Publication history, Reflections & comments
SIR — The call by Mr Terry from the Industrial Design Council (Letters. 26/7) for better Australian design deserves the widest support. The glum news of a 9 gigabuck ($9,000,000,000) trade deficit serves better as a stimulus to effective effort than to despondency. Better ' design of manufactured products can compete far more effectively on the domestic and overseas market. ' Worldwide, many items' suit steel-fingered pixies with unusual intuition rather than normal humans. Silly handles on appliances, confusing controls and difficult stiff connections are found often on expensive items, whereas good design need add little to manufacturing cost in many cases.
The Australian genius, marked by Ridley's stripper-harvester in 1843, aeroplane landing systems, microsurgical instruments designed by Vickers and Owen, and many other examples, show how the tyranny of distance can be a paper tiger. Developed further, Australian design could be as much a hallmark as that enjoyed by Scandinavia with its small size.
The key to a forward leap in design at this time is ergonomics, the science of man at work. Ergonomics has its experts and its information sources scattered around Australia. In business there ishicreasing awareness of ergonomics for video display units and the need for good seating (e.g. DSJ chairs in Adelaide and CDS in Sydney), the layout of keyboards, desks and factors such as lighting and noise. The microsurgical instruments mentioned above owe much of their rapid success worldwide, now imitated by many, to the simple ergonomic principles in their design.
Flipping through Australian Design Awards in 1979-80, ergonomics was a prominent feature of cardiac monitors by Telectronics, furniture by Astra, professional audio equipment by Paul Kirk. TV - sets by Philips, and seating mentioned above.
Ergonomics has a second major role to play in the Australian economy, in terms of the workplace as well .,as-the product. Members of the Ergonomics Society in this country include authorities on tractor 'safety, controls., and displays, training for industry, handle design,-.- physical and mental strains, in the workplace and containing workers' compensation costs, let alone damage to health and satisfaction.
It is curious to see in the very editing room of The Australian that vertical video screens are propped up by 15 degrees on copies of last year's Sydney . telephone directory, but that seating is still at the wrong height, with no use of simple document holders, while simple changes in lighting arrangement would do much for the comfort and efficiency of your journalists.
We do not have the long craft tradition of Europe, the ethos of Japan, the massive base of the United States, or the low wages of other commercially successful countries, but Australian history has demonstrated a fund, of inventiveness, common sense, and. resourcefulness. If the . modern wisdom ' of ergonomics can be added: to these qualities... the„ effect could be dramatic. ".
In Adelaide, one lull-time government ergonomist alone has had an •impact on Indu• try whose value must be measured in millions of dollar. It is up to every Australian manufacturer and manage: to see just how much knowledge of human factor can • add to the value of hi enterprise.
MICHAEL PATKIN Whyalla, South Australia
Ergonomics the key to a leap forward
FRIDAY AUGUST 6 1982