Sunday, July 1, 2012
On the New Industrial Designers
On the New Industrial Designers: In the 1930s, there was a belief among many American artists and architects that they could essentially design the United States out of the Depression. According to cultural historian Jeffrey Meikle, by melding art and industry, these new industrial designers felt they could "reverse the Depression's plummeting sales and create a harmonious environment unknown since the Industrial Revolution." This kind of blind optimism about the possibilities of industrial design was very much in line with the idea that "social change follows technological innovation." If the Depression's fundamental economic problem was an over-saturated market caused by mass production, then industrial designers such as Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, and Raymond Loewy believed they could incite mass consumption by designing streamlined household products. But on the whole, mass produced objects were considered too plain and ugly for mass appeal, so it would take the introduction of new industrial materials like plastics for designers to create their new streamlined objects. The cultural effects stemming from these new designs and materials were two-fold. First, it became O.K. to consume in America, and second, consumption became a necessary prerequisite for being considered modern. And perhaps there was no better demonstration of this modern consumerist mentality than the 1939 World's Fair in New York.