Our Mission

To assist in the identification of user needs and the scientific evaluation of consumer product and packaging solution ease of use. 

Our Story

Designers of consumer products and packaging solutions, despite their good intentions, have been largely unable to develop products that meet the needs, aspirations, and abilities of older consumers, consumers with arthritis, and consumers with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.   For example, a recent study conducted at GTRI indicated that up to 80% of consumers with arthritis in their hands experienced at least some pain while trying to open common bottles.  What may be an annoyance for most users may be an insurmountable barrier for consumers with special needs.  Based on current trends, it is estimated that 35% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 55 by the middle of the 21st century (Rahman, Sprigle, & Sharit, 1998).  In addition, the prevalence of arthritis is expected to continue to increase, such that 67 million American adults, up from 46 million currently, are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the year 2030 (CDC, 2006).  Our abilities change as we age and consumers are demanding products that are designed to their abilities.  Unfortunately, scientific research has not kept up with demand. 

Companies need solid data upon which they can make sound design decisions.

The Intuitive Design Applied Research Institute offers a number of research and evaluation services designed to provide companies with actionable information that will enable companies to procure products that are easier to use.  The institute serves as the official test lab for the Arthritis Foundation.  A favorable review from an Ease of Use evaluation is accepted as evidence for ease of use by the Arthritis Foundation's Ease of Use Commendation program.  In addition, the institute offers a full range of accessibility, usability, benchmarking, ethnographic, and anthropometric studies related to consumer product usage.

We perform pre-competitive consumer research and develop design guidelines.  Meaningful design guidelines must be grounded in scientific research and a thorough understanding of the functional abilities and limitations of consumers.  Based on an analysis of a company’s product categories, we research the literature and develop design guidelines that can be incorporated into the product realization process.  We design and conduct large scale human performance measurement studies to supplement gaps in the literature.  The end product is a set of design guidelines that will promote the consistent application of good design and ease of use principles. 

We develop educational resources and simulation kits.  Part of the challenge of incorporating ease of use features into a product or packaging solution is educating managers and engineers about the need for ease of use.  We develop training materials and educational kits that include disability awareness exercises such as the arthritis simulation gloves.

We help customers understand consumer needs and aspirations.  Market research is often too reliant on the outcome of focus group research and quantitative studies that never really drill down to identifying contextual consumer needs and aspirations.  We develop and implement task-based ethnographic studies that assist companies in understanding what consumers do and how they make decisions with respect to a given knowledge domain or activity.  We supplement qualitative studies with quantitative studies to validate key findings. 

We objectively measure ease of use and accessibility.  Knowing that a product or packaging solution has a design issue that is a barrier to ease of use is only the first step.  We specialize in quantify the problem so that design decisions can be made to correct the issue.