Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 15th, 2015

Design: Got necessarily be evidence-based. Design is basically relevant to a human factors need

Note: Finally, an article that explicitly mentions Human Factors in Design

Dr Dan Jenkins leads the human factors and research team at DCA Design International, working on a range of projects in domains including medical, transport, consumer goods and industrial products.

Lisa Baker is a Chartered Ergonomist of the CIEHF and senior human factors researcher at DCA Design International.

Here, in advance of an interactive workshop they will present at Design Council, they discuss the necessity of designing from a strong evidence base.

Design is rarely a solitary exercise.

Despite perceptions brought about and perpetuated by celebrity designers, most products are developed by teams.

The reason is that many products, like planes, trains or automobiles, are simply too complex to be designed by one person alone. (And the more complex the system the worse in safety)

Even if they had the time, very few individuals have the required breadth and depth of skills, knowledge and attitude required to consider all aspects of the design.

For products of any notable complexity, the idea that a single individual could fully research the product, it’s context of use and commercial market, develop a concept, engineer it, test it, select materials and suppliers, and manage production transfer is simply a fantasy.

When it comes to working in teams, it’s not enough to be confident in one’s own convictions. If the best designs are to be developed, it is imperative that each member of the team is able to explain the rationale for the decisions they make and convince others.

The most beautiful products, like works of art, elicit physiological responses: upon first sight, pupils dilate and heart rate quickens.

The strongest brands can have the same impact.

Users often place greater trust in these objects, they care for them and take time to use them effectively.

But initial responses can also be fickle.

How do we ensure that users not only remain engaged with products but can also use them to enhance system performance? Or simply put, how do we create beautiful things that also work beautifully?

Evidence-based design is a key component in developing better things. It’s a philosophy that’s critical for ensuring the team have a common objective and rationale for decision making when working in large multidisciplinary teams.

And Measurement is a critical part of this.

This kind of approach is something that a select few do intuitively. They create compelling arguments for a vision of the future and they have the authority or the gravitas to set a course that others follow.

For most though, some form of systematic structure usually helps.

Fortunately, the human factors tool kit is jam-packed with methods and techniques ready to be used.

These methods range from ethnography and contextual enquiry to more data driven approaches that are able to quantify aspects of system performance such as efficiency, effectiveness, resilience, intuitiveness, usability and inclusiveness.

These approaches can also form the basis for ideation, providing inspiration and information for product improvements.

Ultimately a concise, well-supported argument for change is critical in ensuring that human factors are considered and communicated to a wide range of stakeholders.

This may include those within the design team as well as end users, regulators, maintenance staff, sales and marketing, as well as those involved with construction and decommissioning.

This way we can ensure that we are designing products and services that go beyond initial aesthetic appeal to enhance wider system performance.

A useful chart that maps the key factors in ensuring a strong evidence base for ergonomic design.

Dan Jenkins and Lisa Baker will be presenting an interactive workshop on these ideas at the Ergonomic Design Awards on 22 September at the Design Council. The workshop will introduce a range of human factors tools and explain how they can be used to build, inform, and present a compelling business case for change that leads to better products and greater system performance.

A second workshop will also be presented which examines how designers can ensure inclusivity into later life, and how we design for physical issues of ageing and cognitive impairments such as dementia, for example.

Find out more about these workshops or, alternatively, please contact James Walton on 07736 893 347 or at

More to read on Human Factors designs

  1. On interfaces
  2. Message of HF discipline
  3. How HF fits in Engineering curriculum?
  4. Taxonomy of methods in HF
Dr Dan Jenkins leads the human factors and research team at DCA Design International, working on a range of projects in domains including medical, transport, consumer goods and industrial products. Lisa Baker is a Chartered…


Nassim Nicholas Taleb posted this August 8, 2015

A lot of the discussions we’ve had here can be framed with the difference between “satisficing” (an old Northumbrian word meaning “good enough”) and “optimizing” (meaning always try to do better).Clearly, as with everything we think both modern and relevant, this was present in the classics in the various discussions of the difference between moderation and greed, particularly in virtue ethics.

The great polymath Herbert Simon posited that systems cannot really optimize;

I have held that optimization leads to nonlinear increase in hidden risks (the fragility arguments) which invariably blows up the apparatus.

Simon was hated by economists (he got their “Nobel”) because all their methods consist in optimizing (the easy mathematical route).
In human relationships we can’t optimize without becoming greedy selfish unethical crooks.

And in commerce we prefer relations to transactions, ready to support the local butcher because we feel we are part of a community and we are not alone –we are paid back with a smile and someone who says hello in the street.

Indeed the central flaw in optimization is thinking that “everything else” ceases to exist and makes people think the individual, not the collective, is the true unit –when such thinking blows up the system (or fake local rationality as opposed to more organic, collective, survival of the system broader type of “rationality”).

But the true discussion is the Procrustean Bed standpoint: from an existential reason, we humans are punished when we try to optimize, as if we suddenly ceased to be humans.

Friends, comments are welcome (provided they conform to the rules, i.e., add to the discussion).

Note 1: Can’t Optimization be applied to Virtue Ethics? If we can create a measuring scale for the taxonomy of virtue Ethics?

Note 2: I am pleased to read this new perspective on optimization.

In 1975, I had an MS in physics and wanted to leave my home-country that plunged in a civil war. The list of engineering fields mentioned Industrial Engineering”and I wondered: “Why not? I crave something with hand-on knowledge. Like drawing and designing objects, equipment and “system”as it was later called. It turned out that discipline had nothing to do with design or had any lab courses, but  mainly optimizing production, inventory…

We had to deal and resolve sets of constraints along with an optimization function. It was no brainer mathematically, but we had to solve tedious equations by hand.

Lucubration and conjectures in Cosmology

I am bombarded lately with streams of documentaries about the Universe, its creation, White Dwarfs, Black Holes, Neutron Stars, Big Bang, Expansion of the universe…

Apparently, our Sun demise is to be reduced to a White Dwarf.

Actually, these documentaries implicitly are related to our current universe we live in.

And I assume that the Big bang is meant to explains our current universe, as if there are no other existing universes (No see: Forget it)

Although I have an MS in physics and had taken courses in nuclear physics, relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic physics, and a lab in the half-lives of radioactive materials… I feel that I need to construct my own model due to the confusion in the various stories.

What set me into developing this conjecture was the existence of organic molecules in the universe.

Kind of these molecules got attached to asteroids and other solid bodies wandering around the sun and eventually crossing our atmosphere and a few of them smashing on earth and giving life.

And I wondered: “Exclusive Fusion processes could not generate organic matters. There must have existed a series of fission processes before the Big Bang, or later on among the solid bodies in the universe”

I learned how denser chemicals transform from hydrogen and helium, but I cannot fathom how organic molecule can be created by these hot fusion processes among the core of the atoms.

Here is my story:

  1. There are many universes.
  2. Two or three universes clashing to create a new universe do Not necessarily disintegrate: They still exist along side the new universe.
  3. Black Holes are representatives of the other existing universes and may play like a passage-way (worm) from this universe to the other universes. Black Holes conglomerate according to the rule of affinity of same matters from the original universe.
  4. There are no beginning or end in the creation of the universe: Just a series of cycles from mainly a dark universe (constituted mostly of dense matters) into a universe with lights (lighter matters)
  5. I might as conceive of an initial phase of denser universes that collided and created lighter masses by fission processes. The lighter masses created light by fusions processes.
  6. The expansion of our universe is meant to go and meet the other universes in order to start a new phase of creation of other universes.
  7. The origin of the universe is but a conjecture to satisfy our logical mind in forming mental model of our surrounding
  8.  There are no reasons why earth should be the only place for living organisms
  9. Other planets could have environments that sustain other various living organisms, Not necessarily identical to us.




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