Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Nonergonomic! Athletic Footwear Unsafe due to Perceptual Illusions

Nonergonomic! Athletic Footwear Unsafe due to Perceptual Illusions
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/29)



Athletic Footwear Unsafe due to Perceptual Illusions

Modern athletic footwear provides remarkable plantar comfort when walking, running, or jumping. However, when injurious plantar loads elicit negligible perceived plantar discomfort, a perceptual illusion is created whereby perceived impact is lower than actual impact, which results in inadequate impact-moderating behavior and consequent injury.

Wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g., more cushioning, "pronation correction") are injured significantly more frequently than runners employing inexpensive shoes (costing less that US $40)...

In addition, in barefoot populations running-related injuries are rare, which indicates that humans adapted to barefoot running run with lower impact than the unadapted group referred to above. This also suggests that the lower extremity is inherently durable and is made susceptible to injury by footwear use. Based on the above data, not withstanding unsupported claims by footwear manufacturers of improved protection with their products, it seems appropriate to consider expensive athletic footwear from major manufacturers (and perhaps less expensive shoes) as unsafe.

This is strengthened by reports indicating that, when habitually barefoot humans walk (and probably when they run), they have greater knee flexion, which has been shown to reduce shock.

Barefoot activity when practical (no need for thermal insulation; no risk of crush injuries; social acceptability) deserves consideration since plantar sensory mediated protective adaptations seem optimized for this condition. Although this may run counter to notions prevalent in economically advanced countries recounting dangers of barefoot activity and necessity of footwear even when barefoot activity is feasible, supporting data are lacking, and many have concluded that footwear design is guided by fashion rather than health considerations.

In summary, people who perform activities involving high impact while wearing footwear currently promoted as offering protection in this environment are at high risk for injury. Unlike the natural state (barefoot and natural surfaces), where impact is sensed and, through impact-moderating behavior, is maintained at a safe level, an inadequate understanding of the physiology of human impact control has resulted in footwear which makes chronic overloading inevitable by providing plantar comfort to the wearer even when enormous vertical impact is experienced.

Editor's Comments:

Household fuses sometimes blow out as soon as they are installed. Sometimes one after another. When they do, frustrated homeowners may resort to the "penny in the fuse box" trick. They wedge an ordinary copper penny in the socket where the fuse normally goes. Presto! No more blown fuses, and the lights stay on indefinitely, or until the house burns down around you. As any fire marshall will tell you, you might as well drench yourself with gasoline and light a match. That's how dangerous it is.

Providing an inordinate amount of "ergonomic" cushioning in footwear is the physiological equivalent of putting a penny in the fuse box. By masking the impact on one's feet, knees, even spinal column, "ergonomic" cushioning negates natural impact-moderating behavior that would have maintained physical activity at a safe level. The result is injury to the wearer, induced by the very item that was supposed to protect against injury.

The underlying principle is simple, yet powerful: "Nature knows best." To paraphrase a famous margarine commercial from many years ago, "It's not wise to fool Mother Nature!"

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading
Illustration(s): World Champion Barefoot Runner Zola Budd-Pieterse of South Africa
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins and Gerard J. Gouw
Affiliation: "Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23(2), 1991, pp. 217-224.
Source: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/med_sci_sports_exer-23.2.html
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, April 28, 2003

Nonergonomic! Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading

Nonergonomic! Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/28)



Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading

Some authors have concluded that chronic overloading with locomotion is inevitable in modern man because of inherent lower extremity fragility. Accordingly, footwear, such as running shoes, which attempt to attenuate shock waves through interposition of yielding layers between the plantar surface and ground, are presumed essential for safe running, and are also promoted for use during walking. However, this supposition seems inconsistent with reports indicating that habitually unshod humans are not subject to chronic overloading during running. By taking this into account, the lower extremity must be inherently durable, and chronic overloading must be a consequence of wearing footwear, and probably due to increased shock with their use.

It has been observed that locomotion in barefoot-adapted subjects (normally unshod, or customarily shod after allowing several weeks of barefoot adaptation) differs from customarily shod subjects in that those barefoot adapted 'grasp' with their digits when they walk...

Obviously, the ideal solution to the running related injury problem in shod populations lies in barefoot locomotion, since protective adaptations seems to be optimized for this state. Normally shod people would have to allow sufficient time for adaptation of the plantar skin and intrinsic foot musculature (perhaps 6 weeks), and run barefoot frequently, perhaps daily, to sustain this adaptation. However, once adapted, the foot is extremely durable.

See Illustration: Abebe Bikila, Marathon Winner, 1960 Rome Olympics. At the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Bikila became the first person to repeat an olympic marathon victory. Bikila set another world record at 2:12:11 and became the first marathoner to finish the race under 2:13.

The lower extremity is inherently durable, and, when unencumbered by footwear, it can endure running without signs of chronic overloading, because a vigilant system restrains shock. The use of modern athletic footwear, in addition to being inferior to older footwear in moderating shock during running, renders the lower extremity susceptible to injury because of design flaws introduced by the preoccupation with optimization of plantar comfort.

The obvious solution to the problem of chronic overloading in shod runners is to promote barefoot running.

Editor's Comments:

The authors' solution to preventing injuries artificially induced by "ergonomic" footwear is to get rid of footwear altogether. Their solution is admittedly radical. But just because it is radical doesn't mean it's wrong. Radical is not a synonym for "crackpot".

Needless to say, industrial designers in the employ of footwear manufacturers are never going to go along with the authors' suggestion, regardless of whether it is scientifically validated. Even industrial designers not beholden to footwear manufacturers, and willing to "think outside the box" may find it difficult to accept the authors' solution.

But these are hardly the only alternatives. One need not endorse the authors' radical solution to acknowledge the persuasiveness of their analysis. I myself am unwilling to go about barefoot in most urban settings. I prefer to hold out for some workable compromise, one which allows my feet to move naturally while protecting them from broken glass, rusty nails, even hookworm parasites in pet droppings. Note that I have deliberately avoided raising the highly subjective issue of bare feet and social convention, as that complicates the issue even further.

Coming up with a workable, real world solution that satisfies a multitude of conflicting design considerations is easier said than done. But to continue down the tired, discredited path toward "ergonomic shoe design" is flagrant self-deception. It is akin to searching for your lost key under the street lamp when you know you dropped it in the dark alley, merely because it is easier to see in the bright light.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading
Illustration(s): Abebe Bikila, Marathon Winner, 1960 Rome Olympics
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins, Gerard J. Gouw, and Adel M. Hanna
Affiliation: "Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading," Sports Medicine, 9(2), 1990, pp. 76-85.
Source: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/sports_med-9.2.html
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Nonergonomic! The Mechanics of the Bare Foot

Nonergonomic! The Mechanics of the Bare Foot
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/24)



Running-Related Injury Prevention through Innate Impact-Moderating Behavior

These data provide insight into how, when barefoot, the plantar surface resists perforation yet provides protection to local bony structures. These data further support the notion that plantar sensory feedback plays a central role in safe and effective locomotion.

A relation has been reported between barefoot activity and raising of the main longitudinal arch, presumably by increased intrinsic foot muscle tone. The subjects with the greatest reduction in arch span performed barefoot activity outdoors. This suggests that surface irregularities causing local deformations on the plantar surface contributed to intrinsic foot muscular activation.

When compared to locomotion with existing footwear, these mechanics of the bare foot may offer improved balance during locomotion. This is compatible with the preference of many gymnasts and dancers for being barefoot to wearing footwear. (emphasis added)

Editor's Comments:

Could it be that "ergonomic" shoe design has taken a disastrous turn somewhere along the way? Could it be that instead of piling on the padding willy-nilly, "ergonomic" shoe designers should be doing the exact opposite? Could it be that they should be thinning down and paring away the conventional shoe until it comes as close as possible to the bare human foot, while providing protection from the elements?

Ergonomic athletic shoes, we are solemnly assured, provide "improved balance and added stability for the human foot."

Really?

If so, why don't Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Kui Yuanyuan and her competitors wear "ergonomic" footwear while competing on the balance beam? Anything that offers a winning edge is going to find its way into an aspiring Olympian's kit of tools after all. So why do these fiercely competitive young athletes whose careers are made or broken by their sense of balance compete in bare feet? Do they know something the "ergonomic" shoe designers don't?

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Running-Related Injury Prevention through Innate Impact-Moderating Behavior
Illustration(s): Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Kui Yuanyuan
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins, Gerard J. Gouw, and Adel M. Hanna
Affiliation: "Running-related injury prevention through innate impact-moderating behavior," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 21(2), 1987, pp. 130-139.
Source: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/med_sci_sports_exer-21.2.html
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Nonergonomic! Bu Xie, Espadrilles, Aqua Socks

Nonergonomic! Bu Xie, Espadrilles, Aqua Socks
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/23)





Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading

The paradoxical low incidence of similar injuries reported in barefoot populations implies that modern footwear may produce injuries that normally would not be present without their use.

Sensory-induced behavior associated with the physical interaction of the plantar surface with the ground (in the unshod), or the footwear and underlying surface (in the shod), is considered unimportant to the traditional thesis. This omission is astonishing because logically, the plantar surface, being a highly sensible layer, would produce significant sensations in either state, and it is common knowledge that noxious plantar skin sensation can easily induce avoidance behavior

Many years have passed since the first of a series of reports consistently indicated that there is no correlation between the amount of shoe cushioning and impact absorption of footwear during locomotion. (emphasis added) Similarly, epidemiological studies over the same period have provided no evidence of a trend of enhanced protection with modern athletic footwear. (emphasis added) Rather than being dismissed as glaringly incomplete and inadequate, these concepts are still being promoted by biomechanists, physicians, and manufacturers of footwear as an effective solution to the injury problem in high impact environments.

There can also be other explanations of this current situation. Investors may have become too preoccupied with sophisticated hardware rather than their principal task of performing experiments which test hypotheses. Further, as much of this research is "in-house" (performed by footwear company staff or as direct contracts from footwear manufacturers), intellectual freedom may be compromised, resulting in a reluctance on the part of investors to draw conclusions that may undermine current product lines promoted by their employers or patrons.

Whatever the cause, there has been little effort directed at explaining reported data and searching for alternative explanations. Rather, invalid models have led to footwear that do not protect and in fact may be injurious.

Editor's Comments:

Novice medical students are taught a fundamental precept: "First, do no harm!" Industrial design professionals involved in "ergonomic design," while not doctors, should internalize this wisdom from the medical profession. Industrial designers have an ethical obligation to take a hard look at real world empirical evidence before slapping "ergonomically-designed" labels on products they are responsible for.

Shoe manufacturers need not fear such studies as dire threats to the shoe industry. After all, it is possible to arrive at entirely different practical conclusions from the same theoretical data. What the exact solution is, I'm not sure. Perhaps the answer is some sort of thin-soled, lightweight new shoe prototype which does not depart too radically from "socially acceptable" conventional footwear in appearance, but which avoids its ergnomic defects.

Curiously enough, prototypes meeting these criteria might well resemble traditional Chinese cloth shoes or traditional European "espadrilles," only executed in more durable space-age materials, slightly modified for assembly line production. Modern day "Aqua Socks" or "Reef Walkers" come remarkably close to what I have in mind. See illustration(s): Traditional Chinese Shoes, Traditional European Espadrilles, and Aqua Socks/Reef Walkers.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading
Illustration(s): Traditional Chinese Bu Xie. Traditional Mediterranean Espadrilles. Aqua Socks/Reef Walkers
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins, Adel M. Hanna, and Gerard J. Gouw
Affiliation: "Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(1), 1988, pp. 85-92.
Source: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/med_sci_sports_exer-20.1.html
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Nonergonomic! The Anatomy of the Human Foot

Nonergonomic! The Anatomy of the Human Foot
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/22)






Running-Related Injury Prevention through Barefoot Adaptations

A number of reports indicate an extremely low running-related injury frequency in barefoot populations in contrast to reports about shod populations.

Despite the modern engineered running shoe, a sports medicine clinic reported a large series of running-related injury referrals with an average weekly mileage at the time of injury of 19 miles for women and 27 miles for men. Practitioners of sports medicine have observed injuries in runners using every shoe model available. The above reports can hardly be considered an endorsement of the modern running shoe as a protective device.

The opinion that the lower extremities are inherently fragile goes against the authors' understanding of the concept of natural selection.

The reports that the authors have received indicate a low frequency of plantar fasciitis in barefoot populations.

A paradox in presented of lower extremity fragility associated with the wearing of protective footwear and relative resistance to injury in the barefoot or unprotected state. To explain this paradox, the authors hypothesized that there exist adaptations associated with barefoot activity that provide impact absorption and protection against running-related injuries. An adaptation involving foot arch deflection on loading is hypothesized to be an important adaptation providing impact absorption. In contrast, it is hypothesized that the known rigidity of the shod foot may explain the reported high injury frequency in North American runners.

The modern running shoe and footwear in general have successfully diminished sensory feedback without diminishing the injury inducing impact, a dangerous situation. (emphasis added)

The arch support, which is present in all running footwear, would interfere with the downward deflection of the medial arch on loading. Furthermore, the use of orthodics, or other structures that are fitted to the mold of the soft tissues of the foot, could cause similar difficulty. Such designs occur when an engineer looks at the foot as an inflexible lever which is delicate and thus requires packaging. Various myths persist about foot behavior due to poor understanding of its biology.

The solution to the problem of running-related injuries could be as simple as promoting barefoot activity. [ ! ] (emphasis added)

Editor's Comments:

One need not endorse Robbins and Hanna's solutions to acknowledge the correctness of their observations.

"The opinion that the lower extremities are inherently fragile goes against the authors' understanding of the concept of natural selection... an engineer looks at the foot as an inflexible lever which is delicate and thus requires packaging."

The mental model of the human body cherished by many ergonomic experts is fundamentally flawed. As practitioners of Holistic Medicine, especially Traditional Chinese Medicine have known for millennia, the human body is a dynamic organic process, not a static mechanical device. Armed with a defective "mechanistic" understanding of the human body, such ergonomic "experts" not only have not solved ergonomic problems, they have unwittingly created them.

Mother Nature has been involved in engineering a hell of a lot longer than modern man. Before Homo Sapiens ("Man of Wisdom") presumes to "improve" upon Nature, he should first make sure he understands it.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Running-Related Injury Prevention through Barefoot Adaptations
Illustration(s): Plantar Fasciitis
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins and Adel M. Hanna
Affiliation: "Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19(2), 1987, pp. 148-156.
Source: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/med_sci_sports_exer-19.2.html
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Nonergonomic! Footbinding Circa 2003

Nonergonomic! Footbinding Circa 2003
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/22)

Radiographic Evaluation of Hallux Valgus









Introduction

Hallux valgus is a common foot disorder of several etiologies, which can lead to significant foot pain and deformity. Little has been published in the radiographic literature about the pre- and postoperative radiographic findings of this very common and very treatable cause of foot pain.

Definition

The term hallux valgus denotes deviation of the great toe toward the fibular border of the foot. Hallux valgus is not synonymous with bunion, which is derived from the same root as "bun" or "bunch", and means an area of swelling. In connection with the foot, bunion usually refers to the prominent medial portion of the first metatarsal head and especially to the bursa or a bursa plus osteophyte over it, when this exists. A bursa and/or osteophyte may or may not accompany hallux valgus.

Pathogenesis

The etiology of hallux valgus is somewhat controversial. Some cases are congenital, perhaps secondary to a sloping surface of the first tarsometatarsal joint. When this joint is hypermobile, with or without the normal angle, it is often referred to as an "atavistic" tarsometatarsal joint. Other cases are almost certainly due to environmental factors, such as poorly fitting footwear. The fashionable shoes worn by many women are more constraining than the shoes worn by men and are felt by many authors to be the etiologic factor in most cases of hallux valgus. This would help to explain the 10:1 ratio of females to males seen with this disorder. (emphasis added)

Editor's Comments:

The ancient Chinese practice of footbinding was responsible for untold suffering endured by women in Chinese society. Thankfully that chapter in history is over.

Or is it?

What is the modern practice of forcing womens' feet into pointy-toed shoes with 3" heels, except a "kinder, gentler" form of footbinding? Long term wearing of pointy-toed high-heeled shoes permanently deforms womens' feet, even crippling their wearers, just as surely as footbinding once did. Any difference is merely one of degrees, not intended visual effect.

We moderns are not nearly as enlightened or progressive as we like to imagine. Knowledgeable historians are well aware of this embarrassing reality. Footbinding was merely a more extreme version of the same foot fetishism that dictates womens' shoe designs in 2003. Now, as then, many women acquiesce. Knowing they will be devalued in sexual attractiveness if they fail to "toe the line," many modern women chose excruxiating physical deformity rather than be caught dead with "sensible shoes" on their feet.

Women who can't bring themselves to give up high heels may want to opt for open-toed sandals instead of pointy-toed pumps. (See Illustration: Designer Sandals) The worst harm to womens' feet is apparently inflicted by the enclosed toe portion of high-heeled shoes. (See Illustration: Designer Pumps) Sandals at least allow their toes to stretch out somewhat, making the best of an ergonomically unhealthy circumstance.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Radiographic Evaluation of Hallux Valgus
Illustration(s): Designer Shoes. 25 year old Female Normal Feet No Shoes. Same Patient in Shoes with 3 inch Heels. No High Heels! Designer Sandals. Designer Pumps
Author(s): Michael L. Richardson, M.D., Sigvard T. Hansen, M.D., Ray F. Kilcoyne, M.D.
Affiliation: Departments of Radiology and Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Washington
Source: http://www.rad.washington.edu/anatomy/halluxvalgus.html
Publication Date: October 11, 2001
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, April 21, 2003

Nonergonomic! Is Ergonomic Footwear Truly Ergonomic?

Nonergonomic! Is Ergonomic Footwear Truly Ergonomic?
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/21)




Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes

The low incidence of dermatomycotic infection here noted might be attributed to the fact that most foot fungi require dark, warm and damp interdigital spaces for growth such as that provided by shoes and stockings on a foot that has no free outlet for its perspiration. In addition, these bare feet get the beneficial fungicidal effects of the sun's ultra-violet rays.

No instances among the barefoot feet were found of: Onychrocryptosis, Hyperidrosis, Bromidrosis, Hallux Valgus, Hallux Varus, Bursitis at the first or fifth metatarso-phalangeal articulations.

Almost everyone surveyed showed a marked spacing between the first and second toes such as that found on young babies. The great toe was either pointing straight ahead or slightly abducted to provide a greater weight-bearing base or, possibly, to compensate for a shortened first metatarsal segment.

One hundred and eighteen of those interviewed were rickshaw coolies. Because these men spend very long hours each day on cobblestone or other hard roads pulling their passengers at a run it was of particular interest to survey them. If anything, their feet were more perfect than the others. All of them, however, gave a history of much pain and swelling of the foot and ankle during the first few days of work as a rickshaw puller. But after either a rest of two days or a week's more work on their feet, the pain and swelling passed away and never returned again. There is no occupation more strenuous for the feet than trotting a rickshaw on hard pavement for many hours each day yet these men do it without pain or pathology. These figures prove that restrictive footgear, particularly ill-fitting footgear, cause most of the ailments of the human foot.

Baby shoes cause great harm to growing, formative feet. The so-called "sentimental" value of baby's shoes might well be dispensed with.

People who have never worn shoes acquire very few foot defects, most of which are painless and non-debilitating. The range of their foot motions are remarkably great, allowing for full foot activity. Shoes are not necessary for healthy feet and are the cause of most foot troubles. Children should not be encouraged to walk prematurely and should not wear any footwear until absolutely necessary. Footgear is the greatest enemy of the human foot.

Editor's Comments:

Design at its conscientious best demands a willingness to jettison everything one "knows" and start over with a clean slate. Shulman's implication that modern man should do away with footwear altogether is admittedly, pretty radical. One need not agree with Shulman's prescription to recognize that his research casts serious doubt on the alleged necessity of "ergonomic footwear."

I for one am not willing to go without some kind of footwear in the modern urban environment. Even leaving aside the risk of cuts from rusty nails or broken glass, one hardly wants to put up with dirty feet!

Certain occupations will of course continue to require conventional footwear. In addition to hard hats, construction workers will need to keep wearing steel-toed construction boots to protect themselves from work-related accidents. But off the job blue or white collar workers and professional or amateur athletes need not be constrained by such job-specific considerations.

The challenge for industrial designers is to explore bold new shoe designs that accomodate both the natural characteristics of the human foot and the harsh requirements of Life in the Big City. What the final product will look like is anybody's guess. Perhaps some sort of high-tech, thin-soled, light-weight, breathable designs will eventually replace the traditional dress and casual shoes we wear in 2003.

We would be naive in the extreme however if we assumed that functional considerations were the primary determinant in shoe styling trends. Consumer footwear purchases are overwhelmingly the result of emotional preferences having nothing whatsoever to do with ergonomic considerations. As anyone familiar with ultra-trendy, pointy-toed, women's heels knows, the ancient practice of foot-binding never vanished, it merely assumed less extreme forms.

"So there is always this clash between form and function in every design. Look at women's shoes: purely for the sake of style, women will wear shoes that are expensive and painful."
-- Frank Nuovo, Vice-President in Charge of Design, Nokia

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes
Illustration(s): "Ergonomic Athletic Shoes"
Author: Samuel B. Shulman
Affiliation: "Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes," The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists, 49, 1949, pp. 26-30.
Source: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.barefooters.org%2Fmedicine%2F
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Friday, April 18, 2003

Nonergonomic! The Open Workroom

Nonergonomic! The Open Workroom
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/18)




Proxemics, Office Space I

Office workers spend the day in an average 260 square-foot, down from 1986's 275 square-foot, usually rectangular space. Corporate downsizing and belt-tightening mean that many staffers now find themselves working in even smaller, modular, 80-square-foot cubicles. N.B.: For some prehistoric context, consider that our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent their workdays on an estimated 440-square-mile expanse of open savannah.

Cubicles replaced the more exposed, "pool" desks which had earlier lined the floors of cavernous group-occupied workrooms. Though maligned in Dilbert cartoons, cubicles at least provide more privacy than the 1950s open workrooms, and offer needed respite from visual monitoring, which is known to be stressful to human primates. (emphasis added)

Editor's Comments:

Givens' astute observation about cubicles being better than open workrooms is correct. Scott Adams' antipathy toward cubicles is understandable. But cubicles are surely preferrable to the alternative -- the "cavernous group-occupied workrooms" of the Fifties. In case you're not sure what Givens is referring to, take a look at the interior still from Alan J. Pakula's 1976 political thriller, "All the President's Men."

"Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) talk at what appears to be The Washington Post. The Post did not allow scenes to be shot inside the newsroom, so it was reproduced on a sound stage."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/features/dcmovies/men1.htm

By contrast, as the interior still from Mike Judge's hilariously subversive social satire "Office Space" shows, cubicles don't look nearly so bad. Notice that the "office system components," i.e., "cubicle partitions" are chest height? Chest height partitions are optimal, and provide the best of both worlds. They allow workers to enjoy a measure of visual privacy and acoustical isolation while seated, yet allow them to visually connect with and speak to each other while standing.

http://us.imdb.com/Gallery?0151804

If one attempts to mechanically subdivide a high-ceilinged space into small rooms using floor-to-ceiling partitions, one ends up with a large number of unbearably claustrophobic rooms with the proportions of a phone booth.

One way around this problem is to use cubicle partitions that do not reach the ceiling. This space above the partition remains open to the light and air, and is shared by all. Chest height partitions allow the creation of clusters of small-footprint, semi-private spaces within the confines of a larger, non-claustrophobic expanse of high-ceilinged office space.

Cubicle partitions shorter than chest height, particularly partitions directly behind the heads and backs of seated office workers, fail to provide adequate psychological security. Employees handicapped by such work conditions may still be able to fulfill their duties, but only at diminished levels of effectiveness.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Proxemics, Office Space I
Illustration(s): Washington Post Interior Film Set from "All the President's Men"
Author: David B. Givens
Affiliation: Center for Nonverbal Studies
Source: http://members.aol.com/doder1/proxemi1.htm
Publication Date: 1998 - 2001
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Feng Shui versus the Corporate Pecking Order

Feng Shui versus the Corporate Pecking Order
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/17)




Nonergonomic! Feng Shui versus the Corporate Pecking Order

Click on the Dilbert cartoon. Take a look at the high-backed executive chair in the CEO's office. Now take a look at the low-backed swivel chair in Dilbert's office. More importantly, look at how Dilbert's cubicle is laid out. Poor Dilbert sits with his back to the entrance of his cubicle.

Students of Edward T. Hall aware of "The Hidden Dimension" know exactly what's going on here. The modern workplace is nothing less than the physical expression of the organization's hierarchical structure -- its power relationships made manifest.

The CEO sits in his huge office with his back to a solid wall. Dilbert on the other hand, is "low man on the totem pole," and as such expected to endure without complaint being startled each time a supervisor approaches him from behind, his most vulnerable direction.


During monarchical times kings and queens would invariably be seated upon a throne, usually elevated upon a podium, but always with their back to an opaque, impenetrable surface. As befitting their exalted, quasi-divine status, it was essential that monarchs never be approached from behind and taken by surprise.

The monarch's subjects, on the other hand, were expected to routinely abase themselves, assuming physically vulnerable positions as ritual expressions of fealty. That's right, just like in the animal kingdom on the Discovery Channel.

The French have an old saying, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." Roughly translated, it means "The more things change, the more they remain the same." Are modern technological societies really the enlightened expressions of "liberte, egalite, fraternite" we like to imagine? Perhaps not.


-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Nonergonomic! Feng Shui versus the Corporate Pecking Order
Illustration(s): Dilbert
Author: Scott Adams
Affiliation: Dilbert.com
Source: http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert/archive/dilbert-20030329.html
Publication Date: March 29,2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Nonergonomic! That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy

Nonergonomic! That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/15)




That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy

BOULDER, Colo. - Hate your job? Blame your cubicle. While that may sound too easy, it has some validity, says the executive director of Boulder's International Feng Shui Centre.

Feng shui (pronounced feng SHWAY) is an ancient Chinese philosophy that, in its simplest form, says your surroundings affect your energy. And in the modern Western world, that translates to bottom-line issues such as productivity and absenteeism. "There are economic benefits to organizing work space in a way that supports people's energy to do work," said Linsey Franklin, in a discussion about applying feng shui to the workplace.

Take those cubicles. While they may make for good fodder for Dilbert, they are sucking your energy away from work. Why? For one, people usually sit with their backs to the entrance, a definite no-no in feng shui because it drains energy and creates uneasiness. It's much better to have your back to a solid wall, which increases your feeling of being supported, Franklin said. (emphasis added)

Franklin once worked with a telemarketing company that was experiencing high turnover. One look at the place and she knew why: cubicles.

She changed the workers' positions in the cubicles, added plants and posters of outdoor scenes such as waterfalls to bring the outdoors' energy inside and "Voila - lower turnover, lower absenteeism and higher productivity."

"Just simple things," Franklin said. "The great thing is, you don't have to believe (in the philosophy). You just have to do it to get results."

While you may not have to believe, you do have to understand the principles behind feng shui rather than simply trying to apply some rules, Franklin warned the group. But she did hand out a few tips:

* Don't box yourself into a corner. It creates limitations.

* Never place your desk opposite a mirror. It doubles your workload.

* Organize your paperwork horizontally rather than vertically. Stacks of paper make you feel like your work is endless. Likewise, keep your desk clear for the free flow of energy.

Editor's Comments:

Quite frankly I never expected to run across an article like this. Feng Shui fundamentals are universal principles that apply every bit as much to modern office cubicles as they do to traditional closed offices. Nevertheless I have never come across any articles dealing explicitly with the Feng Shui of office cubicles -- until now. This article was first published in 1998, five years ago. No matter. Any independent affirmation of ones' own design judgments is always gratifying, particularly the author's blunt observation about seating position:

"For one, people usually sit with their backs to the entrance, a definite no-no in feng shui because it drains energy and creates uneasiness. It's much better to have your back to a solid wall, which increases your feeling of being supported."

If I had to name the single most valuable lesson I have ever learned from my study of Feng Shui, this would be it. The need to protect ones' back is not frivolous, it is primordial. This is why traditional high-backed restaurant booths have remained immensely popular with restaurant patrons and have never "gone out of style". In an old-fashioned restaurant booth no one is forced to sit with his back to the open, vulnerable to unseen, unanticipated harm from behind, either accidental or intentional. See Illustration: Traditional Restaurant Booth.

Now if this is true for a restaurant table that one occupies for only an hour or so while dining out, just imagine how much more true it is for ones' workplace, where one labors 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. If a Feng Shui skeptic takes away nothing more than this realization from a Feng Shui website, his visit will have been amply rewarded.

Now take a look at the high dollar office system. See Illustration: High Tech Cubicle. This office system appears to have been manufactured with high quality materials, to exacting standards of workmanship, in accordance with ergonomic principles, at least in the narrow, "anatomically-correct" sense of the term.

But so what? The quality materials, the exacting workmanship, the ergonomic features were all wasted, squandered on a woefully inadequate seating layout.

Look at where the hapless end user is forced to sit -- with his backside hanging in the wind, utterly exposed and unprotected. He would literally be better off in a jerry-rigged, homemade enclosure assembled from hollow-core doors purchased at your local discount lumber warehouse -- provided he is protected on his backside and at least one of his flanks.

Back to the drawing board, fellas.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy
Illustration(s): Traditional Restaurant Booth. High Tech "Cubicle"
Author: Unidentified
Affiliation: Rocky Mountain News
Source: http://www.azstarnet.com/public/packages/star200/085-2893.html
Publication Date: March 15, 1998
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Bad Designs: Street Names

Bad Designs: Street Names
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/15)



Bad Designs. Street Names

This picture shows the street sign at the intersection of Hillrise and Hillrise in Las Cruces, New Mexico. One Hillrise is Hillrise "Circle" and the other is Hillrise "Drive". I don't know why they do this. When I moved here, I found it confusing.

On my way home, I turn onto Hillrise Drive. At first, when I got to this intersection, I found myself wanting to turn onto Hillrise Circle. One time at night, I actually did turn onto Hillrise Circle and had to turn around and go back.

I think I made this mistake because after just turning onto Hillrise Drive I have the goal "turn onto Hillrise" still fresh in my mind. Then when I see the sign for "Hillrise", I get the urge to turn, to satisfy my goal, especially at night when other landmarks are not visible.

Design Recommendations:

Things that are different shouldn't be given names that are too similar or people will confuse them.

I don't make this mistake anymore. I guess one lesson is that people will learn to overcome problems. But this problem never had to happen in the first place and wouldn't have happened if the streets had been given different names.

Editor's Comments:

Those responsible for this obvious street-naming blunder have no real excuse. Perfectly workable street-naming systems have been around for at least a century. New York City for example has an excellent, straightforward naming system. All the North-South routes on Manhattan Island are referred to as "Avenues," while all the East-West routes are referred to as "Streets". As soon as one is told the name of the route, one immediately knows whether the route runs North-South or East-West. As a Frommers.com webpage informs us:

"Avenues run north-south (uptown and downtown). Most are numbered... First Avenue is all the way east and Twelfth Avenue is all the way west... Broadway is the exception to the rule -- it's the only major avenue that doesn't run uptown-downtown. It cuts a diagonal path across the island, from the northwest tip down to the southeast corner. As it crosses most major avenues, it creates squares (Times Sq., Herald Sq., Madison Sq., and Union Sq., for example)."

"Streets run east-west (crosstown) and are numbered consecutively as they proceed uptown.

"If you're looking for a particular address, remember that even-numbered street addresses are on the south side of streets and odd-numbered addresses are on the north."

Admittedly the traffic engineers' system is not perfect -- the unavoidable consequence of an historical legacy.

"Unfortunately, the rules don't apply to neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan, south of 14th Street -- like Wall Street, Chinatown, SoHo, TriBeCa, the Village -- since they sprang up before engineers devised this brilliant grid scheme."

This however does not excuse those responsible for naming newly laid-out streets in newly developed communities. What is someone who resides next to this crossroads going to tell visitors? "I live at the intersection of Hillrise and Hillrise"? Blunders such as this merely serve to point out how so much of what we refer to as "good design" is nothing more than plain common sense.

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/newyorkcity/0021030022.html

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Bad Designs. Street Names
Illustration(s): Street Names
Author: Michael J. Darnell
Affiliation: Bad Designs
Source: http://www.baddesigns.com/streetsn.html
Publication Date: 1996-1999
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, April 14, 2003

Nonergonomic! Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle

Nonergonomic! Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/14)




Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle

"Over the years, DILBERT fans have e-mailed me on all sorts of topics. And after a while, I began to realize that a common theme among the majority of them was the fact that most people are highly frustrated with their cubicles. So I started to think, 'What would DILBERT want in a cubicle? And how could that in turn translate into a solution for every employee?' And I think the result is that we've figured out a possible way to do that."
-- Scott Adams

Scott Adams has partnered with IDEO, the company that designed the Palm V, the first Apple computer mouse, the original laptop computer and Crest's Neat Squeeze stand-up toothpaste tube, to create the ultimate cubicle. The "kit of parts" allows employees to customize their workspaces according to their needs.

Editor's Comments:

My very first impulse upon discovering this web page was to click on the drawings and photographs. I wanted to know right away whether long-time cubicle critic Adams and the experienced ID professionals at IDEO got it right. I realize of course that "Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle" was intended primarily as social satire, therefore I ought not to take the "design project" too literally. Nevertheless I couldn't help wondering whether the Adams/IDEO alternative would be plagued by the same defects bedeviling the worst of the mass-produced cubicles.

I'm happy to say it isn't. Adams and IDEO at least got the fundamentals right. One: The occupant sits entirely within the cubicle. Two: His back does not face the cubicle entrance, but is instead protected by one of the cubicle walls. These two features alone are cause for celebration. That the cubicle incorporates a host of frivolous, tongue-in-cheek gimmicks for humorous effect is of secondary importance next to this.

Notice also that the back walls are high enough to shield the back of the occupant's head from view. This feature is notably lacking in the "So-so Cubicle," the real life example cited in "Nonergonomic! The Cubicle from Hell."

An additional, qualified plus is the modular cubicle wall construction, which permits a degree of user customization. I say qualified because while designers may often incorporate highly desirable features such as this into their designs, whether employees are actually allowed to exercise their free choice often remains at the mercy of company policy-makers.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Dilbert's Ultimate Cubical
Illustration(s): Final Design. Ideo Cube
Author: Scott Adams
Affiliation: Dilbert.com
Source: http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert/news_and_history/html/ultimate_cubicle.html
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Brazil's Havaianas flip flop to World Success [消費行為 ]

Brazil's Havaianas flip flop to World Success
[消費行為 ]
(2003/04/09)





Brazil's Havaianas flip flop to World Success

SAO PAULO, Brazil, March 18 (Reuters) - Jack Nicholson may or may not walk away from the Academy Awards ceremony with a golden Oscar for best actor, but as far as one Brazilian company is concerned, he's already a winner. Nicholson, nominated for the lead role in the movie "About Schmidt," and 60 other Oscar contenders will get two pairs of trendy Havaianas sandals the day after the Hollywood extravaganza -- courtesy of Sao Paulo Alpargatas (Sao Paolo:ALPA4.SA - News), maker of the colorful, rubber flip-flops since 1962.

Thanks in large part to that kind of savvy marketing, the Brazilian company has turned what started out as poor man's footwear into a global fashion must-have.

In a country desperately trying to bolster its slow-growing economy through exports, Alpargatas has become a model to emulate, a company that tapped the high-end market abroad with seemingly the most low-end of products.

"They are clearly an example of success other companies can follow," said Jose Augusto de Castro, the director of Brazil's Foreign Trade Association. "It's proof that you can enter and conquer a market through marketing."

Already all the rage in countries like Australia and France, the sandals will get a further vote of confidence from the U.S. fashion elite this spring and summer with photo spreads in magazines like Elle, Jane and Vogue.

"Almost everybody leaves the store with a pair, and hardly anybody has just one pair. They're extremely popular," said Janet Irwin, owner of La Bella Shoes in Long Beach, California.

"There are other brands, but everyone seems to go toward the Havaianas. They have such great colors," she said.

To be sure, many Brazilians were surprised last year when they saw photos of models strutting down a Paris catwalk in designer duds by Jean-Paul Gaultier -- and a pair of Havaianas.

In Brazil, Havaianas are one of the few common denominators in the big and diverse country, a product that transcends the divide between rich and poor. From the Amazon natives in the steamy jungles to the fashionable elite of urban Sao Paulo, just about everyone sports the V-strapped thong sandals.

"You might be in a house where the maid is cleaning up in a pair of Havaianas and the owner is watching TV in her own pair. It's a very democratic product," said Angela Tamiko Hirata, Alpargatas' director of foreign trade.

But it was not until the mid 1990s that the company decided to brighten up its colors and market the sandals to Brazil's middle- and upper-income classes. Their success abroad has only served to enhance their fashion appeal at home.

$3 AT HOME, $80 ABROAD

Since Havaianas were introduced 41 years ago, Alpargatas claims to have produced 2.4 billion pairs of them -- enough to circle the globe 50 times if lined up heel to toe. Two of every three Brazilians buy a pair every year, the company says.

Although the sandals have remained true to their simple design, the colors and designs are increasingly varied and continue to change along with the season's trend.

The company recently introduced a "Trekking" slingback model, and a raised-heel design for a night on the town.

But they are, after all, just a pair of flip flops, and to most Brazilians the idea of foreigners paying up to $80 for a pair embellished with crystals or beads in a boutique or department store seems insane compared with the local price tag of $3. To Brazilians, even the basic sandals in the United States or Europe, at $10 to $15 or 20 euros, seem outrageously priced.

The gap was a result of careful planning by Alpargatas.

"No one knew Havaianas abroad. So I positioned them in the high-end market, because if I tried to compete on the low-end, they would be just another flip flop and we would have to compete in terms of price," said Hirata.

That meant she would sell fewer pairs of sandals, but it would also keep her out of constant competition with other producers of cheap sandals.

"People buy in large quantities and they'll drop you for one cent in difference when it comes to price," she said.

Instead, Alpargatas wanted to establish itself abroad for the long term, and to do so meant it had to develop its brand.

So far, the strategy appears to be working.

Although she won't spell out the company's global aims, Hirata said it plans to sell 150,000 pairs of Havaianas in France this year, up from only 2,000 three years ago. In Australia, Alpargatas hopes for a dramatic increase in sales to half a million pairs, from a modest 1,900 in 1999.

Kerri Sengstaken, whose firm StyleWest handles marketing and distribution for Havaianas on the U.S. West Coast and in the Midwest, says they hope to sell 1 million pairs in high-end boutiques and department stores like Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN - News) this year.

"That's a very low number based on the power of this market, but for a brand that no one had heard of two years ago, that's a very good number," she said.

Alpargatas also plans to launch an even cheaper line of sandals for export solely to meet growing demand at major discount chains like Wal-Mart and Target.

GOOD FOR THE PEDICURE, OR CAMP

The increased sales abroad are part of a larger goal at Alpargatas, which also makes athletic shoes for the Brazilian market. It hopes to increase its exports as a percentage of total sales to 15 percent in 2004, from 1.5 percent in 2001.

But such expansive growth isn't fueled only by clever marketing, Hirata claims. "You have to have a good product. If not, no one is interested," she said.

Unlike other low-end sandals that are stamped out from larger sheets of plastic-like material, Hirata says Havaianas are made using a secret rubber recipe and an anatomically designed mold.

Havaianas wearers have been known to gush over their comfort and minimalist simplicity.

Marie Lehman of Hillsborough, California, says she ordered seven pairs to put in gift bags for her daughter Sloane's 13th birthday party. In the store, near San Francisco, children's sandals are priced at $8 and adult models go for $10.

"It's a really catchy thing. You can wear it to your pedicure for women. You can take it to camp if you're a kid. And the girls just really like to wear it," she said. "It's stylish and it's comfortable. And what about that price!"

Editor's Comments:

Taiwan, like Brazil, has been struggling to bolster its exports. Alpargatas has achieved a remarkable feat -- it has successfully tapped a high-end market in the "First World" with the lowest of low-end products. As traditional industries struggle to survive in the post-industrial Information Age, Alpargatas' success story provides a model that traditional industries on Taiwan might do well to emulate. As the Reuters article notes however, it was not shrewd marketing alone that resulted in Alpagatas' exponential growth. One must first have a well-designed, superior product. In order to promote a product as a "value-added" product, one must first add the value. Otherwise no one is going to be interested.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Brazil's Havaianas flip flop to World Success
Illustration(s): Patented in 1964. Patent Drawings
Author: Carlos A. DeJuana
Affiliation: Reuters
Source: http://biz.yahoo.com/rc/030318/bizfeature_brazil_havaianas_1.html
Publication Date: March 18, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Sandal From Brazil Is New Fashion Flavor

Sandal From Brazil Is New Fashion Flavor
[消費行為 ]
(2003/04/08)




Sandal From Brazil Is New Fashion Flavor

SAO PAULO, Brazil, March 24. Those nominees piqued at having to walk away from Sunday's Oscar ceremony without a statue can seek comfort in a curious consolation prize -- a pair of rubber sandals. In their native Brazil, 120 million pairs of these sandals are sold each year, at a less-than-princely $3 each.

That might sound downright unglamorous for Hollywood, but the Havaianas flip-flops, an everyman's classic here since 1962, are now fashion's flavor of the month in the United States, finding takers in high-end stores for prices as high as $160 for a customized, jewel-encrusted pair.

So far, distribution is being restricted to up-market chains like Marshall Field's and Nordstrom, and more prestigious surf stores on the West Coast.

In New York, Saks Fifth Avenue recently put the sandals in three of its windows and now wants a special, customized Havaianas line, the Brazilian manufacturers say.

"We're determined to position our brand well in the United States, not just win market share through cheap pricing," said Angela Hirato, export director at Sao Paulo Alpargatas, which makes the colorful thong that started out as a surf sandal but is now worn by Brazilians of all walks of life, from the country's president to domestic help.

"In Brazil, we sell in supermarkets, but abroad our main aim is to implant the brand at the top of the pyramid," Ms. Hirato said. "If you go in at the bottom end, you just become another commodity."

For years, Brazil mainly exported commodities like coffee and sugar, making the country's national accounts particularly susceptible to volatility in global markets.

Now the government is promoting efforts to sell more manufactured, value-added products abroad, aiming to turn a chronic current account deficit into a surplus and so reduce dependence on foreign capital.

So far, for Alpargatas at least, that strategy appears to be working.

Two years ago, the company, owned by the construction giant Camargo Correa, exported 1.5 percent of its production. Today, that share has risen to 5 percent, and next year's goal is 15 percent. Profits rose to $14 million last year, 46 percent higher than $9.5 million in 2001.

Since introducing Havaianas on the West Coast just six months ago, one importer, David Sengstaken, has sold 100,000 pairs and calmly predicts a potential United States market of "millions, or even millions and millions."

If growth rates in other markets are anything to go by, Mr. Sengstaken could be right. In 1999, Alpargatas introduced Havaianas in surf-crazy Australia and sold 1,000 pairs. Last year, sales there topped 350,000 pairs, and this year's projection is for 500,000.

In the United States, regular Havaianas retail around $10, while sandals decorated by local designers fetch anywhere from $80 to $160 in Beverly Hills.

"The secret of Havaianas is that they have become a style icon, a classic," said Paulo Macedo, fashion editor at Vogue's Portuguese edition, who was in Sao Paulo recently for a fashion shoot.

Asked to explain why the rubber thongs are all over style magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Wallpaper, and were recently used by the designer Jean-Paul Gaultier on Paris catwalks, Mr. Macedo said, "They're cheap, they're comfortable, they're the originals, but with a couple of Swarovski crystals sewn onto them, they are simply fantastic."

That transformation from Brazilian footwear staple to a symbol of international Bohemian chic -- Ms. Hirato says stars like Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and Sting wear Havaianas -- is the thrust behind Alpargatas's marketing strategy for the United States.

Mr. Sengstaken's wife and partner, Kerri, presented A-list guests at the recent Grammy party with Havaianas and then got the special, bejeweled models into gift baskets presented to Oscar runners-up by the fashion industry the day after the ceremony.

"We have mostly built the brand through P.R. and have established a cult following," she said. "We have had to do it that way. We can't afford $100,000-a-page ads in In Style."

But some analysts say that is Alpargatas's Achilles' heel. As a small company, it cannot afford the huge advertising budgets needed to promote products in the United States.

"Alpargatas's gross margins are not too different from, say, Nike's," said Daniel Pasquali, a consumer goods analyst at Fator Doria Atherino, a Sao Paulo brokerage firm. "But without scale, a lot of profit is eaten away by costs such as advertising."

"If that's true for them in Brazil, imagine having to promote the product in the United States," he said.

Still, Alpargatas plans to tap this high-volume market.

Ms. Hirato's export team is preparing a second, cheaper brand for lower-end United States retail outlets. Carrying a tropical name like Samba or Aloha, the new brand should retail below $7 and will be available in three or four colors, she said. "If we want to sell millions to Wal-Mart right now, we're dead," she said. "But later, with a second, cheaper range, why not?"

Editor's Comments:

Every decade or so a mass-produced item of apparel undergoes a mysterious metamorphosis in which it is tranformed from an ordinary consumer commodity into a timeless design classic. The financial future of any company fortunate enough to be the manufacturer of such a product is probably assured for the next half-century. Examples which come to mind are Levis 501 jeans, Bausch & Lomb Ray-Ban sunglasses, and Sperry Top-Siders.

Now add to that list "Havaianas," a higher quality, more stylish version of the flip-flop sometimes found in supermarkets for under a dollar. Havaianas have been around since 1962 in their native Brazil, where they are routinely worn by everyone from ditch-diggers to supermodels.

Recently however, they have been reincarnated in the fashion capitals of Europe and North America as a must-have fashion article. The product's surprising new lease on life was no lucky accident. As the New York Times news article reveals, it was shrewdly and sytematically engineered by its Brazilian manufacturer -- Sao Paolo Alpargatas.

But why Brazil? Why not Taiwan? Taiwan-based manufacturers have been producing similar products since they first appeared in the early 60s. Why did Brazil hit the jackpot? After all, we are talking about the most basic, most primitive manufacturing technology imaginable. Does Taiwan's technological prowess really not measure up to Brazil's?

The answer can be found in the Chinese expression, "Off by a little is off by a lot." The reason why Brazil and not Taiwan has to do with Style. Havaianas have Style, while their counterparts on Taiwan do not. Two slabs of rubber. One sells for $9.99 at Nordstrom's, the other for 99 cents at Walmart. The difference is added value.

The Havaianas phenomenon contains an object lesson. That lesson is: Design matters. Ostensibly "tough-minded" businessmen who fail to appreciate the critical importance of design, who hold designers in contempt, can end up paying an unexpected price in the marketplace.

Havaianas "built their brand" by giving away free samples to the Beautiful People, first in Brazil, then in Europe, then in the US. The strategy worked. In order for such a strategy to work however, the Beautiful People must first be impressed. But these fabulously wealthy people already "have everything". They are not about to be impressed by slabs of rubber worth only pennies -- unless a designer has enhanced their value with that elusive something known as Style.

Design is not a luxury. In the post-industrial age, value added through Design is a necessity. Design can be the factor which determines whether a company lives or dies. As the Havaianas example shows, design is not just for bleeding-edge IT products, design may be even more critical for low-end consumer products.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Sandal From Brazil Is New Fashion Flavor
Illustration: Havaianas are fashion's flavor of the month in high-end stores. If you go in at the bottom end, you just become another commodity
Author: Tony Smith
Affiliation: New York Times
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/25/business/worldbusiness/25BRAZ.html
Publication Date: March 25, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Lowly Brazilian Sandal takes Giant Steps toward a Fashion Must-Have


Lowly Brazilian Sandal takes Giant Steps toward a Fashion Must-Have
[消費行為 ]
(2003/04/08)
http://www.taiwandesign.com.tw/NewsDetail.aspx?bid=B20070117002371


Lowly Brazilian Sandal takes Giant Steps toward a Fashion Must-Have

Holly Pope boasts a closet full of shoes and sandals that cost upward of $300 a pair. But the Malibu, Calif., jewelry wholesaler prefers her new $12 flip-flops from Brazil.

"I wear them everywhere," says Pope, 36 years old, as she wiggles her toes in coral thongs, one of her eight pairs of Havaianas. "They're comfortable, cute and they last forever."

In New York, Heather Strekal, 27, wears Havaianas (pronounced ah-vai-YAH-nas) with fancy dresses to restaurants, and slips them on each day for her subway commute to an investment bank. "I wish I could wear them in the office," says Strekal, who has bought three pairs this year at a Soho boutique.

Named by Cosmopolitan and Elle as one of summer's hottest items, Brazil's lowly flip-flops are moving upmarket and going global. They are selling well in Paris and Sydney. Ukrainians wear them year-round -- with socks -- prompting European distributors to propose a winter model fitted with a sock.

The success is a feat for footwear that gave rise in Brazil to the expression pe de chinelo, or "slipper foot," slang for downtrodden. For years, the Brazilian government lumped the flip-flops together with milk, bread and beans, in a basket of staples used to calculate the basic cost of living. Today, the main buyers of Havaianas, which cost $2 a pair in Brazil, remain coffee-bean pickers, stevedores and other blue-collar workers.

"I've worn Havaianas for as long as I can remember," says Gilberto Cardoso Dos Santos, 51, a father of four, who does maintenance work at a Sao Paulo soccer stadium. His black flip-flops are 2 years old and wafer-thin.

Havaianas made their debut in 1962, inspired by Japanese peasant wear. The name, Portuguese for Hawaiians, was a tribute to America's glamorous holiday destination. The basic design hasn't changed much over the years. What has changed is the new international appeal.

"There was no universal flip-flop brand," says Rui Porto, vice president of Sao Paulo Alpargatas SA, the Sao Paulo sporting-goods and industrial-fabric company that makes the sandals. "Now there is: Havaianas."

Havaianas owe their boom partly to free publicity from devotees such as supermodels Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Brazil's own Gisele Bundchen. Company representatives stood next to big-name designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and handed out sandals to stars at the Cannes Film Festival.

They are also benefiting from a general surge in the popularity of thongs. Flip-flops have come out of the shower stall and onto the streets of New York, Paris and Milan. This summer, they are the preferred sandal, with various designer thongs for sale at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom.

The current craze extends beyond fashion-conscious women. Men are switching over to flip-flops. So are high-school students, as some principals repeal bans on the noisy and not overly protective footwear. The slab of rubber with a V-shaped strap clenched between the first two toes, typified by Havaianas, is the ultimate casual sandal, marking a trend where common-sense comfort meets cheap chic.

The Havaianas makeover started in Brazil. To boost profit margins in 1994, Alpargatas launched lime-green, fuchsia and other colorful models that cost twice as much as the original black- or blue-strapped sandal with a cream-colored sole.

Later, it introduced a feminine fashion style with a thicker sole and Swarovski crystal on the left strap. A masculine surf model with a textured sole soon followed. Middle-class Brazilians began wearing Havaianas. Even President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was spotted in them. Last year, Alpargatas sold five million sandals abroad -- up from none a few years ago -- and 120 million pairs in Brazil, twice as many as 10 years ago.

Smugglers beat the company to overseas markets. "Havaianas were selling for $50 a pair in Europe" in the late '90s, recalls Eduardo Bissoli, a manager for Alpargatas in the United States. It turned out that tourists were leaving Brazil carrying suitcases stuffed with the thongs and then selling them to boutiques.

Now that globalization is a priority, Alpargatas zealously guards Havaianas' newfound cachet. When Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently inquired about stocking Havaianas, Alpargatas export director Angela Hirata told the world's biggest retailer that it was "out of the question." She adds: "Selling Havaianas in mass-market stores would depreciate the value of our brand." Alpargatas plans to sell a second-tier brand to such chains.

Meanwhile, Havaianas are selling well in Paris at the Galleries Lafayette department store near designers Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. Last month, 50 models paraded in Havaianas at Jean Paul Gaultier's Paris fashion show.

Havaianas are now offered in stores in 50 countries, most of which had never carried flip-flops.

Editor's Comments:

When a product wins universal acceptance across the entire spectrum of society, for reasons ranging from simple utility to sheer vanity, one is witnessing something marketing consultants lie awake nights dreaming about but dare not expect.

Levis jeans, which are worn by everyone from cowboys to construction workers to chief executive officers achieved this status a half century ago. Havaianas may be in the process of achieving this status today.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Lowly Brazilian Sandal takes Giant Steps toward a Fashion Must-Have
Illustration(s): Coffee-Bean Pickers, Stevedores, Blue-Collar Workers. Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Brazil's own Gisele Bundchen
Author: Miriam Jordan and Teri Agins
Affiliation: Wall Street Journal
Source: http://www.detnews.com/2002/homelife/0208/16/c06-557503.htm
Publication Date: August 9, 2002
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, April 7, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part III

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part III
[生活型態 ]
(2003/04/07)



Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part III

We continue our series of articles highlighting Frank Lloyd Wright's "Chinese Connection." As noted earlier, Wright was an avid collector of Chinese art, including paintings, ceramics and sculpture. Wright was fully aware of Chinese design motifs, which turn up in Wright's work in a number of different ways.

Wright even decorated the landscape surrounding Taliesin with Chinese sculptures such as this seated statue of Kuan Ying, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

As a First Generation Modernist who believed in "Total Design," Wright's choices were not arbitary. Taliesin was Wright's refuge from the unwelcome notoriety generated by serial indiscretions with his clients' wives. The Kuan Ying statue was an element of Wright's attempt to establish a serene atmosphere as an escape from his scandal-ridden public life.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part III
IIllustration(s): Kuan Ying Sculpture at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin
Author: Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Information Section
Source: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Friday, April 4, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part II

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part II
[生活型態 ]
(2003/04/04)




Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part II

We continue our series of articles highlighting Frank Lloyd Wright's "Chinese Connection." As noted previously, Wright was an avid collector of Chinese art, including ceramics, sculpture, and most importantly, Chinese brush paintings.

Wright was fully aware of Chinese design motifs, and these turn up in Wright's work in any number of ways, including Wright's architectural rendering style. Many of Wright's renderings bear an unmistakable resemblance to Chinese landscape paintings.

Wright even got into the habit of signing his renderings with a little red square in the lower corner, simulating the traditional red Chinese calligrapher/artist's seal or "chop." No one who knows anything about Chinese art who sees a Frank Lloyd Wright rendering for the first time is going to miss the connection.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part II
Illustration(s): Frank Lloyd Wright's "Red Square" Seal
Author: Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Information Section
Source: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part I

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part I
[生活型態 ]
(2003/04/03)




Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part I

Frank Lloyd Wright did more to alter the face of American cities, for better or worse, than any other architect, planner, or designer in America.

Wright's "Broadacre City," encouraged the growth of Suburbia. Some would refer to this growth, also known as "urban sprawl," as "cancerous."

Wright's "Prairie House" meanwhile, revolutionized ordinary Americans' conception of the American home. Wright's Prairie Houses were like nothing Americans had seen before, for good reason. Their formal vocabulary derived not from traditional European architecture, but rather from traditional Chinese architecture and Japanese variations on traditional Chinese themes. Unbeknownst to most Americans, American cities look the way they do today in part due to architectural influences from China.

What follows is a series of articles highlighting Frank Lloyd Wright's "Chinese Connection."

Let's start by examining one of Wright's most famous residential designs, "Taliesin." Taliesin was Wright's personal residence, Taliesin was to Frank Lloyd Wright what Tara was to Scarlett O'Hara, the heroine of Margaret Mitchell's epic novel, "Gone with the Wind."

Everyone, architect and layman alike, has at one time or another, had his or her own "dream home." Taliesin was the dream home of arguably the greatest architect who ever lived. As Wright biographer Brendan Gill writes:

"Like any architect, Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to make his own house an epitome of everything he stood for emotionally, spiritually, technically. And so on the family property in Spring Green, Wisconsin on the brow of a hill he built this great, long, rambling, beautiful, hugging the ground house which he called Taliesin and it was going to be his statement to the world."

What did Wright consider the "epitome of everything he stood for for emotionally, spiritually, technically?" What did he consider worthy of being "his statement to the world?" See for yourself.

The first illustration is Wright's own rendering of "Taliesin." The second illustration is a detail from the famous Qing Dynasty horizontal scroll landscape painting, "Qin Ming He Shang Tu". Any resemblance between the two is purely intentional.

China's geographical isolation from the European portion of the Eurasian land mass resulted in a highly distinctive Chinese culture, including a highly distinctive architectural style. Chinese architectural forms as a result will never be mistaken for Greek, Roman, Gothic or Renaissance forms. Precedents for Wright's Prairie House will not be found in Europe for the simple reason they don't exist in Europe. The formal elements of Wright's Prairie House were derived from China -- directly via Chinese architectural precedents and indirectly via Japanese variations on Chinese precedents.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying.

I am not saying that the design for Taliesin was copied from the Qin Ming He Shang Tu.

I am not saying that Wright's Prairie Style was derived from any specific work of Chinese architecture, real or illustrated.

I am saying that as an avid collector and connoisseur of Chinese art, Wright was fully aware of Chinese architectural design precedents, and that these precedents clearly influenced both his design philosophy and design vocabulary. This is in addition to his exposure to Japanese variations on Chinese themes, such as the Japanese Pavilion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Western architectural historians have been extremely reluctant to acknowledge this obvious and undeniable connection, for reasons I leave to the reader's imagination, but it is high time someone pointed this fact out for the sake of historical accuracy.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Frank Lloyd Wright's Chinese Connection Part I
Illustration(s): Rendering of Frank Lloyd Wright's home "Taliesin". Famous Chinese landscape painting "Qin Min Shang He Tu"
Author: Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Information Section
Source: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Nonergonomic! Low Tech Ergonomics

Nonergonomic! Low Tech Ergonomics
[人因工程 ]
(2003/04/02)





Aviatrix Enterprises

Now you can use EVERY outlet on your power strip without having a tangled mess.

Aviatrix Enterprises offers a product you can't get anywhere else: Power Strip Pals. Tired of those cumbersome power packs that take up all the room on your power strip? Don't throw away your expensive power strip/surge protector. Now you can let your handy little Power Strip Pals move the big plug-in packs out of the way. These little Pals will save you time and money.

Power Strip Pals are made in the U.S.A.
COST: $12.95 per package of three
NOTE: WE SHIP IN THE USA ONLY. YOU GET THREE PALS IN A PACKAGE.
Power Strip Pals come three (3) per package and are UL listed. Including male and female ends, they are 8.75 inches long. (Cord itself is 4 inches long).

Editor's Comments:

In case you thought that "ergonomics" involves only cutting edge technology designed by leading ID firms, think again. Opportunities for ergonomic improvements are all around us. One need not search far and wide for them -- they're right under our noses. This astonishingly low tech product is a perfect case in point.

Please understand I'm not citing this as an example of "Excellence in Product Design." How could I? It's nothing more than an extra-short extension cord, for god's sake! It almost doesn't deserve to be called a "product." One can barely contain the impulse to break out laughing. I'm merely pointing out a simple fact. Many widely used consumer products are if not ergonomically defective, then at least ergonomically deficient. That fact is allowing someone to make money selling four inch long extension cords!

Notice that it's manufactured in the US of A, and sold only in the US of A? Given the prohibitively high labor costs which prevail in America today, it's a miracle it's even economically viable. The fact that it is tells us something -- industrial designers casting about for products to improve don't have far to look. Industrial designers, stop trying to turn everything into ugly plastic ameobas and fix things that really need fixing!

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Aviatrix Enterprises
Illustration(s): Before, After, Power Strip Pals
Author: Aviatrix Enterprises
Affiliation: Aviatrix Enterprises
Source: http://www.powerstrippals.com
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space
[生活型態 ]
(2003/04/01)



Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space

Thirty spokes are joined at a hub; because of the void we have the use of the wheel.
Clay is thrown into a pot; because of the void we have the use of the vessel.
A door is cut from a wall; because of the void we have the use of the room.
We profit from what exists; we use what doesn't exist.
-- Laozi
from the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) "The Use of Non-existence"

Translation by Bevin Chu

Many Americans know that Frank Lloyd Wright was America's greatest architect, and arguably the greatest architect who ever lived. Some Americans even know that Wright's "Prairie House" was the revolutionary prototype for countless pale imitations dotting the American landscape. But how many Americans know that Wright's Prairie House owed an artistic debt to traditional Chinese architecture? How many Americans know that, for better or worse, suburban America looks the way it does partly as a result of architectural influences from China?

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural design philosophy bears a close spiritual affinity with Chinese mystical philosophy. Wright, who was Welsh, reveled in Welsh Druidism, named his house in Wisconsin "Taliesin," and never tired of quoting the above famous passage from the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching. Wright detested the Greek/Roman/Renaissance/Beaux Arts architectural tradition, which conceived of space as merely the absence of matter. He once told interviewer Mike Wallace "For 500 years what we call architecture has been phony." Instead Wright strongly identified with the Chinese/Korean/Japanese architectural tradition which conceived of space as every bit as "real" as solid matter.

Wright rejected western rationalism and embraced eastern mysticism. "The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet" he said, "But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist."

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 at the age of 92. Even today, forty-four years later, architectural historians and critics in the West still don't quite know how to account for the historical anomaly of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unable to reconcile Wright's "exotic" output with what came before, unable to fill in the missing pieces of the Wrightian puzzle, they remain befuddled and vaguely discomfited. The reason is simple. They are not looking in the right place. They are like the proverbial drunk who knows he dropped his key in the darkened alley, but insists on looking for it under the street lamp because "that's where it's brightest." If the experts ever get serious, the answers will not be hard to find. They need only turn their heads and look to the East.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space
Illustration(s): The Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Laozi
Author: Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Information Section
Source: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect