A toddler stands up proudly in their high chair, they lose their balance and they take a tumble. The result can cause some traumatic injuries. In response, every high chair sold in the U.S. is required to come with a safety harness.
But how does just adding on a harness ensure that a busy parent will remember (or be willing) to use it every time? Or, for that matter, how does including a harness in a box even ensure that a parent will even install it in the first place?
The BabyBjörn High Chair, a Red Dot winner dreamed up by Ergonomidesign, cleverly solves these problems. Rather than harnessing in a child to be fed from a high chair’s tray table, the tray table simply becomes the harness. The surface locks the child down like they’re going on a roller-coaster ride.
"We wanted to make a chair where you, the parent or caretaker, automatically make sure the child is securely fastened," project lead Håkan Bergkvist tells Co.Design. "On our chair all you have to do is flip up the adjustable table and the child is secured."
In other words, if you want to feed your child—the whole purpose of putting them in that high chair in the first place—you’ll need to flip up the harnessing mechanism. By tying safety to the BabyBjörn High Chair’s primary function, smart design necessitates that the chair will always be used safely. There’s simply no alternative.
Yet ironically, the BabyBjörn High Chair’s safety mechanism is so invisible that it doesn’t meet U.S. regulations. "Because of standard requirements in the U.S., the chair is also equipped with a traditional harness there," Bergkvist tells us.
It’s a shame. Bergkvist’s team was "left free to start from scratch" with the design, to dream up a better solution to chairs with complicated straps. (Which they did.) That design will be unadulterated across Europe, where no such harness standards exist. But in the U.S., parents receive an overbuilt solution, wasting both their time (the very existence of a strap implies that it should be used), their money (someone has to pay for this extra component), and material resources (if BabyBjörn sells 20,000 of these chairs, that’s a lot of fabric that we never needed to produce).
The purpose of iterative design is to approach known ideas in a better way. By their very nature, the most watershed designs probably won’t have been considered before—they’re new ideas because they’re new ideas. So how can anyone be expected to dream up the products of the future when they’re boxed in by the semantic limitations of the past? Or, maybe more importantly, why should they?