Biographical Information:

Dates: 1928 – 2013
Dates in Ridgefield:

Niels Diffrient was an award-winning industrial designer, known especially for his designs of ergonomic seating and for being a pioneer of ergonomics. He designed the Freedom and Liberty chairs, manufactured by the company Humanscale, which were competitors of the Herman Miller Aeron chair. Diffrient’s career in industrial design also included iconic work such as developing interiors for American Airlines planes, seats for John Deere tractors, the Princess telephone, and the Polaroid SX-70 camera. He won over 65 international design awards and 19 honorary awards, and held 57 design and utility patents in the US and abroad. He was also a designer, owner, and partner at the Henry Dreyfuss office, and a professor at UCLA, among other positions.

Diffrient was the co-author of a multi-volume design manual called Humanscale published in 1974, 1981, and 1982. The volumes presented data-driven guidelines for the design of furniture and spaces for all people, including children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. He was also the author of Confessions of a Generalist, which chronicles his extraordinary life in design and explores great generalists and the contributions they make to society.

Diffrient’s wife Helena Hernmarck is a Ridgefield-based tapestry artist.


Humanscale 1/2/3, 1974
Humanscale 4/5/6, 1981
Humanscale 7/8/9, 1982
Confessions of a Generalist, 2012

New York Times obituary, Ridgefield Press obituary, and

Last Updated: June 2, 2017