Ergonomics for designers

There are other threads on here (mainly around mouse choice), but wondering how others have setup their workstations and drawing tools for ergonomics and reduction of repetitive strain issues or tension.

I tend to find most effects in my shoulder/neck area and through my arm/hand. I'm trying to adapt to a vertical mouse (Logitech Lift) for a more natural position and less rotation, and helps some, but not as easy to draw with as the standard mouse I've used for years. (Trackball helped a little too for breaks, but not fully, and not ideal drawing.)

I try to pay attention more to my posture, taking breaks, stretching, etc. but am wondering if some changes to my desk and/or chair might also be in play.

What's your experience, solutions, setup?


  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    I’ve been using a tablet and stylus for 31 years, which I originally acquired because of the scare over carpal tunnel syndrome back then. I also have an Aeron chair since it was introduced in 1994, and that is as good as new, although a bit dusty in places. And further to James’ comment, yoga.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,584
    I will also throw in a vote for the Aeron chair. A great piece of kit which transformed the state of my back, for work. Adobe had them at the office, and I bought one for home as well… transformative!

  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 179
    I've gotten used to a trackpad and have not had any carpal tunnel-like issues since I switched.
    For sitting I have a Steelcase Leap which I picked because it is a good balance between forcing me to sit in a decent position and being comfortable. My favorite chair was the Humanscale Freedom chair with headrest, that was a nice perk of an old office job. Really I should just stand at my standing desk more.
    Iyengar yoga has done good things for me in terms of neck and lower back pain
    The 20/20/20 rule for eyesight is an important one too (every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds). There's a Mac app called Time Out that can help one build the habit. I do worry about my eyes more than anything else
  • Stuart SandlerStuart Sandler Posts: 329
    Aeron Chair and a Biomorph desk for nearly 20 years now without issues.
  • edited June 8
    > There's a Mac app called Time Out
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 237
    edited June 8
    Noted about the Aeron chair. I think my desk kind and its position are fighting me too, as I can't easily get underneath it enough to get good support for my hand/arm (I've just stuck with it as it has been generally ok for a while).

    Forgot to say I tried a pen tablet for a while too and had potential, but just couldn't get comfortable with it.

    For those using the trackpad primarily... I assume you're doing most of your daily routine and type drawing tasks with it, and it's the larger, detached one you're referring to for a desktop machine (or syncing to a laptop)?

    I try to keep tracking speed high and my movements minimal with the mice (or whatever tool) to reduce the repetitive strain. It's been fairly sudden and tends to feel like a pinched nerve with unnatural rotation and pressure of shoulder and hand. But I've done it the same way for many years, so it kind of surprised me and hence the search/tests.
  • donat raetzodonat raetzo Posts: 36
    when the problems appeared using the mouse, i started working with a A5-tablet. once that broke, i learned operating the mouse using my other hand. (reviewing 30 years) 

    both your chair and your table should be height adjustable.

    the depth of my desk allows generous use to place the screen, keyboard and mouse. 

    i never missed arm rests while operating (balance the arm load on the table, assuming a correct table height)

    some movement during sitting helps me (legs, buttocks, lower back, elbows, shoulders, neck - everything). that counts more to me than any ergonomic design of any (but height adjusted!) chair.

    my short sighted eyes remained stable over the time, but i got age-related distortions.
  • Yves MichelYves Michel Posts: 112
    I use a Norwegian chair called "Capisco" by Hag. It has kind of a saddle form which is very comfortable for my back.
    I tried a vertical mouse but went back to my Microsoft flat mouse for portable.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,594
    edited June 8
    Aeron chair here, too, for about 15 years. Very comfortable.

    The stock Apple Magic Mouse has worked well for me, although it caused problems when it was first introduced (2009). It gave me sharp pain in my hand when I used it, so I switched to an older Mighty Mouse (corded, pill-shaped). At some point I tried it again and it no longer caused problems. No idea what changed.

    I found a long time ago ('90s) that chair height relative to desk height can make a big difference. I was getting pain in my arm and shoulder until I figured this out. What works best for me is to have the desk about the same height as my elbows, and the chair adjusted so that my feet can rest flat on the floor.

    The thing that causes me the most strain is dragging with the mouse—that is, holding the mouse button down while moving it. (I discovered this back in the '80s thanks to a solitaire game.) If I need to do something that requires a lot of dragging, it starts to get painful before long. Because of that, I've gotten into a habit of using alternate methods to dragging whenever I need to do it a lot.

    One thing I haven't quite figured out is how to avoid neck pain when drawing on an iPad for an extended period. Tilting up or raising the iPad seems to help, though, since it seems to be from leaning over and looking down, especially if it's on my lap.

    I've also discovered that my fingers start to get numb if I draw or write for more than 20-30 minutes. When I was younger, I don't remember this happening at all. I guess it's something to do with age, or maybe the fact that I don't do it as often as I used to thanks to computers.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,818
    An additional benefit of the Aeron chair is that almost all parts are easily replaceable.
  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 179
    Adam Ladd said:
    For those using the trackpad primarily... I assume you're doing most of your daily routine and type drawing tasks with it, and it's the larger, detached one you're referring to for a desktop machine (or syncing to a laptop)?
    I use an external Apple Magic Trackpad for everything. It's connected to a MacBook and I enable the "tap to click" functionality at the OS level, which may be my favorite feature of the trackpad
  • Nothing has helped me more than regular exercise.
    Best advice. Get into deadlifting and squatting (and some other lifts too while you're at it). Provided you use good form, you will build a bulletproof back and shoulders.

    Plus its kind of fun being able to pick up 400 lb.
  • An original Aeron is US$ 3,000 in Brazil. How much is it in other countries?
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,594
    edited June 10
    Wow, that's a lot. I paid about US$800 for mine ten years ago.

    (I guessed wrong in my previous post regarding how long I've had it.)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,335
    edited June 10
    Check out Teknion Contessa which is about US$1100. I've been using mine for almost 15 years and it's very comfortable and durable.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,584
    Used Aeron chairs are a thing, btw. I have bought three in the past 25 years (one broke, and I have one in my office and one for my kid’s desk), and two of those were used. They have been fine. This is not shocking seeing as new ones have a 12-year warranty.

    Also note that they come in three sizes: A (small), B (medium), C (large). And also varying levels of adjustability. It used to be that you got massively adjustable or not, but now they offer the darn things with two or three levels of adjustability on each of back support, arms and tilt, and they offer an optional different rolling caster for carpet.  
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 698
    I bought my Aeron chair used, at a surprisingly low price, from a man who seemed in quite a hurry to get rid of it.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,319
    edited June 11
    I also bought my Aeron B-size chair used, for about $400, in NYC, around 2017, from a office furniture liquidation wholesaler's warehouse, where he had 1,000s of them from mint condition to needing repair, in all sizes. I sat on a few and picked one that was quite dirty but otherwise functioning well to get what I thought was a good price. I think its not the most extensible model so maybe it wasn't such a good deal. I think I found it on craigslist.

    I second Jeremy and Matthijs: Last year I decided after ~12 years of not paying any attention to health really, to get back into it, what with hitting 40: I eliminated (as much as possible in the USA, ha) sugar, eating out, and any food that came with any processing at all (ie, nothing with any packaging, especially paper) and reduced carbs and increased protein macros, for about 3 months; also I skipped breakfast, and had a protein-only lunch, Meanwhile did two 1-hour exercise sessions. No warm up, no cardio, body and dumbbell free weights, fasted (so starting around 10-11am). I do basic stuff, very slow, very heavy: 1 or 2 sets of about 8-12 reps with whatever weight got me to momentary muscle failure, and then increased the weight a bit every week or so. After the 3 months I was at a very good BMI so relaxed the diet aspect and kept the exercise the same. I figured I could always spare 2 hours a week and the payoff long term will be compounding.

    I got into resistance exercise back in college in my late 20s when I started to get back problems after a car accident, and long hours at a computer. Never had any since. No sign of wrist/hand issues either, despite using stock ibm/apple laptop keyboards for ~15 years, and trackpads.
  • Nothing has helped me more than regular exercise. After I broke my femur in a cycling accident I had to do physical therapy; I’ve kept up with, and built upon, it over the past three years and I feel much better than I did before.

    I use an Apple trackpad. I switched from a mouse about ten years ago.
    Physical activity — whether one is sitting or not.

    My favourite chair is a height-adjustable stool without backrest, which forces me to change posture constantly. You can sit dynamically on a simple inflatable seat cushion or an expensive ergonomic setup but whatever … stand up regularly, exercise, walk a lot!

    I use a trackpad to draw.
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 237
    edited June 12
    Appreciate hearing others experiences and tips so far.

    I can adapt to drawing on a laptop trackpad (though have preferred a mouse), but the detached, larger trackpad is intriguing.

    I like that it could be moved around to find a more comfortable position, and in particular, the "tap to click" gesture is nice. I tend to try to move my "click" finger around on mice buttons to reduce occasional fatigue/subtle pain in it.
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 237
    I've been trying the Magic Trackpad for 2 weeks now (just passed the return window and debated if I should keep or not... not cheap, but quality and features are nice).

    It's taking some time to get used to the movements and speed settings compared to how a mouse tracks, but I like that I'm having to move my arm and shoulder less (where most of the pain has been).

    Though, I find my wrist and hand have been more strained by tilting my wrist back a little and trying to slightly 'hover' my fingers above the pad or keeping weight off them from resting on it when in between movements/actions (pretty often through the day).

    For those using it, have you found you adapt or other tips? Practicing keeping my shoulder relaxed seems to be helping some.
  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 179
    I haven’t really had that problem (or maybe it’s something my hand just got used to years ago) but i wonder if the solution is analogous to using a keyboard with a wrist rest - if you elevate your palm where it rests in front of the track pad, it might change the angle of your hand enough to make a difference?
  • Looking for high-grade office equipment cheap? As so many offices closed during the pandemic, never to reopen, there’s glut of unwanted office furniture in every large city in the U.S., and I suspect elsewhere, too. Here’s an article about the situation in NYC, published in yesterday’s New York Times:

  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 237
    edited July 26
    Sorry to keep dragging out, but still in search mode for helpful things.
    Two wonderings:
    The Aeron chair mentioned helps with back pain, how about backside/leg pain from sitting and pressure?
    Any experience with adjustable height standing/telescoping desks to get out of the chair for a good while but still be able to work relatively comfortably?
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 698
    The Aeron chair mentioned helps with back pain, how about backside/leg pain from sitting and pressure?
    There's no way around that other than to not sit for so long. Stretchly helps.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,594
    edited July 26
    I don't know if the Aeron chair is better than others with regard to backside/leg pain, but I haven't had any problems with that since I've had mine. Maybe I just naturally get up out of it now and then.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,584
    I found my Aeron to help with such things, for me.
    Mostly because it is height adjustable AND tilt adjustable—tilt in terms of both the default position and how far it tilts back from that. And then the mesh offers both support and a little give on the thighs.

    Not all Aerons are as fully adjustable as this, so be careful because you can get them without these features as well!

    I expect other chairs exist that are equally adjustable, but they are not the most common office chair features, that’s for sure.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 985
    The things that helped me most with shoulder/neck/arm/hand strain are:
    • trackball – Kensington Expert Mouse for over 20 years!
    • positioning – screen at eye level when sitting upright, elbows on desk (not chair armrests or hovering) to keep arms level and pressure free
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