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Inclusive konro:

improving kitchen stoves in Japan

Helen Hamlyn Research Associate: Chris McGinley RCA Industrial Design Engineering Research Partner: Osaka Gas October 2004 2006

i~design case studies

This is one of a series of inclusive design case studies published as part of the i~design research programme. These case studies document inclusive design collaborations between the Helen Hamlyn Centre (HHC) and industry and voluntary sector partners, under the Helen Hamlyn Research Associates programme. They also document the results of the Inclusive Design Challenge, a design competition co-ordinated by the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre and the Design Business Association.

i~design is a multi-centre collaborative research

programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The purpose is to foster the adoption of inclusive design by business decision makers and professional designers, in particular by presenting the business case, developing tools and techniques, and building a network of researchers around the projects.

i~design partners
The Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art, London, is a centre for inclusive design, with extensive contacts in industry and design professions. The Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge has a strong reputation in the improvement of design process and development of design methodologies to address specific issues. Applied Computing at the University of Dundee develops information technology systems to support older and disabled people. The HCI Group at the University of York has a long history of inter-disciplinary research in the area of user centred design arising from collaboration between the departments of Psychology and Computer Science. The Design Council inspires and enables the basic use of design by business, education and government to improve prosperity and well-being.

Inclusive konro:

improving kitchen stoves in Japan

This two-year design research project was carried out with industry partner Osaka Gas, who distribute 24 per cent of Japans natural gas requirements to over 6.5 million households in the Kansai region. The objective of study was to improve the design of the konro -the standard Japanese three-hob gas cooker with an internal fish grill, with particular emphasis on the needs of Japans rapidly ageing population (Figure 1). In Japan, induction heating (IH) continues to gain a significant share of the cooking appliance market, yet it lacks much of the immediacy and satisfying sensory feedback offered by the konro. IH also invariably necessitates the purchase of additional special purpose cooking utensils. McGinley, the Research Associate who collaborated with Osaka on this study, conducted user research in both Japan and with expatriate japanese housewives living in the UK. As a result, he was able to identify and overcome significant shortcomings inherent in even the best example of existing konros. This case study demonstrates how, the incremental introduction of numerous programmable features into products particularly in Japan and the Far East, has resulted in function avalanche but no fundamental redesign of the standard footprint. This continues to create difficulties for growing numbers of older people with reduced dexterity, visual acuity and cognitive ability. Through the introduction and adoption of inclusive design principles and processes, coupled with innovative and intuitive design, a new market-ready and competitive footprint for this key kitchen appliance has been developed.

Ageing populations, cooking appliances, interface design, fish grill.

Project period
October 2004 September 2006

In Japan an elderly household is defined as a household consisting of individuals aged 65 or over. The number of one-person elderly households in Japan increased more than fivefold between 1975 and 2003, from 610,000 to 3.41million. This dramatic change is not reflected in the design of consumer goods, and the konro is a good example of a product that has undergone considerable design development, largely relating to technological input and the introduction of programmable features, but with little attention paid to the inclusive design details necessary to appropriately match the needs and aspirations of Japans ageing population. Changes in diet in Japan inspired by western cuisine have not stopped at food alone but can be seen in furnishings and appliances. There is an increased demand for choice in the Japanese kitchen, as people become less product-focussed and more experience-focussed. The intention of this study was to simplify the cooking experience and offer a new konro that would be safe, easy-to-use and simple to maintain. It was also important to move away from the incremental add-on mentality that characterizes the konro market and produce a full redesign that had been developed coherently, incorporating an inclusive approach from the outset. In the context of

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Figure 1. Population shift in Japan 2005 and 2050

the Induction Heating (IH) products that continue to be installed in new homes in Japan, the new konro should equal this competitor in terms of ease of cleaning, automation and adjustability, and should distinguish itself as a cooking appliance by offering unique advantages. The current state-of-the-art konro features a glass top that represents a heavy investment by its manufacturers. This has resulted in improved ease of cleaning, a feature claimed to rival to some extent that achieved by the IH market. McGinley, in conjunction with Osaka Gas, felt that the interactive and immediate nature of the konro cooking process should be enhanced and emphasised and not neutralised as a result of this study. As is customary with the HHC Research Associates Programme, the first one-year project was divided into four stages: Stage : Explore (October December) Stage : Focus (January March) Stage 3: Develop (April June) Stage 4: Deliver (July September)

Grill Inadequate size, cleaning, dis/re-assembly, obstructions/viewing, opening mechanism, safety

Interface Communication, feedback loop, natural mapping standard conventions, tactile considerations visibility

Cleaning Access, surface geometry, materials, layout grill sections

Following the initial research, sixty ideas were proposed that would offer improvements to the design issues raised. These were developed and rationalised into seven concepts offering a variety of alternatives to the existing konro design. These seven concepts are shown at Figures 3 - 5. Five expatriate Japanese housewives of different ages were then identified, and a focus group held to evaluate and compare these seven concepts with the S-Class konro. A questionnaire [A] was also devised and completed by them, and a DVD was produced by McGinley incorporating excerpts from the programme of tests, observation of user behaviour and brainstorming with them (Figure 6). Working models/prototypes and CAD designs were constructed of key components, such as the grill, rack and support frame (Figure 7) and the introduction of lighting proposed within the grill area, which would indicate whether the grill was on. These had been identified, following the more recent user discussions, as the major problem areas requiring design and development effort, together with areas whose construction was unnecessarily complicated. This research work was supplemented by further observation of users in Japan using the S-Class and other konros.

The Explore stage of the study began with a literature search and an audit of existing konro designs. This work included visits to Japan and meetings with the product development team at Osaka Gas. The S-Class konro was identified by Osaka Gas as their most up-to-date and features a glass top, red illumination on controls and advanced programmable features. The initial design exploration work used this as the logical starting point. In order to gain familiarity with the Japanese kitchen, discussions took place with people who had lived in Japan previously, and visits were made to Japan to observe seven housewives of varying ages in different kitchen environments (Figure 2), to discuss with them their experiences, likes and dislikes, and to observe their cooking and the varied context of use of the konro. Three main problem areas were identified as a result of this research:

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Figure 2. Japanese kitchen - traditional (left and far right) and modern (centre); observation of japanese housewives

Figure 3. Observations; Concept 1, features

Figure 4. Observations; Concept 2, features

Figure 5. Observations; Concept 3, features helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Results and Design Outcomes

Following work carried out during the first year of the study, a review was carried out of the results of the study to date. After further brainstorming, Wakayama University in Japan presented their findings relating to konros and older markets in a meeting between McGinley and the Osaka Gas resident ergonomist. The ergonomic characteristics of Japans elderly and disabled markets were further explored and the need confirmed for a simpler konro with improved form and functionality. A further schedule of issues was developed, as follows: Effective use of top surface (including its use for utensil/cookware placement); Easy access to burners for cooking with minimal exertion; Ease of cleaning comparable to that of IH (Induction Heating); Stability and minimal stand surface for ease of cleaning; Colour choice and potential for accessorising the konro; Flame visibility; Protecting user from flame.

The following objectives were distilled from a further assessment and evaluation of issues raised during subsequent meetings. McGinley and Osaka Gas had felt that the introduction of an inclusive konro represented a significant new development, which should be reflected in its external appearance, detailing and visual treatment: Sense of security Not specific safety functions (as there are already many such functions inside the konro). This relates to the appearance of the konro, communicating intuitively that the konro is a safe appliance (e.g. the user will not be fearful of setting their sleeve alight whilst cooking a common cause of kitchen fires in Japan; Design with reasons and data Results of user studies will inform the konro design, so that it could potentially be used over a users lifetime due to its ease of use and the effective relationship between user and interface; Broad consumer appeal The design should be a good industrial design, carrying an appealing and appropriate aesthetic; Easy to clean The appliance should be easy to disassemble and clean for all age groups, considering older people in particular. In addition, as the study moved towards its conclusion, the following restrictions were proposed and prioritized by Osaka Gas to enable further work on the finalized design solution to be concentrated on the most appropriate areas: The, overall dimensions of the konro should preferably remain unchanged from the current model; Three burners should be included; Burners should, if possible, be mechanically identical to the current model; Grill usage may be assumed to be without water (water is commonly put in the tray when grilling fish for safety reasons and to keep the fish moist); The main target of this project was an overall concept design with basic functions. Advanced controls (e.g. timers, automatic boiling feature, auto stop for earthquakes, locks for children, Tempura sensors, pan sensors etc) need not necessarily be included in the design, but space allowances for these features should be included.

A graphic concept model (Figure 8) was then derived in conjunction with Osaka Gas to communicate the goals of the inclusive konro and the key requirements they felt to be necessary to achieve these goals. The following descriptors were used to formulate this model: secure - a konro which offers protective features and communicates these features clearly; low physical effort - a konro which through weight positioning and overall design ensures the lowest physical effort possible to operate; pleasure - a konro which eliminates typical negative user experiences; easy to maintain - a konro which is easily maintained, or is supported by factors that achieve this; communicative - a konro which communicates information unambiguously and as often as is required.

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Figure 6. footage from focus group testing at the HHC by expatriate Japanese housewives

Figure 7. CAD designs of key components

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Design elements were then selected and foam prototyping carried out in preparation for a further programme of user testing, in Japan in March 2006. This prototype incorporated ideas inspired by the previous focus group analysis and went a considerable way towards development of a fully inclusive konro concept. A further questionnaire was produced to accompany the test model and to elaborate on over twenty feature ideas incorporated into the prototype. The questionnaire allowed users to add useful comments that may not have been reflected during the discussions.

Safety switch: requiring to be activated for konro use, giving tactile/visual indication of status, to be located on the vertical surface

Dial size: to be larger than S-Class but smaller than the larger test model Dial detailing: raised dot required on midpoint providing visual/tactile cue, incorporating soft touch coating

Dial rotation: 150 degrees optimal (one hand turn) Dial feedback: Tactile feedback at lowest, medium, high and maximum settings Timer: as per S-Class but more accurate and with seconds as well as minutes Integral instruction sheet: incorporated into one of two pull-out shelves, one for placement of recipes, utensils etc and the other for more advanced functions, providing a clearer/less cluttered button arrangement

The additional user test work, together with further input from Osaka Gas, highlighted the need for discussions and further design work on the issue of colour. The resulting recommendations were that dark colours should be used to disguise areas that could become discoloured, eg. hob stands, while light colours would be preferable to highlight spillage in areas where immediate cleaning would reinforce the impression of cleanliness and a pristine surface. The choice of colours was also felt to be critical in terms of distinguishing the new design from generic models found on the Japanese market. It was concluded that for power-on, blue would be an effective colour which would change to orange for the gas-on mode. The results of the various test programmes carried out on the study led to more finalised decisions being drawn up regarding the features to be incorporated into the final prototype and agreed with the product design team at Osaka Gas. These decisions concerned the following aspects of the konro design: Volcano (glass shape surrounding the burner that protects the user from the flames while allowing visual observation): to be removable and rounded in shape to accommodate a wok Top display: to be sited directly on the top surface facilitating easy viewing and provided with all required details: Characters used to indicate konro status: to include a clock (radio-wave self-setting), and information about problems in kanji ( Japanese ideographs), corresponding to burner strength display Illuminating konro: illuminated border giving clear visual display of power on conditions using LEDs, protected under a plastic panel affording access for replacement

Colours: black for hob stands, pale/light for top/medium for border: blues most preferred (colour research indicated that this is the least gender specific colour, with qualities denoting purity, reliability and trust, thereby instilling confidence.) Simplified vent: simpler in form and more integrated with a small tray underneath to catch debris so that the vent area can be easily cleaned.

A final visual prototype (Figure 10) was developed, shown to the final user group who responded positively. Delivery to the industry partner concluded the study.
Enhance experience Safety Independence

Sense of security

Low physical effort

Pleasure Ease of maintenance


Figure 8. Concept graphic model

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Figure 9. Mood board

Main details

Further details for removable parts

Additional detail Side view detail

1 Integrated vent plate 2 Illuminating rim 3 Burner guard 4 On/off slide switch 5 Larger control dial 6 Wide grill 7 Maximised grill window 8 Simplified hob stand 9 White glass surface 10 Time display Figure 10. Final concept features

11 Temperature display and problem status 12 Debris capture mesh tray 13 LEDs under plastic guard strip 14 Surface indentation 15 Dial surface details 16 Konro quick reference trays 17 Easy-use control panel

helen hamlyn centre 2006

Inclusive Konro | Chris McGinley

Conclusions and future work

The main conclusions are as follows: Inclusive design principles can be more effectively incorporated by designing with them in mind from the outset. A design-led process of gradually converging focus (i.e. observation, interviews, user analysis of existing products, concept trials and focus group discussion) can be used to provide user-based insights that can be inspirational, avoiding the need for assumption or speculation. By adopting an inclusive design philosophy from the outset, many technologically advanced products could be repositioned well within the grasp of the older user. A set of inclusive guidelines derived from this study, together with a paper detailing the process, were produced for assessment by Osaka Gas. These were presented at 2nd IAUD International Conference for Universal Design in Kyoto in October 2006.

Kitchen General Douglas. P (1979) Kitchen Planning and Design Theory, Blandford Press, New York Harrison, M (1972) The Kitchen in History, Osprey, Oxford Kitchenware (1990) Myerson, J & Katz, S, Conran Octopus, London Mielke. Rita (2005) The Kitchen: History, Culture, Lifestyle, Feierabend Verlag OHG, Berlin Marin, E (2004) Only Kitchens & Accessories, Atrium, Spain Ronald, B (2001) Victorian Houseware, Hardware and Kitchenware, Dover Newton Abbot, London Japanese Design Hibi, S (1989) Japanese Detail: Traditional Table and Kitchenware, Thames & Hudson, London Evans, S (1991) Contemporary Japanese design, Collins & brown, London Davey, A (2003) Detail: Exceptional Japanese Product Design, Lawrence King, London Inclusive Design Jordan, P (2000) Designing Pleasurable Products, Taylor & Frances, London

Norman, D (1988) The Psychology of Everyday Things, MIT Press, New York Clarkson, Coleman, Keates, Lebbon (eds) (2003) Inclusive Design, Springer Verlag, London Hofmeester & De Charon, (eds) (1999) Presence: New Media for Older People, Netherlands Design Institute, Amsterdam

McGinley, C (2006) Inclusive Konro: Improving kitchen stoves in Japan, conference paper, 2nd International conference on Universal Design, Kyoto, Japan

Japanese Cooking Cronin, R (2005) The Wagamama Cookbook, Kylie Cuthie, London Moriyama, N (2005) Japanese Women Dont Get Old or Fat: Delicious slimming and anti-ageing secrets, Delacorte Press, New York Kijima, N (2001) Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go General Japan Tsuzuki, K (1999) Tokyo Style, Kyoto Shoin, China

helen hamlyn research centre 2006

About the research partners

Osaka Gas: is the major natural gas supplier to the Kansai region in Japan, distributing natural gas to over 6.5 million households. It employs 16,000 people, has 120 affiliated companies and holds 24% domestic share in gas sales volume. It has a major influence on gas-powered white goods produced by leading Japanese manufacturers, helping to determine the industry specifications that govern their design, installation and use.

About the Research Associate

Chris McGinley is a Scottish-born designer based in London. His qualifications include a MEng from Strathclyde University, and an MA from the Royal College of Art. Chris received the Anthea & Thomas Gibson Award two years running based on scholarly achievement, and the Most Outstanding Team Design Award from the Royal Commission of Design Engineers. Chris has worked in a design and research capacity for groups such as Strathclyde University and the Central Research Laboratories (CRL), and has experience in giving presentations and running workshops in the UK, USA and Japan. He has developed a robust understanding of inclusive design and the sensual and experiential needs of the user. He has held creative roles in groups such as Joseph Duggan Photography and DooD Design, and exhibited graphic and product design work internationally. Contact: +44 (0)7799 388087 chris.mcginley@rca.ac.uk The Helen Hamlyn Centre was set up at the Royal College of Art in January 1999 to alert design and business to the far-reaching implications of a rapidly changing society. It works to advance a socially inclusive approach to design through practical research and projects with industry. Its Research Associates Programme teams new RCA graduates with industry partners. www.hhc.rca.ac.uk

The Helen Hamlyn Centre Royal College of Art Kensington Gore London SW7 2EU T +44 (0)20 7590 4242 F +44 (0)20 7590 4244 hhc@rca.ac.uk www.hhc.rca.ac.u