Foundations of Designing for Human Variability. National Science Foundation faculty early career development (CAREER) award.

Matthew B. Parkinson (PI)


This work will be conducted from 2009-2014. You can read more about the program at the NSF website here.

The research objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award is to provide a theoretical foundation for defining design targets and conducting design assessments to improve the design of products, tasks, and environments, enabling accommodation of populations that are increasingly diverse. Three research tasks will contribute to achieving this objective. First, in collaboration with an industry partner, methods will be developed to adapt existing anthropometric databases to new populations to account for changes in the population due to aging, obesity, and distributions of ethnicity. Second, multivariate and univariate modeling techniques will be explored and compared to assess the validity of these methods for modeling human variability. Third, a methodology for conducting "virtual fits" using large populations of simulated users will be developed and validated.

If successful, the results of this research will overcome limitations in existing design methods that do not adequately consider the differences in human variability that occur in certain user subgroups such as the elderly, people with disabilities, or people of a particular ethnicity. Designers will have the tools they need to design products to accommodate specific populations. This research will have an immediate impact on undergraduate students by providing them with design tools and a series of web-based teaching modules to be used in project-based design courses. Through these experiences, students will gain an appreciation for the need to design to accommodate various populations and the skills to do this. Other activities, including academic/industry workshops and an annual weeklong design experience for graduate, undergraduate, and high school students will disseminate the results to members of industry and academia.