Design thinking

Recipes for Great Design part 4

Andrew Whitcomb

Ergonomic Assessment

When it comes to the human body, today’s rapid technological developments can have a dramatic impact on both anatomy and cognition. Just because companies can build products, services and systems faster and cheaper doesn’t mean these solutions are always better for users. This is why we incorporate specific methods into our design process: to ensure that solutions fit the form and abilities of the human body – which leads to more beneficial, functional and delightful experiences.

People interact with the world through their bodies, and creating great products requires a deep understanding of how the human body works. At the same time, new designs are an opportunity for innovative types of interactions. The Ergonomic Assessment recipe below shows how we quickly find the perfect balance between older Veryday methods and new ones.

Like Guerilla Research, the Ergonomic Assessment method falls under the part of the design process we call Investigate Contexts, where we seek to understand people and the worlds they inhabit. To read more about Guerrilla Research or the Investigate Contexts phase, see part 3 of this series.

Method 3: Ergonomic Assessment

By combining a thorough analysis of an environment where people work, live or play with an analysis of current products or prototypes, our experts are able to locate points that strain the body. Based on this assessment, we identify factors that have a significant positive or negative impact on user experience and wellbeing.

For a true Ergonomic Assessment, it’s essential to gather input from trained experts. At Veryday, several researchers with backgrounds in Human Factors and Ergonomics evaluate physical, emotional and cognitive interactions people have with products. Typically, we begin by collecting samples of products – both physical and digital – related to a project’s goal. Sometimes we include analogous items that may offer additional insight into the assessment. As a team, we focus on particular features and functions of the sample products, comparing and contrasting how each impacts user experience. Together, we identify the key characteristics that reduce strain, support health and even foster excitement.

One of the oldest methods in our catalog, time and again Ergonomic Assessment reveals consistently valuable insights. Take, for example, our work with Gillette to define what makes a great razor. Ergonomic Assessment played an important role in developing a strong platform for innovation. Comparing razors across markets was a rapid, concrete way to identify key factors that shape the shaving experience, such as balance and grip, but also to pinpoint colors, materials and finishes. By combining Ergonomic Assessment with other qualitative and generative methods, we delivered a solid platform of insights for Gillette to use to ergonomically and culturally enhance razor performance.

Goals and benefits of Ergonomic Assessment

  • A quick, inexpensive and efficient way to assess prototypes and products using expert in-house competencies.
  • Provides clear results and tangible pros and cons for a concept.
  • A good way to test and eliminate concepts early on, which makes later user testing more effective.


  • A report that validates prototypes and products based on expert feedback.

Core activities

  • Depending on the type of project, the team chooses which features and functions to assess: an environment, an activity, a physical or digital product, or a combination of these.
  • The design team collects several existing solutions and potentially rough models or prototypes them.
  • During a short but focused session, the team works with a Human Factors and Ergonomics expert and, preferably, the client, to determine which key features and functions to assess across solutions.
  • Together the group compares and contrasts features and functions across each item to determine a preferred design.

Ergonomic Assessment helps validate specific product features and functions that impact user experience. The method is straightforward and can be set up quickly, but it definitely depends on access to the right kind of expertise. It’s easy for a team to rely on intuitive assumptions about how environments, activities and products impact people’s lives. But by carefully assessing the human factors that shape experience, we base design decisions on solid research and evidence.