In the twentieth century with the construction of superhighway systems, utilization of conveyor belts in production and warehousing, and employment of various electrical gadgetry such as vacuum cleaners, washing and drying machines, and kitchen appliances that allowed to speed up the household chores the idea of efficiency and speed gained traction in the industrial world. These gagets required streamlined designs and graphic designers discovered a new demand for their creative art in the 3D format of everyday living. The pioneers of dynamic functionalism were mainly influenced by the Art Deco style, which in combination with the principles of minimalism gave rise to the American Streamline style. “Art Deco” style itself was closely associated with the industrial design so much so that the first exhibition of this style in Paris in 1925 was called; Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes . The Art Deco was the dominant style of design in the 1930s, and it penetrated all areas of design from architecture, industrial design of consumer products, movie and stage sets to posters and book covers. The Art Deco designers adhered to the Classical aesthetic principles of symmetry, harmony and compositional balance. However, unlike Classical style, they adopted an exaggerated emphasis on the aesthetic ornamentation using idealistically elaborated geometric patterns.
Adolf Loos was born in 1870 in Bruenn (Brno), Moravia, to an ethnically German family. His father, a stonemason, died when Loos was only nine years old. He completed technical school in Liberec, Czech Republic and later studied at Dresden Technical University before moving to Vienna. He contracted syphilis in the brothels of Vienna, and by age 21 he was sterile; in 1893 his mother disowned him. After three years in the US, he joined Carl Mayreder's studio in Vienna, and later set up his own practice in 1897 and produced his first major work - the Café Museum in Vienna - in 1899.
Adolf Loos - Villa Karma 1906
Adolf Loos - Villa Karma 1906
Adolf Loos - Villa Karma 1906Loos and his free-thinkers friends like Oskar Kokoschka and Ludwig Wittgenstein, were opposed to the conservative attitude of the Habsburg era. He was against the decorative style of the Viennese Secession movement and published a number of critical assessments, during the last decade of the 19th century. Loose developed his concept of Functionalist architecture. He declared "Ornament is crime", he regarded it as superficial and subjective. Thus in his des )ign of the Goldmann and Salatsch department store (now known as the Loos Haus), which was completed in 1911, he used a starkly plain facade, which provoked a furor in Vienna. Loos also designed several private homes, among them the Steiner House and Rufer House in Vienna or the Khuner Villa in Kreuzberg, Austria.
“Eight-legged elephant trunk table”, ca. 1900 by Adolf Loos.
H e wrote:
"Architects are there to understand life deeply, in order that they might consider needs to their most extreme ramifications, that they can help the socially weaker, that they can outfit the greatest number of households with perfect, utilitarian objects, but they are never architects in order that they may discover new forms." - 'On economy', 1934
Adolf Loos Armchair for Café Capua
In 1907, AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gessellschaft) retained Peter Behrens , a German architect and designer, as artistic consultant. He designed the entire corporate identity (logotype, product design, publicity, etc.) and for that he is considered the first industrial designer in history. He never became an employee of AEG, but worked as an artistic consultant.
The headquarter of the former Hoechst AG (a chemical factory) in Frankfurt-Höchst, by Peter Behrens, 1920-24
Peter Behrens was a pioneer in many areas of design in the first half of the 20th century and his ideas became influential throughout the industrial world by his students, especially by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Among his major influences was the creation of the concept of corporate identity.
The new building of the future will be everything in one form; architecture, sculpture and painting.Bauhaus as a state-sponsored school of art, had a great influence on modern architecture, the industrial design and graphic arts. It was founded by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 who served as its director until 1928. It was created by a merger of an art academy and an arts and crafts school, based on a philosophy that the crafts and arts are inseparable and they stem from the same aesthetic grounding. In fact, in medieval times, the guild system of workshop apprenticeship under the tutelage of “masters,” were based on the same philosophy. The German industrial-design association Deutscher Werkbund, was aiming to reestablish the relationship between art and society along the path of the Arts and Crafts movements in England, Austria, and the Netherlands. The school believed that modern art and architecture must be responsive to the needs and influences of the modern industrial world and must aim at raising the quality of everyday life through the construction of buildings, design objects, and art works according to aesthetics of modernity, universality and sound engineering. It offered courses in crafts, typography, and commercial and industrial design, as well as in sculpture, painting, and architecture.
The Bauhaus style, was marked by the absence of decorative and monumental facades, and were trying to integrate a harmonious technical function with the artistic sensibility. Lyonel Feininger, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer were among the first “masters” or teachers at the school. Bauhaus buildings, with its various workshops, studio, school and administrative offices, firmly established the principles of the modern age style, in the Europe of the 1920s. Adhering to their motto "form follows function" the floor plan was designed as a series of cells, each with a specific function, forming a direct statement, in glass, steel, and thin concrete.
In 1930 the Bauhaus came under the direction of the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who moved it to Berlin in 1932. By 1933, when the school was closed by the Nazis, its principles and work were known worldwide. Many of its staff members emigrated to the United States, where the teachings of the Bauhaus came to dominate art and architecture for decades and strongly contributed to the architectural style known as International Style.
After the Second World War, Bauhaus traditions were continued with the founding under Max Bill of the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst (College of Design and Art) in Ulm. Its philosophy also flourished in the US, where many of its "Masters" took refuge during the Nazi period. Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design) in Chicago; Mies van der Rohe became a towering influence in American architecture; Joseph Albers gave seminal lectures at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and later at Yale, encouraging a generation of younger American artists and anticipating in his own paintings the development of optical and hard-edged Abstraction.
Today when we look at a Bauhaus-style building we may not find it particularly interesting, or we may find it even featureless, and uninspiring. Of course, when there were only few of these buildings around they may have some novelty about them, but as their numbers have increased their unsightliness become more apparent, perhaps due to their lack of any aesthetics. Today with the availability of modern technology of mass production nobody is being impressed with a set of brightly painted multicolor seats, or a monstrous functional concrete building. As Tom Wolfe writes in his introduction to From Bauhaus to Our House,"O Beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within thy blessed borders today? . . . Every child goes to school in a building that looks like a duplicating-machine replacement-parts wholesale distribution warehouse . . . Every new $900,000 summer house in the north woods of Michigan or on the shore of Long Island has so many pipe railings, ramps, hob-tread metal spiral stairways, sheets of industrial plate glass, banks of tungsten-halogen lamps, and white cylindrical shapes, it looks like an insecticide refinery."
It may be argued that the Bauhaus minimalism is a source of its beauty! But the minimalism itself has a particular set of aesthetics and harmonious rules that if are not followed meticulously the result would be a disaster. As David Lance Goines has argued; "The principles of the Bauhaus and the design precepts of the Swiss Style are no longer a valid model for late twentieth-century American design. The emphasis on hard, uncompromising surfaces characteristic of the Bauhaus is alienating and remote. Something more comfortable is needed for everyday use...The appeal of working entirely within an aesthetic system, such as Modular Design or Swiss Style, is that it is easy. It is easy because thinking has been reduced to a minimum. It would be interesting to speculate why post-war Americans didn't want to think anymore. Unfortunately, to do good work, the designer does have to think. Totalitarian design systems do not fit all, or even most, situations. They bend the facts to fit the theory, and bent facts have a way of springing back sooner or later." Dietmar Winkler, the former director of the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, in a paper on reassessment of Bauhaus writes:
The exalted status that the Bauhaus has assumed in the history of the design profession, a status fostered and enhanced by publications and exhibitions, some sponsored even by Governments of East and West Germany, has had the unique luxury not to be scrutinized or held accountable for its behavior and ideology. Little has been published on its moral or ethical positions, and most assumptions rest on the closing of the Bauhaus by the authoritarian fascist government as an indicator of the school's moral positions. Indeed prevailing assumptions portray an educational institution of integrity, and high moral fiber; open minded, anti-fascistic, cross-culturally responsive, and universally astute. But are those assumptions correct, in part or at all? Or the super-heroic mystique only a shadow of human traits, which, beside great accomplishments, include some sever shortcomings? ... On one hand, the Bauhaus responded with great enthusiasm to the vast and energetic American life, specially the vitality of the larger cities, and the corresponding skyscraper architecture, which it revered. But it found little in American Ideology to transfer to the German social condition. Instead it steadfastly adhered to the traditional German class consciousness, making clear separations between working classes and those strata of the educated and financially affluent. Although the rhetoric proclaimed better goods or living conditions, the intended consumers, the public had little chance to influence or shape the Bauhaus ideology. The Public became a misunderstood and mostly unwilling participant, blamed for its lack of worldly perspective and aesthetic-value discrimination"Winkler suggests that many of the Bauhaus ideologies originated at other schools or movements, such as the Constructivists, Futurists and De Stijl. He also points out the enormous gap that existed between the Bauhaus ideologies and the public, resulting in the design of products equally remote from the public's needs and uses. Summing it all up, Winkler writes that "When Hannes Meyer replaced Gropius as a director of the school, his critical assessment was that its reputation outstripped manifold the quality of the work produced. He attributed this to the unparalleled public relations effort."
Walter Gropius (1883 – 1969) was a German architect and art instructor who founded the Bauhaus school of design. Gropius argued that all design should be functional as well as aesthetically agreeable. He pioneered a functional, minimalist design style.
Fagus Shoe Factory by Walter Gropius
Although Gropius is best known for the Bauhaus style, his architectural reputation was first established when, working with Adolph Meyer, when he designed the Fagus Works (1910-1911) and the office building for the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne (1914). He opposed the Nazi regime and left Germany secretly in 1934. After several years in England, Gropius began teaching architecture at Harvard University. As a Harvard professor, Gropius introduced Bauhaus concepts and design principles - teamwork standardization, and prefabrication - to a generation of American architects.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969) was born in Aachen, Germany . After having trained with his father, a master stonemason. He moved to Berlin in 1905 , to work for Bruno Paul, an Art Nouveau architect and furniture designer. A year later at age 20 he was commissioned to design a house for Alois Riehl, a philosopher. In 1908 he moved to work for the architect Peter Behrens, and studied the architecture of the Prussian Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Frank Lloyd Wright. He started his first studio in Berlin in 1912. After the outbreak of the world war I, he began studying the skyscraper and designed two modern steel-framed towers encased in glass , which were forerunners to his skyscraper designs of the late 40s and 50s. He was active in a number of the Berlin avant-garde circles of the 1920s . In 1927 he designed the German pavilion at the International Exposition in Barcelona which became one of his most celebrated buildings for which he also designed the famous chrome and leather 'barcelona chair' . In his buildings he explored the concept of fluid space with a seamless flow between indoors and outdoors and movable walls.
Technological Institute of IllinoisHe was director of the Bauhaus school from 1930 until its closure in 1933 under pressure from the Nazi regime. He moved to the United States in 1937. Over the period 1938-58 he was head of the architecture department at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology. In the 40s, he designed a new campus for the school, a project for which he adopted his steel-and-glass style. During the 50s he designed a number of skyscrapers in various cities; including Chicago, New York, Detroit, Toronto. He was awarded 'Orden Pour le Merite' from Germany in 1959 and the
'Presidential Medal of Freedom' From the US in 1963 . He died in chicago on august 17, 1969. He wrote "Form is not the aim of our work. It is the result," . His approach to architecture and design was based on the philosophy of "no trivial decoration."
Some of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's industrial designs
Le Corbusier was born Charles Edouard Jeannerct on October 6, 1887, in LaChaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. In 1920. As a child, his art loving parent and Charles L'Eplattenier, a teacher at the local art school, played important roles in his artistic development. In particular, L'Eplattenier, whom he called "My Master,” was very active in search for a new kind of aesthetics, that could represent the Jura landscape and could be used by the local craft industry. At the age thirteen, Le Corbusier became an apprentice to a watch engraver, however because of his poor eyesight had to give it up. Aiming to become a painter, he began to study decorative art, but he also studied architecture on the advice of L'Eplattenier, who arranged for his first house commission named Villa Pallet, in 1907. Over the 1908-12 period he traveled to Italy, Vienna, Munich, Paris, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and finally to the Acropolis, and became familiar with the latest architectural movements like the structural rationalism of Auguste Perret, a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction, and the Werkbund perspective of Peter Behrens which were very different form the L'Eplattenier’s theories. He returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1912 and began to teach along with L'Eplattenier and started his own independent architectural studio . He began to apply the theoretical principles of reinforced concrete for structural frames, and designed a series of affordable, prefabricated houses that aimed to reconstruct the Europe’s ruins in the aftermath of the World War I. He named his innovative home designs the Maison Dom-ino. This was a pun on the Latin word for house, domus, and on the playing pieces of the Domino game.
Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye
By the end of the war Le Corbusier moved to Paris. He met the Cubist painter, Amédée Ozenfant and jointly published their manifesto, Après le cubisme and established a new artistic movement, Purism, which called for the restoration of the integrity of the object in art in 1918. but retained a distinct attitude toward the mass-produced "tools" of industrial culture, from laboratory flasks to cafe chairs, which they called objets-types. In 1919, together with Ozenfant, and the poet Paul Dermee he published the journal I'Esprit Nouveau, that tried to capture the emerging spirit of industrialized culture in all its aspects. In order to distinguish their work as painters from their work as critics and theorists, Ozenfant and Jeanneret took pseudonyms. Le Corbusier, was an altered form of his maternal grandfather's name, "Lecorbésier". Ozenfant adopted his mother's family name, Saugnier. Separating the Le out, the name sounded suitably like an objet-type; it also suggested the architect's profile, which resembled a crow's (corbeau). The name "Le Corbusier" is today a registered trademark (US Reg. 2073285) owned by the Fondation Le Corbusier and licensed for the production of designs created by Charles Jeanneret alone and with his co-authors Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. Ozenfant and Le Corbusier parted in 1924, with much acrimony over who deserved credit for their joint efforts.
Le Corbusier died of a heart attack while swimming in the Mediterranean , in 1965. At the time he was working on a project that promised to be a major design, the Venice Hospital.
Some of Le Corbusier's industrial designs
Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999). was a furniture designers of the early modern movement, who attempted to incorporate the ‘machine age’ aesthetic to interior design. Working at Le Corbusier’s architectural studio she created steel, aluminium and glass furniture in the late 1920s and 1930s. Later on she moved to other materials. Her father was a tailor and her mother a seamstress for haute couture. At the age seventeen Charlotte enrolled at l'Union centrale des arts décoratifs, or Central Union of Decorative Arts, and graduated in 1925. A year later, she married and moved into an apartment, where she transformed the largest room into a metal and glass bar. Becoming frustrated of not finding an artistically inclined furniture designing career, she decided to switch and study agriculture. However, a friend suggested that she should read Vers une Architecture and L’Art Décoratif d’Aujourd’hui, both books by Le Corbusier, written in 1923 and 1925 respectively. It was 1927, when she strode into Le Corbusier’s studio in Paris asked him to hire her as a furniture designer, but Le Corbusier retorted back that “We don’t embroider cushions here.” However, when he was taken by his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, to see the Salon D’Automne exhibition of Paris, where Perriand had created in glass, steel and aluminum the glacial Bar sous le Toît, or rooftop bar, Le Corbusier had to apologize and invite her to join his studio.
Perriand befriended many gifted young architects and designers of different nationalities, who like her apprenticed for Le Corbusier as an unpaid or at a very meager compensation. Le Corbusier assigned her to a project of designing three chairs, one “for conversation”, one “for relaxation”, and the third for sleeping. After designing the three chairs, Perriand posed for the publicity shots of the chaise longue with crossed legs, in a short skirt and a necklace of industrial ball bearings. According to Perriand working at Le Corbusier's studio required a strict discipline “The smallest pencil stroke had to have a point, to fulfil a need, or respond to a gesture or posture, and to be achieved at mass-production prices.” During the mid 1930s, her focus became more egalitarian and populist, and inspired by the vernacular furniture of Savoie, she began to experiment with wood and cane, which she thought would be more affordable, and which she displayed at the 1935 Brussels International Exhibition. Along with designing furniture and living spaces, she was also involved with many leftist organizations such as the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, and Maison de la Culture. She also collaborated with the Jeunes in 1937 and help to found The Union des Artistes Modernes. In 1937, Perriand left Le Corbusier’s studio to collaborate with Fernand Leger on a stand at the 1937 Paris Exhibition and then to work on a ski resort in Savoie. When World War II began, she returned to Paris to design prefabricated aluminium buildings with Pierre Jeanneret and Jean Prouvé until, in 1940.
From 1940, onwards, her style was strongly influenced by a long stay in the Far East, and in particular in Japan from 1940 to 1942. The Book of Tea, which she read at this time, also had a major impact on her work, as she referenced it during the rest of her career. Charlotte Perriand took part in the design of the ski resorts of Les Arcs in Savoie, at the same time making her architecture and installations of interiors. In the 1950s she also designed for various corporate service spaces. Since March 2004, Cassina produces the furniture of Charlotte Perriand. She was less visible as an independent designer than as part of Le Corbusier’s studio. Yet towards the end of her life, her reputation revived after a 1985 retrospective at Musée des Arts-Décoratifs in Paris and a 1998 exhibition at the Design Museum. “The most important thing to realise is that what drives the modern movement is a spirit of enquiry, it’s a process of analysis and not a style,” stated Charlotte Perriand in one of her last interviews. “We worked with ideals.”
During the Great Depression of 1930s in America, industrial designers adopted a new style, known as Streamlining, to help make products feel modern and rekindle the consumerism attitude that was in decline due to vagaries of the great depression. The modern era represented speed, energy, efficiency, luxury and hygiene, and the American Streamlining Style was trying to create designs that would posses, or give an impression, of such features in various industrial products. Known as Consumer Engineering, designers smoothed the sharp corners and rounded off the connecting surfaces of various gadgets. Simplifying forms; reducing visual and interactive complexity; combining components within one seamless shell; they redesigned knobs, handles and hand grips to create the impression of an undisturbed facade. Decorative gleaming chrome strips were added to give the impression of speed. The industrial designers also introduced and developed the idea of planned obsolescence, when frequent style changes and other upgrades make consumers feel the need to abandon their old models for something new. This was a practice that originated in the car industry and quickly spread to all kinds of consumer goods.
But more importantly the pioneers of industrial design were trying to create beauty and elegance, because they knew acquiring something beautiful is an inherent human need. Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes, Walter Dorwin Teague, Donald Deskey, Kem Weber, and John Vassos were among the pioneer of American industrial design. Since 1920, streamlining designs were developed for ships, airliners, and cars to improve their hydrodynamic and aerodynamic properties. In sum, streamlining style predominantly defined the 1930s household appliance design.
Henry Dreyfuss (1904 – 1972) was a native of Brooklyn, New York. As one of the renowned industrial designers of the 1930s and 1940s, Dreyfuss dramatically improved the look, feel, and usability of dozens of consumer products. His designs were based on extensive research into the human form. He was one of the pioneer designers of the 1920s when ‘Industrial Design’ was recognised as an engineering discipline in the United States. He reached celebrity status comparable to movie stars and forced corporations to realize that "design" does matter and people would be ready to pay higher prices for better and more elegant designs.
Dreyfuss was apprentice to Norman Bel Geddes in 1924. During his five years of apprenticeship with Bel Geddes he had worked on 250 stage sets. He opened his own design studios in 1929, and among his most recognised designs is the telephone he produced for Bell laboratories in that year. For the first time his design incorporated both receiver and microphone within the same moulded plastic handset, for which he won the “phone of the future” award. In 1949, he designed another Bell phone that remained in use for the next 50 years. His designs for the SX70 Polaroid camera used plastic elegantly covered in leather. He designed many other products from vacuum cleaners to railway engines under a retainer from Hoover in 1934 that was quite a substantial amount for the time .
Dreyfuss also acted as a design consultant for Macy's department store, and worked increasingly as an industrial designer whose distinguished clientele included Bell Telephone, AT&T, American Airlines, Polaroid, Hoover, and others. In 1937 he worked for John Deere, designing tractors and agricultural machinery. Furthermore, he collaborated with Lockheed on converting military planes for use in civil aviation. In 1951 he designed the interior of the Super Constellation, subdividing its long fuselage into small areas that promoted passenger comfort and closeness. Dreyfuss also designed the interior of the Boeing 707. A founding member of the American Society of Industrial Design. In 1965, he became the first president of the recently founded Industrial Designers Society of America. After retiring, Henry Dreyfuss wrote two important books on anthropometry: "Designing for People" (1955) and "The Measure of Man" (1960). Henry Dreyfuss and his wife committed suicide together in 1972.
Raymond Loewy was one of the best known industrial designers of the 20th century. Born in France, he spent most of his professional career in the United States. Among his many contributions were the Shell logo, the Greyhound bus, the S-1 locomotive, the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators and the Studebaker Avanti. When Loewy was first approached by the greyhound corporation to redesign its logo, he thought the company’s logo looked like a 'fat mongrel'. He created a slimmed-down rebrand that is still used today. The most challenging corporate identity for Loewy, was when in 1966 Jersey Standard Oil, commonly known as ESSO, commissioned him to rebrand their name and logo. The rebranding was the reesult of a bitter legal battle over brand name identity and infringement brought against ESSO by Standard Oil, Loewy had the impossible task of altering, yet retaining ESSO's corporate identity. Loewy gathered his top designers in a conference room and wrote the word "ESSO" on a blackboard. Then he said; "Here is the problem. We have to get rid of the sound of this name." He crossed out the two Ss with the two large Xs, and the name EXXON was created! He correctly argued that consumers would recall ESSO subliminally by visualizing the two crossed out Ss in EXXON.
In his book, Loewy wrote: "At a dinner party in Palm Springs, a lovely young lady asked me 'Why did you put two Xs on EXXON?' I asked her 'Why ask me?' She said 'Because I couldn't help seeing it.' I replied 'Well, that's the answer." Loewy's streamlined modern designs, applying the principles of minimalism, put him among a select group of designers like; Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Walter Teague and Harold Van Doren who revolutionized the industrial design.
Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) was an American Art Deco theatre and industrial designer. Although born into a wealthy family in Michigan, his father lost his fortune in the stock market. He became an alcoholic and died a few years later. Although his family was now poor, under the influence of his mother who was highly cultured he became very interested in art. After being expelled from school in the ninth grade, he was able to get into the Cleveland Institute of Art and studied theatre set design. He developed innovate techniques in lighting, but later turned to the industrial arts. He applied Streamline Style to vehicles, such as fantastic (and non-airworthy) aeroplanes, Space-Age cars and super-stylised trains. Among his designs was the famous General Motors Pavilion for the 1939 New York World Fair, which included the Highway and Horizons exhibit, more commonly known as "Futurama". Few of his vehicle designs were ever actually made, but his imagination and sheer style captured the public's attention.
The American Streamline StyleThe American Streamline Style
Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960) was an industrial designer who pioneered in the establishment of industrial design as a profession in the United States. Teague, who studied painting at the Art Students League in New York (1903-07), began his professional career as a graphic designer illustrating magazines. Soon Teague’s clients began to seek his advice about product design so in 1926 he setup an studio devoted exclusively to industrial designin which he designed various products, exhibits, corporate graphics, and interiors. When America entered the Great Depression large companies, struggling to survive, turned to talented industrial designers. Teague was recommended by Metropolitan Museum curators to Eastman Kodak (1928), which retained him to design the appearance of cameras. He insisted on working closely with engineers in the Eastman factory; the results were successful, and the firm remained a client until his death. "Teague" and the Brownie Camera became synonymous.
In 1930 Teague’s design for the Marmon 16 automobile, designed with his son Dorwin, was revolutionary and created much attention . Over the 1939-40 period, he designed a number of exhibits for the New York World’s Fair and the Golden Gate (San Francisco) International Exposition. Other notable designs were for Corning Glass, Polaroid, Montgomery Ward, and the New Haven Railway Coach company. He designed Steinway pianos, office machines, glassware for Steuben, Spartan radios, Texaco service stations, and much more. As well, Teague designed cameras for Eastman Kodak and Polaroid, glassware for Steuben, interior designs, and many other items such as flat irons and radios.
Donald Deskey was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota, in 1894. He studied architecture at the University of California Berkeley and then painting at the California School of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Art Students League in New York. While still a student in Chicago and New York, Donald Deskey began to work as a commercial artist for advertizing agencies. Between 1920 and 1922 he continued his studies in Paris, retunring to the United States in 1922 to teach at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Deskey visited the "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes" in Paris in 1925. He became much impressed to the extent that he would play a major role in the spread of the Art déco style in THe US. Deskey designed furniture and lighting for the Paul Frankl Gallery since 1926. Frankl was known primarily for his Art déco style.
In 1928 Donald Deskey was a co-founder of the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC). As well, he designed several apartments for wealthy New Yorkers, including John D. Rockefeller. This contact helped him to win the competition to design the Radio City Music Hall in the Rockefeller Center in 1930. Deskey worked on this important commission from 1931 to 1934. In 1939, he exhibited at the New York World's Fair. In the early 1940s he founded Donald Deskey Associates and in 1944 was a founder-member of the American Society of Industrial Designers. Donald Deskey was by then active as a packaging designer, designing a great deal of packaging for large firms such as Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, designs which would shape the look of American everyday living for years to come.
Kem Weber (1889-1963), born Karl Emanuel Martin in Berlin was a Los Angeles-based designer . He abandoned the decorative geometrical excesses of the Art Deco of the 1920s, and as an industrial designer, used the creative potential of science and engineering to improve the design of mass-produced consumer goods including household furnishings. He became an apprentice in the workshop of the royal cabinet maker Eduard Schulz in Potsdam in 1904. Three years later, after acquiring the techniques of furniture design and production, Weber studied architecture and interior design with Bruno Paul at the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Berlin and later worked in Paul’s architectural office. In the early summer of 1914, he traveled to San Francisco to supervise the building of the German Pavilion for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but when the war erupted in Europe in August, he found himself stranded in the United States.
For the next several years, Weber eked out a living. He jobbed for an advertising agency in San Francisco and operated a modern design studio in Berkeley. But after the sinking of the Lusitania tipped American sentiment against Germany, Weber, facing strong prejudices and unable to find clients, was forced to work as a lumberjack in the High Sierra. Toward the war’s end, he operated a chicken farm in Los Gatos with his young wife, Erika. In 1918 they moved to Santa Barbara where Weber taught art classes and opened a small factory in an old church to produce modern and period furniture. Weber, though, found only modest success. In 1925 he went to Europe for a business trip and stopped in Paris to visit some modern furniture and interior design exhibits. After returning to Los Angeles in the fall of 1926 Weber persuaded Barker Brothers, then the largest furniture retailer in the United States, to open a modern store on the fourth floor of its eleven-story building in downtown Los Angeles. This “store-within-a-store,” was called “Modes and Manners,” and was the first outlet for modern furniture and accessories in the US.
He said of his work “I have studied how people behave, how they live when they are at home. I am interested in structural principles, not in the application of ornament.” With the onset of World War II Weber’s industrial design came to an abrupt end and he died in 1963.
Some of Kem Weber' s industrial designs.
John Vassos (1898 - 1985) was born in Romania to Greek parents, and moved when young to Istanbul, Turkey. He was forced to leave Turkey in 1915 after drawing political cartoons of Turkish officials for his father's newspaper in Istanbul. He served in the British Navay during World War I and afterward immigrated to the U.S. He studied illustration with John Singer Sargent in Boston, and his works were published in Harpers and The New Yorker.
Vassos assisted for stage designs of the Boston Opera Company and designed promotional material for Columbia Records in the early Twenties. A lotion bottle was Vassos' first industrial design executed in 1924, and in 1933 he designed the ubiquitous Peevey subway turnstile. He was one of the founders of the American Designers' Institute and a later became its president. He worked as designer for RCA, and in 1941 designed the RCA 621TS television. He participated at the 1939 World's Fair with the design of the "Radio Living Room of Tomorrow" which was anticipating the audio-visual systems of today with a combination of radio, television, record player, and record-recorder in one cabinet. He died in 1985.
"The Macintosh turned out so well because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists."
Steve Jobs, The New York Times
Steven Paul Jobs (1955 - 2011) was born in San Francisco. His biological parents, Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali, a graduate student from Syria who became a political science professor offered him for adoption. Paul Jobs, a machinist, and his wife Clara adopted Steve. The story of this adoption was told in the Stanford University Commencement address by Steve Jobs on June 12, 2005.
My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.The young Steve and his new Jobs family, relocated down the San Francisco Peninsula, to Mountain View and then to Los Altos in the 1960s.
Mentored by a neighbor, an electronics hobbyist, Jobs developed a taste for everything electronics. Jobs learned how to assemble Heathkit do-it-yourself electronics projects, and he was so intensely enthusiastic that, when could not find a critical piece that was missing from a frequency counter kit, he telephoned William Hewlett, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard and complained. Hewlett spoke with the eighth grader boy for about twenty minutes, after which he ordered a bag of parts be delivered to him. Moreover, he offered Steve a summer internship.
|Apple II, 1979|
Jobs met Steve Wozniak, another electronic enthusiast, at Homestead High School in neighboring Cupertino. Together they attended after-school lectures at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California. After their high school graduation Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and Wozniak enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. It was there that Wozniak received the article, “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” by Ron Rosenbaum, from the October 1971 issue of Esquire magazine, sent to him by his mom. The article was about, phone phreaks, an underground hobbyist group who simply by blowing a whistle next to a phone handset made free long-distance calls. John Draper, a former Air Force electronic technician, had discovered that a whistle that came in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal was tuned to a frequency for long-distance calls. Wozniak shared the article with Jobs, and the two arranged a meeting with Draper who came to meet them at Wozniak’s Berkeley dormitory room. Based on Draper's instructions, the two young men built blue boxes, that could make illicit phone calls, they made a sum total of $6,000 from their first enterprise.
In 1972, Jobs dropped out of Reed College after just one semester, but remained in Portland for another three semesters. In his Stanford commencement address, he explained the reasons;
After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
|Steve Jobs, Introducing the Macintosh 1984|
Steve Jobs the Calligrapher
Leaving school, however, also freed Jobs artistic sensitivities;
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
ding meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, a hobbyist group at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif. To show it off to his fellow Homebrew club members, Wozniak designed and built the first Apple I computer. Jobs immediately foresaw its tremendous commercial appeal. Jobs sold his Volkswagen micro-bus and Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator, which raised $1,300 to start their new company. With that start up capital and some credit lines with local electronics suppliers, they set up their first production line in the Jobs family garage in Los Altos, in the early 1976.
Jobs lead a hardware revolution by introducing Apple II at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, in April 1977. Apple II, was offering a winning design, at a time when hobbyist computers were unattractive heavy metal boxes, he designed the Apple II as a sleek, aesthetically agreeable plastic package, more at home with other consumer products, as result sales skyrocketed. In 1978 the company went public. In 1979, Jobs visited Xerox’s research center in Palo Alto, where he saw the Alto, an experimental personal computer system that was controlled by a mouse. In his interview for Triumph of the Nerds originally premiered in PBS in June 1996 Jobs recalled;
“And they showed me really three things. But I was so blinded by the first one I didn't even really see the other two. One of the things they showed me was object orienting programming they showed me that but I didn't even see that. The other one they showed me was a networked computer system...they had over a hundred Alto computers all networked using email etc., etc., I didn't even see that. I was so blinded by the first thing they showed me which was the graphical user interface. I thought it was the best thing I'd ever seen in my life. Now remember it was very flawed, what we saw was incomplete, they'd done a bunch of things wrong. But we didn't know that at the time but still though they had the germ of the idea was there and they'd done it very well and within you know ten minutes it was obvious to me that all computers would work like this some day.”
In the summer of 1981, IBM announced the PC that would break open the computer business and eventually marginalize Apple. Jobs took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal headlined "Welcome, IBM. Seriously." Jobs then flew to Redmond, Washington, to tell Bill Gates about the Mac and persuade the Microsoft programmers to write for it. Gates was more than happy to oblige, and agreed to produce the software. He then promptly launched Microsoft Windows a copycat project. In the same year, Jobs joined a small group of Apple engineers pursuing a separate project, a lower-cost system code-named Macintosh. Jobs used his calligraphic knowledge to revolutionize personal computers, again! as he recalled in his Stanford speech:
None of [the stuff I learned in the calligraphy class in Reed College] had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college.
The machine was introduced in January 1984. The Macintosh interface has since been copied by every operating systems manufacturer in the world and become the standard interface format for both personal computers and super-computers. He lured John Sculley, PepsiCo's designated heir to his Cupertino headquarters with a Mephistophelian job pitch. "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?". Sculley accepted the challenge. For a time the two men worked well together, but when early Macintosh sales proved disappointing, they became estranged and a power struggle ensued, as Jobs explained;
Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
After leaving Apple, and a number of trials and errors, Jobs turned his attention to Pixar, a struggling graphics supercomputing company owned by the filmmaker George Lucas. Soon he turned it into the Academy-Award-winning computer animation studios which its first feature film, Toy Story, was released by Walt Disney Pictures in November 1995 and became the highest domestic grossing film released that year and the third highest grossing animated film of all time.
The thing that set Jobs apart was his unwavering belief in the beauty of design, whether in creating consumer products or just choosing a name for for his product. Apple’s very name reflected his aesthetically driven taste. In an era when engineers and designers tended to describe their machines with alphabetic soups and model numbers, he chose the name of a fruit, mythologically, spiritually and scientifically significant, whether it be the main reward in the judgment of Paris, the object of desire in the story of temptation of Eve, or the source of inspiration for the discovery of the laws of gravity for Newton. Jobs understood the notion of “taste,” a word he used frequently. It was a sensibility that shone in products that looked like works of art and delighted users. Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.” He was an avid believer in flawless design in every product, and a consummate perfectionist, he instilled key rules for design, such as streamlined interaction, like the click-wheel for the original iPod, a single interaction point that could execute an array of controls. A reporter who asked Jobs about the market research that went into the iPad was famously told, "None. It's not the consumers' job to know what they want." It was not that he did not think like a consumer--he just thought like one standing in the near future, not in the recent past. He was a focus group of one, the ideal Apple customer, two years out. As he told Inc. magazine in 1989, "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."
Jobs first design innovation was to change the interface of personal computers from a text-based system to a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that resembled a real-life 'desktop' with icons representing familiar objects like disks, files and a trashcan (image). (Apple didn't invent this desktop metaphor — controversially, it was developed at Xerox and then adapted by Apple and Microsoft.) Another early move was to hire an industrial design team, Frog Design, headed by Hartmut Esslinger. They immediately developed a design language that became consistent across Apple products in the '80s and early '90s. The priority was to make the computer appear as small and light as possible.
The first Macintosh computers also already had a compelling physical presence: MoMA curator Paola Antonelli has said of the 128K that it "had enough personality to be greeted as an interlocutor." Crucially, Frog Design also emphasized the inlaid rainbow-striped Apple logo, an important symbol of the Apple computer as fundamentally a toy — something to be used creatively.
As Jonathan Ive, the Apple designer who also designed the iPod, explained, "Our objective was to design a computer for the consumer market that would be simple, easy to use, highly integrated, quiet and small. We wanted it to be an unashamedly plastic product." By making it "plastic," Apple turned the personal computer into a personal accessory. It also introduced the idea that external design changes might be as appealing and important as internal system changes for consumers, that idea of planned obsolescence first developed during the Depression.
Subsequent style changes and new products have followed the principles established by both Frog Design in the '80s and the in-house Apple team in the late '90s: smooth, simple external shells; the appearance of lightness; and simple and intuitive user interface --like the single control dial on the iPod or the home button on the iPad and iPhone. Jobs has taught his entire organization to play in the span of product generations rather than just product introductions: Apple designers say that now, each design they create has to be presented alongside a mock-up of how that design might evolve in the second or third generation. That should ensure Apple's continued success for as long as a decade. Then there is the fact that Apple has created products that can be immediately integrated into everyday lives. such as iPods, iPhones and MacBooks.
Perhaps the best example of Jobs philosophy of simplicity in design is his approach to instruction manuals. When a consumer purchases a new gadget the first thing he wants to know is how the thing worked. To solve the problem there piles of complex and incomprehensible instruction manuals written by engineer's jargon. But as far as the iMac is concerned every year Apple's instruction manuals had grown thinner and less sophisticated, until finally, today, there are none. The assumption is that the consumer would be able to tear open the box and immediately start operating his gadget. Today a 3-year-old child can operate an iPad, one of the most advanced pieces of engineering, intuitively.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Go to the next chapter; Chapter 23 - Ancient Rock Reliefs
- Winkler Dietmar R., Morality and Myth: The Bauhaus Reassessed, AIGA Journal of Graphic Design, Vol. 7, No 4, 1990
- Stanford Anderson: "Peter Behrens and a New Architecture for the Twentieth Century", The MIT Press 2000, ISBN-10: 026201176X
- Pearlman, Jill E. Inventing American Modernism: Joseph Hudnut, Walter Gropius, and the Bauhaus Legacy at Harvard, University of Virginia Press, 2007, ISBN-10: 0813926025
- Cogdell, Christina. Eugenic Design: Streamlining America in the 1930s, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, ISBN-10: 0812238249
- Meikle, Jeffrey. Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939, Temple University Press, 2001,ISBN-10: 1566398932
- Schulze, Franz. Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography, University Of Chicago Press,1995, ISBN-10: 0226740609
- Setright, L.J.K., "Loewy: When styling became industrial design", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 11
- “Modern Furniture from Los Angeles: Barker Bros. Feature Kem Weber’s Designs,” Good Furniture Magazine, vol. 29 (November 1927), p. 233.
- Flinchum, Russell. Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer: The Man in the Brown Suit, Rizzoli, 1997, ISBN-10: 0847820106
- Kem Weber, “Why Should the American Furniture Buyer, Manufacturer and Designer Go to Europe?,” Good Furniture Magazine, vol. 25 (November 1925), p. 261.
- Innes, Christopher. Designing Modern America: Broadway to Main Street,Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN-10: 0300108044
- Dalrymple, Theodore. 'The Architect as Totalitarian:Le Corbusier’s baleful influence', City Journal, Autumn 2009, vol. 19, no.
- Choay, Françoise, le corbusier (1960), pp. 10-11. George Braziller, Inc. ISBN 0-8076-0104-7.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.