet: ’’How do you spell ’love’?’’ Pooh: ’’You don’t spell feel it.’’
  6. ’’You are braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem. And smarter than you think.’’
  7. ’’Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.’’
  8. ’’Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.’’
  9. ’’If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.’’
  10. ’’As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.’’
  11. ’’A day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day.’’
  12. ’’Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.’’
  13. ’’Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’’
  14. ’’If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.’’
  15. ’’I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.’’
  16. ’’Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.’’
  17. ’’A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.’’
  18. ’’Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more... to give way to the happiness of the person you love.’’

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Newer School

Industrial design as we know it has ended. Industrial design was the world of stylists who did important work in bringing art and emotion to product design. Now this is only one part of our profession. Maintaining a death grip on the cloistered world of colored markers and beautifully contrived ideation sketches diminishes the power of design.

Are we a profession that makes beautiful objet d’art with a principal aspiration to have curators of the Cooper-Hewitt and Vitra give us top billing in their ‘radical design’ exhibits? Or are we trying to make the world around us a more pleasant, joyful and wonderful place?  All the while earning money for our paying clients?

We are now a discipline that uses material science, engineering, psychology, ethnography, and data science with the same steady hand skills as compressed charcoal. The new generation of designers must reject one hundred ideation sketches as the benchmark for exploration. They must reject overwrought drawings that falsely project a progression from basic forms to finished product. This is old school.

The new school needs to execute designs that perform beautifully and embrace interdisciplinary collaboration with alacrity. We must make designs that don’t bleed a connoisseur’s watermark. Designs that surprise and instill wonder. Designs that satiate aesthetic needs, societal wants, and reflect an individual designer’s passion.

We live in a world of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, networked data and international communications. We must adjust radically while remembering our important legacy of creative exploration, visualization, communal work, critiques, and introspection.

In the new school of design, we need to richly engage emerging technology and sit at the feet of emerging industries. How many more toaster and desk lamp designs do we need? It is much more fun to develop attractive radii than read a paper on neural networks. But hard work and learning beyond the stylus is vital for professional designers.

Those who blend art and other disciplines advance evocative design expressions. They blend the sublime with the scream and the whimsical with the wonderful. There’s a lot more out there, let’s start exploring.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A random selection of good designs

Appreciating excellent designs is more uplifting than criticizing design. In order to balance my criticism of the Mars Rover, I wanted to offer accolades for these designs (none of them are mine.) Searching for what is appealing and useful is a much better pursuit than hunting for dirt.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The cost of art in design

The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle is eye catching art with the imprimatur of space exploration. But does the art in a design like this make a mockery of design? It seems to discard the facts that there is virtually no atmosphere on Mars and the planet's gravitational pull is only 1/3 that of earth’s. Therefore, aerodynamics and center of gravity issues are not too important. The dominant issues are safety and transporting costs to Mars.
Why the swept back windshield? Why not have a more cubic form to ease storage and enhance visibility? Won’t rocks get wedged into the wheel slots? Do the occupants want to see the sky or do they want to collect solar energy? Why the giant steering yoke? Do they want to ensure they don’t hang up the vehicle or do they want to look cool?
Human space travel is inspiring, which has a cultural value. However, it unnecessarily endangers people and wastes money that could be used on real space exploration. Adding this ostentatious hipness to space travel further denigrates it value – even in a concept vehicle that intends to inspire. Won’t some of the clever kids say, “Why is it shaped like a Hot Wheels car?”
We wish to be surrounded by beautiful things. Our aesthetic desires have real value and can be satisfied in design. However, there is a space for the ugly and purely mechanistic. Things that cost millions of dollars per kilogram to transport are one of them.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Designers end up getting all sorts of jobs. I recently visited a former student who was doing fascinating work in set design. It is a great example of merging art, design and engineering.

Jeff was very gracious and toured me and my family around the wonderful sets made at Sight and Sound Theater. It is encouraging to see that people can take largely unconstrained ideas, draw them and then build them in such grand style. They bring much enjoyment to everyone involved.

I’m also impressed by all the attention to detail that is rooted in experience. Knowing where the actors wear out parts, where they actually walk, what parts have to be done with high resolution and which can be simplified.




Saturday, July 1, 2017

Weaknesses in design capability


My last entry had some meandering thoughts about the foundations for disciplines. Here let’s consider addressing design weakness through: 1) technology, 2) techniques or 3) talent (people).
Following are some of my materials (warning shameless self-promotion!) but there are many other sources available. Below are some approaches for common weakness among designers.
Weak at or hateful toward:
Use graphics/rendering programs or scribble sketch.
Model making
Use materials you are comfortable with like clay or foam core.
Work in a group, do creativity exercises, Develop techniques. Make sure you experiment with ideas you have never seen before, create surprise.
Impossibly complex, wicked problems
Check out all the discussion on design thinking:
Material selection
Surround yourself with real materials that you can touch and experiment with. Find favorites such as in my previous blog post:;postID=6130921847858290005;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=10;src=postname
Use software such as Excel (Solver etc.), Matlab or make new friends.

Identifying personal weaknesses in design capability

Disciplines are founded on principium. These are the necessary truths that allow the existence of a discipline. The principium cognoscendi is the ground for the knowledge of a discipline. While it is pretentious to write about principia essendi and cognoscendi, I always feel more comfortable going back to philosophical foundations. Even though principium cognoscendi ties more closely to epistemology than articulating what interdisciplinary actually means in design, it is fun to include these Latin terms because it reminds me of James Joyce’s irritating inclusion of Gaelic in his English writings. This snobbish behavior seemed almost mean to a non-Gaelic speaking person like me. I hold my grudges a long time. So I am joining Joyce’s disenfranchisement parade by using geeky philosophical terms in italics. Perhaps I should write these off putting terms in bold Edwardian script?

In any event, design is interdisciplinary to the extreme. We are working with art, engineering, math, sociology, psychology etc. Designers are not expert at all of these fields. In fact, we are probably weak in some of them. We may be bad at drawing, hate math, or fearful of science.

It is helpful to identify weaknesses and address them through either: 1) technology, 2) techniques or 3) talent (people). For example poor drawing skills can be improved by graphics and rendering software. Techniques such as ethnography can improve empathy and subsequent user centric design. Most importantly, key people can fill voids in abilities such as engineering or psychology. I will elaborate on these in my next post.

The problem with identifying your weaknesses is that you may wear them as a self imposed and enduring tag. It is sad to live your career saying, “I am and always will be bad at math so when I see numbers I run.”  Don’t be that guy.

BTW, ignore the first paragraph. This is why I'm not a journalist. Only a brave few will have gotten to this line...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Material Culture and the Empty Nest

As soon as my son woke up, I ushered him into the kitchen and told him, “wait here.”  I set up the Jimmy Neutron (a cartoon character he loved) walking toy out of sight.  I then gave him a remote control and told him to push the top button. He mashed the button and heard a whirring sound.  He craned his head to see what was going on and soon saw Jimmy emerge from hiding and ‘walked’ into the kitchen.  My son had a beautiful smile and a gift of love was offered.

Yesterday, I stood in my garage holding the dusty gray and orange toy wondering what to do.  My son was now in his second year of college and my daughter was about to go off to college in a few weeks.  I was cleaning the garage and deeply connected with the artifacts around me.  It was in the garage where we built machines and toys, inventions and weapons, boats and carts.  The floor showed epoxy and paint stains from our work.  There were wooden craft projects and gadgets made from all sorts of things.  There were materials that I saved and stacks of broken radio controlled toys that I was going to use “some day.”

Getting rid of these things was sad but necessary as I prepare for the empty nest.  The dusty things I held one more time were valuable because of the memories connected with them. They had attributes that ran deep. I felt the clenching in my stomach as my mind sent the sorrow outward.

An interesting book end to this reflection on my kids’ (and my) building projects is my desire to give gifts.  A few days ago I returned from India and was excited to give the souvenirs I acquired to loved ones.  Giving these items away produced a deep satisfaction that did not make sense.  It seemed to be a completion of a journey and tangible expression of closure.  The same feeling arises when I make gifts – I am excited to give them to their owner.  The excitement doesn’t make sense, my work is not that good.  However, it the communication of love that gives this exchange its value.  I built something with my hands and gave it to the person for whom it was built.  It is a beautiful, nonverbal love song and it imbues the object with a value that is normally preserved for at least a generation. 

Of course we are humbled that sentiment most likely ends up at the discount rack in the antique store.  But not always.  I was at a small library where I used to live and came across some self published poems.  They were beautiful.  They were lost in this tiny library – and who reads poetry anyway?  But we had this conversation across the years and I appreciated the poet’s work.  I keep my grandfather’s binoculars, although I never met him.  It is something to touch.  We need that.  As a Christian, I have to fight the desire to touch God through man made artifacts.

While it seems difficult to experience love without a material object associated with it, we see this in family life where marriage is a relationship that lies well beyond the exchange of rings and children are much more than can be expressed by dusty toys and framed photographs.

The sorrow and reflection of dealing with materials connected to the delightful years of child rearing is fully embraced in the study of material culture.  Material culture attributes cultural identity to material things.  That is, people understand material objects as they have been learned from their culture and one is compelled to understand the relationship between material objects, their meaning, and group identity.  Filial piety can be reflected in how traditions tap into previous generation’s work.  We honor our grandmother with Christmas cookies.

Yesterday in the garage I was not just studying material culture, I was feeling it.  Wow.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Steps towards Integrative Palliative Care in the Developing World

 by Thomas Ask, John Boll Jr and Alexander Nesbitt

Treatment for suffering in low resource areas can benefit from easy access to medicines that treat pain, gasping, terminal secretions, nausea, anxiety, and delirium. Because suffering needs to be contextualized within prevailing cultural forces, individuals with communal connections with the patients must be empowered to administer these medications and provide care giving services. Additionally, designing and developing low cost medical dispensing systems allows a wider range of treatment. Artificial intelligence can be combined with voice recognition for both patient diagnosis and innovative medical products to improve efficacy of treatment.
See the article at:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Design versus science

I typically peer review about two papers a year and I remember a few years ago, I conducted a review of a potentially helpful study on fishing boat air quality and the health of fishermen. It was a good study, with helpful findings. Unfortunately, the sample size was unclear and when I made inquiries, I found it was based on a sample size of one boat and crew. I recommended that this sample size be stated explicitly or the paper be rejected. I believe the paper was withdrawn because it never came back on my docket.

I have long been amazed at the tiny sample sizes used in many studies. This isn’t evil but the potential weaknesses of studies need to be more clearly stated. With the Reproducibility Project finding only 40% of psychology experiments as being verifiable we should all have a cynical eye on how science advances.

It is easy to overwhelm people with copious data and statistical analysis. The process of verifying someone else’s data has zero sex appeal. A.E. Housman opined: "Some individuals use statistics as a drunk man uses lamp posts - for support rather than illumination." I think he was right.

There exists a battle within science. Does is operate in an environment where scientists quickly abandon previous theory in the face of evidence, as Karl Popper would describe?  Alternatively, is it founded on paradigms and group behavior, as Thomas Kuhn would assert? 

Some philosophers (e.g., Kuhn and Feyerabend) have extended this inquiry into the limits of the scientific method. They argue that the outcomes of revolutionary times in science occur when traditional mental models or paradigms are being challenged. Scientists will not abandon a theory based on a single, falsification event. They seek (or await) a new paradigm that accommodates new data; however, they do not do so with alacrity.

Data usually drives paradigms, from ‘grounded theory’ approaches in the social sciences to inferential statistics. However, data, or in a general sense evidence, is a product of data acquisition methods. Evidence is also routed through biases connected with epistemology and context (such as time, environment or other circumstances). Moreover, evidence is routed through paradigms. All of these issues, whether data error or biases rooted in epistemic or context, are a threat to objectivity. The interface of evidence and bias can be summarized by Heisenberg’s assertion that “the world cannot be separated from our perception of it.

Should designers care about scientific philosophy?

Design is an applied science and reflections on the capability and limitations of science are helpful for understanding potential benefits. We can recognize that not all technical advances are orderly and founded on historical developments. Some philosophers (e.g. Paul Feyerabend and Stanislav Grof) would consider the whimsy and chaos of individuals as productive and powerful agents of change. Others (e.g., Richard Rorty) considered some final truth to never be attainable or even desirable, which points back to the 18th century Scottish philosopher, David Hume’s realization of there being no end point in proving scientific theories. He argued that the contentious and muddy world of scientific (and what Kuhn would call pseudo-science) pursuit is good.

However, the necessity of creative forces in formulating new paradigms does not negate the power of the scientific method, from the practical inventions of Thomas Edison to Richard Feynman’s march through theoretical physics. Designers use abductive reasoning with its reliance upon a conclusion of an operating product rather than formal rules and preconditions – the ends justify the means. And they can throw away bad results/conclusions.

Design can seem to be arbitrary – a small whimsical thought can lead a team to pursue an approach that cannot easily be reversed. Is this idea superior or is there something much better that has not been conjured?  Synthesis of ideation and ‘bounded rationality’ will lead to a final concept upon which copious time and talent will be spent.

Designers need science and engineering. Advances in material science, information technology and manufacturing techniques provide our fuel for dramatic change. In the end, we seek to design things that work. The word ‘things’ is used purposely. The 21st century designer is not just designing products — we are designing experiences, interactions and solving systemic problems. We run our hand along the guiderail of science but are not afraid to use our creativity and undefinable abilities in developing design solutions.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ergonomics in a Nutshell

Ergonomic design can be summarized by the following four principles:
  1. Keep body in neutral position.
  2. Accommodate people’s different dimensions.
  3. Recognize strength and dexterity are reduced with arm extension and rotation.
  4. Reduce repetitive motions.
While this seems presumptuous and overly simplistic, I think it is true.  The goal of ergonomic design is to allow interfaces to easily connect with a human. Ergonomic design is not only easier and more comfortable to use but reduces injuries and accidents. The concepts behind ergonomics are rooted in a variety of disciplines such as anthropometry, kinesiology, user psychology, environmental design and interaction design.

Ergonomic design is based on data not intuition. One must specifically avoid the mistake of designing for oneself and assuming it will be satisfactory for everyone else. Moreover, designers should not assume a design for the average person is acceptable to those at the outer ranges. Anthropometric and kinesiologic data are readily available for a wide array of demographics and provide guidance for developing designs that keep the body aligned in the neutral position and offer the appropriate range of customization required.  See for example:

Rules of thumb have also been developed that guide designers in extending data into practical applications such as sight lines, clothing issues and extension/dexterity relationships.

Intuitive usage mapping is an important interaction design concept that can be loosely placed under ergonomic disciplines. Mapping describes the relationship between visual cues and function, such as scissor handle movement mirroring the cutting blade action. When designs are changed, traditional mapping needs to be taken into account so that a new design is approachable by those who have experience with an old design.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The role of industrial design in medical products

A student's journey into medical product design

This was a great example of ethnographic design. Elizabeth was in the operating room gaining insights into the procedure and the cadaver lab developing hands on experience conducting the procedure. She carefully applied art and science to develop this new product. Her work included anthropometric and ergonomic evaluations as well as risk assessments.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Material Selection Cheat Sheet

Designers work in a void.  One of the voids to be filled is selecting appropriate materials.  I have my favorites.  The selection is usually based on performance characteristics such as yield strength and ability to transfer heat.  However, the feel of a material lies beyond conductivity numbers and surface hardness.  Many elements of touch points need to be approached qualitatively.

Material selection is a balance of money, performance and manufacturability. Parts that are not subject to extreme temperatures can usually be made out of plastic, with polyethylene and other commodity plastics at the low end to the ubiquitous ABS on up to high strength, high temperature superstars.  Parts made out of A36 hot rolled steel or gray cast iron are cheap and strong yet we love titanium and gold at the other extreme.

There are natural divisions of material selection based on strength, weight, temperature, thermal and electrical conductivity, production volume and of course cost.  However, at the end of the day you have to pick something so here is a summary of my favorite material types.  This is just a starting point and is largely directed at metals.

  • A36
  • 1018
  • 1040 (high strength)

Chromium (Stainless) Steel
  • 304 (low Chromium)
  • 316 (high Chromium, highly corrosion resistant)

  • 5052 (good choice for flat work, not machining)
  • 2011 (free machining alloy)
  • 2024 (high strength, heat treatable)
  • 6061 (high strength, structural alloy)

  • C36000, Free Machining (machines like butter)

  • ABS (common injection moldable polymer)
  • Low Friction: Delrin (lots of great surface treatments or impregnations are available with many polymers)
  • Epoxies are used in carbon and aramid fiber composites.

Machined Prototype Materials
  • Delrin, Nylon 6/6, brass and aluminum. 
  • Additive manufacturing has changed prototyping approaches and material selection!

Favorite specialty materials
  • Cu-Ni Alloy (Monel, cupro-nickel) and Torlon.