Anthropometrics a systematic study of human measurement

Vitruvian Man - featured image
Vitruvian Man – featured image

Anthropometrics is a systematic study of human measurement that was increasingly used by designers dealing with design issues involving human movement in the decades following WWII. Their implementation of a more analytical and methodical approach to design problems had a lot in common with the techniques studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm from the mid-1950s to the 1960s, as well as the Design Methods trend.

Both favoured a collaborative approach over the individual (and thus fallible) designer’s ideas. In the Second World War, anthropometrics and ergonomics (the systematic study of job performance relating users to their environment) were born. The United States and the United Kingdom’s armed forces presented designers with guides for the design of military equipment controls and other fields.

Human Engineering for Equipment Designers, by W. E. Woodson was published in the United States in 1954. Henry Dreyfuss’ book Designing for People, published in 1955, was also instrumental in bringing it into the mainstream of design. Alexander Kira’s The Bathroom Book (1966), which dealt with designing for cleanliness and hygiene and was based on a seven-year research project at Cornell University, is another well-known text in the area.


Woodham, J. M. (2004). A Dictionary of Modern Design. Oxford: New York.

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