In search of design synthesis by linking ergonomic evaluation and constraint modelling to attain design for all

To enable designers to ‘design for all’, a sound understanding of the intended users, their anthropometry and mobility is needed. Information is also required regarding users’ abilities and disabilities based on the tasks they are to perform while using the product being designed. Users, each of whom is an individual (and not just a part of the population), have different needs, physical sizes, coping strategies, abilities and disabilities. To use and apply each of these parameters together with the variables of the product and to meet the challenges of ‘design for all’ criteria, it is imperative for the designers to use effective and efficient tools. This paper presents an approach for design synthesis with the objective of determining design parameters of a design that would meet the needs of a specified user population or maximise the percentage accommodation. A new software tool is being developed to assist designers in the product development process. This software is able to suggest design parameters that would maximise user accommodation, after considering all the data sets for individual users. To achieve this, the software utilises capabilities of three very different pieces of software. The first of these is called HADRIAN, which is the prototype software currently under development, by the ‘Design for All’ project group at Loughborough University. HADRIAN provides an integrated database about individual users and can carry out a task analysis for the tasks that the user has to perform when interacting with the product or the environment that is being developed. Mathematical analysis software is used to fit functions to this data so that the SWORDS Constraint Modelling software can be used to find the optimum parameters of the design that would maximise the user accommodation. Issues in the design and implementation of this software system are discussed in the context of simple examples from kitchen design and automated teller machines (ATMs).