From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Tea Party Ergonomics; the Meaning of Ergonomic Design

Tea Party Ergonomics

It’s political season in America, and whether you love them or hate them, the debates that take place are sure to at least provide some entertainment (hopefully enough to overcome the frustrations!).

And surprise, surprise, ergonomics has found an unlikely route into one high profile Congressional race in California.

In one corner we have Nancy Pelosi, a powerful incumbent Democrat and current Speaker of the House, and in the other is Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite John Dennis. Here’s how Nick Gillespie, Editor-In-Chief for Reason Magazine, describes Dennis:

Meet Republican John Dennis, who … made a fortune in ergonomic (Greek and Latin for "really uncomfortable") furniture.

"Greek and Latin for ‘really uncomfortable’." That’s funny.

John Dennis is described in various media descriptions as a co-founder of Humanscale, though his current affiliation with the company is unclear. Gillespie goes on to poke more gentle fun at ergonomics, or so he thinks, when he says:

I’ve never been a fan of kneeling chairs, but back pain be damned, this Dennis guy sounds pretty good!

Read the full article …

Ha ha. Another good one. But wait, I don’t care for kneeling chairs either, and contrary to popular opinion, kneeling chairs like the one pictured in Gillespie’s article are not considered by most ergonomists to be ergonomic. While they may be comfortable to some users, and may relieve back pain for some people, they’re not adjustable and the shin pressure and leg entrapment they create can be of significant concern.

Politics is funny. Ergonomics can be funny. But sometimes it’s hard to laugh.

For ergonomics, we really need to get busy improving the public’s understanding of ergonomics if we intend to advance its value as a science, application and profession.

As for advancing the value of politics and politicians? Now that’s really funny.


Fight for the Rights to

This topic may appear awfully dry at first glance, but it hits squarely on a topic that is frequently discussed in these pages: the meaning of "ergonomic design."

This particular debate occurred within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) where two companies — neither of which appear to be truly engaged in ergonomic design or the sale of truly ergonomically designed products — fought over the rights to the internet domain name Stylish Solutions, a company that sells bathroom fixtures through, purchased the domain in 2009, but a competing company, going by the name of Ergonomic Designs Limited, who sells bathroom and kitchen fixtures through, filed a claim for rights to the internet address

The reasoning behind the WIPO decision contains some legal technicalities, but one of the primary arguments in the case centered on the meaning of "ergonomic designs." Ultimately, WIPO decided in favor of granting the domain to Ergonomic Designs Limited, even though the company has not, and claims it cannot  trademark the brand name "Ergonomic Designs" because the words are generic.