What is Comfort?

This question was proposed to us by Jim Martin last week and since then I’ve thought much about it. Not necessarily what is comfort in the terms of dimensions and what typically is recognized as ergonomically correct but how humans adjust to a situation to set up this criteria of comfort.

As humans, we are sensitive to slight adjustments in relatively minor forms. Not to say we are fragile or particular, but rather to state that we are cognizant of something that might not be “optimal” for our pleasure in any given situation or any spontaneous time frame. Because of this, we tend to create or alter ways we sit, stand, or lay on a particular piece of furniture or space to provide this idea of comfort. A key example of this, chairs are not meant to support the weight on the front two legs alone, yet, how many of us perch the chair up and rock or balance while we write or meticulously sketch the next big idea. The furniture designer more than likely did not take into consideration that a chair would be used to balance in that way or in the 100’s of other ad hoc solutions that people randomly use them. Humans are resilient in that way.

image captured from hometone.com brings into question the idea of comfort and conformity
image captured from hometone.com brings into question the idea of comfort and conformity

So this begins to open up a whole new spectrum of questions. Would we manipulate a piece of furniture if given the opportunity? How can we occupy a space such that our comfort level is constant at any given time? While designing should the concept be more about freedom and user input and less about stationary fixed objects? This is comfort. Could you imagine something as simple as being comfortable being so complex? Well, it is. The fact is that no matter how much we plan and design for the unexpected it is still unexpected. I can use a space 100 different ways and be comfortable and you another 100 and so on and so forth. This is because comfort is not quantifiable, in some regards of basic dimensions it is, but it is qualitative based from user to user. That is why this isn’t a straight forward easily answered question; that is the reason I’m writing about this subject currently.

Comfort is as vastly complex as the human being. Dogs are easy, they walk around in a circle 4 times (maybe once more the other way) and plop down, only to be roused when their immediate doom is near, but we adjust and re-adjust until we find comfort. At this point, the countdown begins until our once perfectly comfortable situation has grown tiresome and the process must start over. What is comfort you ask? Comfort is Fleeting


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