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

This Ingenious Hanger Makes Hanging Pants a Breeze, No Clips or Folds Required

Hurdle Hanger
Hurdle Hanger

Get ready to clean out your closet. No, we don’t mean going all Marie Kondo on your clothes. There’s a new type of clothes hanger that promises to change the way you store your clothes, taking the headache out of hanging up your pants.

The Hurdle Hanger, which has currently raised more than $33,000 on Kickstarter, calls itself the “one-second pants hanger.” Rather than relying on cumbersome clips or requiring bulky folding techniques, the hanger design employs one very simple change: It hooks into the belt loops of your pants.

The angular hanger is open on one side so that you can slide the bar through the belt loops of your pants, letting you secure your pants in one smooth motion rather than struggling with the pant clips that will just wrinkle your waistband anyway.

A person slides the Hurdle Hanger through the belt loops of a pants to hang them.
Hurdle Hanger

Just slide the hanger bar through the belt loop (or loops) farthest from you, then hang the belt loop closest to you from the hook. There is another hook midway across the bar that secures the middle belt loop, keeping your pants from drooping while they hang. In another subtle touch, you can use the same hook to hang smaller items, like belts or hats, off the side.

The Hurdle Hanger is an example of smart design at its finest—the kind of idea that, when you see it in action, makes you think, “Wait, how did no one think of this before?” It takes a once-cumbersome task and makes it seamless, eliminating at least some of the burden that may be keeping you from accomplishing the chore of hanging up your clothes. No more messing with clips or trying to shove pants through the cramped hole in the hanger to fold them over.

There are already open-end pants hangers that make it easier to slide a folded pair of slacks into your closet, but the belt loop hooks take the Hurdle Hanger to another level. You might even get inspired enough to start hanging your jeans.

A 10-pack of hangers is $20 on Kickstarter—though anything that makes you actively excited to organize your closet is priceless.

Finally: These Women’s Jeans Are Designed With Pockets Deep Enough to Actually Hold Your Stuff

Radian Jeans
Radian Jeans

An investigation last year revealed what half the population has known for a while: Women’s pockets really are smaller than men’s. About 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower, to be precise.

This has long been a sore spot among women who would rather not lug around an oversized purse all day. While many of the top fashion labels are still making jeans with teeny, tiny pockets, a few entrepreneurs are giving the people what they want.

One such option, Radian Jeans, is now available for preorder on Kickstarter. These ultra-stretchy jeans come in two styles (skinny and straight fit), four colors (indigo, light blue, black, and white), and nine sizes (0 to 16). Best of all, the patent-pending pockets are big enough to fit your entire hand or phone inside, yet subtle enough to conceal the bulge. There are also interior flaps designed to prevent the contents of your back pockets from spilling out onto the sidewalk, or worse, into the toilet.

A pair of Radian Jeans with diagrams showing what can fit in the pants' front pockets
Radian Jeans

The jeans were designed by a husband and wife who both decided to pursue an education at MIT. Ahmed Malik is a current student at MIT’s Advanced Functional Fabrics of America’s Entrepreneurship Program, and his wife, Wardah, graduated with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science.

This technical know-how came in handy when they decided to make the jeans stain-resistant and temperature-regulated. In particular, a nanotechnology-based fabric treatment was applied to the white jeans to help repel stains. So if you’re the type of person who constantly spills wine or drops spaghetti sauce onto your lap, these may be the jeans for you.

A woman models Radian jeans
Radian Jeans

In addition, some of the jeans are outfitted with COOLMAX All Season Technology, which provides insulation on cold days and redirects moisture away from your body on hot days. As a finishing touch, a floral print on the pant leg interior lets you make a style statement by cuffing your jeans.

To snag a pair for $69, check out the Kickstarter page. Tailor-made sizes are also available for a more personalized fit.

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