Sunday, November 1, 2009

Art, Design and Industry (Art Deco): The beginning

The beginning of the Art Deco period was motivated by the admiration for the beauty of new geometric forms and technology possibilities. technology was beginning to accelerate to great extents in which large quantities could be produced in less time. The pace in which goods were produced stimulated the quality of life for the wealthy and the middle class because they could afford these new luxuries. Because of the boost in technology and new advancements, this period is also known as the "machine age."
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was significant because it stimulated public interest in newer designs by the artwork that was displayed. Museums promoted modern styles emphasizing the integration of art into the lives of the middle class and for the ability of the decorative arts to raise the level of public tastes (Raizman, 206). Vogue and Vanity Fair were popular magazines that used illustrations to cultivate the image of modern life associated with fashion, sport, travel, etc. This method is still very successful today. Geometric shapes were very popular such like the designs of Raymond Hood and Ruth Reeves. These designs were very similar to Frank L. Wrights horizontal and geometric features in his architecture. Hood created furniture and interiors that emphasizes industrial materials and angular geometric decoration (Raizman, 208). Reeves's "electric design" uses zigzag overlapping shapes to convey the speed and man-made power of electric energy (Raizman, 208). Another very geometric design was the Skyscraper bookcase designed by Paul Frankl. We fimiliar with Skyscraper as being a tall building but it can also be used to refer to furniture of the Art Deco era, it has a strong sense of verticality with rectangular shelving sections.
Like most design periods, interiors during the 20th century were based off of past centuries. The wealthy homes inhabited large, heavy brick or stone with comfortable frame houses while the interiors echoed ideas from the Aesthetic Movement with wide rooms, soft hangings and old mahogany (Meikle, 89). Most families of good wealth had a bungalow and living areas were scattered with decorative flower motifs and elaborate designs on fabric resembling the Victorian era (Meikle, 89). The poor lived in rickety little houses with old pieces of furniture, solid heavy quilts and very few furniture if any (Meikle, 89). Luckily, the machine age required art to be simplified so that people from any class could enjoy the products and it would be cheap enough for the most people to afford it.
Henry Ford is an important figure in this period who is widely known for his productions of the automobile, specifically the Mobile T which is a type of car he invented. The automobile transformed the way people live, work, and how to identify themselves whether they have a car because they need it or to show off their economical status.

What are museums used for today? Do you think an art museum today still stimulates new ideas and designs for the future? Money is always a huge influence on where you live and what items you can afford to have, how does money affect us today and influence the way we live? does everyone have equal opportunities to own goods or do you think there is a large gap between wealthy and poor?

Art Deco & Industrial Design: The Industrial Designer

The profession known as industrial design emerged during the Great Depression of the 1930s (Meikle p.105). Many of the early industrial designers started out in the advertising business and dealt a lot with stage and set designs for theaters. An industrial designer is neither just an artist, nor simply an engineer, nor a market researcher but rather a combination of all three (Sparke p. 94). What did these industrial designers do? As Fortune magazine of 1934 explained: “Now it was the turn of the washing machines, furnaces, switchboards, and locomotives. Who was to design them?” (Spark p. 96) And the answer to that question is the industrial designer. The industrial designer was now in charge of coming up with all different kinds of machines for the new modern era. The problem with this was that the designers struggled to find a machine aesthetic both intellectually defensible and commercially viable (Meikle p. 113). They wanted to create a style that was an honest expression of the technology of this new modern life. The style they developed was called streamlining. Streamlining was based on the new science of aerodynamics and borrowed from the emerging technology of aviation where it was both functional and organic (Meikle p. 113). Streamlining allowed a vehicle to travel much faster by eliminating the wind resistance.

Some of the industrial designers that were very prominent at the time were Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss and Henry Ford. Henry Ford is one of the first industrial designers. The automobile was the most significant technology of the 20th century, transforming the way almost all people lived, worked, and identified themselves (Meikle p. 102). Henry Ford’s mass production using the assembly line helped the automobile become so popular. The Model T transformed popular fantasy into universal reality (Meikle p. 102). By 1928, there were more than 20 million automobiles registered, one for every six people (Meikle p. 102). This changed the world forever. Another industrial designer was Walter Dorwin Teague first worked as an advertising agent before he designed industrial products. Many of his designs were informed by a desire for simplicity and unity as well as a belief in the ability to design to improve the quality of life by promoting an awareness of taste and discrimination (Raizman p. 215). One of Teague’s most well known developments are the redesigning of several cameras for Kodak. Norman Bel Geddes was very influential with the streamlining of the automobile. He came up with several prototypes for a streamlined automobile but unfortunately they were never put into production. He did however serve as a consultant to the Chrysler Corporation for the 1934 Airflow, which adapted a more unified approach to the construction of the grill, hood, and windshield (Raizman p. 216). The Airflow contributed to a streamlining fad among the public and convinced GM and Ford to use it throughout their automotive lines (Meikle p. 118). Streamlining also started having an impact on the railroads, such as with the Zephyr. Raymond Loewry first worked in illustration, window dressing, and advertising before he founded his own industrial design firm in 1929 (Gorman p. 155). His office designed trains, Greyhound buses, Coke bottles, International Harvestor farm machines, the Skylab, and many other products for the world’s largest companies over the next 50 years (Gorman p. 155). His desire was to naturally give the pubic the most advanced product that research can develop and technology to produce (Gorman p. 155). He also served as the in-house “art director” for Westinghouse radio cabinets from 1929 to 1931 before becoming an independent consultant and designing car bodies for Hupmobile (Meikle p. 109-110). One of his major contributions was the Coldspot refrigerator. Lowery emphasized its verticality by using long, slender hinges and running three parallel ribs up the middle from bottom to top (Meikle p. 110). Another industrial designer of the time was Henry Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss started out as a set designer working with Geddes. Sears, Roebuck hired Dreyfuss to design a washing machine with the supplier’s engineers (Meikle p. 109). His washing machine was named Toperator and showed a careful blend of functional and psychological considerations. Dreyfuss was very concerned with the functional fit of a product to the person using it. All of these industrial designers became public heroes, filling the pages of popular magazines, which even described what they even had for breakfast (Sparke p. 98). They soon became symbols of the modern age, pointing to the future at a time when economic situation was less than optimistic (Sparke p. 98).

Without the invention of industrial designers where do you think we would be today? Who would have made those products that the industrial designers made? How large of an impact do you think industrial designers has had on the world today?

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.