Niels Diffrient

Industrial designer NIELS DIFFRIENT introduced the concept of ergonomics in 1974 with the first volume of his design sourcebook, Humanscale. By X-raying people sitting in rigid office chairs back in 1955, he created a revolution in office furniture design that took into account the needs of the human frame at work. "When design springs from an understanding of the people who are going to use a product," he says, "you begin to see forms that you would never have imagined."He strives to create furniture that defies "the seductive pitfall of cubicle design, so stiflingly democratic that it kills creativity." His Freedom Chair, introduced in 1999, is an engineering marvel that has saved many aching backs and won a number of awards. Diffrient, a recipient of the Chrysler Design Award and holder of many patents, studied three-dimensional design with Eero Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

He is the winner of the 2002 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Product Design.