Scale Up

Recently, a client of mine received a package in the mail from her health insurance provider. The package contained a digital watch with the ability to monitor the number of calories burned in the course of a day.

In her eyes the decision to mail her a watch was paternalistic and overbearing. Her Body Mass Index was one point over the limit for what qualified as a “healthy” figure (pun intended) – thus she and her husband got “health watches.” Whoever devised this program at her insurance company must’ve felt very clever: they are keeping their policy holders healthy by providing them with something to track their fitness.

This incident reminded me of a device that uses a simple technology to track an individual’s weight. The Weight Recorder uses a pencil and a rotating paper disc to track weight over time. This elegant design allows for a lot of flexibility. As designer Wu Weiche puts it:

The scale makes a mark without any statistical number every time when you using it. After a while, then you can read the data that the scale has made, then you can see how it changes in a graphic way.

Wu’s scale stands in stark contrast to the insurance company’s cheaply made electronic watch. The latter product sends a loud-and-clear message: “lose weight or pay more for your insurance!” while the Weight Recorder does not even use numbers – it’s goal is to tell the story of how a body has changed over a long period of time.

The Weight Recorder is a product that aims high: it acts as a testament to the user’s desire to shed pounds or as a record of other events that happened in the course of the user’s life. Imagine a world where your medical care provider wanted to know the story of your life to better understand your health. As far as I’m concerned, that sounds like the kind of careful thought that I would want.