Tech & trend

How and why the hand control HC40 came to be

Nothing in the design of the new LINAK hand control HC40 was left to coincidence, the opinion of the engineer, the whim of a marketer, or a designer's personal preferences. Everything is based on facts, user response, and documented human behavior. Meet some of the people behind the HC40 family of hand controls, and you will learn what it takes to make innovative design.

There is more to designing an innovative product than just its function. Modern engineering needs good design – and vice versa – and a textbook example is the HC40; the LINAK® hand control for comfort beds. Its creation involved skilled LINAK specialists with design backgrounds, others holding degrees in engineering as well as external design consultants – all working closely together to create a desirable HC40 design. In fact, they created two designs. Both based on facts. A lot of facts!

Clarifying and defining the playing field
Several analyses of human behavior were scrutinized, consecutive heat-maps were made, multiple user-tests were conducted, and the most extensive user-survey ever conducted in relation to a LINAK product was carried out.

The goal: to create a new type of hand control that would stand out and maybe even change the market.

To reach such an ambitious goal, engineering and design had to come together in a perfect union. Only combined can the two create the perfect user experience – functionally and aesthetically.

No guessing – ask the user!
To make sure we hit the target, we began by examining every nook and cranny of user needs carefully. To collect and analyze the data the right way, the HOMELINE® team invited the Danish design firm, Artlinco®, to take part in the process. Here Industrial Designer, Søren Xerxes Frahm, plunged into the job with great enthusiasm.

“This was a great assignment for us. Design and innovation are rather strategic tools, and developing the HC40 was a highly strategic case for LINAK. It was not just making a hand control that could raise the backrest. It was about creating a unique user experience.”

In an extensive survey, 2 x 500 current and inquiring end users were asked a series of questions regarding everything from income, daily routines and general design preferences, to specific expectations for their next comfort bed. Information that, according to HOMELINE Product Manager, Anne Stær Møller, was essential to making the HC40.

“We did not want to assume what consumers want. We needed someone who could help us get input from potential buyers. This is where Artlinco® came into the picture. They are experts in gathering fact-based information”. 

Together with Frahm, the team dug in and started collecting what soon became a staggering amount of data.

A reason for every single design detail
LINAK wanted to work with Artlinco® because of the agency’s strict focus on fact-based reasoning – they call it ‘evidence-based development’.

“We knew that it had to be about something other than personal opinion, and an engineer’s idea about pre-existing functionality,” Anne Stær Møller explains. “We had to find out what the end user really needs to be able to meet requirements in terms of functionality and design. In short, we needed facts to work from”.

Søren Xerxes Frahm concurs:

“There must be a good and fact-based reason why every detail looks and works the way it does. Here the mood of the team and the personal preference of the designer don’t count at all”.

Søren Xerxes Frahm from Artlinco® points to one of the many models used for analyzing the data from the survey. Søren Xerxes Frahm from Artlinco® points to one of the many models used to analyze the data retrieved from the more than 1,000 respondents.
 

Information on human anatomy and physiology were mixed with user responses and facts revealed in heat maps. Only hard facts count.

Details, such as the design of the navigation, the structure of the menus, the choice of materials used, the shape and even the weight of the hand control, were decided and made in compliance with data collected. Anne Stær Møller easily lists examples of such fact-based features.

“Our silent alarm and the shake torch are purely based on the needs expressed by the end users. And as it turned out, these features really made an impression with our customers, when we showcased the HC40 at the interzum trade fair back in May 2019”.

How design meets functionality, practically
To the modern designer drawing abstract lines on paper is only a rather small part of creating a good design. Substantial data needs to be analyzed and user demands and customer requirements have to be considered before pencil meets paper.

After carefully isolating the most important and sought after functions, the team created and 3D-printed more than 20 prototypes. All were tested in the hands of real people.

“Even though we know the anatomy of the human hand and a great deal about users’ physiology, the buttons on the hand control can be placed in a million different ways,” Søren Xerxes Frahm explains. “Only by studying how users grab and use the control do we know what works and what doesn’t”.

Once the results of the user testing had been analyzed, the next task appeared. This is where the experience of the LINAK team stepped in.

“Several designs looked really promising. But at some point we had to consider what was actually technically possible production-wise. What would the realistic balance be,” says Anne Stær Møller, and explains how the initial HC40 TWIST™ was even more twisted.

HC40 TWIST™ seen from the top to reveal a unique twisting shape.The HC40 TWIST™ versions have a unique twisting shape which fits perfectly in a hand.
 

“We couldn’t fit the print board (PCB) from the HC40 FRAME in the TWIST design. Instead we landed a version with a 14-degree twist that made the cut. And it still fits perfectly in your hand – whether you're left-handed or right-handed. This example just underlines the fact that we will always have to find the perfect balance between design and functionality”.

HC40 TWIST™ Advanced seen from the side – highlighting the twisting shape.HC40 TWIST™ Advanced seen from the side – highlighting the twisting shape.

The reason behind the two HC40 designs
Crunching the data, it slowly became clear that consumers fell into two very different groups. One living in a coastal city center who loves light, catchy and maybe even intrusive design, while the other group typically lives in inland suburban areas, and leans more towards heavier and more rustic bedroom designs. In order to reach both customer groups, the ideas for HC40 FRAME™ and HC40 TWIST™ formed.

“Among the many prototype designs those were the ones that stood out,” says Søren Xerxes Frahm. “We typically see the first-movers with a wish to stand-out, to show artistic intellect and go for daring designs, whereas the other equally interesting group thrives better with familiarity and a cozy atmosphere – what we in Denmark would label as ‘hygge’”.

According to him, the FRAME™ offers a more solid look, matching an often wood-like interior with heavy furniture, whereas the double-curved HC40 TWIST™ fits perfectly with the chic bed designs often seen in the city.

HC40 TWIST™ Standard, HC40 TWIST™ Advanced, HC40 FRAME™ Standard, HC40 FRAME™ Advanced.The HC40 family consists of a Standard and an Advanced version of each of the two designs. Providing a total of 4 hand controls.
 

Increased focus on the end user’s experience
The HC40 family is a LINAK flagship, meant to set new development standards in the market – especially in the way it has shifted focus from pure function and performance to be based more on users’ experience.

To designers like Søren Xerxes Frahm there is often an imbalance between engineering and design. Where good engineering ensures a durable product with perfect performance, good design is responsible for the overall good end user experience.

“I don’t think I have ever worked with a company more dedicated to rock solid engineering than LINAK. You guys are the champions! So devoted, thorough and conscientious. However, I think in at least some of the areas you work with, you could benefit from focusing on the user experience and not just sublime function. Users don’t buy a perfect piece of engineering and they don’t buy mechanics… they buy the experience these things bring. That’s were good design can play a part”. 

 
LINAK hand control HC40 TWIST™ for adjustable comfort beds play-icon

LINAK hand control HC40 TWIST™ for adjustable comfort beds

Files

HC40 TWIST™

This is a new generation of hand controls for adjustable comfort beds - designed with you in mind. With a unique twisting shape the HC40 TWIST™ differs in look from its counterparts the HC40 FRAME™ versions.

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