Humanscale’s Design Tool for Ergonomic Data

Humanscale is an analog tool used by industrial designers in the 70’s and 80’s as a reference tool to quick human focused data points. It was originally created by Henry Dreyfuss & Associates (HDA), the creators of iconic designs such as the Honeywell thermostat and Bell’s tabletop telephone. Henry Dreyfuss was an advocate for ergonomics and compiled Humanscale because there was no central place for ergonomic data. For example, if you wanted to know the dimensions of the average North American man’s leg, you could reference military records. Another example is that they learned that the average height of a fedora was 2 inches, which would be important when considering door measurements.

MIT stopped producing them in the mid 1980’s and they became a collectors item. Now, IA Collaborative, a global design consultancy created a Kickstarter to reprint Humanscale. Their long-term plans are to also create an interactive interface for this data.

Overview of the 9 selectors:

You can slide the selector to adjust data points for different demographics:

So these selectors can be used to design for a multitude of products.

Why it’s hot: The ability to reference key ergonomic data points is crucial to the design of industrial and digital products. These can be useful tools to many types of designers. In addition, the graphic design of the selectors are really cool! The slider seems very intuitive and fun to interact with. It optimizes how the information is displayed.

Adobe’s Hybrid Color Mixer

Adobe Research and the University of Toronto have created a design and research study to create a new UI element for how digital artists can use color palettes. This new method, called the Playful Palette, provides a digital approach for mixing colors as an artist would with paint. A digital artist would move “blobs” around and be able to mix and change colors with similar principles as with paint. There is also an easy function to adjust colors globally in a document for easy adjustments. This research was A/B tested with the traditional Adobe color picker and the Playful Palette was found to work more seamlessly into artist’s creative flow. Here is the study from this project.

Why It’s Hot: While this element may or may not be integrated into the Adobe suite, this study shows the research and brainstorming that is going into furthering improve digital artist and illustrators’ user flows. Again, like with the introduction of many interfaces, we see that a skeuomorphic interpretation holds value to the ways in which users are used to working with digital interfaces.

Repackaging the Pill

This week, 99% Invisible, a podcast about the unnoticed design that shapes our world, released an episode called “Repackaging the Pill” about this history of birth contorl packaging. The episode details out the history of the birth control pill as a new option for women in the 1960’s. The episode focuses on one of the most iconic birth control packaging designs: the round plastic disc that opens up like a makeup compact.

Originally, birth control pills were packaged in regular jars like other medications. This posed a customer experience problem where it was difficult for women to remember if they had forgotten to take a pill or not.

One couple, Doris and David Wagner, who has four children and were not looking to have any more, wanted to come up with a better solution. Since David was an engineer, he created a prototype on a piece of paper that showed a calendar and put a pill on each day. However, if there was an accident, the paper and the pills could fall. This led him to create the first prototype of the circular birth control packaging, which would hold the pills in place.

Since there was still skepticism from male doctors whether women could be trusted to remember to take their pills correctly, this packaging was marketed as a “fool-proof” method to taking the pill correctly. This is reflected in the advertising at the time, which addresses only men, and talks distantly about the real users–women.

Lastly, the episode discusses how there were hearing about the undisclosed side effects of the birth control pill. Ultimately this lead to the inclusion of the fine print information that is now included in all medication packaging.

Why it’s cold and hot: This history is clearly problematic in many ways and illuminates the deep misogyny that was present in our very recent past (and still is). While it’s terrible to see the language of these ads, it’s interesting to understand the perspective and audience that was being targeted. By better understanding our history, we can of course be better equipped to think critically about the ways in which we talk about and design for users.

From a user experience perspective it is also interesting to see the prototype and interation process that was used to develop the packaging for an everyday object.

The Chairless Chair Exo-Skeleton

While most office workers are stuck in chairs or transitioning to standing desks, there is still a sizable portion of the population that work in manufacturing that require standing for long lengths of time. This exoskeleton allows those workers to sit/lean to relieve pressure and provide additional support when they are in bending, crouching and squatting positions.

Why it’s hot: This seeming futuristic solution to physical constraints in working environments can provide ergonomic support to prevent occupational health and safety issues. The adjustable and adaptable nature of the exoskeleton allows for different shapes and sizes. As more and more jobs are being automated, there are still tasks that are more efficient to be completed by people and ways to support those workers with available technology. The advancement in 3d printing technology and exoskeletons open a lot of possibilities for the future of manufacturing.

How Culture Impacts How We Draw Circles

As discussed in a previous hotsauce, Google released “Quick, Draw” this past November, which prompts users to draw an object in 20 seconds. This game data is then used to teach algorithms how humans draw. There have been over 50 million drawing collected to date.

The data has been synthesized, specifically basic shapes, and which way people from different countries draw them. “Americans tend to draw circles counterclockwise. Of nearly 50,000 circles drawn in the US, 86% were drawn this way. People in Japan, on the other hand, tend to draw circles in the opposite directionOf 800 circles drawn in Japan, 80% went clockwise.”

The researchers’ theory is that different writing systems influence which direction we draw circles. Here are some examples of Japanese and Arabic characters and the directions they are drawn.

Why It’s Hot: While this study does not reveal any huge life-changing new discoveries, it provides a dataset that supports more detail about the ways in which our culture subconsciously impacts how we do things. At a time when more and more things are on touch screens and keyboards, we still carry earlier cultural impacts in how we interact with interfaces. Knowing this information can further help designers better understand interactions that will come naturally to users from different cultures.

Fed40 Food Delivery Program

With the advent of home delivery meal kits like Blue Apron and the recent sale of Whole Foods to Amazon, there has been much talk about food delivery. While these companies target Americans who can afford healthy and interesting meal combinations, there are about 13% of Americans who are unsure of where their next meal with come from. The non-profit, Feeding Children Everywhere, has created a simplified version of the pre-portioned meal kit which they are calling Fed40. Users can sign up on the Fed40 app or website for 40 shelf stable meals within one business day. They must provide their address and how many family members live in their residence. The best part is that it’s free!

They are currently offer one meal, Red Lentil Jambalaya. This meal can be shipped without an ice pack, which saves on shipping costs and can easily be adjusted at home to include additional spices or ingredients.

Feeding Children Everywhere thinks of this solution as a stop gap, and wants to encourage participants to take advantage of their local federal and state support programs. If participants sign up 4 or more times for this program they will be contacted to ensure they are aware of all the other support services in the area.

Why it’s hot: Feeding Children Everywhere has taken a home delivery meal kit craze and turned it into something that can serve the sizable population of people who are lacking resources in this country. While the program aims to address this problem, the organization also acknowledges that there is still more than needs to be done to support these families. Therefore they can also act as a hub where participants can learn about the other support programs in their area. However, there still seem to be some issues that go unaddressed. It would be interesting to conduct user research to gather insights about how people would use this service, how it improves their experience and what pain points are still unaddressed.

Spray-On Skin

While spray-on tans have been around for years, spray-on skin seems to be on the horizon. RenovaCare has developed a “Cell Mist” that sprays stem cells onto burn wounds. This process is more effective in regrowing skin that functions as the original skin did and is much less painful and faster.


Why it’s hot:

  • It’s less painful, faster and more efficient than skin grafting. Overall a great development for burn victims.
  • We tend to focus on tech gadgets made of metal and microchips, but this example reiterates what advancements in medical tech can do.
  • It’s interesting that they chose a spray gun to dispense the stem cells. I wonder what the design process looked like and what other options they considered. What other types of designs will we see and this type of technology evolves?

Lighting Up Creativity With Play-Doh

“Tech Will Save Us”, a UK based company making kits that spark the creative imagination of young people using hands on technology. They recently started a Kickstarter for 3 sets of interactive toys that allow kids to bring Play-Doh to life with light, sound, and movement.There is an accompanying tablet app that features stories and projects kids can engage with.





Why It’s Hot: 

Other than the fact that it is awesome for kids to learn STEM principles at an early age, this technology incorporates hands-on play. It let’s kids be kids and experiment while providing cool features that opens possibilities for their creations.

The design of the kit is minimal and the user interface of both the toy and app seems simple and clear.

Bringing Vellum to E-ink

How many times have you heard people say they don’t read e-books because they “like the feel of a real book.” Is it the weight, act of flipping through pages, or the type layout? Vellum is a new company selling software to make prettier e-books (with an option for paperback layouts as well). Users can easily build, style, preview, generate, and update their e-books.

Why it’s hot: There is something about e-books that feels like it is missing to physical book lovers. An attempt to bring well designed text layout seems like as good a place as any to improve.

Why it’s cold: Even with better layouts and visuals there is still no e-book solution that quite matches the feeling and smell of flipping through the pages of a worn book.

Changing the Paradigm for Presidential Libraries

Obama recently revealed the concept designs for his presidential center in Chicago’s Jackson Park. This design differs greatly from previous presidential libraries in that it focuses less on a physical library as a storehouse to tell the story of his presidency, but rather as a community center that will feature green space in the city and as a hub for events.

Why It’s Hot: 

This center has reimagined what presidential libraries are and what they could be. As we dive into a more digital world, our needs will continue to evolve.

Texting Therapy For Trauma

MindRight is a new non-profit startup aiming to help high school aged students recover from trauma through text-messaging. They rely on volunteers (who go through training)  to target actionable ways to treat students’ trauma. This solution came from a Stanford D-school research project about how to best cater to high school students needs. Through this research they found that students are more comfortable communicating through the anonymity of text messages. MindRight uses AI not to communicate with students, but rather to suggest resources for coaches to help students and to help track the students.

Why it’s hot: This is a good example of using a design thinking research process to identify a product solution that is targeted to a specific user groups’ needs. It also is an interesting way to capitalize on AI technology advances, but prioritize human contact and communication.

Surrealist Experiment in Digital Books

A Universe Explodes is a new type of digital book that builds off the of the idea of limited edition physical books, but using technology. A Universe Explodes starts as an e-book with 128 words per page. The original “owners” of this limited edition can share it with their friends, but must delete two words on each page and add a new word on each page. As the digital book gets passed from more and more people the book ends up transforming in many ways and ultimately will end up with 1 word per page. Users not invited to partake in the editing of the book can view any of the versions of the book online.

Why it’s hot: This project is like a contemporary surrealist experiment. While unclear if this type of project would actually be enjoyable to read, it does sound like a fun way to push the boundaries of our ideas of book publishing and reading in the digital age.

The Future of 3D Printed Sneakers

Carbon and Adidas have been experimenting and prototyping with 3D printing, specifically how it can revolutionize the sneaker sole. Addidas’ latest sneaker, the Futurecraft 4D, has a mid-sole made from the process called “Continuous Liquid Interface Production”, where the design is pulled out of a vat of liquid polymer resin, and molded into the desired shape with ultraviolet light.

Why it’s hot: 

  • 3D printing shoes will allow for more customization which will allow for better a better experience and performance for users.
  • Carbon, the company who developed the Continuous Liquid Interface Production process, started by developing better 3d printed parts, and then evolved to designing and producing applications for this new 3d printing process.

Why it might be cold:

  • Will all these 3D printed products end up in a landfill? Hopefully the companies at the forefront of 3D printing will figure out ways to recycle or reuse the plastic used for this process.

Mindfulness In Motion

Sway, a new meditation app, uses a phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to guide meditation sessions that focus on slow, constant, deliberate movement. The idea is that this motion brings a user into a meditative state of calm.

Why it’s hot:

  1. Sway is letting users interact with their phones in a different way than just touching the screen. Therefore, users can implement their meditation practice in less conventional situations such as walking or sitting on a bus.
  2. The app is encouraging users to take their faces out of their screens, but use those screens to be more in tune with their mind and body.

Magic Calendar

Kosho Tsuboi, a Japanese product designer from Google’s Android Experiment program has designed a “Magic Calendar”. This physical calendar is made from similar technology as Kindle e-ink. The “Magic Calendar” syncs with a users’ smartphones and can combine multiple users’ calendars. Tsuboi believes users will be compelled by integrating their digital calendar with a physical product that mimics the hand-feel that we associate with touching paper.

Smart Calendar


Why it’s hot: As technology and design continue to evolve, analog and digital products will begin to interact on deeper and deeper levels. It is exciting to think of the ways in which an analog and digital product would interact and how that will impact how the user utilizes the product and the seamless integration into everyday lives.