Industrial Design

Belle Kogan: Designing a Place for Women in the Field of Industrial Design

In the late 1920s, industrial design began to emerge as a viable field in the United States.  Because of the Great Depression, there was a great deal of competition among companies who were beginning to rely on visual form as a way to sell products. Men dominated the field until Belle Kogan came on the scene in the late 1920s.
Belle Kogan, Reed and Barton, silver-plate, Industrial Design, Art Deco

A Moderne Woman

Virginia Hamill, one of the first American women in the field of industrial design, called herself a “decorative art consultant.” Under this broad title, she gained prominence as an exhibition organizer and designer, retail merchandiser, product stylist, and interior designer and educator. She was influential in her use of department store exhibitions to introduce European modernist design to mainstream American consumers. Hamill may be best known as the Executive Director of R.H.
Virginia Hamill, Jean George Theobald, tea, pewter, Industrial Design, modernism

Crossed Wires: The Gendered Technology of the Princess Phone

The ubiquity of smart phones today makes it almost impossible to imagine a time when there were not many choices when purchasing a telephone, and they were not customizable, let alone portable. This began to change in 1959 when Bell Telephone Systems released the Princess telephone as the first phone specifically created for teenage girls and women. The Princess phone began a trend of using the telephone itself as a form of expression by taking a previously neutral communication device and transforming it into a gendered object.
Telephone, Henry Dreyfuss, Bell Telephone, women, teenagers, Industrial Design

The smaller the better

Wow! I remember thinking that as a youngster, when I first saw the slightly flickering black and white picture on the Sony portable TV at a friend’s house—on the patio. That was the last place I could imagine anything like a television, something I had previously experienced only as a piece of furniture in people’s living rooms.
Portable television, Sony, Japan, Industrial Design, miniaturization

A chair for all seasons

The Landi chair, created by the self-taught designer Hans Coray, was one of the first highly successful designs for seating furniture using sheet aluminum, a relatively new material in the 1930s. Introduced in Zurich, at the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition (Schweizerische Landesaustellung, nicknamed “Landi”), the chair was the official seating for the exhibition grounds.
chair, furniture, aluminum, Hans Coray, Switzerland, Industrial Design

Body Odor and Sticky Feet

What do sticky feet, body odor, and cracked, sweaty and saggy skins have to do with our museum collection? A survey of plastic materials in Cooper-Hewitt collections, supported by the Smithsonian’s Collections Care and Preservation Fund, was recently conducted by a team of conservators. We saw and smelled many of these plastic deterioration issues—up close and personal.
conservation, Henry Dreyfuss, Telephone, plastic, survey, deterioration, Industrial Design, cab, PVC

A redesigned tractor

In 1937, Deere & Company’s engineers decided that, while they knew how to create dependable and efficient tractors, what they needed was a more cohesive appearance that projected these qualities. They entered into consultations with industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, which led to a more unified design of the tractor and all its different models.
Henry Dreyfuss, John Deere, tractor, farmer, farming, Industrial Design

An Apple Inspiration

Designed in 1956 by Dieter Rams for the German consumer products company, Braun, the SK4 Turntable/receiver is an exemplary modern design object that continues to look fresh and contemporary, despite its antiquated technology. Unlike the traditional wooden turntable boxes that came before, this simple, yet sophisticated rectangular design is made of a white metal housing with ash wood panels on the side.
Phonograph, Dieter Rams, Braun, Germany, music, Functionalism, Industrial Design

"The Latest Radio Success"

Raymond Loewy was one of the most prominent industrial designers in the United States.  A French émigré, he began practicing in the new field of industrial design in New York City in the 1920s.
radio, Industrial Design, Catalin, Raymond Loewy, Colonial Radio Company

Design Talks: Timothy Prestero

Design that Matters, National Design Award winner for Corporate and Institutional Achievement, is a nonprofit design company that partners with social entrepreneurs to design products that address basic needs in developing countries. Led by cofounder Timothy Prestero, over 850 academic and professional collaborators have worked together to create dozens of product concepts, including a low-cost neonatal incubator using spare car parts, and a phototherapy device for treating newborn jaundice in Vietnam (see image above).
Industrial Design, design talks