Five years ago, as a new design intern who wanted to make a good impression, Michelle Vandy was putting in 10- to 15-hour days. Suddenly, she realized her arm hurt so much she could barely type.
“I ended up working the whole summer without any breaks, and one day, my arms were really sore–it happened quickly,” Vandy says. “I was using my middle finger to zoom in and zoom out all the time in this 3-D design program. Basically, the whole summer I was using one finger. Then I’d come home and instantly sit in front of my home computer and start drawing, exhausting that same finger.”
She tried using the mouse in her other hand, but that just caused another repetitive stress injury. After trying a never-ending list of solutions that didn’t work–holding a stylus in her mouth, drawing with her toes, using new eye-tracking tools, therapy for her arms–Vandy stumbled on something new: She realized that she could draw on a trackpad with her nose.
“I was in bed one night and I held up the trackpad to my nose,” she says. “That’s when I realized that, hey, I have a lot of precision in my head, and I was surprised. The tip of your nose is kind of like a finger.”
Vandy set up a trackpad on a tripod in front of her computer and has used it for design work ever since. In her current job as a designer for Omada Health, she’s building a library of graphic assets, including nose-drawn illustrations and UI and UX work.
“I’ll still put in the same long hours, but I’ll just do it with my nose, and the nosepad, as I call it,” she says. Since the trackpad doesn’t work for typing, she usually uses voice recognition software as well. And her arms are no longer in pain.
She hopes that her solution might inspire other designers, and has created a new website to share the story. “I want to tell other people that have the same problem and might think their jobs are in jeopardy that no, it doesn’t have to mean that. There are different ways of interacting with a computer. A mouse isn’t the only way.”