A pain in the rear: new graduates' understanding of ergonomics in design

In a university context it is important to understand and appreciate prior learning and attitudes when planning teaching and learning experiences. This paper presents a study undertaken with new industrial design undergraduates with particular reference to their knowledge and application of ergonomic principles in a design task. Design teams of 3 students were established and given the task of mind mapping their approach to the design of a new bicycle seat. The mind maps were analysed in relation to the general fields emerging (e.g. initial ideas, research, materials and ergonomics). Follow up interviews were held to explore issues raised in more depth. Findings indicate only an extremely basic level of understanding of ergonomics was demonstrated, which primarily focused on anthropometrics. Teachers appear to focus only at this level and students who have a deeper understanding of ergonomics are achieving this via personal interest and resources outside the classroom. Conclusions are drawn relating to teaching and learning ergonomics within undergraduate industrial design courses.