Humanscale Reissue

"Masterpiece of Information Design" Makes a Comeback

Aug 10 2017 - 2:51pm

“In the golden age of American industrial design, Henry Dreyfuss Associates (HDA) 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, Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley of HDA—which was founded of course, by Henry Dreyfuss, an IDSA Fellow and the Society's first presidentcreated Humanscale. It featured data selectors, providing access to more than 60,000 human factors data points in a user-friendly “portfolio of information.”

“Humanscale has long been out of print. Now we're bringing it back,” say Luke Westra, design engineering director and former IDSA International Design Excellenc Award Gold winner, and Nathan Ritter, design researcher and strategist, of Chicago-based IA Collaborative. In Humanscale Reissue, three booklets and nine, two-sided, interactive data selectors will allow designers, engineers, architects and inventors to 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!”

Published between 1974 and 1981, the original materials command top dollar on the used market. After finding so much value using Humanscale during the prototyping process in its own design work, IA Collaborative wanted to make a new version 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, the entire collection is being offered on Kickstarter

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, a 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. This toolkit offers data on body dimensions, ergonomic seating standards, wheelchair access guidelines, legibility principles, etc. 

Dan Kraemer, founder and CDO of IA Collaborative, is ventures program sponsor. Kraemer spoke at IDSA's International Design Conference last year and is a past IDSA IDEA winner.

So what's ahead? "We’re currently focused on delivering a faithful and high-quality reissue to our backers. We have a variety of exciting ideas about extending the Humanscale platform, which we plan to explore after the successful completion of the reissue project," says Ritter.

“Humanscale was a masterpiece of information design, and arguably one of the first interactive data visualizations,” reports Elizabeth Stinson in Wired. “It’s a relic, but it's also regarded among industrial designers as the gold standard of human engineering statistics. Meg Miller of Fast Company. posts, “In the decades since Humanscale’s publication, this type of data has been digitized, but since gathering the data is such an arduous task, most of it is privately held by the companies that undertook the research.”

A set of the Humanscale Reissue will be part of giveaways at the IDSA International Design Conference 2017. Conference registrants should download the mobile app, create an account and login, then cllick on "Check In." Registrants who have "checked in" to the app are eligible for a chance to win prizes!