Auburn Launches Industrial Design History Website

Auburn University has launched a new website devoted to the history of the industrial design profession: The site, by Professor and Industrial Design Chair Bret H. Smith, features biographies of industrial designers, an index and timeline of historic products, print and online resources, and videotaped interviews with major designers.

This website is an outgrowth of Smith’s industrial design oral history research. He began collecting videotaped interviews with designers in 1995 to preserve the stories of how designs such as the playmate cooler, the John Deere 4020’s curved glass enclosure, the IBM Thinkpad and the IBM PC keyboard originated.

As Smith explains, “Many people know about the founding fathers of the industrial design profession — Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy and Walter Dorwin Teague — but the second generation of designers’ careers have not been well documented. Industrial Design in many ways is an anonymous profession. If the design solution is successful, then the client is successful. You never get to hear the story of the design itself, but it’s in these stories that industrial design history comes alive. These are stories of inventiveness, audacity, insight, design wisdom and judgment that help make us better designers. These stories can teach designers and non-designers alike, how to be better problem solvers and how to provide lasting value in the things we do.”

A peer-reviewed online journal that will contribute new scholarship to this type of history will launch next year.

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