Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Experts Explain How IKEA Instruction Manuals Are Designed

Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Building a piece of flat-packed furniture from IKEA can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is all worth it in the end, but the process can often seem like cruel and unusual torture by design. In a recent interview with Fast Company, IKEA's deputy packaging manager Allan Dickner admits that the instruction manuals are challenging, but, believe it or not, things could be a lot worse.

"We had one furniture piece, a type of wardrobe, which originally had over 400 fittings and screws to hold it together," Dickner told FastCo, explaining that packaging engineers are responsible for constructing early versions of the retailer's furniture before they settle on an "optimized" design. The "ready-to-assemble" model is one way that IKEA is able to offer its products at such affordable prices, but Dickner says that it's about finding a middle ground. "When it takes someone five hours to build it, you can ask yourself: have you gone too far with the flat packing? It’s always about finding a balance between ease of assembly and optimizing the packaging."

Dickner also explained that the engineers at IKEA use "proven solutions" as a starting point. The "generalized templates" are altered based on the unique specifications of the new product. They are also "algorithmically optimized," and are designed with structures like elevators and staircases in mind.

The instructions are made using various resources, including "construction drawings, digital snapshots, 3D models, and videos of test assemblies." According to Jan Fredlund, a designer who works on these manuals, the test assembly phase is key. The "communicators" who design the instructions are tasked with constructing the pieces for themselves to find points where others may be confused and make mistakes.

[h/t: FastCo]

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
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New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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SmithGroupJJR
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Futuristic New Street Toilets Are Coming to San Francisco
SmithGroupJJR
SmithGroupJJR

San Francisco’s streets are getting shiny new additions: futuristic-looking public toilets. Co.Design reports that San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has chosen a new design for self-cleaning street toilets by the architectural firm SmithGroupJJR that will eventually replace the city’s current public toilets.

The design is a stark contrast to the current San Francisco toilet aesthetic, a green knockoff of Paris’s Sanisettes. (They’re made by the same company that pioneered the Parisian version, JCDecaux.) The tall, curvy silver pods, called AmeniTREES, are topped with green roof gardens designed to collect rainwater that can then be used to flush the toilets and clean the kiosks themselves. They come in several different variations, including a single or double bathroom unit, one with benches, a street kiosk that can be used for retail or information services, and a design that can be topped by a tree. The pavilions also have room for exterior advertising.

Renderings of the silver pod bathrooms from the side and the top
SmithGroupJJR

“The design blends sculpture with technology in a way that conceptually, and literally, reflects San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods,” the firm’s design principal, Bill Katz, explained in a press statement. “Together, the varied kiosks and public toilets design will also tell a sustainability story through water re-use and native landscapes.”

San Francisco has a major street-poop problem, in part due to its large homeless population. The city has the second biggest homeless population in the country, behind New York City, and data collected in 2017 shows that the city has around 7500 people living on its streets. Though the city started rolling out sidewalk commodes in 1996, it doesn’t have nearly enough public toilets to match demand. There are only 28 public toilets across the city right now, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These designs aren’t ready to go straight into construction first—the designers have to work with JCDeaux, which installs the city’s toilets, to adapt them “to the realities of construction and maintenance,” as the Chronicle puts it. Then, those plans will have to be submitted to the city’s arts commission and historic preservation commission before they can be installed.

[h/t Co.Design]

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