E.Louise Larson

Concept Pump

Creating an accessible gas pump handle and switch

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2 weeks

Researcher • Industrial Designer

Techniques + Tools
Usability testing • CAD modeling • Prototyping • 3D printing • Landscape Survey

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A redesigned gas pump handle aimed at aging populations and users with arthritis.


  1. Redesign control within domain

  2. Explore accessible alternatives that reframe mental models of gas pump triggers to gas pump switches

  3. Demonstrate principles of Interaction Design


Design Principles


Inspired by Don Norman’s principles of interaction design, this project explored the following through sketching, prototyping, and final deliverable.



This pared down profile limits user choice and mitigates error. It’s functionality relies on preexisting mental models of handles.



The red switch dispenses gas and indicates how full the users tank is. When the tank is completely filled, the switches moves back to the open position.



From scale to grip, this concept product takes into account how users perceive appropriate function and use.



In alignment with Don Norman’s philosophy, this design uses signifiers like color and motion to communicate affordances to the user.



Design a control with a distinct input and associated outcome for a gas station domain.

This control may be a physical or digital. The input can be manual or automatic, and the output might be a resulting action or display of information.

You will be assigned a context, and begin by creating an inventory of individual, transactional interactions within that context. You’ll analyze 5–7 interactions in terms of the user’s goal or intention and relevant conceptual models, and the designed object’s affordances, constraints, mapping, visibility, signifiers, and feedback.

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  1. Contextual Observations

  2. Interaction Inventory

  3. Landscape Survey

  4. Research

  5. Define Scope

  6. Switch Exploration

  7. Value Flow

  8. Prototype


A multi-step process was employed to explore the rich range of controls available in the domain of a gas station.

Starting with context-based user observations, I began building an interaction inventory. This inventory narrowed my focus down to interactions at the pump. I was interested in who was pumping gas and what challenges they may be facing. This lead me identify principles, values, and users to scope the problem space.

After deciding on how aging populations with mobility issues like arthritis might benefit from a redesigned gas pump handle, I began to sketch. Each concept sketch highlighted specific interaction design principles that I was exploring. These informed my CAD model and final prototype.

The resulting body relies on the principles explored in the concept sketches and 2D prototypes from the initial critique. I designed the handle in Fusion360 and 3D printed in the IDeATe facilities.


Interaction Inventory

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This inventory was gathered from observations at gas stations in Pittsburgh, PA. These interactions specifically focused on controls and microinteractions. I then narrowed the domain four activities, then that scope was narrowed to a single control: the gas pump switch.

Landscape Survey

To gain an understanding of how aging users might grip, grasp, pull or grab a gas pump, I surveyed common objects that are used in the same way.

The altered body of this design was largely inspired by OXO grips and other similar arthritic accommodations.

If I were to iterate another full prototype of the handle body, I would reconsider the switch placement for better reach. Ideally, the switch would be within the range of motion for a thumb and forefinger of hand with limited mobility. This accessibility-forward design speaks to the underlying commitment of universal design, although that was not an explicit principle.

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New Jersey is the last remaining state in the US to require fuel attendants to pump gas for the patrons.

Car owners in the remaining 49 states must pump their own gas. As the automotive and oil industries are rapidly evolving, who is most likely to be driving gas-powered cars that require fuel pumps in the next decade?

This project forecasts that aging populations (born in the 60s and 70s) will be the largest consumer market for automotive gasoline for the next 10-20 years.

This population is also the most likely to be living active lifestyles with arthritis or other medical conditions that affect grip strength. This problem space is amplified at the gas station. Throughout the process of designing a new gas station control, this project focused its efforts on designing for gerontological markets.


Problem Scope

The context for this project is a gas station. After observing users interacting with various controls, I was narrowed the scope to the gas pump handle.

This narrow focus allowed me to consider how mental models and physical ability may affect use experience and ask how might we improve the user experience of a gas station through an ergonomic redesign of the gas pump handle and switch?


Switch Exploration

Identifying the appropriate switch control was the result of balance. Balance between existing mental models, ease of use, and obvious signifiers and affordances.

The above sketches form a timeline that documents the various stages of problem solving for easily grasping a gas pump handle, engaging the switch, and exploring form.

Moving from concept sketch to CAD rendering required careful consideration of mental models. One goal of this project was to reframe the gas pump handle as a switch rather than a trigger—a symbol that relies on the metaphor of a gun. This reframe created space for a friendlier looking and easier to use.

This in-line switch has a sensor to stop pumping when the tank is full. Alternatively, users could disengage the switch to stop pumping early. For physical prototype example of functionality, see page 21.

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Value Flow

When scoping this project, I identified specific users, their values, and a set of interaction design principles to guide the process. These are detailed to the left.

This value flow model represents how I thought the relationship between users companies would mutually benefit from this redesign.

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