Design Icon

Design Icon: Henry Dreyfuss’ Honeywell Round Thermostat

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: Honeywell Round Thermostat (Model “T86 Round”)

Designer: Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972)

Date: 1953

Country of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Honeywell

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.”

Further Reading: Design ObserverCooper Hewitt National Design Museum

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

Suggested For You


  • My parent’s recently changed their thermostat from this classic design to a modern digital one only a few months ago. They probably had it for nearly 30 years and I had no idea it was a design icon! Nifty!

  • I kept mine when we went to a programmable thermostat a few years ago because it is iconic and I love the design. Had not decided to do with it, but holding onto it just in case I am inspired to do something more than make it a paperweight.

  • Just had my gold one go out a few weeks ago and it was replaced with a white, round Honeywell. Almost as good, but not exactly the same!

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