The Design Behind Fiskars Tools

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The Design Behind Fiskars Tools

Fiskars’ commitment to innovation has earned many of its craft and garden products the Ease-of-Use Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation® and helped millions of Americans suffering from arthritis continue to do the things they love.

Ease-of-Use Commendation by Arthritis Foundation®

For a population where over 46 million people are affected by some form of arthritis, the need for ergonomic solutions is more important than ever. Widely recognized for inventive, body-friendly tools like its distinctive orange-handled scissors, Fiskars tools are designed to be more comfortable and make the task at hand easier and more enjoyable.

The Arthritis Foundation Ease-of-Use Program encourages manufacturers to design user-friendly products and packaging. The rigorous approval process includes evaluation by a team of scientists who assess each product in the laboratory, as well as a panel of people with moderate to severe arthritis who put the products to practical use.

Design is central to Fiskars products, rooted in the company’s long tradition and heritage that stretches back over three centuries. In recognition of National Arthritis Awareness month, the following Q&A provides a unique perspective into the mindset of Fiskars’ design innovation when creating functional, easy-to-use tools.


Q&A with Fiskars’ Industrial Designers Daniel Lipscomb and Colin Roberts

One in five adults in the U.S. suffers from symptoms of arthritis, causing limitations at work and at home. From a design perspective, what makes a product “arthritis-friendly?”

A properly designed tool can dramatically diminish and even eliminate discomfort. Anthropomorphic and ergonomic design are two big words that basically mean creating products to fit the users body and work with its natural motion. Therefore, reducing the actions a person needs to complete a task is a no-brainer.

Several of Fiskars’ craft and garden products carry the Ease-of-Use Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation. What design elements do you focus on when creating more user-friendly tools?

People tend to focus on grip pressure or the force it takes to make a cut. You also need to look at the weight, overall size and balance, mechanics and handle shape. All these characteristics have to be right for a tool to work with the body instead of against it. The main areas we focus on are performance, reduced movements and ergonomics. Fiskars products are designed to be as easily usable to as many people as possible. We call it universal design. By designing products to be easily operated by individuals suffering from arthritis, our tools become inherently easier to use for anyone. Everyone can benefit from a body-friendly tool.

Any products carrying the Ease-of-Use Commendation that you’d like to highlight? What elements make these products stand out?

Fiskars Squeeze Punches

The Squeeze Punch embodies nearly all the techniques we use to create universal products. Simply by turning the access of actuation with a simple mechanism, the punch performs better and functions in harmony with the user’s hand. The Squeeze Punch also gives users the ability to see where they're punching — a feature that seems simple, but greatly improves the tool’s usability. You have to wonder how we ever punched without it.

Our garden cutting tools, many of which are designed with patented PowerGear® technology, include unique features like a special gearing mechanism that provides maximum leverage near the middle of the cut, when resistance is greatest, and ergonomic handles that fit comfortably in your hands. These innovative designs magnify cutting power, requiring less muscle power to reduce joint strain. For example, the small PowerGear lopper develops a mechanical advantage with the patented gear that amplifies the energy exerted into the handles. In other words, it allows big cuts to be made with little muscle. And our PowerGear pruner has a handle that rolls to follow the hand’s natural clenching motion.

Another feature that increases efficiency is a very sharp and hardened cutting blade with a non-stick blade coating. Not only does the sharpness improve performance, but the non-stick coating helps the blade slide through tough material, reducing the force needed to make a cut. Our tools are also very lightweight, which makes them much easier to use.

Where do you get design inspiration?

We are very aware of current and up-and-coming designs from automobiles to watches, but current market trends are just the beginning. We draw inspiration from people, artifacts and experiences in our daily lives. Nature and the outdoors in general are always inspirational. We are inspired by watching people work — whether it is gardening, using a scissors or making a holiday card. We also try to get our hands on as many products as possible. Sometimes disassembling an existing product can inspire new ideas. Even something that seems irrelevant like tinkering with a broken bicycle or home renovation projects can lead to new ideas.

How do you translate consumer insights into designs?

We recently conducted in-depth user research watching people using tools in everyday situations and tackling extreme tasks. We recorded the varieties of users we found and any problems they had using the tools. From there, we brainstormed all the different ways we could solve their problems and improve our products. Now we're in the process of mocking up our brainstorm ideas and taking them back to the users to confirm we got it right. We utilize these consumer insights and our ingenuity to draw up the design configurations and work through the fine details with an emphasis on designing a tool that’s functional and user-friendly.

Fiskars has a company tradition and heritage for design. How is this reflected in your daily design work?

Fiskars’ heritage dates back over 360 years, with a strong emphasis on innovation and functionality. Design innovation really took off in the sixties in Finland and has continued here in the U.S. since the early nineties. Fiskars’ Finnish design roots are what propelled Fiskars to become a global leader in universal design. Many of the company’s original designs, or slight variations, are still used today. We continue that heritage by trying to design with the same ethos as our counterparts from years past — “all things even the simplest can be made better and smarter.”

Can you please tell us a little about yourself, and your educational and design background?

Daniel J. Lipscomb is a Senior Industrial Designer with eight years of experience at Fiskars and a BA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Colin Roberts is an Industrial Designer with a BS from the University of Cincinnati's College of DAAP.