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Hi! I’m Vicky, A professional ergonomist who spends time in the wilds of the real world

My mug and me

My mug and me

When I am chatting with people about everyday ergonomics, one of my favourite questions to ask is (in a very open ended style, of course, I have been done a lot of interviewing in the my work life!):

“Tell me about your what you like in a mug”

I love this question for two reasons.  

  1. I get such varied and often contradictory answers.

  2. This simple question can generate quite a passionate response.

As a result, mug design has been one of my favourite areas of usability.  It is such an everyday object, and one which has such a range of personal preferances. 

So in this blog I am going to share some of my favourite considerations from people I have discussed mug design with over the years.

Size Matters, but not in the way you might think

Clearly some people like a larger cup of tea than others.  I have met some people who like a huge mug that means that they only need one cup of tea to see them through the morning.  I have met others who intentionally have a small mug to encourage them to stand up and move around more during their working day.  So while the amount of tea might be important, the behaviours associated with the size of mug are pretty important too.

Mug size ergonomics

Everyone has a favourite shape

A recent conversation with an engineer highlighted a concern that a curved mug did not have an even flow rate when the tea was being drunk.  For me, a gently curving mug fits nicely in my hand in a way I find very pleasing. Then there is the shape at the lip of the mug - straight, or slightly curved. Definitely a big personal preference.

Mug+shape+ergonomics

Then there is the size of the handle

Do you prefer to hold your mug with you finger tips, or a full hand.  Do you mind your fingers being divided by between being inside and outside the handle? It may be one of those bubbles that we all live in, but when I have been discussing mug choices, most people I speak to seem to prefer a chunky handle for a good grip like the one below. I assume that there is a small handle bubble somewhere else…

Mug handle size ergonomics

What thickness of china works for you?

Finally, there is that most controversial of subject. Here I think it is definitely a case of what you are used to.  If you have a norm of using a thin bone china mug, then a thicker material is likely to feel uncomfortable and as though hot tea is going to spill when you drink it.  If you are used to a chunky mug, you might feel as though you would break a thinner mug when taking a sip. I am pretty sure that there is no link between thickness of china and task performance, but it doesn’t stop us having a strong preference one way or the other.

Mug+china+thickness+ergonomics

And all of this from a humble everyday mug. I have not even started on the world of travel mugs… (Although that may be because I rarely use them, due to an excessive concern about burning my lips when drinking through the cap!)

So where do I sit in this biggest of debates.  I am a person with strong views on what makes a good mug. And these are what I have at home.  

My mug and me

I do think they err on being slightly too small, but the curve of the mug is very pleasing to drink from, and the thickness of the china is just right.  The handle is nice and chunky, and fits nicely round my fingers when I am drinking from it.  

But then again - that is just me!

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