Avoid researching in a vacuum!

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Avoid researching in a vacuum!

Feb 2, 2015 · Posted by Erica N.

The photograph below is from the July 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine. The contraption being worn in this photo is called “The Isolator.” The magazine’s founder, Hugo Gernsback, invented it. It is a soundproof, oxygen-supplied helmet allowing a worker to “concentrate with ease upon the subject at hand”.  Apparently, Hugo had trouble concentrating…

working in a vaccum

When designing “The Isolator,” I wonder if did Mr. Gernsback conducted research with end users? I am betting not- his solution appears myopically designed. We can guess that it was inspired by his context- he is easily distracted and is not able to work alongside his loud co-workers- his office setting is distracting.

We can assume that very limited research was done with actual end users, what their needs actually were, what materials should be used. Thinking about what materials were available in 1925, I imagine that this was a rather heavy contraption possibly made of metal or glass and covered in felt (?) to reduce sound (and light!) and improve comfort. Imagine it sitting around your shoulders and upper back!

Mr. Gernsback probably only tested himself as the sole end user, putting the bell-shaped contraption on his head, maybe realizing he couldn’t breathe…then making modifications. His solution is neither attractive nor practical. All this to say- in case it isn’t already obvious, this is not a good approach for creating a viable design! Makes me very thankful for ear buds and Spotify!

So avoid researching in a vacuum… or you may find that your design goes the way of “The Isolator.”

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