User-Centred Vibrator Design (1995)

Ireen Laarakker

Supervisory Team
Chris Snijders
T.J.A. Haan
Jan Schoormans
A.K. Slob

Rutgers Foundation, Pabo
G.M.G. Liekens
P.E.I. Babeliowski

Back in 1995, vibrators came in two varieties: discrete massagers in neutral colours or more anatomically correct vibrators, styled on an enlarged and erect penis. Besides the limited choice, vibrators were also noisy and manufactured from smelly, sticky materials.

Ireen Laarakker suspected that the design process which led to such products was far from user-centred - a state of affairs she was determined to change. With help from erotic retailer, Pabo, Laarakker sent out a questionnaire to people who had recently bought a vibrator, receiving some 1,000 responses. She identified various types of users and organised brainstorms for each of them. This led to many ideas for improvement, such as more user-friendly controls, vibrators that sync with music, or ones to sit on and ride. Though she never found a manufacturer for the high-end vibrator she envisaged, many of the concepts Laarakker envisioned in 1995 have by now been realised.

In tune with the zeitgeist, the current design language of sex toys, like the Satisfier Pro 2, is very much in line with her ‘play and fun’ style. A central theme in her work was playful shapes and the use of colour, distancing her designs from the pornographic or sterile offerings of the day.

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