Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World

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Designer Brooks Stevens created thousands of ingenious and beautiful designs for industrial and household products - including a clothes dryer with a window in the front, a wide-mouthed peanut butter jar, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. ("There's nothing more aerodynamic than a wiener," he explained.) In 1954 he coined the phrase "planned obsolescence," defining it as "instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary." This book, the first publication to document his work, includes 250 illustrations of designs by Stevens and his firm, many in color, detailed studies of individual designs, interpretive essays, a description of the Brooks Stevens Archive at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and several key writings by Stevens himself.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dismissing the "modernist snobs" of his era, Stevens (1911-1995) concentrated instead on what in style was salable, and more or less revolutionized American mid-century industrial design and packaging: the station wagon, the clothes dryer window, the wide-mouthed peanut-butter jar, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and the "Skylark" (or "boomerang") graphic for Formica are just a few of his or his eponymous firm's contributions. This book accompanies an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, but it is uncommonly (and fittingly) well designed and visually compelling itself. Along with the three other scholars who contribute essays, Chipstone Foundation curator Adamson has a good feel for the social and economic character of the '40s and '50s ("Stevens' Best Years," as one chapter heading puts it) and describes the designs clearly and with sympathy: "This logo was an ingenious creation in itself, in which the 3 and the m were the same shape but rotated ninety degrees from each other." Many pages are a period-evoking cyan rather than white, giving good contrast to the 250 photos and illustrations (40 in color). Anyone who lived in the United States between 1940 and 1975 will recognize the world of this book. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Fascinating not only for its display of the products of Stevens's fertile mind but also for its drawing out of the implications his work had for social life." Nancy Tousley Calgary Herald

"A level of scholarship and editorial skill rare in design books from any source." Martin Pawley The Architect's Journal

"A level of scholarship and editorial skill rare in design books from any source." Martin Pawley The Architect's Journal

"...the story of a man, a time and the emergence of an idea—the 20th-century American concept of innovation." Craig M. Vogel American Scientist

"...the story of a man, a time and the emergence of an idea the 20th-century American concept of innovation." Craig M. Vogel American Scientist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262012072
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenn Adamson is curator at the Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee.

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Table of Contents

The Desire for the New: The Context of Brooks Stevens's Career 1
Brooks Stevens, the Man in Your Life: Shaping the Domestic Sphere, 1935-1950 9
Brooks Stevens: "Ego-Inspiring Styling" and the American Dream 23
Career and Designs
1 Less Than Perfect: Early Influences and First Designs, 1911-1934 33
2 The Right Place at the Right Time: Becoming an Industrial Designer in the Midwest, 1935-1940 43
3 The Prophet of Profit: Stevens in Wartime, 1941-1945 65
4 The Organization Man: Stevens' Best Years, 1946-1955 81
5 The Enfant Terrible of Industrial Design: Planned Obsolescence and Other Crimes Against Modernism, 1956-1978 129
6 The Seer Who Made Milwaukee Famous: Reluctant Retirement, 1978-1994 179
App. 1 Brooks Stevens Staff, 1935-1980 189
App. 2 Writings 195
App. 3 The Brooks Stevens Archives at the Milwaukee Art Museum 209
Bibliography 210
Index 212
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