What is Human Factors?

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is all around us! If you’ve ever designed, built, or engineered a product to work more efficiently with people….that’s human factors!

HFE is the study of how people interact with different elements in their environment.

Whether it is studying the interaction of people-to-people, people-to-society, or people-to-technologies, human factor engineers and engineering psychologists work to understand the capabilities and limitations of human performance and apply that to technology.

 

Human Factors is a very interdisciplinary field with many names…

Interdisciplinary Fields

Anthropometry

Biomechanics

Cognitive Brain Science (CBS)

Computer Science

Ergonomics (cognitive, organizational, physical)

Industrial Design

Mechanical Engineering

Physiology

Psychology (social, organizational, etc.)

Statistics

Human Factors Synonyms

Bioengineering and Biodynamics

Comfort Design

Ergonomics

Functional Design

Human Computer Interaction

Human Engineering

Interaction Design

Usability Engineering

UX/UI

User-Friendly and User-Centered Design

Interdisciplinary Fields

Anthropometry

Biomechanics

Cognitive Brain Science

Computer Science

Ergonomics (cognitive, organizational, physical)

Industrial Design

Mechanical Engineering

Physiology

Psychology (social, organizational, etc)

Statistics

Human Factors Synonyms

Bioengineering and Biodynamics

Comfort Design

Ergonomics

Functional Design

Human Computer Interaction

Human Engineering

Interaction Design

Usability Engineering

UX/UI

User-Friendly and User-Centered Design

The Ultimate Goal?

Use our understanding of human abilities, limitations, and behaviors to design and build products, machines, systems, and environments that are safer, more comfortable, and easier to use.

Put the people and their wellbeing first so they can have a better quality of life, feel more satisfied with their experiences, and be more productive.

As with many disciplines, Human Factors Engineering (HFE) originated out of military necessity. It first emerged during World War II when military scientists and researchers became concerned about pilot performance. Why were pilots crashing what looked to be perfectly good aircrafts?

Why were they still struggling to identify targets when new advancements had been made in radar, scanning, and other detection systems?

The first HF engineers focused on working to solve problems related to system performance, workspace arrangement, time-and-motion controls, and information presentation, detection, and recognition. Early improvements were made in performance and safety.

Since the 1950s, HF engineers work in many areas including:

Transportation Systems & Energy/Power

  • Military & Rescue Transports
  • Civilian aviation
  • Spacecrafts
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Nuclear power
  • Environmental Design

Research, Development, & Process Improvement

  • Consumer Products
  • Architecture & Organizational Design
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Automation

Electronics, Software, & Computers

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Process Control & Nuclear Power
  • Social Robotics
  • Data Mining

Current Human Factors Engineering applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

We apply what we know about people, their abilities, characteristics, and limitations to the design of equipment they use, environments in which they function, and jobs they perform in order to make the tasks compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people.