Airline travel is not one of my favorite things to do any longer. I used to do a lot of traveling as the national president of my professional society, ASID.
And there are many reasons for this displeasure: juggling the luggage, long waits in security lines, fighting to get the last few inches of overhead space, the attitudes of some of the overly worked airline staff and generally the lack of proper cleanliness in airplane interiors. And when you are on the TSA's Watch List... as I am, travel to and from gets really complicated. Sigh.
But in the news recently has been the fight over seat space with people actually doing battle at 30,000 feet over a few very precious inches of space.
• Talk about your turbulence !!
Seems that reclining one's seat has been more than the passengers in the rows behind can tolerate. However there are other reasons why airline travel is just so uncomfortable. One important factor is the shape and form of the seats, frames and cushions themselves. Not only is the problem just the distance between the seats - and recently the lack of peanuts - but anthropometric factors are contributing to the disagreeable travel experience.
In a survey and study authored by a colleague, Dr. Kathy Robinette, professor and head of the department of design, housing and merchandising at Oklahoma State University, the design of the chairs themselves contribute to the discord - just as much as the limited knee room, the lack of peanuts, and the smelly guy sitting in the window seat beside you who had to get up and visit the facilities four times on the one hour flight to Palm Springs. Dr. Robinette states that most airline seats are simply not designed to fully accommodate the human body in its various shapes and sizes. And she would know.
Dr. Robinette's survey, called the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource project, measured the bodies of 4,431 people in North America, the Netherlands and Italy. The survey collected a voluminous amount of data about its subjects, ranging from height and weight to shoe and bra size. and guess what?
The chair design itself is abysmal.
And in case you didn't know... the design issue goes beyond just passenger comfort. Dr. Robinette notes that travelers who are squeezed together and continually touching that smelly guy in the window seat are more likely to spread cold viruses or other illnesses to a fellow passenger. ( Oh joy ! ) People who are confined to tight seats and who can’t move comfortably are at risk for painful “hot spots” — precursors to the bed sores that occur in nursing home patients who aren’t moved frequently. (Well sign me up for that.)
So I was pontificating a few days ago about the design of things and how it can affect one's well being. You may not realize it but design impacts the human experience in so many ways, often in such a totally transparent manner that we often never think twice about design itself or even think about how some thing might function. It just does.
Good design is just there... in the background.... doing its job.... making our lives more comfortable, secure and safe. ... and some would say attractive. For what its worth since I have said this repeatedly...design is much more about function than good looks. Perhaps Steve Jobs said it better than I have been able to,.... "Design Is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works"
Think about the design that surrounds you now. Look at the way things are put together. Chances are the design of a lamp, a pillow, an accessory just didn't happen by accident but with a determined purpose. Design is like that. It requires design professionals like me to make it work, to function as needed and then of course to make it look as if you spent a lot of money when we all know you started out shopping at Ikea.
( It is OK if you do. I shop there, too. )
So contemplate this: How does the design, shape and form of things that surround you make life better?
• In our homes, offices and stores?
• In our cars and in cafes?
• In the things we buy and use like an iPhone or a iPad?
Maybe some day... even at 30,000 feet way above the planet, design will make planes more comfortable and flying a little less stressful with more leg room and better designed seats.
---> By the way... where is my little bag of peanuts?
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.