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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The word Ergonomic derives from the Greek word ἔργον, or ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws. Ergonomics describes the scientific study of the efficiency of man in his working environment. This relation of interaction between humans and other elements of a system can apply to theories, principles, data and methods of design. These interactions are all done for the purpose of optimizing a human’s well-being and overall system performance. The main goal of ergonomics is to strive for the most efficient and comfortable working environment to work within and around.

The first use of the word appeared in 1949, when a group of people decided to form a new society, whose name was the ‘Ergonomics Research Society’. They focused on the development and discovery of knowledge that concerns the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices. These discoveries are done to find the most ergonomic way of design. The society emerged during Wold War II, as a result of the wok and experience from many specialists who were involved in the current manned systems of that time. These systems included those operating on the Earth’s surface, underwater, and in space. Their research is very important for situations where humans are typically not in a comfortable or familiar environment, such as outer space or under the sea, and so the ergonomics behind the design of a space can become extremely useful tools.

The skill of reaching an ergonomic environment is very important to achieve human resourcefulness and usefulness. Ergonomists, who are the practitioners of ergonomics, those who study work and how work is done and how to work better, try to achieve this goal through design. When designing an object, it should suit most needs of the user, both structurally and aesthetically.

When designing a home environment, for example, an architect needs to take into account the most comfortable and efficient ways of working around a space, but still maintain an interesting design to the area. In a kitchen, for example, there needs to be enough space to move around freely, but still be able to reach to different cabinets, drawers and utilities with ease and frequency. An ergonomic innovation for kitchen space is the kitchen work triangle, where the three major working functions of a kitchen, which are the refrigerator, the sink and the stove, are in close proximity to each other but not close enough to make someone feel contained and uncomfortable, so they are able to work efficiently in the space. 

"Ergonomics". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press.

‘Ergonomics and Human Factors: Designing for People’. November 2012.  http://www.ergonomics.org.uk/learning/what-ergonomics/ (accessed November 20, 2012).

‘Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: History’.  2011. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. http://www.hfes.org/web/AboutHFES/history.html (accessed November 20, 2012).

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