Los Angeles owes a huge debt to Charles and Ray Eames, who helped champion the city as an exceptional home base from which to design and innovate. But there's more to L.A. design history than just the Eameses' story. Throughout the 20th century, L.A.'s delightful climate, strong manufacturing base and
Florence Knoll is a one-woman design powerhouse. Not only did she help establish one of America's most influential design companies, she created a new market for modern furniture and a system for promoting designers' work that credited them by name, paid them royalties and allowed them the space to experiment
Although she studied with Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte in 1908, Lilly Reich went on to develop austerely modern designs that bore little similarity to the decorative styles of the Viennese movement. Which is not to say that Reich rejected Hoffmann's focus on craftsmanship—far from it. In 1920, she
“Beauty in utility” was the slogan of the Ecole de l'Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where Charlotte Perriand began her formal design training as a 17-year-old student. By the time she completed her studies in 1925, she had fully embraced the school's motto, and as architect Roger Aujame points out, "it became the axiom of her professional life."
Throughout her life, Eva Zeisel aspired to design modern housewares that were both useful and beautiful—creating balanced shapes with sinuous lines and functional simplicity. "To create things to be used, to be loved, to be with, to give as a gift, to fit into a normal day, to match a festive mood, to be proud of
Eileen Gray was a tremendously influential 20th-century architect and furniture designer, but we're guessing that many of our readers know little about her life and career beyond her three most famous designs—those being her adjustable chrome side table from 1927 (now available from DWR), her tire-shaped 1929 Bibendum chair (named after the Michelin Man) and the E.1027 modernist villa on the Côte d'Azur (remarkably, her first house). So here are seven highlights from a career that helped to esta
Since launching our Designing Women series last year, we've focused on the careers of lesser-known and underappreciated female industrial designers of the 20th century. For the next few weeks, we're going to change gears slightly and pay homage to those women I.D.-ers who did manage to achieve widespread success and recognition—while also calling attention to some of the lesser-known aspects of their careers.
In our previous two posts, we looked at some of America's pioneering women of midcentury automotive design. This week, we travel to Europe to explore the story behind an unlikely figure whose early exploits helped shape the automobile for centuries to come. Portrait of Bertha Benz as a young
Last week, we looked at the story behind GM's famous Damsels of Design, a group of ten women brought on board by the automaker in the mid-1950s in an attempt to better reach newly powerful female consumers. Unfortunately, America's first all-female design team was short-lived; most of the designers departed
Spend any time researching pioneering female designers and you'll likely run across General Motors' so-called Damsels of Design, a group of ten women brought on board by the automaker in the mid-1950s, and the first prominent all-female design team in American history. But not a lot of people know the full story of the Damsels, which is not quite the tale of female empowerment you would hope for.
Napping probably isn't the first thing you associate with modern Italian design, but delve into Cini Boeri's archive and it comes up again and again. Benjamin Pardo, Knoll's design director, describes the sofa Boeri designed for his company in 2008 as having "great nap potential." Boeri herself assures us that
To call the Hungarian-born artist and designer Ilonka Karasz “multi-talented” would be a serious understatement. By the time of her death in 1981 at age 84, she had helped to modernize American textile design; challenged the male-dominated worlds of both furniture and industrial design; created the first modern nursery in America; earned her description as “the country's leading wallpaper artist”; and, oh yeah, also
For a few brief years in the 1930s, Helen Hughes Dulany became industrial design’s “it” girl. Her modernist table accessories retailed in stores from Chicago to New York and were featured in magazines like House Beautiful and Arts and Decoration. In 1934, the Chicago Tribune described Dulany as “an over-worked genius with a many-angled career,” and in 1937 the New York Times named her one of the “best
“Everybody is scared of stainless steel, but we have a link—there is something deep inside between me and stainless steel,” Maria Pergay told the New York Times in 2010. “This material which looks so strong, hard and cold is sweet and not sharp, and it matches with everything.” Although stainless steel is commonplace today (good luck buying a new appliance that isn’t finished in it),
If you happen to be in Austin this week, be sure to check out the final days of Moderno: Design for Living in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, 1940–1978 at the University of Texas's Blanton Museum of Art. With a selection of 130 design objects, the exhibition celebrates a pioneering chapter in Latin American modernism
Since May, I've had the pleasure of researching and writing about great female designers for Core77's Designing Women series. With this biweekly column, our idea was to highlight the achievements of lesser-known and underappreciated female design pioneers—and also, along the way, show off a bunch of awesome and beautiful work
When Greta Magnusson Grossman relocated from her native Sweden to California in 1940, she told the San Francisco Examiner that her first priorities were "buying a car and some shorts." Grossman's quick read on the California lifestyle served her well as she set up her design business in Los Angeles
Elaine Lustig Cohen began her design career as a self-described “office slave.” Having married the modernist graphic designer Alvin Lustig in 1948 (when she was 21 and he was 33), she went to work in his studio, helping manage the day-to-day affairs and serving as a de facto production assistant
Long before Philippe Starck’s Ghost chair became de rigueur for trendy restaurant seating, Kartell was known for manufacturing one humble item—a ski rack for automobiles. From this first object, released in 1949, Giulio Castelli and Anna Castelli Ferrieri built a plastics empire that expanded into housewares, lighting and furniture, all
In 1987 Ellen Manderfield wrote, “There is much to be said for the industrial design profession, and there is room for the feminine touch—with a sincere approach and the right attitude, one can go far.” A “sincere approach” might be a bit of an understatement when describing Manderfield's almost 50-year-long
Hidden away on a dimly lit shelf in the basement of UCLA's Art Library is a charming book of 1980s Japanese product design edited by Koichi Ando. Although I can't quite excuse the book's woefully inadequate representation of female designers (only two!), I am grateful that it introduced me to
If your adolescence occurred in the pre-Internet era, you can probably recall with some excitement the thick catalogs from Sears or Montgomery Ward arriving in the mail. Before flipping to the toys or back-to-school fashions, you most likely spent some time ogling the models in the underwear section, and for
It is reported that Nanna Ditzel used to exclaim, "three steps forward and two back still means I've taken a step in the right direction!" This optimistic worldview helped propel an ambitious 60-year-long career that included furniture, textile, jewelry and product design. Ditzel started her career as an apprentice cabinetmaker
In this week's Designing Women profile, we take a peek into the archives of Ford Motor Company's Design Studio—now celebrating its 80th anniversary—and find an extraordinary woman along the way. Although the studio was established in 1935, it wasn't until the end of World War II that women joined Ford's
In our last post, we looked at Lella Vignelli's often-neglected work as a designer. Today's subject, Aino Aalto, has a strikingly similar biography. Like Vignelli, she was educated as an architect at a time when few women were part of the profession, graduating from the Helsinki University of Technology in
The Vignelli surname probably doesn't need much introduction. Synonymous with punchy corporate logos, enlightened product design and a bold diagrammatic redesign of New York City's subway map, the name has come to signify the modernist design credo championed by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Behind their sophisticated graphics, furniture, exhibitions, interiors, household objects, jewelry and even clothing was an indelible commitment to quality and to collaboration as equal partners. But throughou
This is the fourth installment of our new Designing Women series. Previously, we profiled Marianne Brandt, Belle Kogan and Nanda Vigo. The 1950s were a good time to be a Swiss graphic designer in Italy. The country was booming, and progressive manufacturers like Olivetti and Pirelli were interested in humanizing
In 1920, a high school art teacher in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, suggested that one of her students sign up for a class in mechanical drawing. The student agreed, despite being the only girl in the class. It was a position she would grow used to over the subsequent years. The student
When it came time to choose a leadoff subject for Core77's new Designing Women series, Marianne Brandt was an obvious choice. Not only was she the first woman to join the Bauhaus's metal workshop, at a time when female students were relegated to the school's weaving classrooms—but within four years
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