Gradations of Comfort


Impediments to comfort

As a person who designs and makes things that people use and live with every day, I’m continually intrigued by the concept of comfort. I find it easier to study extreme comfort as opposed to, say, the mechanics of a comfortable seat, so you may need to adjust your thinking in order to follow along. To me, ‘comfort’ is as much a mental state as a physical one.

There is very little research I’ve been able to find on ‘comfort’ per se (as opposed to ergonomics or human factors) related to design, so I have developed my own methodologies and hypotheses. My hope is that my ongoing research becomes manifest in the things I make. I’m very curious to know what resonates of the notes that follow:

A state of ‘comfort’ is one in which one’s sense of self in a particular time and place approaches completeness. This is often initiated in contrast to impediments of the same (see graph above).¬† Gradations of comfort:

  • safe
  • satisfied
  • content (mean level)
  • fulfilled/attentive (transition)
  • self-realized
  • transcendent
  • ¬†epiphanic

My hypothesis is that beyond the ‘mean level’ of contentment, one seeks a state of comfort physically in order to extend one’s consciousness or mental awareness into a larger context. In this way, people may use ‘comfort’ as a tool to achieve creative breakthrough, beginning by defining for themselves what constitutes an ideal state of comfort and how it may be attained. Designers of things and environments can create conditions that bring people to a ‘mean level’ of comfort, at which point it is up to the individual to jump levels according to their needs and capabilities. *

*For many people, an ideal state of comfort involves transitioning through a state of ‘discomfort’.