Niels Diffrient to Speak at Design Forum

Legendary Designer Also to Earn Honorary Doctorate from College of Creative Studies


Karen Brooking


New York, April 3, 2007 — Legendary designer Niels Diffrient will join New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman for “Art Meets Design and Other Conundrums: Niels Diffrient and Michael Kimmelman in Conversation.” The Bard Graduate Center forum and reception is organized in association with the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and will take place on May 3, 2007, at the Scandinavia House located at 58 Park Avenue in New York City from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the general public are $20; $15 for seniors and students.
A lively discussion is anticipated as Diffrient and Kimmelman weigh in on practical function versus visual aesthetics in the area of industrial design. Diffrient, renowned for his user-centric focus, argues that the physical, psychological and social needs of end-users are too often overlooked when it comes to the development, marketing and exhibition of design in museums and galleries. The pair will discuss the challenges faced by today’s designers and critics, and also touch on Diffrient’s continuing experiments aimed at successfully integrating ergonomics, engineering and aesthetics.
Diffrient will also be distinguished with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. The presentation will be a part of the college’s 2007 commencement ceremony on May 10, 2007, at the Detroit Opera House. In a letter to Diffrient, College for Creative Studies President Richard L. Rogers wrote that the honor was extended “in recognition of [Diffrient’s] extraordinary accomplishments as an industrial designer.” He added, “We would take great pride and pleasure in honoring one whose career is so inspiring to our students.”
Diffrient, named a 2007 “Tastemaker” in the area of industrial design by, is the designer of Humanscale’s lauded Freedom chair, Liberty chair, and Diffrient Light. Calling him “the granddaddy of the ergonomic revolution,” touted Diffrient as an “industry heavyweight” in its annual review of the men and women who affect the way we read, eat, listen and live.
Diffrient holds more than 40 mechanical and design patents in America and abroad, and his many honors include the I.D. Top 40 Design Innovators of 1996, the 1999 Chrysler Award for Innovation, the Smithsonian’s 2002 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Product Design, and the 2005 Legend Award from Contract magazine. The products he designed exclusively for Humanscale are winners of numerous industry honors and awards as well. Currently, the Liberty chair is featured in Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006, an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in New York City, featuring the most noteworthy design innovations from 2003 through 2006.
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