Design and Making
50 artifacts in this set
The DC-3 is an aviation landmark, significant technologically and successful commercially. But it is also a design landmark, whose appearance inspired designers in fields as diverse as architecture and automobiles. Walter Dorwin Teague -- comparing its contours to the elemental forms of fish, birds, and falling drops of water -- concluded that there was no more exciting form in modern design.
Designers Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf explored new materials that could replicate the cooling effect of historic wicker furniture and studied human sitting habits to create Herman Miller's groundbreaking Aeron task chair. One of the last in a series of experimental prototypes, this 1994 version incorporates the distinctive skeletal appearance that exemplified the production Aeron introduced later that year.
Charles and Ray Eames wanted to design affordable high-quality furniture. To this end, Charles brought a mock-up of a chair to John Wills, a boat builder and fiberglass fabricator, who created two identical prototypes. Charles took one: it became the basis for what would become a modern design icon. This is the other: it lingered in Will's workshop, used over four decades as a utility stool.
It's an old auto industry cliche -- "you can't sell a young man an old man's car, but you can sell an old man a young man's car." It's also true. The sporty Mustang was a young man's -- and woman's -- car. The under-30 crowd loved it. But older people also bought them, often as a second car. The Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market, appealing to a wide range of buyers.
Henry Ford crafted his ideal car in the Model T. It was rugged, reliable and suited to quantity production. The first 2,500 Model Ts carried gear-driven water pumps rather than the thermosiphon cooling system adopted later. Rarer still, the first 1,000 or so -- like this example -- used a lever rather than a floor pedal to engage reverse.
A pioneer of industrial design, Walter Dorwin Teague is best known for his work for the Eastman Kodak Company and the 1933 Chicago and 1939 New York World's Fairs. At both Fairs he designed the Ford Buildings, which included prototypes of these benches. During the 1939 Fair, Edsel Ford commissioned a group of these benches for the Museum.
Industrial designers responded to post World War II consumer demand for affordable, aesthetically appealing goods. The Osterizer blender, which debuted in 1946, sported rounded edges and horizontal lines of streamlining design, a modern look popular since the 1930s--one suited to mass production. Rectilinear and angled features gained popularity in the mid-1950s, yet this blender held appeal for many years. A design with staying power.
Ready-made, mass market clothing was made possible by the development of factory-made cloth, the invention of the sewing machine, and the creation of standardized sizes. By the early 20th century, the ready-to-wear clothing industry could turn out generally good and stylish clothing for men, women, and children at affordable prices. Clothing became more available and affordable to greater numbers of people.
In the 1950s, plastic became indispensable--especially in products for the home. Foremost were Tupperware's "Wonderlier" bowls--lightweight, flexible, and unbreakable, with a patented air-tight seal to keep foods fresher longer. Tupperware was more than just a substitute for older materials, it offered qualities previously unattainable. Even Tupperware's marketing method was innovative--sold only at home parties given by a hostess for friends...
Carpenter-turned-toymaker Ole Kirk Christianson created his first interlocking "Automatic Binding Bricks" in 1949. Highly popular in Europe by the late 1950s, the renamed "Lego" bricks were first introduced in the United States in 1961. Lego comes from the Danish words "leg godt," which mean "play well."
Beginning in the 1820s, textile mills sprung up in towns throughout New England. During the 19th century, these factories manufactured billions of yards of fabric for the mass market, creating roller-printed cottons using complex technical processes. Colorful cotton prints, like those made by Cocheco Manufacturing Company, became affordable to almost everyone. These appealing fabrics had a profound influence on clothing and furnishing styles.
This is a rare survival of a Charleston high style, colonial-era card table. Wealthy southerners tended to purchase expensive furniture from London, rather than from local craftsmen. This piece is executed in the Chinese Chippendale taste -- the decorative carvings are derived from an illustration for a "China Case" in Thomas Chippendale's famous pattern book.
Action Office, conceptualized by Robert Propst with final design by George Nelson, was rooted in Propst's research into office function and worker behavior. The system was not a commercial success: manufacturing costs were high, and it was, in Propst's words, "too showy and bright for serious consideration as a middle management tool." Propst went on to design the hugely successful Action Office 2 cubicle-based system.
This mold-made, pressed glass box was intended to hold a middle class lady's jewelry. It was made in the lacy glass technique, in which decoration covers the entire surface of the mold, and is raised against a background of small dots, to create a stippled appearance on the surface. The dots catch any ambient light, making the surface shimmer.
Elizabeth Parke Firestone, wife of tire magnate Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., cultivated a refined sense of fashion through years of interest in clothing design and collaboration with world-renowned couturiers. Paris designer Christian Dior created a design drawing of this dress in red--a favorite color choice in his clothing line. Firestone preferred blue.
When cooking in a fireplace, a woman could adeptly adjust cooking temperature by moving food closer to or farther away from the fire. Controlling heat distribution on early cast iron stoves proved a bigger challenge. Henry Stanley offered this solution: a cookstove with a revolving stovetop to rotate food directly over or away from the firebox.
This jar was made of a durable, leak-proof pottery called stoneware, shaped on a potter's wheel. The orange-peel-like outer glaze was created when the potter threw handfuls of common rock salt into a white-hot kiln during the piece's firing. Salt-glazed stoneware pieces were decorated with an amazing array of designs, including the stag and landscape on this piece.
During the early 20th century, older boys' toys reflected the modern world of science and technology. The engineer was the new ideal for boys. A.C. Gilbert's Erector Set, introduced in 1913, inspired boys to build dozens of structures using girders, panels, wheels, pulleys, gears, and small electric motors. This beginner's set introduced boys to skills they would need in the working world.
Buckminster Fuller was a multi-disciplinary designer. This house, his re-thinking of human shelter, was rooted in Fuller's understanding of industrial production -- particularly methods developed in the automobile industry and especially those advocated by Henry Ford for whom Fuller had immense admiration. More an engineering solution than a home, the structure was prototyped but never produced.
Unimate robots were the world's first successful industrial robots. The units, designed by Unimation Inc., could perform tasks in manufacturing facilities that were difficult, dangerous, or monotonous for human workers. This is the first Unimate ever used on an assembly line. It was installed at the General Motors plant in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1961 to unload a die-casting press.
Denim jeans were the purview of the working class for nearly a century. By the 1960s, jeans--representing independence and the right to self-expression--were enthusiastically embraced by youth culture. The youth market for fashion and music--and the word "teenager"--had begun a spectacular takeoff during the 1950s. Wearing jeans would become a widespread fashion, part of a growing informality in dress.
Thomas Blanchard's duplicating lathe was originally developed in 1818 for manufacturing rifle stocks. It made copies using a rotating blade whose position was guided by the shape of a prototype -- much in the manner of a modern key cutting machine. These lathes -- readily operated by semi-skilled operators -- were adapted to make other irregularly-shaped forms such as shoe lasts and axe handles.
The work of Henry Maudslay (1771-1831) is fundamental to the development of industrial precision. This is the oldest industrial capacity precision machine tool in the world. Capable of machining to an accuracy of several thousandths of an inch, it enabled Maudslay's company to manufacture tools and engines to unprecedented standards -- and set the stage for even higher levels of precision.
Design as a discipline is rooted in craft but revealed in industry. Similarly the story of incandescent lamp manufacture begins with craft (the earliest ones offered for sale were exquisite hand-made objects) and ends with mass production. This high output machine (ten bulb blanks a second) was developed by a former glass blower and a mechanical engineer.
In 1984, the Apple Macintosh became the first popular personal computer to feature the now-ubiquitous mouse and "graphical user interface" desktop. Despite the Mac's relatively high price, its user-friendly features helped it demystify computing for many people without a technical bent. This computer is a Macintosh 512k, released in 1985 with increased memory.
Amana's Radarange, introduced in 1967, was the first compact microwave oven made for home use. By 1975, when Ed and Flo Harper bought this Radarange as a family Christmas gift, sales of microwave ovens outpaced gas ovens for the first time. The convenient, time-saving microwave oven was becoming a practical necessity for a fast-paced world. People had less time to devote to cooking.
Corning Glass Works' heat-resistant glass bakeware, called Pyrex, was introduced in the mid-1910s. Pyrex products were inexpensive, with an easy-to-clean smooth surface. Pyrex glassware could travel from refrigerator to oven to table. Colored Pyrex kitchenware was introduced in 1947. These appealing mixing bowl sets, made from 1949 to 1957, were among the most popular of Corning's Pyrex products ever made.
This sleek range hid its technology behind a smooth porcelain enamel cabinet. Four surface burners could be covered when not in use, while doors neatly concealed the oven, warming oven, and broiler. By the mid-1930s, ranges like this one--lacking tall legs and with a stovetop designed to fit alongside built-in cupboards with continuous countertops--took their place in the standardized, modern kitchens of the era.
In 1882, German immigrant and furniture maker George Hunzinger patented a torsion bar system to keep rockers from moving across the floor while the sitter rocked. A major innovation in furniture technology, these platform rockers revolutionized American parlors. Hunzinger's line of rockers were imitated by competitors, but were made using springs and other technologies to avoid infringing on Hunzinger's patent.
In 1970, Stephen Frykholm, newly hired as a graphic designer at Herman Miller, designed his first poster for the furniture company's annual summer picnic. He went on to design 19 more, each with picnic food as their subject. His compositions played with scale, abstraction, pattern, and vibrant color -- informed by the screen-printing skills he had developed while serving in the Peace Corps.
Indiana farmwife Susan McCord made this stunningly beautiful quilt -- indisputably her masterpiece. This trailing vine design is a McCord original. McCord pieced together printed and solid cotton fabric scraps to create the over 300 leaves on each of the thirteen vine panels. McCord used variations of this vine in the borders of several quilts. But McCord's vine design is rendered to perfection in this work of genius.
After working the fields of her rural Alabama tenant farm and tending to her family's needs, Susana Hunter sat down to lavish her creativity on quilt making. On-the-fly inspiration -- rather than tradition -- guided this African-American quilt maker's improvisational creations. Susana made over a hundred quilts -- each of them unique -- from the worn clothing and fabric scraps available to her.
This 1937 Sparton radio was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, a designer renowned for his use of streamlined forms. A study in contrasts -- the blue mirrored finish and curved sled-like base suggest speed while the five jutting parallel panels appear almost architectural -- this expensive and glamorous radio had a limited market during the Great Depression.
The first to combine a built-in ottoman with a rocking feature, this model dramatically increased La-Z-Boy's sales in the early 1960s. Middle class Americans eagerly adopted the chair for use in dens, family and living rooms. This chair served as William M. Clary's La-Z-Boy salesman sample, traveling the country from dealer to dealer.
The big news in the kitchen during the 1920s? Reliable, affordable electric refrigeration. As more homes had access to electric power, people replaced their messy wooden iceboxes with stylish, low maintenance, enameled porcelain electric refrigerators. In 1930, 10% of households had them -- by 1940, 56% did. General Electric's distinctive "Monitor Top" refrigerator was a big seller in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
A combination of several design disciplines (styling, package design, product design, and graphic design), Walter Dorwin Teague's Texaco station suggested consistency, simplicity, and cleanliness -- a strong corporate identity that enabled Texaco to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace.
When new inventions like stoves, sewing machines and radios first came on the market, they seemed jarring and out of place next to people's furniture. Manufacturers learned that these devices would sell better if their mechanisms were hidden behind stylish cabinetry or fancy decoration. Fashionable parlor furniture inspired the ornately scrolled and pierced iron legs of this elaborately decorated sewing machine.
In his first season with the Chicago Bulls (1984-1985), basketball phenomenon Michael Jordan wore black and red Nike shoes. Almost immediately, the company launched commercial "Air Jordans" and an aggressive advertising campaign. The popularity of Air Jordans was unprecedented -- first-year sales totaled 130 million dollars! This pair was purchased as a Christmas present for a young Iowan boy in 1985.
Inspired by the bustling clock industry in his native Connecticut, Lambert Hitchcock applied early mass production techniques to making furniture. Constructed using interchangeable parts made quickly by machine and easy to assemble, Hitchcock chairs were attractive, durable, and inexpensive. They became so popular in the 1820s that they were widely imitated by competitors.
The iPhone was the apotheosis of the cellphone as pocket computer--powerful technology in a sleek package. This handheld is a music player, a mobile phone, and an internet-enabled device in one, with a trendsetting touchscreen interface. The iPhone's release in 2007 was a well-choreographed media event, with potential buyers waiting in lines for hours at Apple stores across the country.
Procter & Gamble introduced Cheer detergent in 1950, following up on its highly successful product Tide. Cheer was recognized for its distinctive blue granules that claimed to make clothes whiter by performing the extra cleaning process that bluing had done. The design on this box is cheerful in itself--with three billowy shapes reminiscent of sheets blowing in the breeze.
Stoves were more efficient than open fireplaces--they used less fuel and heated rooms more effectively. By the 1840s, stove-making had become a big industry, as new manufacturing techniques made stoves stronger, lighter, and less expensive. Style mattered. People wanted their stoves to be eye-catching, as well as useful. The neighboring cities of Troy and Albany, New York, were America's "stove capitals" from 1830 to 1870.
This prototype synthesizer--a collaboration between engineer Robert Moog and composer Herbert Deutsch--is a musical icon. Synthesizers create unique electronically-produced sounds. Moog's solid-state synthesizer was musically superior and much more portable than earlier vacuum tube-based systems. In 1968, the album “Switched-On Bach" introduced the Moog synthesizer to a wider audience. Synthesizers quickly became a mainstay of popular music.
During the early 1950s, plastic dinnerware in the form of melamine was introduced to the American market. By 1956, twenty-five percent of Americans owned at least a pair of these plates. Industrial designers Russel and Mary Wright were famous for producing aesthetically pleasing ceramic dinnerware as early as the 1930s. This set, in fashionable turquoise, was the Wrights’ first design in plastic.
Spinning frames spin cotton fiber into yarn and then wind it onto a bobbin. This throstle spinning frame could simultaneously spin 64 strands of yarn. (Throstle -- an old name for a song thrush -- refers to the bird-like sounds the machine made.) Machines like this helped produce the large quantities of yarn that growing industrial weaving operations needed in the early and mid-1800s.
Deere & Company released the streamlined Model B, styled by industrial designer, Henry Dreyfuss, in late 1938. Farmers used the four-gear forward tractor to pull a two-bottom plow, cultivate corn or soybeans, power a mounted corn picker, or run a corn sheller off the belt-drive. The rounded hood and grill and more expensive rubber-tire option meant the tractor looked as good as it performed.
Industrial design pioneer Henry Dreyfuss created Hoover's 1936 Model 150 upright vacuum cleaner. It had a magnesium chassis and a Bakelite plastic hood, making it more lightweight. Henry Dreyfuss was a leading proponent of streamlined design--a modern, rounded, aerodynamic form which increasingly shaped 1930s household appliance design. Dreyfuss stressed "designing for people"--developing products that not only looked good, but also worked well.
Alexander Girard, Herman Miller Textile Division's Director of Design, created a series of forty folk art-inspired graphic panels aptly named "Environmental Enrichment Panels" in 1972. They were meant to enrich the office environment, adorning the moveable walls of Robert Propst's Action Office II -- more commonly known as the cubicle.
When this watch came to the Museum in 1959, the Hamilton Watch Company was America's leading watchmaker. The company created the first electric watch, the Ventura, whose movement was powered by a battery, instead of a wound spring. Its design was as revolutionary as the mechanism--the lozenge-shaped case reflected postwar American industrial design. This watch has the Ventura's watchband but the features of its successor, the Pacer.