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What’s the right average?

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Since the early time, all our designs and manufacturers have been based on ‘the average’, be it clothing sizes, size of a bat, size of your car, shoes and anything you use on a daily basis that is based on the approximated measurements! Simply put, the average comes from taking measurements of multiple people and dividing it by the number of people. Here people can be replaced by any entity whose average you wish to calculate (you’ll need a calculator!)

The modern theory of ‘average’ was inspired by the Belgian mathematician and astronomer named Adolphe Quetelet. According to Quetelet, the average is when everyone was optimally fed and lived under the same circumstances and environment. And this is what society should be striving for: the continual improvement of the average of the group. By mid-1840s, Quetelet became a celebrity and his radical science became an inspiration to many including the German philosopher Karl Marx and the late U.S president Abraham Lincoln.

Before the Civil wars, all military uniforms were custom-sewn which naturally wasted a lot of time making it almost impossible to cater to the demands on time. When demand for raise to develop a method for mass production rose, Lincoln suggested to adopt the ‘on average’ strategy by Quetelet but every soldier won’t fit into the one average size, a fact which proposed a problem back then. Hence they came up with the three most common averaged our sizes: 1) small 2) medium, and 3) large. And ever since the time of Civil wars to until today, we are stuck with ‘the average’.

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I reached the right class

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Before the Civil wars, all military uniforms were custom-sewn which naturally wasted a lot of time making it almost impossible to cater to the demands on time. When demand for raise to develop a method for mass production rose, Lincoln suggested to adopt the ‘on average’ strategy by Quetelet but every soldier won’t fit into the one average size, a fact which proposed a problem back then. Hence they came up with the three most common averaged our sizes: 1) small 2) medium, and 3) large. And ever since the time of Civil wars to until today, we are stuck with ‘the average’.

Imagine having a car with no adjustable seats or steering. Would a person who is either too short or too tall be able to drive comfortably? And the average is subject to change as we live & adopt new lifestyles & culture over time. An average height of an Asian man is less than the average height of American man. So, the “American” average is not suitable to the let’s say “Asian” average. Same way, our size range of clothes comes from the average of sizes in the US military. As the military is trained to be very fit and ideal body type, their average might not fit us. Similar was the scenario in World War 2, as cockpits size for an air force plane didn’t change and followed the same average from World War 1 even though average human size was increased from the 1920s to 1950. And that resulted into the death of many pilots during war and training sessions. Hence after considerable research, new average was discovered and cockpit sized was set accordingly.

This only proves that a constant update of ‘the average’ is necessary for better usability and accessibility. Women sizes should be taken into consideration as well as not even the car security features are designed that the driver could be women & hence all safety features are less effective if women is a driver. This is only one such example of how much inclusivity, differentiation and constant revaluation should be a part of “average” calculation factors.  Efforts should be made to design equipment or service which could accommodate most of the people as in reality it’s hard to be an “average”!

Reference:

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But hey, what fun it would be if it was all normal!
That was my first day at Humber College, Toronto, Canada.

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