Designer of the Freedom Chair, the Liberty Chair, and the Diffrient Light, Niels Diffrient is internationally recognized as a premier designer in the field of ergonomics. Diffrient is a world-renowned and world-travelled designer who has worked with some of the greatest aesthetic and ergonomic designers of this or any century. Diffrient was trained at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he was able to win the First Medal of Design 3 times during his tenure. After graduation he spent time traveling and working in Europe, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship he had won. Aside from his obvious bonafides in the realm of furniture design, he also has a background in aeronautical engineering.
Diffrient has created many wonderful chairs in his long career. The Freedom Chair is among the most recent, but he was also responsible for the Diffrient Light Chair and the Liberty Chair. Diffrient co-authored the original three part book on modern ergonomic design, title "Humanscale." It was he who helped to lay out clearly and with great aesthetic and scientific insight the way forward for office chairs, and indeed all types of human-centric furniture design.
The Freedom Chair is one of his greatest accomplishments. It combines his love of design with his passion for ergonomics and humanistic art. It's a comfortable, ground-breaking chair built by one of the masters.
With a resume that includes collaboration with icons Eero Saarinen and Marco Zanuso, a background in aeronautical engineering, and numerous design awards, Niels Diffrient is undoubtedly one of the most influential designers of the past 50 years.
Born in 1928 in Star, Mississippi, Diffrient attended Wayne State University and eventually enrolled in the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he won the First Medal of Design three times during his tenure there. After traveling and working in Europe thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, Diffrient began work at the design firm Henry Dreyfuss Associates, where he would stay for 25 years. While there, he co-authored the three-volume publication Humanscale. This work summarized his design principles which were rooted in the belief that the human body should drive design for products that humans will interact with. In his own words: "A design should look good and be appealing, but without compromising human factors. Aesthetics should enhance the technical side, not deter from it."
Read the story behind Niels Diffrient and the Freedom Chair
Awards and Honors:
- 2002 Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum Product Design Award
- 1996 Chrysler Award for Innovation
- 2005 Legend Award from Contract Magazine
- Named the "Granddaddy of the ergonomic revolution by Forbes Magazine in 2007
- Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Member- awarded by the Royal Society of Arts and Industry
- 1996 I.D. Magazine Top 40 Design Innovators