In an age of advanced technology, there is still a wide misconception amongst consumers and manufacturers, that design is only about the aesthetic aspect of a product.
This, of course, cannot be further from the truth. Design is about giving consideration to consumer behaviour and understanding the way the end user interacts with a product.
Design is like a game of chess, where a player must predict and consider all moves the opponent can make. No matter what the function of a product is, there will be consumers out there, who will use it for purposes other than the intended ones.
Because of unpredictable consumer behaviour, it is still necessary for manufacturers to provide product warning that would prevent accidents from occurring: do not insert hands inside a blender while in operation, or allow children to pull plastic bags over their heads….etc. But warning messages are not enough, and do not absolve a manufacturer from the responsibility they have towards product safety. Consideration to design, ergonomics and construction, must be carefully given during the product development stage, with constant consideration to the potential safety risks.
Furniture is no different, in fact, the consumer interacts with furniture more than any other product, as it is used to sit on, sleep on, store in, rest on, eat off. While for adults furniture is the connection between them and the space they live in, for children it is nothing but another piece of playground equipment, providing great temptations to climb on, jump off and crawl under. There is nothing more attractive to a child than a bed or sofa to jump on! A sharp corner, a design feature that can cause entrapment or a heavy unfastened piece of furniture that can topple over, can and will cause fatal accidents in children. It is not just children that will misuse a product, adults can also stand on chairs and tables, and kitchen benches, without giving any thought to their strength.
Saving money by changing a small percentage of an existing product’s design features, and calling it a “new product” is dangerous and careless practice, one that unfortunately still exists in the industry. Today’s advanced technology, allows manufacturers to design, test and evaluate a product while still at concept stage on a computer screen, and 3D printing technology facilitates fast prototyping that provides great efficiencies in product development and manufacturing. There are no longer excuses to eliminate and ignore the most important aspect of design, SAFETY, which sometimes can be as simple as rounding an edge or including two fasteners to provide the consumer with peace of mind.
Any unsafe features can be avoided during the design process if designers and product design engineers are engaged from the beginning in product development. Playing a hypothetical game of chess with the future consumer can prevent accidents from happening, as well as giving a manufacturer a leading edge in the market. Furniture design can be about colour, form and function, but above all, it should be about safety.