How it works Introduction

Anthropometry is the scientific study of measurements of the human body. Anthropometric data can be a valuable source of information when designing products. Not only when product dimensions have to be determined, but also in an early stage input for the development of product ideas. Examples are product sets or complete separate products for a specific target group like handles and helmets.

The average person does not exist; when you take the average of all body dimensions of a certain group you will end up with a description of a person that does not exist. It is very rare that an individual person has multiple body dimensions that are average for a population. However, the average value of one dimension, like stature, does exist and makes sense.

This shows that although anthropometry can provide designers with statistical information about the dimensions of the human body, this available information can never be directly translated to product dimensions. How anthropometric information can be used depends on the specific situation and the nature and complexity of the design problem. The decision on what techniques to use in a design process can dependent on even more factors like available data, time and money. A designer should use the appropriate techniques to make sure that design decisions based on anthropometric data are valid.

Available techniques: from 1D to 4D

The techniques that are presented on this website are categorized according to the amount of dimensions that is taken into account. Less dimensions means easier interpretation of data, but also more abstraction in comparison to the real situation.

Although designers will always face design challenges by three-dimensional representations (think of real life situations they observe or spatial pictures they make in their minds), the available anthropometric tools to be used in the past, to test and optimise ideas in terms of human factors, were strongly one-dimensional and two-dimensional based. Often used studies are measurement tables of American soldiers, German woman, Dutch children or US flying personnel. Showing averages and standard deviations of inter-pupillary breadths (designing glasses), overhead reach distances (to define cupboard height in furniture design) or thigh and hip circumferences (designing safety belts for rescue workers). However, for many design issues this data will be limited.

New tools and techniques allow designers to make better use or anthropometric data by including a three dimensional representation of the human body (3D anthropometry) and take into account how this body moves though the three dimensional space over time (dynamic or 4D anthropometry). The development of tools en techniques to collect and use three dimensional and dynamic anthropometric data is one of the focuses within the TU Delft.

In addition to this site there are many more available resources available related to dynamic anthropometry, several books and can be downloaded here.

Alternatively, there are many other sources of anthropometric data on the web. We can recommend as a great source of data and which focusses on Belgian anthropometric data.