Design: Honeywell Round Thermostat (Model “T86 Round”)
Designer: Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972)
Country of Origin: United States
Background: Although Henry Dreyfuss is often compared to his contemporary Raymond Loewy, the famed industrial designer who helped to popularize the 1930s “streamlined” look, Dreyfuss’ work stands apart because of his emphasis not on style but on function. Obsessed with ergonomics and the need for design to suit the human body, Dreyfuss compiled exhaustive data on body measurements and forms in an effort to create the most optimal designs. This information was later compiled into two books— Designing for People (1955) and The Measure of Man (1960). Several of Dreyfuss’ designs have gone on to achieve legendary status (his Bell telephone, for instance), but one of his most ubiquitous designs is without a doubt the Honeywell “Round” thermostat. Designed so that it could hang “squarely” on a wall no matter how or where it was installed, the thermostat never appeared slanted due to its circular shape. The round dial provided a simple and intuitive interface, free from cluttered buttons and unnecessary information. As design lore has it, Dreyfuss had a penchant for drawing perfect circles, something he did continuously. When approached by Honeywell to produce a new, modernized thermostat, Dreyfuss is said to have drawn a circle and said “Here. Go ahead and make something of it.”
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.