Obesity - is there an ethical boundary to your designs?

Seens like when there is a slow day in the newsroom, weight loss is the standard attention grabber. Recently I have seen an increase in stories about products for really obese people.

A company now makes an exrta long syringe for overweight patients.

Secondly, not a shocker, but Mercedes, Honda, and other car companies announced increases in seat width on average of half an inch to one full inch for larger people.

At what point is there an ethical responsibility to include the terminally obese for safety? Does anyone work at a company that is forced by the legal department to constantly change their designs to include the demographic? What other products are being developed to handle fatter americans? If products are only designed for the really big people, are smaller people discriminated against?

Obesity increases everyones healthcare costs should it also increase the design cost too?

No forums yet seem to highlight obesity as a topic, but everyone is affected one way or another. How big do we need to increase our designs to handle the “average size” person. Is Really big the new average?

I think this could be a really good discussion if it weren’t so narrowly focused on obesity, there are plenty of people who are considered big regardless of their BMI and inversely there are as many people who are smaller than average and generally excluded from design consideration.

I’ll admit that i am a bit of a fatty myself, but i am also 6’3" with shoulders like a bulldozer arms like a gorilla and fists like toasters. I guess i am trying to say i am big, big all over, built like a linebacker as some might say. But because of my proportion, most people don’t realize just how big i am until they witness me trying to fit in the driver’s seat of a Saturn, My knees hit the rear view and my shoulders span the width of the car.

Because of my bigness, i chose to explore this topic when i was in school. “the falsitude of universal design” or “how i can crush the 80th percentile, so you better start accommodating me”. In really basic terms my final thoughts were that there need to be systems of vast adjust-ability put into place everywhere. Not necessarily just being able to move a car seat a few inches back and fourth but maybe a line of different sized seats that could be selected and bolted in based on the primary user. When it comes down to it making something that is comfortable for my dump truck sized ass to sit in could end up being downright unsafe for my 5’ 100lb girlfriend.

Why not have multiple syringe lengths?
Why not put larger seats in cars, should my only options be an suv or a 1982 crown vic?

somtimes it’s like this

Well, people now generally are taller than people 20 years ago. If you don’t look at being bigger as a negative, but purely as a stat, then there is definitely a need to design things that cater to this change. Whether I view obesity as a bad thing or not, it doesn’t make sense to be reluctant to design bigger car seats. It’s not my problem that they got bigger, but as a designer, it is my concern to give consumers the best possible seat design, which is relative to who my end users are. If they are fat people, so be it.

I mean, are you against designing more sex toys when people nowadays are considered a lot more receptive towards simulated sexual activities than before? :blush: Clearly there is a demand. If it doesn’t hurt people, I’ll fill it.[/i]

The intentions are not to pick on people, but to bring discussion on design factors for a moving target ( statistically, median size is getting larger.)

One of the articals I forgot to mention was about a lady that had a great new business for womens shoes size 10 or larger. She started her company because she could not find her size. She played sports in college was definitely not obese and was tired of buying guys shoes.

Average womens shoe size has gone up a ton since the fifties.

If I sell size based products ( shoes for example) I will try to stock a bell curve of sizes. tough to do when the median keeps increasing.

Great point. I think it is very important to point out that the BMI charts probably need to be reindexed.

People are getting bigger and not necessarily fatter. Genetically there seems to be a change.

One side of my family is huge - Giants as my petite mother says.

ID Mag did a whole article on this in the health issue about 2 years ago. What they said, was our we conforming to America’s obesity. Now I am a big in general and have friends that are quite large as well, but most of these design focused on large people are not necessarily focused on us the large percentage.

These are being focused on the 33 year old 5’9" dude with 52" waist that is so far from getting in shape he is changing the way we design. Now I agree that all the percentages are growing, people are bigger, but American’s are fatter. Go visit another country it is amazing to see how few really obese people there are.

I was at a Formula race in Montreal; I went to get a shirt. I asked for a XXL, they didn’t have it. They said the XL ran really big, not me and not on most Americans. The fact is we need to design with the thought of an enlarging population, but at the same time is there a way to help educate Americans to be a little more health conscious.

Funny that you mention the xt t-shirt purchase. I have noticed that when buying XL the size can be as big as a tent or as small as a medium.

I friend of mine sourced a product that needed a one size fits all belt.

His original product landing had belts that were 60" When he asked his overseas supplier why the big belt? They responded that they thought all americans were that big. It hit home the view from Asia is that all americans shop at walmart and are as big as average walmart customers. The supplier was a regular Mfg. for cut and sew wal mart product.