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Niels Diffrient Collection

Identifier: N331

Scope and Contents

Boxes 1-8: Architectural Drawings (rolled plansets) Boxes 9-13: Vendor Material Catalogs Boxes 14-19: Job Files Boxes 20-24: General Files/Grants Boxes 25-26: Clippings/Research notes. Box 27: Correspondence Box 28: Calendars Boxes 29-30: Publishing Materials/Manuscripts Boxes 31-33: Slides Boxes 34-35: Trade Catalogs Trays 1-3: Trade Catalogs (Books) Folder 1: Posters (Flat File)


  • Creation: 1951-2017

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Niels Diffrient was an American industrial designer, who focused on ergonomic seating. He is well-known for his Freedom and Liberty chairs, designed by Humanscale.

Diffrient was born in 1928, in Mississippi, USA. He attended Wayne State University, and Cranbrook Academy of Arts, where he recieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts in architecture. While on a Fullbright scholarship in 1954, Different worked with architect Marco Zanuso, and assisted on the design of a Borletti sewing machine.

In his career, Diffrient designed many types of equipment, including computers, trucks, airplane interiors, exhibits, and furniture. In 1980 Diffrient started his own independent practice with his wife, artist Helena Hernmarck.

He has been published in the field of design, and is credited with pioneering the use of ergonomics in his office chair designs, and was adjunct Professor of Design at the University of California, Los Angeles for eight years. Diffrient has won a total of 24 awards, including two Best of Show, and 10 Gold and Top awards. He is cited in more than 46 design and utility patents for furniture designs. In 2012 he received a Lifetime Contribution to Design Award, FX Magazine International Interior Design Awards.

Diffrient died on June 8th, 2013 at his home in Ridgefield Connecticut.


36 boxes (35 boxes, 3 trays, 1 folder--incomplete (still waiting on OS boxes))

Language of Materials



The Niels Diffrient collection includes job files, architectural drawings, trade catalogs, correspondence, slides, research materials, and manuscripts written by and relating to designer Niels Diffrient. It also includes his personal library, rolodex, and patents of his designs.

Niels Diffrient Materials (1951-2017)
In Progress
Olivia Copia
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Northwest Architectural Archives Collecting Area