Why are Fridge Doors Magnetic?

I was explaining to a child recently how the fridge door works (two magnets or a magnet and piece of metal stick together to hold the door closed).  The child then asked the inevitable question, “Why a magnet?”

This started me on a journey that reminds me of how much human oriented design every product should be…

Warning! Contains content not safe for children. Click here for full post.

In the good old days, fridges came with a handle and a latch.  It was the best way to make sure that the door was sealed tight against the fridge body, keep the cool air in.

However that had an unintended consequence….it created a airtight seal between the outside and inside.  Good right? Only until children realised that fridges were the best places for playing hide and seek in…

The airtight seal kept fresh air out and screams from inside the fridge in.  After a few accidental deaths, the US government brought in legislation that require fridge doors to be able to opened from the inside.

So what did the designers do?  After all the old design latch was good at holding the door closed.  After due consideration, they went back to experiments on how much force a child can push with from inside a confined space.  With that data, they hit upon the magnet that generated enough force to hold the door close, but not too much…

 

This is a classic tale of how a product evolved because of human behaviour.  It is not a consequence that any designers could have foreseen.  The latch was, and is still, the best solution to hold doors close. However it is good design principle to design with human behaviour in mind, even if it means compromises. After all there is no point in putting out a product that nobody can/will use.

How do we get there? Now that’s a whole different discussion altogether…

Do you know of  times when design had to unexpectedly bend around human behaviour? Tell us below.

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