Lovely Vintage Manuals Show How to Design for the Human Body

IA Collaborative
IA Collaborative

If you're designing something for people to hold and use, you probably want to make sure that it will fit a normal human. You don't want to make a cell phone that people can't hold in their hands (mostly) or a vacuum that will have you throwing out your back every time you clean the house. Ergonomics isn't just for your office desk setup; it's for every product you physically touch.

In the mid-1970s, the office of legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created a series of manuals for designers working on products that involved the human body. And now, the rare Humanscale manuals from Henry Dreyfuss Associates are about to come back into print with the help of a Kickstarter campaign from a contemporary design firm. Using the work of original Henry Dreyfuss Associates designers Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley, the guides are getting another life with the help of the Chicago-based design consultancy IA Collaborative.

A Humanscale page illustrates human strength statistics.

The three Humanscale Manuals, published between 1974 and 1981 but long out-of-print, covered 18 different types of human-centric design categories, like typical body measurements, how people stand in public spaces, how hand and foot controls should work, and how to design for wheelchair users within legal requirements. In the mid-20th century, the ergonomics expertise of Dreyfuss and his partners was used in the development of landmark products like the modern telephones made by Bell Labs, the Polaroid camera, Honeywell's round thermostat, and the Hoover vacuum.

IA Collaborative is looking to reissue all three Humanscale manuals which you can currently only find in their printed form as historic documents in places like the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York. IA Collaborative's Luke Westra and Nathan Ritter worked with some of the original designers to make the guides widely available again. Their goal was to reprint them at a reasonable price for designers. They're not exactly cheap, but the guides are more than just pretty decor for the office. The 60,000-data-point guides, IA Collaborative points out, "include metrics for every facet of human existence."

The manuals come in the form of booklets with wheels inside the page that you spin to reveal standards for different categories of people (strong, tall, short, able-bodied, men, women, children, etc.). There are three booklets, each with three double-sided pages, one for each category. For instance, Humanscale 1/2/3 covers body measurements, link measurements, seating guide, seat/table guide, wheelchair users, and the handicapped and elderly.

A product image of the pages from Humanscale Manual 1/2/3 stacked in a row.

"All products––from office chairs to medical devices—require designs that 'fit' the end user," according to Luke Westra, IA Collective's engineering director. "Finding the human factors data one needs to achieve these ‘fits' can be extremely challenging as it is often scattered across countless sources," he explains in a press release, "unless you've been lucky enough to get your hands on the Humanscale manuals."

Even setting aside the importance of the information they convey, the manuals are beautiful. Before infographics were all over the web, Henry Dreyfuss Associates were creating a huge compendium of visual data by hand. Whether you ever plan to design a desk chair or not, the manuals are worthy collectors' items.

The Kickstarter campaign runs from July 25 to August 24. The three booklets can be purchased individually ($79) or as a full set ($199).

All images courtesy IA Collaborative

Ohio Company’s Glow-in-the-Dark Gear Makes Firefighters Safer on the Job

iStock/gorodenkoff
iStock/gorodenkoff

Firefighting tools are designed to keep users safe from flames, smoke, and falling debris—but heavy-duty gear won't help them navigate a burning building when the power fails. Zachary Green, a volunteer firefighter and former Marine Corps infantryman, came up with a way to illuminate rescuers' paths using glow-in-the-dark technology, as Cincinnati's WCPO reports.

The innovative safety tools manufactured by Green's Ohio-based company MN8 LumAware utilize maintenance-free phosphorescent light. Phosphorescent materials don't require batteries, light bulbs, or electricity, and they charge themselves when they're exposed to ambient light throughout the day. That means if a blaze or some other accident causes power in a building to fail, phosphorescent objects can act as potentially life-saving light sources.

One of the first products Green invented was a phosphorescent helmet band that makes firefighter helmets visible in the dark. Today, MN8 LumAware sells glow-in-the-dark exit signs, stairwell labels, floor arrows, and tape for illuminating handrails, doorways, and floors. The products are not only useful for occupants, but also for emergency responders who need to get in and out of buildings in a hurry.

In 2019, MN8 LumAware received the presidential “E” award from the Department of Commerce for showing an impressive increase in exports over a four-year period.

[h/t WCPO]

World’s Tiniest McDonald’s Opens in Sweden, Welcomes Bees as Customers

iStock/William Jones-Warner
iStock/William Jones-Warner

McDonald's has opened stores in an old train car, an airplane, and an oversized Happy Meal box. This new project from the corporation has many of the features of a regular restaurant—down to the posters advertising special menu items—but it's different in a major way. Instead of catering to human clientele, this miniature McDonald's is designed to attract bees.

McDonald's Sweden collaborated with the creative agency NORD DDB to build the branded beehive for World Bee Day on May 20, AdWeek reports. From the outside, the model is a replica of a McDonald's restaurant, with drive-thru windows, outdoor seating, and the golden arches presiding above it all. But instead of a counter and a tables, the interior is filled with frames where bees can build their wax. It's being billed as "the world's smallest McDonald's," but according to NORD DDB, it's still big enough to house thousands of bees.

The fast-food beehive is a nod to an initiative gaining traction at McDonald's in Sweden. Some McDonald's restaurants have installed beehives on their roofs and started replacing the grass on their properties with flowers to attract the pollinators. Global bee populations have declined at alarming rates in recent years due to pesticides, disease, and climate change, and the beehive project from McDonald's Sweden is just one creative way people are trying to give bees a boost.

This particular beehive won't be housed above a burger joint. On May 21, it was auctioned off to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.

[h/t AdWeek]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER