The March issue of Metropolis is focused on products, with the theme of Good Design. And it contains several articles with a specific focus on ergonomics. Niels Diffrient (illustrated above) presents what might be read as a self-contradicting design process, in The Real Driver. On the one hand he posits a master-of-the-universe expertise as a best practice over contextual research:
On the other hand, the result of this approach is a chair that was "ten years in the making—I realized that people needed more comfort with less complication. By that, I mean fewer buttons, levers—everything." I recognize that I'm oversimplifying, but one wonders if the need for a less complex chair could have been identified with a few weeks of research rather than ten years of tinkering (although maybe getting it simple was all in the tinkering).
In the same issue Don Norman's Selective Memories, gives perspective on the evolution of design focus:
"If the last century was about rationality and reason (or attempted to be), let’s hope this one ushers in a deeper appreciation of human behavior. Ideally, logic and reason would remain important, but cognition (how we understand things) and emotion (how we value them) should play equally important roles."
Perhaps the fact that Niels and Norman - both well into their golden years - were the representation for ergonomics issues, speaks to the continued perception of human factors as the domain for gurus, while design is the realm of young rock stars? But the content is is balanced by A Call to Arms, examining high-tech prosthetics for returning soldiers - "the ultimate ergonomic challenge."
Last, but not least, check out Ben Katchor's The Nozzle, a pseudo-nostalgic comic strip perspective on the role of customer research in design and marketing.