Great Design is Within Arm’s Reach

How anthropometry contributes to a successful built environment.

Written by Emily Yanes, Visual Designer


Image Not Precisely To Scale

Recently, an issue came to light with one of our clients who had challenges with their bulk fixture and wanted JSI to design something more functional.

The gravity bins were much too high to reach comfortably. In my boots, I stood at 5’7” and awkwardly worked above my head, unable to see what I was doing, and barely reaching the handles. I thought, “what would a much shorter shopper do?” While it’s more common than you think, the manufacturer of this fixture did not consider anthropometry [from the Greek anthropos (human) & metron (measure)], the study of measurements of humans.

Society has been studying the proportions of human beings for a very long time. Leonardo da Vinci recorded measurements of Milanese male models to create the famous Renaissance drawing, Vitruvian Man around 1490 and even 1500 years before the Age of Enlightenment, Roman architect and engineer, Vitruvius, discussed the perfect proportions in architecture and in the human body.

Ignoring a reasonable height range of the end user and their reaching capabilities, of which we have a long history of studying, will always result in the fixture failing in both customer interaction and employee operation. In a bulk department scenario (like above), it creates unnecessary complications, liability, and more time spent refilling bins, and cleaning and maintaining the fixture.


Anthropometrics are at the heart of space planning and furniture and fixture design. Human measurements are often looked at in terms of the 5th percentile of women and the 95th percentile of men. This means that 90% of the population will be accommodated using this data range – 95% of men and 95% of women. In grocery stores and convenient stores, where the customer is not sex-specific, upper and lower limits for combined male and female population should be considered.

For example, the most comfortable and safest working zone is between the knees and shoulders, especially when lifting heavy boxes. The 5th percentile female has the lowest shoulders and the 95th percentile male has the highest knees in the data set. Therefore, we use the upper and lower limits of both groups to understand the ideal working height range for 90% of people.

Beyond the ideal working zone, this broad quantity of customers can reach their arm much higher. In fact, even the 5th percentile female can reach a lightweight product that is 65” high.

Whether considering signage canopy heights, clear floor spaces, or a fixture’s height and depth, it’s important to keep in mind the customer’s interaction and shopping experience, as well as the employee’s day to day operation.


JSI Store Fixtures can help you avoid costly mistakes by designing the best fixture solution to fit your customer’s physical capabilities – the first time. Before submitting your purchase order, our design team can provide you with a true to life rendering of your new fixtures with people to indicate scale.

You sell products your customers want to buy – make sure they can reach them!


Department of Defense (2020, April). Human Engineering Design Data Digest. Human Factors Engineering Technical Advisory Group.

Department of Homeland Security (2015, February). Ambulance Patient Compartment Human Factors Design Guidebook. First Responders Group.

Ergoweb (2013, September 8th). Anthropometrics.