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Designing for People Paperback – 1 Nov 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Allworth Press (1 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581153120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581153125
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 17.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Considered the founder of industrial design and pioneer of a design approach that rigorously put people first, Henry Dreyfuss shares insightful lessons from his legendary career. From the first answering machine ("the electronic brain") and the Hoover vacuum cleaner to the SS Independence and the Bell telephone that are depicted here, Dreyfuss's creations have shaped the cultural landscape of the 20th century like few other designers before or after him. Designed from the master's own hand, the book offers an inviting mix of professional advice, case studies and design history along with historical black-and-white photos and the author's whimsical drawings. Key chapters include a brief history of industrial design and the concepts behind "Joe and Josephine", the author's famous anthropometrical models; classic design principles, such as the importance of testing and the "Five-Point Formula" for good design; and the role of the designer as a business person, from knowing when to accept a commission to budgeting questions and cultivating client relationships. Written in a robust, fresh style, the book offers inspiration to both designers and design-interested laymen.

In addition, the author's uncompromising commitment to public service, ethics and design responsibility make his book a timely read for any designer seeking to define his or her role in today's industrial design community.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to understand what an Industrial Designer does and their purpose in todays world, then his book will answer those questions. As an Industrial Design student I found this book to be a great insight and very relevant today!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Written in 1955; still relevant and insightful 14 Nov. 2000
By David P. Bishop - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book, written in 1955, is relevant today in the same way that Fred Brooks' Mythical Man Month has retained its relevance over time.
I found this book very pleasant to read, because Dreyfuss explains his approach to design consulting in an almost anecdotal way without sacrificing the seriousness of the subject. For example, while discussing the importance of investigating users needs, he tells stories about having driven locomotives, spread manure, and performing service calls for the phone company. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the tone of the book lacked the kind of egoism often seen in books like this. Dreyfuss uses language like "we," "our contribution," and "the industrial designer," and includes examples of mistakes and missteps as well as good design examples. In fact, chapter 15, "Not by Design," is devoted to instances where the practitioners made errors and mistaken assumptions.
I recommend reading this book; the design principles put forth transcend many years, and it is as entertaining as it is informative..
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Design Guidlines Then and Now 9 Aug. 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dreyfuss' "Designing for People" proved an inspiring collection of anecdotes and stories exemplifying the true functions of an industrial designer. Nostalgia combined with some sage-like advice, Dreyfuss reminds the designer of his or her role in the product development field. To paraphrase Dreyfuss: the industrial designer is a person who wears many hats; one who is part artist, engineer, businessman, researcher, politician, builder, and guinea pig. His assessment is accurate and proven, and his words of wisdom should be used as a guideline for all industrial designers in modern times.

That said, Dreyfuss does tend to come across very matter-of-factly at times, leaving little gray area in his black and white world. As a result Mr. Dreyfuss sides with the Bauhaus approach where form follows function-indeed, he often mentions the resulting form of a product as a side-note, if he mentions it at all. Whereas this may be an annoyance for some readers, the lessons you take away from his life experiences are truly informative and insightful.

As the amount of 3D design in product development grows, designers today are faced with the difficulty of "skin designing" verses thoughtful, foundation-based designing. If nothing else, this book should serve as inspiration for those of us in the field to design based on function and aesthetics-we have a duty and responsibility to client and society to base designs on research and thoughtfulness, not simply the known tools in a computer program. In any case, DFP should be on the required reading list for industrial design students to teach the history and guidelines of our profession. "Designing for People" serves as not only a reminder of the way it used to be, but it also inspires the designer to believe how it should be now.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Classic of Industrial Design 15 April 2004
By Coleman Yee - Published on
Format: Paperback
Henry Dreyfuss is among the top industrial designers ever, and here he shares many of the experiences from his industrial design projects, many of them dealing with everyday objects that we take for granted.
This book gives insight on many of the thought processes involved in the face of the many projects where he had essentially zero direct experience in. His unrelenting focus on "Joe and Josephine" -- the human actually using the product -- has resulted in an array of user-friendly products, even before that term was used.
He also covers almost anything to do with industrial design, or running an industrial design firm, including starting off, relationships with clients, payment issues, staff management, etc.
This book would be interesting for anyone interested in design in general, or even the merely curious who would like to know why some everyday objects are the way they are.
An easy and interesting read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Essential history of human-centered design and design thinking 16 April 2012
By Lassi*aL - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an odd but fascinating book about the business of industrial design in 1930-50's US. It promotes a perspective to design which later generations know as human-centered design. It does not talk about user experience, usability, innovation or design thinking with the terms we have for them today, but it surely gives an interesting perspective for a 21st century reader on the past thinking on these topics.

An interesting comparison is contrast Designing for People to Tim Brown's Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation released 54 years after. It seems reasonable to ask if the field of design has developed at all, maybe except for branding. It seems that the office of Dreyfuss was essentially practicing all methods under the mindset of "design thinking" Brown presented as the holy grail of organizational innovation.

The book holds a quite detailed account of the operation of Henry Dreyfuss and one might call it an autobiography. Biography in a form of a vitae and an industrial design business cook book. This is also the problem of the tome. At best, it provides insights and details, reports from the past which would be otherwise unattainable. At worst, it reads out as a (poorly) guided tour to a trophy room. A short story after short story in an identical format, describing yet another Dreyfuss victory in some exotic field of design. This is emphasized by the result-oriented style of the narrator, which always describes the glorious outcome of the design process, where as the process receives less attention.

The biggest problem I, as a design scholar, have with the book is about the rather mystified design process view. Although Dreyfuss does provide a lot of examples on how they as a design agency repeatedly used research, prototyping and some intuition to solve even the toughest problems, there is awfully lot missing. Even though chapter 15 does document some humoristic irks on the detail level, there is not much talk about failures, temporary set backs or the confusion usually associated with a creative process. Much of the success ends up being attributable to character of the designer(s). Designers appear as god like infallible creatures capable to undertaking and overtaking any design task better than the client company they are hired for. And the writer is very clearly depicting himself as one such uomo universal for instance in his description of transforming McCall's magazine. I'm exaggerating, but bothers me most is the complete credit for the mutual efforts of design company personnel.

I hate to say it but this book fails to give any real credit to a great number of people who must be responsible for the great achievements of Mr. Dreyfuss. Coming back to 21st century, for the defense of Mr. Brown and his fellow IDEOans, they do acknowledge the team performance making design possible. It is not just whoever and however that the visions of design can be harmonized and executed successfully, there is an appropriate combination of the right type of skills and personalities needed at the job. Of course, the prototyping techniques introduced in Dreyfuss' book and their modern equivalents are important but they are not the only source of magic.

I recommend this book for post-modern reader with an interest in the history of design business. It gives a nice modernist view on design, one which is surprisingly timely in our post-modern times. It provokes lot of thought, in good and bad. The prophecies and war stories of Dreyfuss can be boring, but there is lot of very practical information here and there to be found, making it a mostly pleasant reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Peek into the mind of one of America's leading industrial designers 5 Nov. 2010
By Nicolai Michel - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a peek into the mind of one of America's leading industrial designers of the 20th century. In a surprisingly down-to-earth and highly readable style, Dreyfuss recounts how he got into the field, how he started his company, how the design process works, and the designer's relationship with clients, money, and users. The book is full of examples and anecdotes. Although there are many important lessons to be learned from Dreyfuss' wisdom, the book is superficial, not delving into any details.
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