Simanaitis Says

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HENRY DREYFUSS—DESIGNER FOR HUMANITY

ONE PROMINENT American industrial designer gave the world the Hoover vacuum cleaner, the Bell telephone, the Honeywell thermostat, the Westclock Big Ben, the 20th Century Limited’s design of locomotive, dining plates and stationery—and the image for my modeling a driver of the Schmid LSR.

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Henry Dreyfuss, American industrial designer, 1903 – 1972.

Henry Dreyfuss came from a family of theatrical costumers; his first work was in theater set design in 1921. Eight years later, he established an industrial design business. Henry Dreyfuss and Associates exists to this day.

Dreyfuss and his firm pioneered the idea of human factors affecting design. In 1955, he wrote, “We bear in mind that the object being worked on is going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some other way used by people individually or en masse.”

Each of his works reflects this principle. A 1933 design for the telephone gave Bell its standard instrument into the 1980s.

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The iconic Western Electric 302 dial telephone by Dreyfuss dated from the mid-1930s.

The 1959 Princess and 1965 Bell Trimline telephones were other Dreyfuss designs.

Dreyfuss was responsible for several iterations of vacuum cleaners, each of which became the standard of its type.

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One of the Dreyfuss vacuum cleaner designs for the Hoover Company.

To this day in Britain, using such a device is called “Hoovering.”

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A Dreyfuss-designed Big Ben alarm clock, part of the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Big Ben alarm clock from Westclock (1939), the wall-mounted circular thermostat marketed by Honeywell (1953) and the Polaroid SX-70 Land camera (1972) were also works of Henry Dreyfuss Associates exemplifying principles of user-friendliness, of ergonomic efficiency.

Dreyfuss and his firm also worked on larger projects, including office buildings in New York City, two steamships, a reconfiguration of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft interior and the Art Deco design of the fabled 20th Century Limited train that ran between New York City and Chicago, 1938 – 1945.

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The New York Central 20th Century Limited. Its dinner service, stationery and locomotive design are by Dreyfuss.

In 1955, Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People, an autobiography that detailed his principles of anthropometrics. This book was followed by Henry Dreyfuss Associates’ The Measure of Man in 1959.

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The Measure of Man and Woman: Human Factors in Design, by Alvin R. Tilley, Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1993. This and other editions are listed at www.abebooks.com and www.amazon.com. An amazon.com link: The Measure of Man and Woman: Human Factors in Design

The Dreyfuss works codify the field of human factors through introduction of “Joe” and “Josephine,” an average pair given anthropometric charts of their lives from infancy through old age.

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A wealth of anthropometric data is contained in The Measure of Man and Woman.

Whereas Joe and Josephine are average, 50 Percentile in size, other illustrations represent their 1 Percentile and 99 Percentile counterparts.

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Reach Factors for the Differently Abled. Image from The Measure of Man and Woman.

Areas addressed in later editions of The Measure of Man and Woman include check lists and access details for differently abled people, those in wheelchairs, using walkers or accompanied by seeing-eye dogs.

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Computer work stations. Image from The Measure of Man and Woman.

Joe, Josephine and their counterparts are offered optimal computer work stations, including posture that’s erect or, for long work periods, more relaxed.

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Constant Factors in Vehicle Seating. Image from The Measure of Man and Woman.

Vehicle accommodations, controls and instrument displays offer definitive details. More’s the pity, many of these seem to be ignored in some of today’s car designs favoring style over function.

By contrast, computer-graphics animators speak highly of The Measure of Man and Woman. As an amateur member of this community, I used the book’s 50 Percentile man in my GMax modeling of the driver for my Schmid LSR (http://wp.me/p2ETap-2bV).

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My GMax driver, based on Henry Dreyfuss Associates’ 50 Percentile man.

I would have had no luck whatsoever replacing German journalist Rainer Gunzler as the Schmid LSR’s proposed driver. Portions of me are a lot closer to 99 Percentile than 50 Percentile. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014

3 comments on “HENRY DREYFUSS—DESIGNER FOR HUMANITY

  1. David Thomas
    June 13, 2014

    He also worked with John Deere in 1938 or so on the “styled” John Deere Model A and B tractors. Now a favorite amoung tractor collectors.

  2. Bill Urban
    June 15, 2014

    Dennis, thanks for another great post. His credo, “We bear in mind . . .”, and his vehicle ergonomics work, bring to mind another credo from 1927: “Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety”, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson.

  3. Pingback: i.Dummy: el maniquí que revolucionará la industria del vestuario | di-conexiones

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