Humanscale Design, Human Factors Expert: Niels Diffrient

Legendary Designer Offers Insight, Know-How to Humanscale, Industry


Karen Brooking


New York — Legendary designer Niels Diffrient is available to offer valuable insight and expert opinion on a number of areas, including human-factors based design and its history, and sustainability in product design. Widely considered the preeminent expert and a pioneer in the area of ergonomic design, Diffrient currently contributes groundbreaking designs exclusively to Humanscale—the premier manufacturer of ergonomic tools for a more comfortable workplace.

Diffrient designs and reinvents tools based on his and Humanscale’s shared philosophy of form flowing from function. For generations, he has produced highly functional and aesthetically timeless designs to improve daily life. Diffrient is responsible for Humanscale’s award-winning Freedom and Liberty seating lines, which team intuitive ease of use with unmatched functionality and ergonomic comfort, as well as the elegant and energy-efficient Diffrient Light. These products also boast exceptional environmental stories, and are designed for a long life of superior performance with minimal impact on our planet.
Office seating is among Diffrient’s lifelong design passions and a category in which he has pioneered numerous breakthroughs, including the knee-tilt recline—a design standard for decades—and gas cylinder seat height adjustment, which is still found on virtually all office chairs. Diffrient’s most notable seating designs include Humanscale’s Freedom and Liberty chairs, Knoll’s Diffrient chair, and SunarHauserman’s Helena and Jefferson chairs. Diffrient has also developed a wide range of both consumer and industrial designs for Eero Saarinen, Marco Zanuso and Henry Dreyfuss, where he was a partner. He led or contributed to the design of the Polaroid instant camera, AT&T’s Trimline telephone, Singer and Borletti sewing machines, John Deere tractors, and American Airlines aircraft interiors. Winner of a Fulbright Fellowship, Diffrient holds a degree from Cranbrook Academy, and has drawn on his knowledge of architecture, engineering and human factors to amass more than 46 design and utility patents on furniture designs in America and abroad.
In 2007, named Diffrient the “granddaddy of the ergonomic revolution” and one of ten “Tastemakers” in the field of industrial design. Diffrient has also received the 2005 Legend Award from Contract magazine, the 2002 National Design Award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the 1999 Chrysler Award for Innovation and the I.D. Top 40 Design Innovators of 1996 distinction. In addition, he is an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry, awarded by the Royal Society of Arts and Industry, London. He also holds honorary degrees from Art Center College and the College for Creative Studies.
Since 1999, Freedom has been the gold standard by which other chairs are judged, earning ten international design awards and critical acclaim from every major design publication. Diffrient’s Liberty chair received the Best of NeoCon® 2004 Gold Award in the Ergonomic/Task Seating category and the IIDEX/NeoCon Canada Gold Award for Office Seating, among other honors. Liberty was the only office chair featured in Design Life Now: National Design Triennial, a 2007 exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
To consult Niels Diffrient or another Humanscale in-house expert, please contact Karen Brooking at 212-353-1383 or For more information about Humanscale or to see the company’s full range of ergonomic solutions, please visit or call 800-400-0625.


About Humanscale

Humanscale is the premier designer and manufacturer of ergonomic products that improve the health and comfort of work life. Achieving more with less, Humanscale’s product designs have been honored with more than 150 prestigious awards since 2007 and featured in various museums such as The Museum of Modern Art.

 For more information on Humanscale and our products, visit


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