Toyota Lecture Series on Design presents Niels Diffrient
Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 6:00pm – 7:30pm
College for Creative Studies
Niels Diffrient is a preeminent American designer who holds more than 48 mechanical and design patents on furniture alone. His award-winning furniture designs have been produced by Knoll International, Sunar Hauserman, Howe Furniture Company, KI International, and currently, Humanscale Corporation.
After graduating from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he began his studies in the field of aeronautical engineering before changing to painting, followed by design and architecture, for which he received his degree from Cranbrook Academy. He was then granted a Fulbright Fellowship to live and work in Milan, Italy. While there, he designed a sewing machine with the architect Marco Zanuso, which won the Compasso D’Oro at the Milan Trienalle. Diffrient also worked with architect Eero Saarinen, assisting in the design of office seating for Knoll, which remains in production after 50 years. He subsequently partnered in the office of Henry Dreyfuss, producing designs for long-term clients Bell Telephone, John Deere, Polaroid, Singer Sewing Machine, American Airlines, Lockheed Aircraft, Honeywell, Gates Learjet, Hyster Lift Trucks, and more. In 1981 he initiated his own practice for consulting and developing licensed designs in the commercial furniture field.
Diffrient has been published broadly in the fields of design and ergonomics, most notably the three-volume compendium Humanscale. He taught design at UCLA for eight years and at Yale University School of Architecture for two years. In addition, he has been the recipient of four research grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Graham Foundation.
Diffrient has received many honors among which are: Fellow of the Industrial Designers Society of America; Honorary Doctorate from Art Center College; Honorary Royal Designer from the Royal Society of Arts, London; Institute honors from the American Institute of Architects; Honorary Doctorate from the College of Creative Studies; the Daimler Chrysler Award for Innovation; the National Design award in product design from the Cooper Hewitt Museum; Legend Award from Contract Magazine and Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Interior Design Institute.