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.
Since the study is based on the anthropometric measurements of large numbers of people, it is possible to arrive at averages and, through statistical techniques, percentile values indicating the proportion of a population that will depart from the average to a specific degree. Statistics can be broken down by sex, age, and nationality. Designers make use of anthropometric data in arriving at suitable dimensions for such products as chairs and tools and for elements of control levels and panels. The field of ergonomics is strongly based on anthropometric data.
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 designing 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.
Pile, J. (1994, March 21). Dictionary of 20th-Century Design. Da Capo Press, Incorporated. https://doi.org/10.1604/9780306805691
Woodham, J. M. (2004). A Dictionary of Modern Design. Oxford: New York.
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