Pioneers of Industrial Design Get Stamps of Approval

Blog: 07.07.11

Thursday, July 07, 2011 - 06:00 PM

You know you've made it when your face is on a postage stamp. 

Twelve giants of industrial design have just been given that honor with a new set of stamps released by the United States Postal Service last week. But instead of their profiles gracing the corner of your next electric bill, their enduring work is spotlighted.

The objects honored are true icons of 20th-century American design: Henry Dreyfuss' Western Electric rotary telephone defined how phones would look for the next 70 years. Fredrick Rhead's Fiesta line of mass-produced ceramic tableware introduced boldly modern colors to the American home interior.  Eliot Noyes' IBM Selectric typewriter once held a 75% market share of American offices (and is still a favorite of writers everywhere, including Aaron Sorkin and P.J. O'Rourke). 

The United States Postal Service's "Pioneers of Industrial Design" stamp series (© 2010 United States Postal Service)



American industrial design of the mid-1930's was a response to low sales during the Depression, but the post-WWII manufacturing boom really allowed cutting-edge product design to thrive.  The designers of the era stripped away useless flourishes to focus on pure functionality, giving their objects a modern elegance that's timeless.  So perhaps it's fitting that the stamps, too, are timeless: they are Forever stamps, valid for all first class letters, no matter how much the rate increases over time — an innovation in its own right.

There's a reason why these objects still have such an impact on us. Echoes of their streamlined, minimalist aesthetic can be clearly seen in our water bottles, desk chairs, and iPhones.  Raymond Loewy — the artist behind the sleek, bullet-shaped pencil sharpener — summed up the impact of the designers best: “I say of myself that I have made the mundane side of the 20th century more beautiful.”

More design: We've got an entire podcast dedicated to the brilliant design of everyday objects — listen to our Design for the Real World series here.


Slideshow: The complete "Pioneers of Industrial Design" stamp series

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Rhead's Fiesta dinnerware line popularized mixing and matching bright colors on the American kitchen table.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Walter Teague's "Baby Brownie" camera was noted for its innovative fold-down viewfinder.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

The "Patriot" radio, manufactured by the Emerson Corporation, featured an All-American front with red and white stripes.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Raymond Lowery also helped design refrigerators, Greyhound buses, and even the interior of NASA's first space station, Skylab.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Donald Deskey, initially trained as an architect, is perhaps best known for designing the ornate interior to Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Glibert Rohde's work with the Herman Miller Company lead to designs that used cutting-edge elements like Plexiglass and chrome while maintaining a focus on simple functionality.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Born and educated in Sweden, Greta von Nessen developed the "Anywhere" lamp, which could be mounted on the wall, hung from a ceiling, or perched on a table.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Russel Wright's flatware collection abandoned ornaments and flair in favor of simple, elegant silhouettes.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Henry Dreyfuss' 302 Bell telephone focused on ergonomics and balance, making it the most popular telephone in America.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Peter Müller-Munk, a silversmith by trade, designed the chromium-plated brass "Normandie" pitcher as a simple, more affordable alternative to the silver pitchers of the time.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Dave Chapman's sewing machines were fitted with a chrome grille, designed to evoke the look of modern automobiles.

© 2010 United States Postal Service

Putting design before profit, Eliot Noyes focused on creating lasting, iconic products by choosing not to update a product's design each year.


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Comments [2]

Art Donovan from Southampton, NY

Thank you for this post and info.

I am so very happy to see Donald Deskey on one of the stamps. Among some of his other accomplishments was his design for Radio City Music Hall, NYC.

I was his senior designer in the early 80's and for all this time, only the "designerati" knew of his work.

A bona fide 20th Century design pioneer!

Jul. 29 2011 04:09 PM
julie fulkerson from Northern California

Fantastic. Great designs, originally. Great designs, as stamps. Most stamps are mind-numbing. These are about inspiration. Thanks, USPO.

Jul. 09 2011 01:26 PM

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