Ergonomics in design and design in ergonomics: Issues and experience in education

Work. 2020;66(4):917-931. doi: 10.3233/WOR-203237.


Background: Articulating design and ergonomics skills through education is a major challenge for both fields. Indeed, professional ergonomists are increasingly deeply involved in design processes, and ergonomics education should train them in design skills. As courses in ergonomics education are often time-constrained, it is difficult to mobilize students in real-scale projects and to involve them in design processes. Conversely, activity analysis and active involvement of users in design projects (through co-creation or co-design processes) are rarely convened in architecture and design curricula.

Objective: It is therefore necessary to develop effective and relevant pedagogical settings, enabling students of both fields to develop their abilities and equip them to act in concrete design situations.

Methods: In this paper, we describe a large-scale pedagogical setting involving groups of students from different disciplines gathered around a real-scale design project (re-shaping the waiting room of a mental health center). The ergonomics students' main task is to analyze the needs and real activities of end-users; the interior design students' task is to produce the design project. This communication more precisely focuses on describing the ergonomics students' fieldwork and the practical and pedagogical innovations put in place to help them face the various challenges encountered during the project.

Results: Based on formal feedback from students, teachers and stakeholders, we address three main challenges: (1) dealing with the temporal constraints of the intervention, (2) documenting and observing a sensitive situation and (3) involving end-users to place them at the core of the design process. For each challenge, we describe the issue at stake, the work conducted to deal with this issue, and eventually the feedback collected from students, teachers and stakeholders.

Conclusion: The paper concludes with an analysis of success and failure factors for such pedagogical settings, in particular for physical enquiry devices, co-creation processes, and co-constructed pedagogical settings. It shows the impact of these settings for students, but highlight that collaboration between ergonomists and designers is a key issue for learning in a positive experience.

Keywords: Creativity; co-constructed pedagogical setting; co-creation workshop; design education; physical enquiry.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Educational Status
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Students*