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In the golden age of American industrial design, Henry Dreyfuss Associates knew that there was more to design than just looking good. Products had to be good, crafted to work with the people who use them.
With this in mind, HDA designers Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley created Humanscale, including its ingenious data selectors, providing access to over 60,000 human factors data points in one easily referenced, user-friendly “portfolio of information.”
Humanscale has long been out of print. Now we're bringing it back.
With these three beautiful booklets and nine two-sided, interactive data selectors, designers, engineers, architects, and inventors can reference data that serves as a starting point to design products for people.
Never before or since has there been such a complete and usable compendium of human factors data. Each page is a master class in information design; and this was before computer layouts!
These iconic, beautifully designed, and visionary tools to design for people are still so relevant today. Published between 1974 and 1981, the materials have been out of print for decades and fetch extremely high prices on the used market due to their scarcity. After finding so much value using Humanscale during the prototyping process in our own design work, we wanted to make them available at a reasonable cost to people everywhere.
As part of IA Collaborative’s ventures program and in collaboration with the creators and US printers of Humanscale, we are now offering the entire collection of these incredibly useful manuals on Kickstarter.
The complete tool kit
Humanscale was published as three separate sets––Humanscale 1/2/3, Humanscale 4/5/6, and Humanscale 7/8/9. Each set includes one booklet and three two-sided selectors.
Each of the two-sided selectors contains a circular disc that the designer rotates to dial in user data across attributes like age, height, strength, and ability level.
As the designer rotates the disc, distinct measurements corresponding to the chosen data parameter emerge throughout the selector. For instance, an IKEA designer working on children’s desks might rotate the disc on Selector 2b to “Age 5” and then “Age 12” to find the appropriate range of “Leg Room” measurements for the product.
The process is illustrated here:
In total, this impeccably organized tool kit offers more than 60,000 bits of ergonomic and human-factors data––including body dimensions, ergonomic seating standards, wheelchair access guidelines, legibility principles, and so much more.
Humanscale fills the gap between digital and the real world. Having such a powerful tool for accurate reference of ergonomics and dimensions makes the transition from concept, to prototype, to production as seamless as possible. ––Kegan McDaniel, Creative Director, Koss Corporation
The Humanscale manuals are hugely important to industrial designers and ensure that ergonomic data can be quickly referenced and leveraged in your design process. The ingenious little rotating discs make the manuals fun to play with and explore. They would be a great investment for any industrial design student! ––Michael Paterson, Senior Industrial Designer, GoPro
Published in 1974, Humanscale 1/2/3 include selectors for:
- 1a. Body Measurements
- 1b. Link Measurements
- 2a. Seating Guide
- 2b. Seat/Table Guide
- 3a. Wheelchair Users
- 3b. Handicapped and Elderly
Published in 1981, Humanscale 4/5/6 include selectors for:
- 4a. Human Strength
- 4b. Safety
- 5a. Hand and Foot Controls
- 5b. Displays
- 6a. Head and Vision
- 6b. Hands and Feet
Published in 1981, Humanscale 7/8/9 include selectors for:
- 7a. Standing at Work
- 7b. Seated at Work
- 8a. Space Planning
- 8b. Public Space
- 9a. Body Access
- 9b. Light and Color
Using Humanscale in 2017
The data in Humanscale was drawn from sources published between 1939 and 1981. While populations have evolved and some of the data has changed since then, much of the information contained in these manuals remains relevant today.
We share the authors’ vision for Humanscale as fulfilling in an iterative, human-centered design process. In the original materials, they wrote that, “Humanscale is to be considered a starting point for more complete research and is not intended to supplant the more complete references in any specialized field of study,” and that, “models and mock-ups based on the [Humanscale] data should be tried out with the intended users.”
Humanscale reissue specs
- 8.5 x 11 in (215.9 x 279.4 mm) saddle stitch.
- Each cover printed with three unique PMS colors, plus silver 877 across all interiors.
- Printed from high-quality scans of the original materials.
- 8.5 x 11 in (215.9 x 279.4 mm) two-sided dial charts.
- Exterior printed from meticulous recreations of the original artwork, on 20-mil (0.5 mm) plastic with white, black, and a unique PMS spot color for each.
- Interior disc printed in black and red on 24pt paperboard.
- Each selector assembled with 5 steel eyelets.
Since setting out on this journey, we have made it a priority to work with the original, U.S-based printers of Humanscale. We have started these initial conversations and are hopeful that a collaboration will occur!
With the right partner, we will ensure that the Humanscale reissue is worthy of the original and of the highest possible quality.
Henry Dreyfuss Associates used their human-centered methodology to create some of the most ubiquitous and iconic designs of twentieth century America: the modern telephone for Bell Laboratories, the Ocean Superliner for the U.S. Navy, the Hoover Vacuum, the John Deere Tractor, the American Thermos, the round thermostat for Honeywell, the Polaroid camera, and more.
Humanscale was an outgrowth of Henry Dreyfuss’ The Measure of Man and Woman: Human Factors in Design, published in 1960 to provide “up-to-date measurements and information for children, teenagers, adult men and women, and the elderly through its detailed text, convenient tabular material, and 200 anthropometric drawings.” This work, which Dreyfuss began after being asked to design tank interiors for the army, saw the introduction of “Joe” and “Josephine,” two figures designed to represent the average man and women.
Humanscale was planned in-depth expansion of this work. The project was extraordinarily ambitious; there were no computers or design programs to assist with the illustrations, measurements, or research. This work was done manually by authors Niels Diffrient and Al Tilley with t-square and triangle rulers in hand. Looking back, the complete and utter precision of this hand-drawn work is truly mind-boggling.
Why this matters now
The Humanscale reissue will introduce a new generation of designers, engineers, architects, and up-and-coming inventors to human factors and ergonomics, which are key aspects of user-centered design. It will provide real utility to anyone getting started on their designs by providing simple access to a range of human factors data.
Beyond the utility of these materials, the tools are simply beautiful to browse as design objects. The detailed and considered way that each data point is presented, as well as the graphic design, make for a true conversation piece. Whether you are a designer who will apply the data or not, there is still much to appreciate.
Kickstarter has become the go-to platform for ambitious design reissue projects. This community is made up of incredible designers, engineers, architects, inventors, and makers who appreciate design history (and are making design history themselves).
With your support, we can print these tools at a scale that will make them widely available once again!
Who we are
Hi, we're Luke, Nathan, and Dan, from the global design and innovation consultancy, IA Collaborative.
Luke has been designing and developing products for over 15 years, ranging from medical devices to kitchen appliances. He leads the design engineering practice at IA Collaborative and leverages deep knowledge of technical fundamentals with a strong human-centered approach to create breakthrough solutions to solve real user problems.
Nathan Ritter is a design researcher and strategist with a relentless focus on people and a drive for social impact. In his work at IA Collaborative, he seeks to understand people’s needs and motivations, to design products and services that provide them value, day after day.
Dan Kraemer is a Founder of the global design and innovation consultancy, IA Collaborative, and creator of IA’s ventures program. Human-centered design is a core value of IA Collaborative. He is proud to be a part of making this human-centered tool and design classic available to everyone.
IA is a global design and innovation consultancy. At the forefront of user-centered design that creates business value, we live and work at the intersection of design and business; of creativity and strategy.
Combining human-centered design and strategic business consulting, we help multinational organizations and emerging leaders set visions, create strategies, design compelling experiences and empower their own cultures of innovation. We reframe problems, uncover opportunities and set a strategic vision. From Insight to Action, we define business models — profit, process, channel, brand and partnership strategies — and create new physical and digital products, brands, services and environments.
IA Collaborative Ventures
At IA Collaborative, we spend our days helping clients envision, design and bring to market what’s next for their business, so it is no surprise that we have a few ideas of our own. IA Collaborative Ventures, a sister company to IA Collaborative, functions as an “in-house incubator” that enables entrepreneurial employees to collaborate, create, and pitch their own ideas. Passion projects are given time, resources, and initial funding to move past the idea stage to design and prototyping, at which point outside partnerships, investors, or alternative funding methods are explored to reach full commercialization.
Thank you so much for helping us commemorate Humanscale! With your help we can make this tool available for all who care about design for people.
Risks and challenges
As professional product designers, we have decades of combined production and fulfillment experience. With IA Collaborative Ventures behind us, we truly do not anticipate any major hiccups or delays.
Of course, unforeseen complications and delays are always possible. For this reason, the specs and estimated delivery dates listed on this Kickstarter campaign are subject to potential change. If these occur, we will be transparent about it and keep you updated along the way.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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